Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers & The Child Tax Credit

August 11, 2015 : Mike Slack

Editor’s Note: Even if you don’t have a social security number, you may be required to file a U.S. tax return. To do that, you need an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN). There is some confusion about what ITIN filers are allowed to claim, or not, including the Child Tax Credit.

Many individuals from foreign countries are required to file U.S. tax returns but may not qualify for a social security number. Since an identification number is required to file a tax return, the alternative for these individuals is an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, or ITIN. The IRS will also issue ITINs to dependents who can be claimed on a tax return but who do not qualify for social security numbers.

There are some common misunderstandings around what tax benefits you can claim when you file with an ITIN.

An ITIN filer cannot claim the Earned Income Tax Credit, which specifically requires a social security number. Similarly, any children using an ITIN instead of a SSN cannot be taken into account when an otherwise qualified individual claims the credit.

This limitation does not apply to the Child Tax Credit or the Additional Child Tax Credit. So ITIN filers cannot claim the EITC, but they can claim the CTC or the ACTC. However, there are still requirements that must be met. To claim these credits, your child (or children) must:

  1. Live in your home for over half the year (limited exceptions to this rule apply)
  2. Be your child, stepchild, adopted child, or foster child, or your brother or sister or stepsibling (or a descendant of any of these)
  3. Be under 17 years old at the close of the year
  4. Not provide over half of his or her own support for the year, and
  5. Be a U.S. citizen or resident

So, a child with an ITIN that lives in the U.S. can qualify for the child tax credit, while children with ITINs that live outside of the U.S. will not qualify. U.S. citizens will almost always have SSNs and therefore qualify for the credit regardless of where they live so long as they meet the other tests.

Need more information on ITINs? Check out these links:

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Mike Slack

Mike Slack

The Tax Institute, H&R Block

Mike Slack, JD, EA, is a senior tax research analyst at The Tax Institute. Mike leads research teams focused on business and investment tax issues.