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What Happens If You Don't Provide a SSN on Your Tax Return?

When it comes time to file the IRS 1040 Form, which every individual in the US must do if they earned any income during the tax year, it's a must to include a Social Security number (SSN). As one of the most important pieces of information on the form, it's right there on the top line next to your name.

Your Social Security number is how the IRS identifies you. Leaving that line blank or providing the wrong Social Security number makes it impossible to verify who is filing the tax return, who the individual is, who earned the income listed and how much tax they owe.

Are there IRS penalties for failure to supply a SSN?

You will likely face IRS penalties if there's something wrong with what's showing in the Social Security number field on your tax return. There are three things related to the Social Security field that can trigger a penalty:

  1. Failure to supply a SSN
  2. Supplying an incorrect SSN
  3. Supplying a SSN that belongs to someone else

If the IRS sees one of these issues with your tax return, you could receive a $50 penalty. But, if you can show reasonable cause for the issue, you may be able to avoid the penalty.  

What if I'm not a US citizen?

US citizens, permanent residents and people authorized to work in the United States are eligible to have Social Security numbers, which is what they will use as their identification number when it is time to do their taxes and fill out Form 1040.

Many people earn an income in the US but don't qualify to have an SSN. In that case, they can get an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, or ITIN, which they can use to file their tax return instead.

ITINs are used strictly for tax purposes so that people who don't have SSNs can file their tax returns and stay in line with IRS regulations. The IRS is super clear on this, making sure to say that the ITIN cannot be used to:

  • Authorize a person to work in the US
  • Change a person's immigration status
  • Qualify a person to receive benefits like Social Security payments or tax credits like the Earned Income Tax Credit
  • Designate you as an undocumented worker

How to apply for an ITIN

Applying for an ITIN is actually pretty easy. After all, the IRS wants everyone to file a tax return if they work in the US. Just submit the Form W-7 to the IRS by mail, or you can have someone help you through the process in person by scheduling an appointment. Find out more about the process on the IRS' website.

How to file taxes with an ITIN

Just enter your ITIN in the space for the Social Security number on the 1040 Form, or any tax form, and fill out the rest of the form normally.

You can also qualify for some tax credits, even if you're using an ITIN and not an SSN. You can claim the Child Tax Credit if your children have Social Security numbers, and you can claim education tax credits like the American Opportunity Credit.

Tax fraud involving SSNs

If someone uses your personal information to file a tax return, it's usually because they are hoping to receive your tax refund, and it's considered tax fraud. Both you and the IRS won't find out about the fraud until the IRS receives a second tax return using your information, which could come from you or the person committing fraud with your information.

The IRS will reject the second tax return with the same Social Security number, and you'll receive a written notice from the IRS. You'll want to act fast and work with the IRS to prove your identity so that you pay your taxes on time and you don't receive any penalties, and to receive your tax refund if you have one coming. You can do this by submitting Form 14029 to the IRS.

The FlyFin estimated tax penalty calculator

If you're self-employed or a freelancer, you are your own employer, which means no one is automatically taking income and Social Security taxes out of your earnings. For that reason, the IRS has a quarterly tax payment system to collect income taxes throughout the year.

It's not always easy to know how much to pay as a freelancer, because for quarterly tax payments you need to estimate. With that in mind, FlyFin built this super accurate tax penalty calculator.

Check out FlyFin's ability to find every possible tax deduction, too, so you can lower the amount of taxes you need to pay.

FlyFin CPA Team

FlyFin CPA Team

With a combined 150 years of experience, FlyFin's CPA tax team includes tax CPAs, IRS Enrolled Agents and other tax professionals, offering users the most comprehensive tax advice and preparation.

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