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What is a Tax Identification Number?

Your tax identification number is your social security number if you are a U.S. citizen or a resident alien. It is applied for using IRS Form SS-5. A non-resident alien can also apply for tax identification number using IRS Form W-7.

A separate tax identification number (TIN) is required for business entities and irrevocable trusts that are not considered grantor trusts. The IRS also refers to this TIN as the “employer identification number” (EIN) even when the entity is not an employer. IRS Form SS-4 is used to apply for this number, but it is also available online on the IRS web site.

Your social security number can be used as the TIN for a trust that is considered a “grantor trust” under federal income tax law. A grantor trust is recognized as a separate entity under state law but is ignored for purposes of federal income tax law. Grantor trusts include all revocable trusts and irrevocable trusts for the benefit of the trust’s creator (who might be referred to as the grantor, settlor, or trustor). Even though federal tax law permits you to use your social security number as the TIN for a grantor trust, your accountant or other tax advisor may recommend having a separate TIN for an irrevocable trust that is classified as a grantor trust. This helps keep the financial records for irrevocable trusts separate from your personal financial records. A TIN for a trust is applied for using the same for (or online web site) as for business entities.

When you open a financial account, you will be requested to provide a TIN. Sometimes this is done by asking you to complete, sign, and submit an IRS Form W-9. Be sure to submit the TIN corresponding to the individual or entity that owns the asset. If you find that a financial institution has an incorrect TIN, submit an IRS Form W-9 to update their records.

NOTE: This memo provides general information only and does not contain legal, accounting, or tax advice. For brevity, this memo is oversimplified and should not be relied on for any particular situation.


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