A handful of individuals may submit an ITIN application without a tax return:
Certain nonresident aliens who need to claim certain tax treaty benefits;
Bona fide students, professors, or researchers coming temporarily to the United States solely to attend classes at a recognized institution of education, to teach, or to perform research who are eligible to claim an exemption from paying US income tax;
Nonresident alien students and exchange visitors, their spouses, and dependents under the Student Exchange Visitors Program who qualify for a tax exemption; and
Individuals who need an ITIN because a third party that is subject to information-reporting and withholding mandates an ITIN.
To be eligible to apply for an ITIN without a tax return, your country must have a tax treaty with the US either exempting you or subjecting you to a reduced rate of withholding of tax on wages, salary, compensation, and honoraria payments. When applying for an ITIN, you'll need to specify your country of origin, the tax treaty, and the treaty article. You'll also need to give your income payor Form 8233.
Bona Fide Students, Professors, and Researchers
Similar to nonresident aliens subject to a tax treaty, students, professors, and researchers at recognized educational institutions may also file for an ITIN without a tax return if they'll be claiming a tax treaty exemption. They'll need to specify on their application their country of origin, the tax treaty, and the treaty article. They'll also need to provide their educational institution with Form W-8BEN.
Nonresident Alien Students
This applies only to students, their spouses, and dependents who are here on an F, M, or J visa and they must be attending a Student and Exchange Visitor Program approved institution. A certification letter from the institution is required for an ITIN application along with a letter from the DSO or RO stating that the applicant won’t be securing employment in the United States or receiving any type of income from personal services. The applicant must also specify the treaty country and article.
Third Party Requirement
It is possible for you to get an ITIN without filing a tax return if any of the following exemptions apply to you:
you are not subject to US income tax filing and your only US income is passive income such as partnership income, interest income, annuity income, and rental income;
you are claiming the benefits of a U.S. income tax treaty with a foreign country;
your educational institution requires you to have an ITIN before they can issue you taxable scholarship, fellowship, or grant income;
you have a home mortgage loan on real property you own in the United States that’s subject to third-party reporting of mortgage interest; or
you’re a party to a disposition of a U.S. real property interest by a foreign person, which is generally subject to withholding by the transferee or buyer (withholding agent).
Notice, simply opening a bank account to make your life easier isn't one of the listed exemptions. You need to earn interest income from the bank to qualify for an ITIN. Why? Because the IRS does not want to give out ITINs unless they'll be collecting tax. Banks are required to report and withhold a percentage of your interest income as tax payable to the IRS even if you are not required to file a tax return.
Other exemptions not included are landlords asking for a tax ID and states requiring an ITIN to get a state ID or driver's license. The reason is the same: these transactions will not result in the IRS collecting tax, so they will not issue you an ITIN if you simply want to rent an apartment.
If none of the above apply to you, then you must submit your W7 application with a tax return.
Have other ITIN questions? Need help submitting your application? Call us at (612) 440-3988.