taxpayer identificaton number

USCs without a Social Security Number (and a Passport) Cannot Travel to the U.S.

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Recent posts have focused on the dilemma facing U.S. citizens (USCs) who have no social security number (“SSN”).  See an older post (23 July 2014) –  Why do I have to get a Social Security Number to file a U.S. income tax return (USCs)?

These problems are quickly coming to the surface, now that financial institutions US Passport(“FFIs”) around the world and private companies and trusts (e.g., non-financial foreign entities -NFFEs) must have their owners and clients certify they are not U.S. citizens; OR report the accounts of such U.S. citizens to the IRS under FATCA and the intergovernmental agreements (“IGAs”).

See, U.S. Citizens Overseas who Wish to Renounce without a Social Security Number will Necessarily be a “Covered Expatriate”

The intricacies of this problem are highlighted in a technical paper I recently drafted and presented to the U.S. Treasury Department and the Joint Committee of Taxation, among other federal government groups.  Some key excerpts of that paper titled URGENT NEED FOR U.S. CITIZENS RESIDING OUTSIDE THE U.S. TO BE ABLE TO OBTAIN A TAXPAYER IDENTIFICATION NUMBER (“TIN”) OTHER THAN A SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER are set out below in this section:

The U.S. tax law imposing taxation on the worldwide income of USCs[1] residing overseas has created a dilemma that prejudices these USCs without a SSN. This strict SSN/TIN regulatory rule undermines the basic tax administration system and discourages tax compliance for those USCs who never obtained a SSN.  This dilemma affects numerous USCs throughout the world, which is now compounded by the certification and reporting requirements of USCs and third parties, such as FFIs and NFFEs[ under the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (“FATCA”).

In short, USCs without a SSN, necessarily cannot be in compliance with U.S. federal tax law.  As I point out in my paper, such –

A law that cannot be complied with is surely a bad law, the same as a “ . . .law that cannot be enforced is a bad law.”[a]

[a] See, The Case Against Taxing Citizens, Reuven S. Avi-Yonah (March 31, 2010), University of Michigan School of Law, Law & Economics Working Papers.

The paper referenced above explains how difficult it is for USCs residing overseas to ever obtain a SSN.  Specifically, it explains how difficult it is to have an in-person interview at only 18 different locations around the world with a U.S. Department of State employee.  See,  12 Year Old (and Older) U.S. Citizens Residing Outside the U.S. Must Have An “In-Person” Interview in a U.S. Embassy or Consulate for SSN Application in 1 of Just 17 Posts WorldwideExpatriates US citizens renounced chart through 2014

As a USC residing somewhere around the world, you might decide to simply spend the time, money and resources to travel internationally to arrive in the U.S. to apply for a SSN directly with the Social Security Administration within the U.S.  Unfortunately, any USC is now legally prohibited from traveling in or out of the U.S. without a U.S. passport.  There are few exceptions to this general rule, none of which contemplate U.S. federal tax compliance.    See, the relevant excerpts from the white paper:

C.               Travel to the U.S. is Also Not An Option for a USC without a SSN, Due to 22 CFR § 53.1 Requiring a U.S. Passport

A possible solution to this TIN/SSN dilemma may appear to be a trip to the U.S. by the USC to apply for a SSN in the U.S. Unfortunately, this simply creates another dilemma, since the USC must have a U.S. passport to travel to the U.S.   The immigration law regulations 22 CFR § 53.1 require that a U.S. citizen have a U.S. passport to enter or depart the United States. The relevant part of the regulations is § 53.1(a) which provides as follows:

Passport requirement; definitions.

(a) It is unlawful for a citizen of the United States, unless excepted under 22 CFR 53.2,[2] to enter or depart, or attempt to enter or depart, the United States, without a valid U.S. passport.

These regulations were first published in 2006 and unfortunately, simply create another dilemma for the USC residing overseas without a SSN. This additional dilemma is that an application[3] for a U.S. passport requires the individual have a SSN; a vicious circle back to the inability to obtain a SSN.

At the end of the day, the restrictions imposed on USCs make it legally impossible for a USC without a passport to travel to the U.S. (even if they wish they could) to obtain a SSN.

[1] See, IRC § 61 and Treas. Reg. §§ 1.1‑1(b) and 1.1‑1(a)(1)..

[2] The exceptions set forth in this regulation would not generally be applicable in the case of USCs residing overseas without a SSN.

[3] Application for a U.S. Passport – http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/212239.pdf.