How Do You Get an Adoption Tax Number?

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In the United States, approximately 135,000 children are adopted annually. While many of those children already have a Social Security Number (SSN), allowing parents to claim the child as a dependent on their taxes, some of them don’t. In that situation, an adoption tax number is usually required. If you adopt a child and aren’t able to get an SSN for them before it’s time to file your federal tax return, here’s what you need to know.

What Is an Adoption Tax Number?

An adoption tax number – which is formally known as an adoption tax identification number (ATIN) – is a temporary tax identification number issued to domestically adopted children if the adopting taxpayers aren’t able to get an SSN for their child before having to file their federal tax return. Essentially, it’s a way to identify the child for tax purposes while the adoption process is ongoing and isn’t finalized in time to acquire an SSN before needing to file federal income taxes.

Who Needs an Adoption Tax Identification Number?

Generally, any adoptive tax filer who’s in the process of an adoption but is unable to secure an SSN for the child before filing federal income taxes typically needs an ATIN. Essentially, the ATIN serves in place of an official SSN on a short-term basis.

With the ATIN, the adoptive tax filer can list the child as a dependent – suggesting the child is otherwise eligible – and claim child care tax credits. Without an ATIN, a tax filer can’t add a dependent to their tax return. As a result, even an adoptive tax filer who’s currently providing care to the child they’re adopting wouldn’t be eligible for specific tax credits or deductions relating to that child.

Applying for an Adoption Tax Number

Generally, any adoptive tax filer with a child they’re adopting that’s legally placed in their home who can’t get an SSN – either an existing number or a new one, if needed – before filing their federal tax return may need an ATIN. Domestic and foreign adoptions are potentially eligible, though the latter also requires the child to have a certificate of citizenship or a permanent resident alien card. However, the child must legally qualify as a dependent to request an ATIN.

If those conditions are met, the adoptive tax filer needs to complete and submit Form W-7A, preferably at least eight weeks before the federal tax return due date. To complete the form, the adoptive tax filer needs to know the child’s name, birth information, and details about the placement agency. Copies of placement documentation must also be submitted alongside Form W-7A.

Once the form is complete and the supporting documentation is collected, adoptive tax filers can bring the information to a local IRS walk-in office or submit it by mail per the IRS instructions. Once the form and documentation are processed, an ATIN is issued and sent by mail to your listed address.

ATINs are generally valid until the adoption completes and an SSN is issued. At that time, the adoptive tax filer must inform the IRS of the SSN, allowing it to deactivate the ATIN. If the IRS isn’t notified within two years, the ATIN is automatically deactivated unless the adoptive tax filer applies for an extension.