It’s my annual Taxes from A to Z series! If you’re wondering how to figure basis for cryptocurrency or whether you can claim home office expenses during COVID, you won’t want to miss a single letter.

A is for ATIN.

ATIN stands for Adoption Taxpayer Identification Number. ATINs are a sort of Social Security Number (SSN) stand-in: they are issued by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) as a temporary taxpayer identification number while a final adoption is pending.

To claim various tax breaks on your federal income tax return, you need a valid identifying number for each person – including children. If, during the adoption process, you haven’t been able to obtain an existing or a new Social Security Number (SSN) for your child, you will need to request an ATIN.

The ATIN has been around for a bit but attracted some notice this year because of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act). Under the CARES Act, children with an SSN or an ATIN were countable for calculating the Economic Impact Payment (EIPs or stimulus checks). Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers (ITIN), however, were not sufficient.

You should apply for an ATIN only if you are in the process of adopting a child and:

  • The child is legally placed in your home for legal adoption by an authorized placement agency;
  • The adoption is a domestic adoption OR the adoption is a foreign adoption and the child has a Permanent Resident Alien Card or Certificate of Citizenship;
  • You cannot obtain the child’s existing SSN even though you have made a reasonable attempt to get it; and
  • You are eligible to claim the child as a dependent on your tax return.

You’ll need to fill out Form W-7A, Application for Taxpayer Identification Number for Pending Adoptions, to obtain an ATIN. To fill out the form, you’ll need to know:

You’ll need to attach one of the following to the form:

  • A copy of the placement agreement entered into between you and an authorized placement agency;
  • A copy of the document signed by a hospital official authorizing the release of a newborn child from the hospital to you for legal adoption;
  • A copy of the court order or other court document ordering or approving the placement of a child with you for legal adoption; or
  • An affidavit signed by the adoption attorney or government official who placed the child with you for legal adoption under state law.

Also, if you adopt a foreign child with U.S. citizenship or resident alien status, you’ll need to attach:

  • A permanent resident card (green card);
  • Certificate of Citizenship; or
  • Passport with “I-551” stamp.

It usually takes 4–8 weeks to get an ATIN. You can check on your application’s status if it has been at least 8 weeks from the date you filed the application by calling 1.737.800.5511. Be sure to have a copy of your Form W-7A available when you call.

After the adoption is final, don’t continue using the ATIN. At that point, you must use an SSN. To apply for an SSN for the child, fill in Form SS-5, Application for a Social Security Card. You can get Form SS-5 online at, from your local SSA office, or by calling the SSA at 1.800.772.1213.

An ATIN will expire two years from the date it is issued. You will receive a reminder notice from the IRS before the expiration date; the notice will explain how you can apply for an extension if the adoption will not be final by the expiration date.

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