In my Wallet
Just the other day I I took a mental inventory of the items or what was or expected to be there as I quickly went through my oversized multi pocket zippered wallet; driver’s license behind the plastic square window, check, bank cards, check, receipts of items to be returned, check.
Scratching my forehead for almost what felt like a long minute as it gradually began to sink in, the reality on ground: the pocket sized card made of banknote paper with a bold blue arch like banner and columns flanking both sides with the circular “Social Security Administration” soft pink text over a light blue background… that’s it.
It was already too late for reasonable, logical, calculated, measured thought or action. I dare say in the interest of self preservation, preserving my own sanity, I did a second go around more to convince myself that my first thoughts were wrong, but nothing changed. I still came up empty and now it was slowing beginning to dawn on me that my social security card was amiss!
Instantly, dozens of alarm bells went off in my brain. The ringing in my minds eye was almost palpable, even though I was in a room where you could hear a pin drop all by myself. I wrestled with my own thoughts as I tried to grasp on to some logical explanation as to where, how or when this could have happened.
Although intense, this sinking feeling in my gut feeling was not enough to stop the questions in rapid fire succession that flashed through my mind. Was this a case of identity theft? did I need to report this to the police? What do I do? Is this replaceable? Where and how do I apply.
Once I got all of that out of the way, I finally settled down and got some answers. Here, I share a few lessons learned and more.
TAXPAYER IDENTIFICATION NUMBER – Generic term used by the United States Internal Revenue Service (US IRS) to describe a number used for tax purposes. They include Social Security Numbers (SSN), Employer ID numbers (EIN) and Individual Taxpayer ID Number (ITIN).
SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER, EMPLOYER IDENTIFCATION NUMBER OR INDIVIDUAL TAXPAYER ID NUMBER, Which one is it? – Social Security Number (SSN) is issued by the Social Security Administration and can be used by a Sole Proprietorship for tax reporting purposes. All other forms of business use an Employer Identification Number (EIN). Banks typically require an EIN to open up a business account.
Social Security Numbers are issued to INDIVIDUALS with some sort of legal authorization to work and is used for tax and wage reporting purposes and Individual Taxpayer ID Number a nine digit number as well, assigned to an INDIVIDUAL but used primarily for tax withholding purposes.
You should be careful about sharing your number, even when you are asked for it. You should ask why your number is needed, how it will be used and what will happen if you refuse. (See SSA Brochure, Identity Theft and Your Social Security Number)
HOW TO GET ONE – Form SS-5 for a Social Security Card and IRS Form W-7 for and ITIN. For SSN application process, all documents must be either originals or copies certified by the issuing agency. Photocopies of these documents are not acceptable.
MUST HAVE – Social Security Number if the person will be employed in the United States so earnings are reported to the US government. Only non-citizens who are ineligible for a SSN can get an ITIN. It can be used for FEDERAL tax reporting purposes only. These ITIN numbers are issued to both residents and non-resident aliens that may have a US filing or reporting requirement to meet under the IRS code that do not qualify for a SSN.
WHAT IT IS NOT – SSN – The Social Security Number itself is NOT work authorization. Although many businesses including bank and credit companies ask for the number, it is not required and a lot of services can be obtained without an SSN including a driver’s license, school lunch programs subsidized housing (Social Security for Noncitizens).
Large Financial institutions may require SSN to report interest to the government as end of year earnings. Also SSN may be required to opt out of receiving credit card solicitations (optoutprescreen.com). See also State Legislation Restriciting SSN use and the Electronic Privacy Information Center.
ITIN – Does not entitle the recipient to social security benefits, give the right to work or indicate immigration status. It is issued by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the SSN is issued by the Social Security Administration (SSA).
If a business or government agency asks for SSN and not authorized to work in the US, the individual can request what other type of identification documents may be acceptable, for example current immigration documents and passport. Complaints about misusing your SSN may be reported to the Federal Trade Commission.
WHAT ARE THOSE – XXX-XX-XXXX – NINE (9) digits – First three numbers (area number) – State in which the number was issued. Next two (group numbers) Indicated the order in which the SSN was issued in each area. last four (serial numbers) are randomly generated.