My children don’t have U.S. Social Security numbers. Should I apply for Social Security numbers for them before filing?

If your children are U.S. citizens

If your children are U.S. citizens, you should obtain a Social Security number for your children. You will be able to deduct personal exemptions from your taxable income ($4K per child), deduct childcare expenses, and receive the child tax credit if you qualify (it depends on your income). Going forward, you’ll also be able to receive credits/deductions for higher education expenses when your children start college.

None of this is possible if your children do not have Social Security numbers.

There’s also another difference which you’ll notice immediately. If you were previously required to file using paper forms, you’ll now be eligible for e-Filing.

If your children are not U.S. Citizens and do not have U.S. Social Security numbers or ITINs

If your children are not U.S. citizens and do not have Social Security numbers of ITINs (Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers), you can still file as Head of Household.

  • Filing as Head of Household means that you’ll be subject to lower tax rates than if you filed as married filing separately (MFS). However, you will not be eligible for the same exemptions and tax credits that you would be if your children had either U.S. Social Security numbers or ITINs.
  • You will not qualify for e-Filing and will need to mail your return in when you file. In order to qualify for e-Filing, at least one of your dependent children must have a U.S. Social Security number or an ITIN.
  • If your children have at least one U.S. parent, they will most likely qualify for a U.S. Social Security number. If this is the case, you cannot apply for an ITIN and should apply for Social Security numbers for them instead. You are not required to apply for either number on behalf of your children. This decision remains yours for as long as your children are minors.
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