Applying for a Gambling Tax Refund – Proving Your Identity
“Do you have any ID?” This is a question almost every Canadian of legal age (or close to it) is familiar with. Our society relies heavily on documentation to prove an individual’s identity, age, residency, legal status, and a host of other details. That the standards for what counts as valid proof of identity change, depending on who’s asking, does not make the process of providing identification any easier; what is acceptable at a physician’s office may not be at the bank, or at the DMV. Do you need one piece of identification, or two? Do you need photo ID, or will something bearing your signature suffice?
It becomes even more imperative that you have the correct ID when you’re applying for official documentation, especially if you’re applying to a branch of a foreign government.If you have won at a casino or other legal gaming facility in the US, you may have paid a 30% gambling tax. In order to recover this casino tax, you will require an IRS Individual Tax Identification Number, or ITIN. An application for an IRS Individual Taxpayer Identification Number is no different than any other government agency request with regards to requesting identification. In addition to proving your identity, the documentation provided when you submit your application for an ITIN must also prove your status as a resident of a country other than the United States.
A valid passport is the only piece of identification that can stand alone as proof of both of these elements. This can pose an obstacle if your passport has expired in the time following your last trip across the border. While it’s possible to wait until you’ve applied for and received a current passport, that process can be time-consuming, and you may not want to wait or undergo the additional frustration. Most jackpot winners are anxious to recover the gambling tax paid on their US casino winnings.
Thankfully, there’s another option. While none of them stand alone, Canadians can offer any two pieces of the following identification as proof of identity and residential status:
- A Canadian citizenship card
- A birth certificate
- A valid driver’s license
- A military identification card
- A US travel visa.
People hailing from states that use national identification cards, or use voter registration cards, may present those as proof of their identity and residency status as well.
While sending your original identity documents along with the application is possible, it’s not necessarily the best choice. Your documents, of course, will be returned at the same time as you receive your ITIN, but even in the best case scenario, that will leave you without them for between six and eight weeks. And moreover, there is the possibility of a disruption in the mail system leaving you scrambling to apply for replacement documents because your originals have been misplaced.
A safer method of providing the required identification would be to obtain certified copies of your documents, which can be sent in lieu of the originals. A certified document can be obtained by contacting the agency that issued the original; it will be an exact copy of the original document, and contain a stamped agency seal verifying its authenticity. Depending on the agencies in question, there may be a small fee and a short wait period involved in obtaining the certified copies of your documents.
While the IRS has interim procedures in place that currently require ITIN applications be accompanied by either the applicant’s original identity documents or certified copies of those documents, there is an exception made for individuals applying for an ITIN solely for the purpose of claiming tax treaty benefits, including the return of withholding taxes on gambling winnings. Applicants covered by this exception have the option of submitting notarized copies of their identity documents instead. A notarized copy can be obtained by visiting a public notary, and this process is typically much swifter and more painless than applying to the issuing agency for a certified copy.
While you will still have to provide proof of identification, either in the form of the original identity documents listed above, or of certified or notarized copies of those documents, if the process of applying for an ITIN seems overwhelming, you may engage the services of an Acceptance Agent, such as US Tax Recovery, to make the application on your behalf. These individuals are authorized by the IRS to make an application for an ITIN on a client’s behalf, and can make sure your documents are in order and meet the IRS’s requirements, making the entire process much smoother and, equally important, much less likely to have to be repeated.