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Invisible Barriers: Navigating Financial Services with an ITIN

America’s financial landscape is littered with invisible barriers. These barriers take many forms, including credit scores, bank accounts, and identification requirements. For millions of people in this country, that invisible barrier is an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number or an ITIN. ITINs are nine-digit numbers issued to people paying their taxes but who are not eligible for a Social Security Number (SSN). They are issued to a variety of people, including international investors, students and spouses in the U.S. on visas, and immigrants. The U.S. Treasury has issued over 23 million ITINs over the last decade. In 2015 alone, over 4.3 million people paid taxes with an ITIN -totaling over $13.7 billion.

Many financial services providers cite SSNs as the only acceptable form of identification. There is no banking regulation that says an SSN is necessary or the only acceptable identification form. But these default requirements, in effect, become barriers to accessing financial services, sending a clear message to the community: If you don’t have an SSN, please don’t apply.

Here at MAF, we serve many people that mainstream financial institutions overlook, including people who apply for financial services with an ITIN. In this pilot report, we are reaching into our rich client dataset to understand how our clients with ITINs navigate their financial lives. While not a national sample, our analysis lifts up important insights for providers, advocates, and policymakers.