How Do I Get a Customer File Number for IRS

A Customer File Number (CFN) is a unique identifier issued by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to individuals and businesses for tax purposes. It is used to track and manage taxpayer accounts. Obtaining a CFN is a straightforward process that can be done online or by mail. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to get a Customer File Number for the IRS.

1. Determine if you need a CFN: Not everyone is required to have a CFN. Individuals who file tax returns using their Social Security Number (SSN) do not need a CFN. However, if you are a non-resident alien or choose to use a Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN) other than your SSN, you will need a CFN.

2. Fill out Form W-7: To apply for a CFN, you need to complete Form W-7, Application for IRS Individual Taxpayer Identification Number. This form is available on the IRS website or can be obtained from a local IRS office.

3. Gather required documents: Along with Form W-7, you will need to submit identification documents to verify your identity and foreign status. Acceptable documents may include a passport, visa, birth certificate, or national identification card. Make sure to check the IRS website for the complete list of acceptable documents.

4. Choose a certified acceptance agent (CAA): Non-resident aliens or foreign individuals living abroad may need to work with a CAA to assist with the application process. CAAs are authorized by the IRS to help applicants complete Form W-7 and verify their documents. If you are not required to use a CAA, you can submit your application directly to the IRS by mail.

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5. Submit the application: Once you have completed Form W-7 and gathered the necessary documents, you can submit your application by mail or through an authorized CAA. The address for mailing the application can be found on the IRS website.

6. Wait for processing: The processing time for a CFN can vary, but it typically takes around seven weeks. If everything is in order, you will receive your CFN by mail.


1. Can I apply for a CFN online?
No, the application for a CFN must be submitted either by mail or through an authorized CAA.

2. How long is a CFN valid?
A CFN is valid indefinitely. However, it may become inactive if there is no tax-related activity for three consecutive years.

3. Can I use my CFN for other purposes?
No, a CFN is specifically issued for tax-related purposes and should not be used for identification purposes.

4. Can I use my CFN instead of my SSN for employment purposes?
No, a CFN is not a valid substitute for an SSN when it comes to employment or eligibility for benefits.

5. Can I obtain a CFN if I am a U.S. citizen?
No, CFNs are typically issued to non-resident aliens or individuals who are not eligible for an SSN.

6. Can I apply for a CFN if I am already using an SSN for tax purposes?
No, if you are already using an SSN for tax purposes, you do not need a CFN.

7. Can I change my CFN?
No, once issued, a CFN cannot be changed. If you need a new CFN, you will have to go through the application process again.

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8. Can I use a CFN to file joint tax returns with my spouse?
No, a CFN is an individual identifier and cannot be used for joint tax returns.

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