I have filed joint tax return for 2012 tax year. My wife is not eligible for SSN (she's on H4 visa) so we included the W7 form (application for ITIN) into the package.
This year the rules became more strict and our CPA told us to go to IRS in person and submit original documents within the tax return and the W7 form.
My wife went to IRS in person, they have verified her documents (passport, driver's lic, etc.) and returned them immediately. They have also stamped our application and returned an original form. They told that everything is fine and that she should receive the ITIN. This method is described in official IRS publication http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/iw7.pdf
All that happened on Feb 22nd - more than a month ago.
Several days ago we have received a mail from ITIN department (that is located in Austin, Texas) that they cannot issue the ITIN because they think that the passport does not meet their criteria. They haven't specified what's exactly wrong - they just sent a standard response letter.
The passport is valid, visa is valid, all is fine there - we did re-enter the country several times, etc.
We called the phone number specified on the response letter and, literally, no-one knows what's wrong - they have that we should send them original passport even though the IRS employee verified our documents and mailed the tax return with W7. They sent it internally.
I have no idea what to do. First of all, it is not legal to stay without a passport. If we send the original passport to IRS - it will mean that we violate immigration rules that are clearly saying that passport and visa MUST be available at all times.
Another concern that the passport just might be lost when it's just mailed. It's not possible to track this process - that's the most scary thing. If it get's lost - we're in a big trouble, it's even impossible to prove that you haven't got your passport back.
We came to the local IRS office in person again (Broadway, New York City) and shown them the response letter, even talked to the supervisor. They listened very carefully. Literally, they said: - "We do not know what to do. All we can is to send your documents again. It is not possible to contact ITIN department"
So, this is a circle and we have no idea what we should do. Phone calls to call center do not help at all - they're saying that we need to send an original passport.
I did my taxes with CPA - they have no clue as well and they say, starting this year they cannot contact ITIN department as well.
Any help or advise is highly appreciated - I'm completely lost.
UPDATE: We have received the ITIN.
And here's the story. First, I'd like to say, get ready: the call center is absolutely useless and helpless in this situation. We called about 10 times during this period. Every single time we were provided with a different set of information. Someone was saying: "Send your original passport", Next day they were saying that we should not send anything. Next time they said "go to local office and re-submit your application", etc. Every single time we had a new story to deal with. Try to convince your CPA to call them - they at least talk the same language.
So, what we did? Everything: we went to the local office and re-submitted our application. This time we added all possible paperwork we had: driver's license copy, statements, immigration forms, etc. We also went to our consulate and they gave us a paper saying that the passport is valid and confirming that my wife's birth date and passport number is correct. We sent one more regular mail package containing the paper from consulate with the copies of all possible documents issued by various US organizations.
What happened later is a complete mystery: we have received the rejection letter. The letter was saying that we haven't provided the documents IRS requested and that we have to apply for ITIN once more again. I was not surprised at all and relaxed when I got the official answer.
Week later after the rejection letter we have got one more letter from IRS. this time it was the actual ITIN number. OMG - I was really shocked. We did double check all the details - it was ours. Can you imagine that? How come this even possible. We have a saying in Russian: "minus times minus is resulting in one plus" - this is probably what happened. I have no idea which letter worked out - we just sent as many documents as we could in several packages using various delivery methods (local IRS office and USPS)
We called one final time to the call center - they said that they can see the ITIN in their system and we're all set. Of course, they have no clue how our refund will be processed (single or married) but at least we've got a number and we will be able to file an amended return.
The story is not finished yet - we're still waiting for our return to be processed and I will update this post as soon as I get details.
P.S. I already got my NY state tax refund - that one took 2.5 months to get processed.
Thanks to everyone.
I still haven't received my refund. Called to the IRS. They said that they do not see my tax return for this year, but they do see the ITIN assigned and it's in the system.
Basically, the representative told me that "most likely" the ITIN department didn't transfer my return to the IRS Federal processing center after assigning the ITIN. He also said that there's no penalty in my case because I'm doing a refund and that I don't owe money to IRS. He also said it's their fault (wow) and advised to send the copy of the original return to the particular processing center. He also said, it's another 6 weeks (at least)
Final UPDATE: In the end, I have got the refund. It took about 6 months in total since we have submitted the documents in person at the local IRS office (Broadway) in NYC. Actually, after we got the confirmation that the ITIN has been assigned, IRS lost our tax return - this was confirmed by the call center employee: they basically didn't know where the tax return was after the ITIN was assigned. They are 2 different departments and probably ITIN department just didn't send it to the Federal Processing Center - this is just a guess, nobody knows and, of course, nobody is responsible for that. We have submitted 2 more copies by mail and one of them apparently worked. Just make sure you don't owe anything: if you're doing a refund, you don't get a fine. Otherwise, you'll have to pay a fine on top of all that. Even if your tax return is lost somewhere in between. Anyway, always have certified mail receipts, save all copies and make sure that you can always proof what you sent and when. I learned a lot of lessons out of it.