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Ask the Hotline | When Are Social Security Cards Required?

August 27, 2019
When can we require employees to produce a social security card and when is it optional? 
The need for a social security card typically shows up in three situations:
  • Form I-9
  • Form W-2 
  • Form W-4 withholding
Form I-9 
The use of the Social Security card to complete the Form I-9 is optional on the employee’s behalf. The card is a List C identification document. An employee only needs to produce it if he or she provides an identification document from list B and list C. And even then, the list C document does not have to be a Social Security card.
See page three of the Form I-9 for the documents in list C apart from social security numbers. 
If the employee provides an identification from list A, there is no need to produce or ask for any list C identification whatsoever. 
Form W-2 
An employer is required to get each employee's name and Social Security Number (SSN) and to enter them on Form W-2 (wage and tax reporting form). This requirement also applies to resident and non-resident alien employees.
An employer should ask the employee to show his or her Social Security card. The employer should then record it. The employee must provide the employer with a social security number even if the person does not have a card.  An employer may, but is not required, to photocopy the Social Security card if the employee provides it. 
Any employee without a social security card should apply for one here. The Social Security Administration (SSA) offers information here  and here.
Do not accept an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN)  in place of an SSN for employee identification or for work. An ITIN is only available to resident and non-resident aliens who are not eligible for U.S. employment and need identification for other tax purposes. You can identify an ITIN because it is a 9-digit number, beginning with the number "9" and is formatted like an SSN (NNN-NN-NNN). 
Note: An individual with an ITIN who later becomes eligible to work in the United States must obtain an SSN.
Form W-4 Withholding
To know how much income tax to withhold from employees' wages, an employer should have a Form W-4 on file for each employee. The form requires the employee to include a social security number. Unless exempted by law, all new employees must to provide a signed Form W-4 that should be effective with the first wage payment. 
AIM members with questions about this or any other HR-related issue may call the AIM Employer Hotline at 1-800-470-6277.
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