An Employer Identification Number (EIN) is important to your business. It is a unique nine-digit number assigned by the IRS. It is issued in this format: 12-3456789.
An EIN is a federal number that easily identifies your business. You want to keep your Employer Identification Number handy for any business or tax documents you send to the IRS or Social Security Administration.
An EIN is like a Social Security number, but for businesses. Don’t use your Employer Identification Number in place of your Social Security number—the EIN is for business purposes only.
Do I need an EIN?
Not all businesses need an Employer Identification Number. The IRS determines what businesses need an EIN. Do you fit into any of the following?
- You have employees
- Your business structure is a corporation or a partnership
- You withhold taxes on income (outside of wages) paid to a non-resident alien
- You have a Keogh plan
- You are involved with any
- trusts—except certain grantor-owned revocable trusts, IRAs, Exempt Organization Business Income Tax Returns;
- farmers’ cooperatives;
- or plan administrators
If you answered yes to any of the categories, you need an EIN.
How do I apply for an EIN?
You need to apply to the IRS for an EIN. There is no cost to apply. If you haven’t received your Employer Identification Number in time to file your tax return, write “Applied For” in the EIN space.
Apply online: The easiest and fastest way to apply for an EIN is to apply online (the IRS prefers this method). After answering interview-style questions online, you can get your Employer Identification Number immediately. You don’t have to fill out any forms, and you can print out a confirmation for your records.
Apply by fax: You can fax a completed Form SS-4, Application for Employer Identification Number. The fax number you use depends on where your business is located. You can get the fax number from the IRS. The IRS should fax you your EIN within four business days.
Apply by mail: If you’re not in a big hurry, you can apply by mail. Mail a completed Form SS-4 to the IRS. The address you send the form to depends on your business location. You can get the address from the IRS. You should get your EIN within four weeks.
If you own multiple businesses, you should note that you can only apply for one EIN per day. This rule applies to any application method you use. The limitation helps the IRS treat everyone fairly.
What if I lose my EIN?
If you lose your EIN, don’t panic. You can get it back. First look in your business documents. Try finding the computer-generated notice the IRS sent you when you originally applied for your Employer Identification Number. Look at your bank account information and employee payroll records. You may have used your Employer Identification Number to apply for state accounts, so check those records. Also, check your small business tax returns.
Often, if your records are in order, you can find your Employer Identification Number without contacting the IRS.
If you absolutely cannot find your EIN, call the IRS Business and Specialty Tax Line at 800-829-4933. You can call Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. – 7 p.m. local time. You will have to provide identifying information. To get the Employer Identification Number, you must be an authorized person, such as a sole proprietor, partnership partner, corporate officer, trust trustee, or an estate executor. You will be given your EIN over the phone.
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This article was originally published 10/10/2014.