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Taxpayer Identification Number

What Is a Taxpayer Identification Number?

Whether you’re submitting payroll or tax return forms, opening bank accounts, or establishing retirement plans, you need to identify your business. To run your business, you need a taxpayer identification number (TIN).

Find out what a federal tax identification number is, types of tax ID numbers, and how to obtain them.

What is taxpayer identification number?

A tax ID number is an identifying number assigned to individuals and businesses. TINs are either issued by the Social Security Administration (SSA) or the IRS. Social Security numbers are the most common type of taxpayer identification number.

You must include your taxpayer identification number on all your small business tax returns, statements, and other tax-related documents. Taxpayer identification numbers are nine-digit numbers that help the IRS or SSA identify your business.

Types of taxpayer identification numbers

There are five types of taxpayer identification numbers:

  • Social Security Number (SSN)
  • Employer Identification Number (EIN)
  • Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN)
  • Taxpayer Identification Number for Pending U.S. Adoptions (ATIN)
  • Preparer Taxpayer Identification Number (PTIN)

This article will focus on SSNs, EINs, and ITINs because they relate to business. For more information on ATINs or PTINs, please refer to the chart below, or visit the IRS’s website.

Taxpayer Identification Number

As a business owner, you will either use an SSN or EIN on your business documents. The TIN you must use depends on your business structure.

Learn about each of the taxpayer identification numbers that you might come across in business, when you would need to use them, and how to obtain them.

Social Security Number

A Social Security number is a nine-digit number issued to all U.S. citizens by the Social Security Administrator to identify individuals. It is formatted like this: XXX-XX-XXXX.

You can use your Social Security number on business tax documents if you don’t have employees or if your business is structured as a sole proprietorship or single-member LLC.

Individuals and businesses use Social Security numbers on tax return forms and bank account applications.

If you weren’t issued one at birth, you must file Form SS-5, Application for a Social Security Card to get a Social Security number. If you need a replacement card or must correct information on your current record, you can also file Form SS-5.

Employer Identification Number

An Employer Identification Number, or Federal Employer Identification Number (FEIN), is a set of numbers issued by the IRS to identify your business. It is formatted like this: XX-XXXXXXX

You must apply for and obtain an EIN if you have employees. Certain business structures are also required to obtain EINs regardless of if they have employees or not. If you have a corporation, partnership, or multi-member LLC, you need an EIN.

Record your business’s EIN on tax documents like Forms W-2 and 941.

You can apply for an EIN online or by mailing or faxing Form SS-4, Application for Employer Identification Number. There is a wait if you apply by mail or fax. If you apply online, you will receive your EIN immediately.

Individual Taxpayer Identification Number

An ITIN is used by certain nonresident and resident aliens, their spouses, and dependents who cannot get a Social Security number. It is a nine-digit number formatted like an SSN.

Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers do not authorize individuals to work in the United States. It is not a substitute for a Social Security number.

You can apply for an ITIN by filing Form W-7, Application for IRS Individual Taxpayer Identification Number.

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This article has been updated from its original publication date of 02/27/2013. 

This is not intended as legal advice; for more information, please click here.

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