An employer identification number (EIN) is a nine-digit number assigned by the IRS. It is used to identify the tax accounts of employers and certain others who have no employees. EINs are used by employers, sole proprietors, corporations, partnerships, non-profit associations, trusts, estates of decedents, government agencies, certain individuals, and other business entities.
Why do you need an EIN number?
Do I need an EIN? I asked myself the same question. I work with Not for Profits so the answer for me was yes.
If you answer yes to any of the following, you will need an EIN:
You will also need an EIN: If you are a single-member LLC or and S Corp., administering an estate, purchased a going business or started a new business and you do not currently have or expect to have employees.
How to apply for an EIN number
You can get an EIN by applying online or you can fax a completed Form SS-4 to the IRS service center for your state, and they will respond with a return fax in about one week.
If you apply by mail fill out Form SS-4 (from a PDF).
International applicants must call (267) 941-1099–have fun paying that phone bill because it’s a toll call.
NOTE: There are companies which will file you EIN application for you. They may look like official IRS websites and they will be at the top of Google Searches with any of the headings used in this blog. But do look at the bottom of their first clickable loading page: they will state “This website is not affiliated with the US Department of Treasury or the IRS.” Many filing companies will take a fee for filing an EIN for you and they will help you get your EIN number with a little less work from you. They are mostly reputable but you will be paying a fee for the convenience. Your EIN number may not be available to you any faster than if you filed yourself.
How long will it take to get an EIN Number?
Give yourself 5 or 6 weeks before you need actually need your EIN to file a return or make a deposit with that number.
NOTE: If you need to file form which require and EIN then write “applied” in the column but don’t use your social security number in this column.
On the IRS online page answering this question they tell you to find the computer generated notice that was issued by the IRS when you first applied for your EIN. But if you could find that, you wouldn’t have “lost” your number. You can also check with any bank accounts you opened with your EIN or look at your tax returns.
The best way to get your EIN number is to call the Business & Specialty Tax Line at (800) 829-4933. The hours of operation are 7:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m. local time, Monday through Friday. I called at 8:00 a.m. and I was on hold for two hours and I gave up. I called at 7 a.m., sharp, I got someone on the line immediately and I did get my EIN number (which I had forgotten). I was asked what business I operated when I originally applied for an EIN. (I owned a salon in Long Beach in the mid-80s.) They asked if I filed a tax return did I file as single or married. They asked what was my tax refund if any and how did I file. You might have this knowledge handy, including your correct name on you IRS returns.
Do not confuse an EIN with an ITIN, an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number. IRS issues ITINs to individuals who are required to have a U.S. taxpayer identification number but who do not have, and are not eligible to obtain a Social Security Number (SSN) from the Social Security Administration (SSA). ITINs are issued regardless of immigration status.
Do may confuse an EIN with a TIN, Taxpayer Identification Number. A TIM is issued either by the Social Security Administration (SSA) or by the IRS. A TIN must be furnished on returns, statements, and other tax related documents: when filing your tax returns or when claiming treaty benefits. A TIN must be on a withholding certificate if the beneficial owner is claiming: Tax treaty benefits (other than for income from marketable securities), exemption for effectively connected income, exemption for certain annuities. If you have an EIN, you may not need to use your TIN and visa versa. Ask your Tax Accountant which you will need.