An employer identification number (EIN) is like a social security number for businesses. However, since you don’t use your EIN as often as you use your social, it can be harder to remember. Do you need to find your EIN? Read on to learn how. Plus, learn how to apply for an EIN for your business, and find out whether your business needs an EIN.
What is an employer identification number (EIN)?
Also known as a federal tax identification number and business tax ID number, an EIN serves as a means of identification for business entities.
Businesses use EINs when filing taxes, opening corporate bank accounts, accessing financing for a business, obtaining a business license, and drafting a variety of business documents.
How to find an EIN
Lost your EIN?
If you need to find your EIN and you’ve been working at the same company for more than a year, check last year’s tax return. You may also find it on bank statements, loan applications, permits, or other official business documents.
You can also call the IRS at (800) 829-4933 and select EIN from the menu of options. An IRS employee will assist you by asking you the necessary security questions and then providing the number.
Looking for another company’s EIN?
As long as the company is registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), you can look up its EIN using the SEC’s EDGAR system.
What about companies that are privately held? Just contact the company in question and request their EIN. Alternatively, you may be able to find public filings that contain the number.
Does my business need an EIN?
Your business needs an EIN if:
- You have at least one employee.
- You file excise or employment taxes.
- Your business structure is a corporation or partnership.
- Your business withholds taxes for a nonresident alien’s non-wage income.
Even if you aren’t legally required to have an EIN, you may want one. That’s because an EIN lets you separate your business and personal taxes, which can greatly simplify your life.
However, if you plan on filing for tax-exempt status, it is best for your organization to be legally formed before applying for an EIN. Organizations have three years to file a required return or notice before they lose their tax-exempt status. And applying for an EIN starts that three-year countdown.
Do I need a new EIN?
Do you already have an EIN? You may need a new one if any of the following are true:
- The structure of your business has changed.
- You bought or inherited a business.
- You’re subject to a bankruptcy proceeding.
- You changed partners in a business partnership.
- You created a trust with estate funds.
Am I eligible for an EIN?
To be eligible you must have a social security number (SSN), an existing EIN, or an individual tax identification number. Plus, your principal business must be located in the U.S. or U.S. Territories.
How do I get an EIN?
You can apply online, or via fax or mail by submitting the SS-4 form. It’s free to get an EIN, so it won’t cost you anything.
The IRS recommends applying online, as the process is much faster. Once you’ve sent your application and all the validations are complete, you’ll immediately receive your EIN. You can then download, save, and print it.
If you’d rather file by fax or mail, you can expect your EIN in the mail within a couple of weeks.
If your organization incorporated outside of the U.S. and its territories, you won’t be able to apply for an EIN online. You can, however, call the IRS at (267) 941-1099 to apply over the phone.
Can you use your EIN to make tax deposits?
When you apply for an EIN, the IRS will ask if your business will have employees. If you say yes, they’ll enroll your business in the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS).
Enrollment enables you to make deposits by phone or online 24 hours a day, seven days a week. However, you have to wait for your EFTPS confirmation and PIN to come in the mail before you can do so. It should arrive within a few days.
Learn more about EINs and business taxes
Want to learn more about EINs and other business tax matters? Consider enlisting the help of a professional. Tax preparation firms specialize in helping both individuals and businesses with the ins and outs of tax laws and procedures. They can make sure that your bases are covered, and can represent you if your business ever comes into question. Review and compare leading companies side-by-side below to find the right fit for you.
Jessica Walrack is a personal finance writer at SuperMoney, The Simple Dollar, Interest.com, Commonbond, Bankrate, NextAdvisor, Guardian, Personalloans.org and many others. She specializes in taking personal finance topics like loans, credit cards, and budgeting, and making them accessible and fun.