Your EIN, which can be found on the IRS Form SS-4, is a unique 9-digit number assigned by the IRS to identify your business entity. The EIN is generally the very first item also located on your W-2 form. You probably haven’t thought much about it, but here’s what it means. Regardless of size or industry, all business entities are required to file for an Employer Identification Number (EIN), also known as a Tax Identification Number. Generally, all business entities: corporations, partnerships, and limited liability companies need an EIN. Though not required to, some sole proprietors obtain one anyway. Having an EIN can make your small business feel more professional and credible. In order to be eligible, the business must be located within the United States and the Responsible Party who is applying must have a Social Security Number or Taxpayer Identification Number.
So why do I need an EIN? You’ll need it to:
- File Business Taxes and Avoid Tax Penalties.
- Prevent Identity Theft.
- Add Credibility as a Sole Proprietor and Independent Contractor.
- Speed up Business Loan Applications.
- Open a Business Bank Account.
- Build Trust With Vendors.
- Establish Business Credit.
- Hire and pay Employees.
So how do I apply for my EIN? You’ve got choices.
Apply with Form SS-4 Online
The Internet EIN (aka the SS-4 Online form) application is the preferred method for customers to apply for and obtain an EIN. Once the application is completed, the information is validated during the online session, and an EIN is issued immediately. The SS-4 online application process is available for all entities whose principal business, office or agency, or legal residence (in the case of an individual), is located in the United States or U.S. Territories.
Apply with Form SS-4 by Fax
Taxpayers can fax the completed Form SS-4 application to the appropriate fax number (see Where to File Your Taxes (for Form SS-4)), after ensuring that the Form SS-4 contains all of the required information. If it is determined that the entity needs a new EIN, one will be assigned using the appropriate procedures for the entity type. If the taxpayer’s fax number is provided, a fax will be sent back with the EIN within four (4) business days.
Apply with Form SS-4 by Mail
The processing timeframe for an EIN application received by mail is six (6)-eight (8) weeks. Restrictions introduced to protect postal employees from Covid-19 may cause even further delays. This is the documentation you will need to apply for a business bank account or a business line of credit. So, plan ahead. To open a business bank account, you will need your articles of incorporation, an EIN and personal identification documents.
Ensure that the Form SS-4 contains all of the required information. If it is determined that the entity needs a new EIN, one will be assigned using the appropriate procedures for the entity type and mailed to the taxpayer. Find out where to mail Form SS-4 on the Where to File Your Taxes (for Form SS-4) page.
All EIN applications (mail, fax, or electronic) must disclose the name and Taxpayer Identification Number (SSN, ITIN, or EIN) of the true principal officer, general partner, grantor, owner or trustee. This individual or entity, which the IRS will call the Responsible Party controls, manages, or directs the applicant entity and the disposition of its funds and assets. Unless the applicant is a government entity, the responsible party must be an individual (i.e., a natural person), not a business entity.
Note: Whether filing online or by mail, the Form SS-4 information must be current. Use Form 8822-B to report any changes to your Responsible Party, address or location. Changes in responsible parties must be reported to the IRS within 60 days.
To check if your EIN is issued, you can call the IRS directly by phone. There is currently no way to check for the status of your EIN online so here are some options to access your EIN as quickly as possible. The IRS will still mail your EIN, but keep in mind that it can take over eight (8) weeks to arrive. If you’d like to call the IRS, you can follow this guide below:
How to call the IRS to get your EIN:
First, be prepared. Make sure you are the Responsible Party listed on your company’s Form SS-4 and have your copy ready. The IRS agent will ask you questions about company information that you have entered on your Form SS-4 .
Call the IRS at 800-829-4933. When you hear the various menu options: select option 1, then option 1 again, and then option 3. Call during IRS Business hours: 7:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time (GMT-5).
What to do if you’ve misplaced your EIN:
If you previously applied for and received an Employer Identification Number (EIN) for your business, but have since misplaced it, try any or all of the following actions to locate the number:
- Check your email for the computer-generated notice that was issued by the IRS when you applied for your EIN via Form SS-4 online. This notice is issued as a confirmation of your application for, and receipt of an EIN.
- If you used your EIN to open a bank account or apply for any type of state or local license, you can contact the bank or agency to retrieve your EIN.
- Find a previously filed tax return for your existing business. Your previously filed return should include your EIN.
- Ask the IRS to search for your EIN by calling 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. An IRS representative will ask you for identifying information and provide the number to you over the telephone, as long as you are an authorized party. This could be a sole proprietor, a partner in a partnership, a corporate officer, a trustor of a trust, or an executor of an estate.
Anyone can access this information directly from the IRS. For example, a nonprofit must provide you with their EIN upon request, and you can verify this directly with the IRS on the Exempt Organization page of the IRS website. The site not only verifies EINs but advises you if organizations are in good standing with the IRS.
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Payline does not provide legal or tax advice. If you have legal or tax questions, please consult a practicing lawyer or reputable tax advisor.