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When you open a new business, applying for an employer identification number (EIN) may need to be near the top of your priority list. While not every business needs an EIN, many do. Nearly 5.4 million businesses applied for new EINs in 2021.
Getting an EIN for your business is free. But the application process does require some legwork on the part of the business owner. Here’s everything you need to know about EINs.
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What Is a Business Tax ID Number?
A federal tax ID number, or an EIN, is a nine-digit number that identifies your company with the IRS. This nine-digit identifier is a bit like a Social Security number (SSN), but for your business.
Once you establish an EIN, your business can use the number to pay both federal and state taxes. An EIN may also empower your business to complete the following actions:
- Open a business bank account
- File business or corporate tax returns
- Get business licenses
- Apply for small business financing like business loans and business credit cards
How to Find Your EIN Online
If you previously applied for an EIN and have forgotten it, here are a few possible ways to look up your business tax ID number.
1. Check Your EIN Confirmation Letter
The IRS will notify you when it approves your EIN application. Depending on how you apply, you may receive a confirmation letter with your EIN online at the time it was issued or via mail or email.
Look back through your paper and digital business files. You or whoever helped you apply may have saved a copy of it for future reference.
2. Check Other Places Your EIN May Be Recorded
Aside from confirmation letters from the IRS, you may be able to find a copy of your EIN on other important documents. For example, you might want to take a look at previously filed tax returns. Or you might look over old financing documents, like applications for business loans or lines of credit.
The IRS also suggests that you might be able to get a copy of your EIN by contacting institutions with which you shared that information in the past such as your business bank or local and state business license agencies.
3. Call the IRS
A third way to look up your EIN is to call the IRS. You can reach out to the Business and Specialty Tax line by calling 800-829-4933. The department is open Monday through Friday between 7:00 am and 7:00 pm local time.
When Should My Business Consider an EIN?
Some businesses may be able to operate without an EIN. However, according to the IRS, you may need to apply for one if your business plans to:
- Pay employees
- Withhold income taxes (aside from wages) for nonresident aliens
- Establish tax-deferred pension plans
- Operate as a corporation or partnership
- File employment, excise, tobacco, firearms or alcohol tax returns
If you’re unsure whether your business needs an EIN, you can talk to a certified accountant or tax professional for guidance regarding your individual situation.
How to Apply for an EIN
You can apply for an EIN from the IRS in a few different ways. The fastest and preferred way to apply is online. However, here’s a look at all four of your options:
- Online. The IRS provides a user-friendly online application platform—the EIN Assistant—that you can use to request a number for your business. If you opt to use the online tool, you will need to complete your application in a single session. There’s no option to save your work and return later to pick up where you left off. If you leave your session inactive for 15 minutes, a security measure kicks in and you’ll have to start your application over from the beginning.
- Fax. You may also apply via fax. You can download and complete Form SS-4 from the IRS website. If your principal business address is located in the U.S., you can fax your completed form to 855-641-9535. You can look up other fax number options on the IRS website.
- Telephone. If you’re applying for an EIN from an international location, you have the option to complete your application over the phone. Applicants can call 267-941-1099 Monday to Friday from 6:00 am to 11:00 pm EST.
- Mail. The IRS also allows you to apply for an EIN via mail. You can send in a completed Form SS-4 to the following address as long as your business is located in the U.S.:
Internal Revenue Service
Attn: EIN Operation
Cincinnati, OH 45999
You can look up alternative mailing addresses for your EIN application on the IRS website.
Your business needs to be located in the U.S. or one of the U.S. Territories to be eligible for an EIN number. As an applicant, you must also have a valid SSN or other acceptable Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN, EIN, etc.). Unless you hire a third party to manage the process for you, applying is free of charge.
How Long Does It Take to Get an EIN?
The amount of time it takes your business to receive an EIN can vary. Your results will depend on how you apply for your business tax ID number in the first place.
- Online: If you apply for an EIN online, you may get an EIN number right away.
- Fax: With faxed applications, you should receive a fax back (if you provide a return fax number) with your EIN within four business days.
- Mail: Send in your EIN application via mail and you’ll have to wait around four weeks for processing.
How to Find an EIN for Another Business
There may come a time when you need to look up another company’s EIN for verification purposes, risk assessment or other reasons. Here are a few potential ways you might be able to find a business’ EIN when you need it:
- Ask for the information. The company’s payroll or accounting department might be a good place to submit your request, though there’s no guarantee a business will be willing to share those details.
- Check the company’s credit report. Unlike consumer credit reports, which have more robust privacy protections, almost anyone can check a business’ credit report. Some business credit reports and scores may feature a company’s EIN alongside other important details, like how the business manages its credit obligations.
- Search state and federal websites. You may be able to find information about a company, including its EIN, by searching various state and federal government websites. The secretary of state’s website (in the state where the business is located) may be a good place to start. You might also consider searching the Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) website for SEC filings if the company is publicly traded.
- Pay a third party for help. Another option to consider is an EIN database. For a fee, these third-party services may be able to provide you with useful information about various businesses.
How to Cancel an EIN
The IRS can close your business account and cancel your EIN upon request. You must send a letter to the IRS with the following details:
- Business’ legal name
- Mailing address of the business
- Reason you wish to close the account
You can mail your notice to the Internal Revenue Service, Cincinnati, OH 45999.
Note that even after you close a business, the EIN may still be associated with that entity. The IRS won’t issue the same nine-digit identification number to a business in the future.
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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Can I look up an EIN number?
The IRS doesn’t provide a public database you can use to look up EIN numbers for your own company or others. However, you can look at your EIN confirmation letter or other places your number may be recorded, including previously filed tax returns or old financing documents.
Is an EIN the same as a business ID number?
The terms EIN and business tax ID number are interchangeable. However, a business may have several different types of identification numbers such as a D-U-N-S Number, state ID number, business license number and more.
Is an EIN number free?
The IRS doesn’t charge a fee to apply for an EIN number. The only time you might incur any fees where an EIN is concerned is if you hire a third party to manage the application process on your behalf.