What Is An EIN Number & How To Apply

What is an EIN?

An Employee Identification Number (EIN) is a unique nine-digit number that is assigned to a business by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in order to serve as identification for the business and for tax reporting. It is equivalent to a Social Security Number for your business. The EIN is also known as a Federal Employment Identification Number (FEIN) or a Federal Tax Identification Number. If you are planning to do business in the United States or one of its territories, you will most likely need to apply for EIN number. It does not cost anything to obtain an EIN, and you can apply in several ways: by phone, mail, fax or online.

How to Apply for a Tax ID (EIN) Number Online

In order to apply for an EIN number, you will need to complete IRS form SS-4, Application for EIN Number. This form needs to be faxed or mailed to the IRS unless you choose to apply online. Only international applicants can complete the form over the phone but still may be requested to send a paper copy within 24 hours of their conversation with the agent.

The following is a step by step explanation of the online EIN application process. This is how to get an ein number:

  1. Confirm that you are eligible to complete an ein application online. You are able to do so if your principal business is based in the U.S. or a U.S. territory and you have a valid Taxpayer Identification Number, SSN or EIN. You are limited to one EIN per day per responsible party.
  2. Be prepared. You must complete the online application in one session. For security reasons, the session will time out after 15 minutes of inactivity. After you complete the online application, you will receive your EIN. The letter confirming that you have received the EIN can be sent by mail. Alternatively, you can download and print it immediately.
  3. Click on the “begin application” button to get started.
  4. Answer identity questions that verify your legal structure and describe why you are applying for an EIN. This covers the correct legal structure for your business, additional information about your company and the reason why you are applying for an EIN.
  5. Next, provide information that authenticates the identity of the responsible party vouching for your business.
  6. Furnish contact information for your business, including address and phone number.
  7. Use your business’s organizational documentation to provide additional details about your company’s primary activities.
  8. Tell the IRS how you would like to receive confirmation of your EIN: immediately online or within four weeks by mail.
  9. If you elected to access your EIN immediately, download your confirmation letter.
  10. If applying for an EIN by fax, complete form SS-4 and fax it to the IRS. If your principal business, legal residence or agency is in one of the 50 states or the District of Columbia, fax the form to Internal Revenue Service Attn: EIN Operation Fax: (855) 641-6935. If you have no legal residence, principal place of business, or principal office or agency in any state, fax your completed form SS-4 to: Internal Revenue Service Attn: EIN International Operation Fax number: (855) 215-1627 (within the U.S.) Fax: (304) 707-9471 (outside the U.S.) You should receive your EIN by fax within four days.
  11. To apply for an EIN by mail, mail your completed SS-4 form to the IRS. You should receive your EIN within four weeks. If your principal business, agency or office or legal residence is in one of the 50 states or the District of Columbia, mail your completed form to: Internal Revenue Service Attn: EIN Operation Cincinnati, OH 45999 If you have no legal residence, principal place of business, or principal office or agency in any state, mail your completed form SS-4 to: Internal Revenue Service Attn: EIN International Operation Cincinnati, OH 45999.
  12. For international applicants applying for an EIN by phone, fill out form SS-4. Call the IRS at 261-941-1099. You will receive your EIN immediately but may still be requested to mail a paper copy of the form to the IRS within 24 hours. International callers wishing to apply for an EIN can call 267-941-1099. Representatives are available Monday through Friday from 6:00 a.m. until 11:00 p.m. EST.


Is a tax ID number the same as an EIN?

A tax Identification Number (TIN) is issued to individuals and businesses for the purpose of collecting taxes. An Employer Identification Number (EIN) is one type of tax ID number that is issued only to businesses, not individuals. In the case of sole proprietors with no employees, a Social Security Number can be used as a TIN.

Other common acronyms

There are several acronyms that you should know if you represent a business identity requesting an EIN: IRS: the Internal Revenue Service. SSN: Social Security number. Limited liability company (LLC). This is a corporate structure wherein owners are not held personally liable for the business’s debts or liabilities.

Do I need a tax ID number?

Think of an EIN as your business’s Social Security Number. It is used to identify your company on important documents such as licenses, permits and tax returns. It is necessary whenever you need to provide an IRS identifier on applications or forms. When you use it to open a business bank account, you can separate company and personal expenses for your own protection. Your business will need an EIN if you have employees, file certain kinds of taxes or if you are taxed as a partnership or corporation.

How do I get an employer identification number?

You can apply for an EIN in five ways: by fax, online, by mail, in person (in some states) and over the phone (for international applicants) In all cases, you will need to complete form SS-4.

Do I need an EIN if I’m self-employed?

If you are a sole proprietor without any employees who does not file any pension plan or excise tax returns, you do not need an EIN. That being said, you are not prohibited from getting one if you choose to do so. In most cases, however, you can simply furnish your Social Security Number as a TIN.

How do I look up my EIN number?

If you need to know your EIN, call (800) 829-4933. Select “EIN” from the list of options to receive help in retrieving the number.