One of the essential steps new business owners must take when launching their companies is to apply for an EIN Number. An Employee Identification Number (also known as a “Federal Tax ID Number” or “Tax ID Number”) is a nine-digit number assigned to a business for filing taxes, submitting reports to the state, applying for business licenses and permits, and completing other documentation. Similar to how a social security number serves as identification for an individual, an EIN serves to identify a business. The IRS issues EINs at no charge.
EIN Number Eligibility Requirements
The IRS accepts EIN applications for businesses that will have their principal location within the United States or U.S. territories. The person (“responsible party”) ordering the EIN on behalf of the business must have one of the following types of valid taxpayer identification numbers:
Ways to Apply for an EIN Number
The process to apply for an EIN number is relatively simple. The IRS provides a variety of ordering options including:
- Applying online
- Applying by fax
- Applying by mail
Applying for an EIN Number Online
The online EIN application is the fastest way to obtain an Employee Identification Number.
Note that if a business owner designates a third party to apply online for an EIN on its business’s behalf, it must first authorize the third party to apply for and receive the EIN.
Before the third party completes and submits the online application, the following steps must happen:
- Taxpayer (responsible party) signs a completed Form SS-4, including the third party designee section.
- The third party retains a copy of the completed Form SS-4 in its files.
- The taxpayer reads and signs a statement indicating the understanding that he or she has authorized the third party to apply for and receive the EIN.
- The third party retains a copy of the signed statement in its files.
After those steps are taken, and the third party successfully completes the online application, the IRS assigns the EIN and discloses it to the third party. The taxpayer for whom the third party requested the EIN will get a computer-generated notice from the IRS to acknowledge the EIN was assigned.
Applying for an EIN Number by Fax or Mail
For a business to obtain an EIN via these methods, an authorized party must complete and fax or mail Form SS-4 to the IRS. The IRS lists the appropriate fax numbers and addresses in its “Instructions for Form SS-4.”
How Foreigners Can Apply for an EIN
Foreigners who do not have a social security number or ITIN may apply for an EIN, however, the process is a little more involved. International applicants (i.e., entrepreneurs with no legal residence, principal place of business, or principal office or agency in the U.S. or U.S. possessions) must complete Form SS-4 and call the IRS by phone to start the process. The person calling the IRS must be authorized to receive the EIN and answer questions regarding Form SS-4.
Something to be aware of: Even if a company has an EIN, U.S. banks might not open a business bank account for it unless one of its member, officers, or shareholders is a U.S. taxpayer with a social security number.
Information Required to Get an EIN
Whether filing online or by fax or mail, below is some of the information the applying party should expect to provide:
- The legal name of the business entity
- Name of the executor, administrator, trustee, or “care of” entity
- Mailing address
- Physical address
- Name of the responsible party and that person’s SSN, ITIN, or EIN
- Type of legal entity
- Reason for applying for an EIN
- Date the business was started or acquired
- Closing month of the business’s accounting year
- Maximum number of employees expected within the next year
- Principal activity of the company and primary line of products sold, work done, or services provided
- Third Party Designee (if applicable)
Is an EIN Necessary?
The IRS identifies the specific circumstances under which a business must have an EIN. In these situations, an EIN number is required:
- The business has employees.
- The business operates as a partnership or corporation.
- The business has a Keogh plan (tax-deferred pension plan for small businesses and the self-employed).
- The business withholds taxes on income, other than wages, paid to a non-resident alien.
- The business is involved with one or more of the following: most types of trusts, farmers’ cooperatives, estates, non-profit organizations, plan administrators, and real estate mortgage investment conduits.
- The business files certain types of tax returns, including Employment, Excise, or Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.
Aside from the IRS requirements, an EIN serves the vital purpose of establishing a separation between a business and its owners, thus providing financial and legal liability protection of owners’ personal assets.
Also, for self-employed individuals, it can help retain privacy and prevent identity theft. Many self-employed small business owners choose voluntarily to apply for an EIN so that they don’t have to use their SSN on 1099 forms, business credit applications, sales tax invoices, and other business documents.
When to Apply for an EIN Number
A business should apply for its EIN in advance of when it will need to file a tax return or make a tax deposit.
How Long Will It Take to Get an EIN?
Applying online is the fast way to get an EIN because the IRS will immediately assign one upon the submission of an approved application. According to the IRS, it takes about one week for an EIN to be issued when applied for by fax. By mail, it may require approximately five weeks.
The IRS instructs businesses that have applied for but have not received their EIN in time to make a required filing or deposit to write “Applied for” in the space where the EIN is supposed to be entered.
EIN Number Restrictions
In 2012, to enable fair treatment for all taxpayers, the IRS began limiting the issuance of EINs to one EIN per day per responsible party. This restriction applies whether EINs are requested through the online form, by mail, or by fax.
Where to Find Detailed Information About EIN Numbers
The IRS provides extensive information about all things related to EINs. I encourage you to visit the Employer ID Numbers section of the IRS website for additional details about the advantages of having an EIN, how to obtain one, and the rules and requirements that apply to entities requesting an EIN.
How CorpNet Can Assist You in Getting Your EIN Number
If an EIN application isn’t completed correctly or on time, it could mean you will need to delay hiring employees, applying for business licenses, and taking care of other essential business activities.
By authorizing CorpNet to fill out the EIN application and submit it for you, you can avoid those issues. You’ll find that our fees to take care of the paperwork are minimal and well worth the peace of mind that your business has what it needs to move forward.
Contact my team at CorpNet today for help in obtaining your EIN and handling all of your other business startup and compliance document filings.