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An employer identification number (EIN) is like a social security number for your business. You can apply for an EIN by filing an Application For Employer Identification Number (Form SS-4) with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The form can be submitted online, by mail, telephone, or fax. There is no filing fee.

Below, you’ll find everything you need to know about EINs—including what they are, who needs one and answers to frequently asked questions.

What is an EIN?

An EIN (also called a Federal Employment Identification Number) is a nine-digit tax ID that the IRS assigns to your business for tax purposes. Your business’s EIN identifies your company when filing business tax returns—the same way your Social Security Number (SSN) identifies you.

Starting a business but would rather not go through the steps below? You can opt to add EIN service when you hire us to form your LLC or corporation.

Do I need an EIN?

Probably. Businesses that hire employees or are taxed as a corporation will need to get an EIN. Here’s a list of other situations where you’d be required to get an EIN:

  • Your business is (or is taxed as) a corporation or partnership
  • You have a self-employment retirement plan
  • You pay excise, employment, or alcohol, tobacco, and firearm taxes
  • You withhold income taxes (besides wages) that are paid to a non-resident alien
  • You are involved in any of the following:
    • Trusts (other than revocable trusts owned by the grantor), IRAs, and Exempt Organization Business Income Tax Returns
    • Estates
    • Real estate mortgage investment conduits
    • Non-profits
    • Farmer cooperatives
    • Plan administrators

EINs are also required for opening a business bank account and some state-level filings. For example, the Alabama Business Privilege Tax and Arkansas Franchise Tax need an EIN to file.

If you’re a sole proprietor, you likely won’t need an EIN unless you hire employees or file any excise or pension taxes. However, without an EIN, you’ll use your social security number as your taxpayer ID. So, getting an EIN can be worthwhile—even if you aren’t required to get one.

Steps to Complete Your EIN Application

1. Enter Contact Information

To obtain an EIN, you’ll need to file an Application for Employer Identification Number (Form SS-4) with the IRS. Here’s a complete list of everything you’ll need to include:

  • The legal name of the LLC or corporation (box 1). This must be the exact name listed on your business formation papers.
  • Trade name (box 2). If you have a trade name (or DBA), you must list that name here.
  • Executor, administrator, or trustee (box 3, optional). If applicable, enter the first, middle, and last name of the person designated to accept tax documents on behalf of your business. Typically, this would be Certified Public Accountant (CPA), corporate accountant, or attorney—not a registered agent.
  • Mailing address (boxes 4a-4b). This can be a PO box and located outside the US. If you completed line 3, then enter the address of that individual.
  • Street address (boxes 5a-5b). Enter your business’s physical address—PO boxes are not allowed. This address can be located outside the US.
  • County and state (box 6). List the county and state where your business is located.
  • Responsible party (boxes 7a-7b). This is the owner or person who has full control over the business—typically a member or principal officer. The responsible party must be a person, not an entity.

2. Answer LLC Questions

  • LLC questions (boxes 8a-8b). If your entity is an LLC, check ‘yes’ and indicate the number of members it has.

3. Identify Entity Type

  • Type of entity (boxes 9a-9b). This section is really about your entity’s tax classification. For LLCs that are taxed as corporations, follow the corporation directions below.
    • Single-member LLCs: Select “other” and write “disregarded entity- sole proprietorship” in the space provided.
    • Multi-member LLCs: Select “partnership.”
    • Corporations: Select “corporation” and write either “1120” for c corps OR “1120-S” for s corps. Also, note that a non-profit is a corporation. It’s just a corporation that has elected to be “not for profit.” If your entity is a corporation, you’ll need to list the state or foreign country where you incorporated your business.

4. State the Reason for Applying

  • Reason for applying (box 10). Indicate the reason you’re applying for an EIN. HINT: most choose “started a new business.” You’ll also need to enter the type of business you formed—such as “restaurant.”

5. Provide Accounting and Tax Details

This section is focused on helping the IRS understand how your business should be taxed and the types of returns your business will file.

  • Date of formation (box 11). Enter the month, day, and year you started your business.
  • End of the accounting year (box 12). For businesses operating on a regular calendar year, this will be December.
  • Expected number of employees (box 13). Indicate the number of employees your business expects to have in the next year.
  • Employer tax return (box 14). This section determines how often you’ll submit employer returns and which return you’ll be required to submit. If you think your employment tax liability will be less than $1,000 for the year, you may be eligible to file Form 944 annually instead of filing Form 941 quarterly.
  • First wages paid (box 15). Enter the month, day, and year you paid the first wages. If you don’t have employees, write “N/A.”
  • Primary business activity (box 16). Indicate your primary business activity such as real estate, manufacturing, or retail.
  • Merchandise, services, or products provided (box 17). This section asks for further specifications on the type of products or services your business sells or provides. For instance, if you wrote “restaurant” in box 10, you could write “health-conscious meals to go” in this section.
  • Previous EIN (box 18). Indicate whether your business has received an EIN before. If yes, include the previous EIN in the space provided.

6. Sign and Send

  • Contact person (box 19, optional). If you want to designate a third party to receive your EIN and answer questions regarding your application, you may include that person’s information here. Otherwise, leave it blank.
  • Applicant signature (box 20). Include the applicant’s signature and printed name.

Once you’ve completed the form, you can file online, by mail, telephone, or fax—depending on where you currently live or conduct business. If you have a US residential or business address, you may apply online, by mail, or fax. International applicants must file by telephone, mail, or fax. Online and telephone submissions will be processed immediately. Fax filings will take four business days, and mailed submissions will take 4 to 5 weeks. There is no filing fee.

How do I file the EIN application?

Online (US applicants only):
EIN Online Application

Mail or fax:
Internal Revenue Service
Attn: EIN Operation
Cincinnati, OH 45999
Fax: (855) 641-6935 (US) or (304) 707-9471 (international)

Telephone (International applicants only):
(267) 941-1099

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it take to get an EIN?

It depends on how you file. The IRS will process online and telephone submissions immediately. However, fax filings will take one week to process. Mail filings will take four to five weeks.

How much does it cost to get an EIN?

There is no filing fee to get an EIN.

Can I use my registered agent’s address?

No. The EIN application specifically asks for your entity’s mailing address and (if different) street address. However, if you have a designated person who accepts tax documents on behalf of your business, you may enter their information instead of your business address. A designated person is typically a certified public accountant, corporate accountant, or attorney—not your registered agent.

What do I put for fiscal year-end?

Your fiscal year-end is the last month of your company’s accounting year. For businesses using a standard calendar, this will be December.

How soon can I use my EIN?

You can use your EIN immediately for most activities, including:

  • establishing a business bank account
  • obtaining a business license
  • mailing a tax return

However, you will likely have to wait up to two weeks before you can file taxes online.

Is an EIN the same as an ITIN (individual taxpayer identification number)?

No. An ITIN is a tax identification number assigned to non-US residents, their spouses, and dependents without a Social Security Number. However, they are used for the same purpose.

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