When forming a limited liability company (LLC), you'll need to apply for a federal tax ID number, or employer identification number (EIN), for tax purposes. This nine-digit number is similar to a Social Security number and is issued by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). It's easy to obtain, requiring nothing more than filling out a one-page form.
LLC types and taxes
An LLC is a business entity created by state statute. The IRS classifies an LLC as a corporation, a partnership, or a taxable disregarded entity—that is, as not being separate from its owner for income tax purposes:
- A multi-member LLC can elect to be a partnership or a corporation.
- A single-member LLC can elect to be a taxable disregarded entity or a corporation.
- If one person owns the disregarded entity, it is a sole proprietorship.
- If a corporation owns the disregarded entity, it is a branch or division of the corporation.
Does a single-member LLC need a federal tax ID?
Generally, it does not, as the individual's Social Security number can be used for federal income tax purposes and the LLC's business activities will be reported on the owner's federal tax returns.
There is an exception that does require a federal tax ID: If the single-member LLC is a taxable disregarded entity that has employees and pays federal employment taxes or pays excise taxes, it will be treated as a separate entity and will have to have a tax ID number for LLC.
Because a federal tax ID number is needed to open a business bank account or conduct other business activities, many single-member LLCs obtain a federal tax ID for LLC.
How to apply for an EIN
Obtaining a federal tax ID is just one of a series of tasks that you want to be sure you get right, so that you can enjoy both the protection of your personal assets from certain business liabilities and the flexibility in running your business that the LLC structure can provide.
You may choose to work with an attorney or other professional—whether online or in person—who can assist you in completing the various forms required and help ensure that you don't miss any steps along the way.
How do I get a federal tax ID? Specific to the EIN, you have the option of applying:
- By fax
- By mail
- By telephone (international applicants only)
The IRS Form SS-4 must include the name and taxpayer identification number of the responsible party—the individual or entity that controls, directs, or manages the business operations. The IRS limits the issuing of EINs to one per responsible party per day.
The fastest turnaround is provided by applying online at irs.gov. Once the EIN application form is completed, the information is validated and an EIN is issued immediately. Be sure to save and print the confirmation notice for your business records.
Your business must be located within the United States or U.S. Territories to use the online service, which is available Monday through Friday.
Apply by fax or mail
Alternatively, you can complete a paper form and fax or mail it back to the IRS. If you are faxing the paperwork, make sure to use the appropriate Fax-TIN number, which can change without notice. The fax service is available 24/7. Be sure to provide your fax number so the IRS can fax the EIN back to you within four business days.
If you choose to mail the completed application to your state's service center, expect to wait four to six weeks to receive your EIN in the mail.
If you misplace an EIN number
If your EIN is misplaced, you can call the IRS's Telephone Assistance for Businesses, Monday through Friday. Once the IRS verifies that the caller is the responsible party, it will provide the caller with the EIN.
An LLC needs a federal tax ID number for business purposes. While there are exceptions, if you open a business bank account or plan to hire employees, you will need an EIN. To simplify your life, and take one less chore off your to-do list when launching your new enterprise, you may want to contact a legal document firm that can handle this for you with no muss, no fuss.