For a business, an Employer Identification number, or EIN, works the same way as an individual's Social Security number. As a business owner with an EIN, you can use your EIN where a Social Security number is otherwise required.
The IRS has set out criteria identifying when a business or self-employed individual must have an EIN. If you meet any one of these criteria, which includes having employees or operating your business as a corporation or a partnership, then you will need to have an EIN.
But even if you don't meet any of the criteria requiring an EIN as stipulated by the IRS, you may still want to obtain one. One of the main reasons is to help prevent identity theft, as you can use your EIN in situations where a Social Security number is required. You may also encounter certain situations, such as opening a business bank account or applying for a business credit card, where an EIN may be required.
How to Get an Employer Identification Number
You can get an EIN for yourself directly from the IRS website, but the process can be confusing. LegalZoom can help can you get an EIN number through the IRS's online EIN application process quickly and affordably.
Here's how to get an employer identification number through the IRS's online EIN application process:
Go to the IRS Online EIN Application Page
You can submit an online application from Monday through Friday between 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. Eastern Time
Make sure you are eligible to apply for an EIN online. In order to use the online application process, your principal business must be located in the United States or in the U.S. Territories. You must also have a valid Tax Identification Number (Federal Tax ID number), such as a Social Security number, an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number or an EIN.
Click Apply Online Now
Remember that you will have to complete the application in one session—you will not be able to save the document and return to it later. You also can't leave your application session inactive for more than 15 minutes, or your session will expire and you'll have to start over again.
Select Your Legal Structure
The questions you will be asked in the application process will depend on the legal structure you choose here. Once you have selected the proper legal structure, click Continue. For the purposes of this article, we will go through the rest of the application process based on the selection of Limited Liability Company (LLC) as your legal structure.
Answer the Questions
You will be taken through a series of questions which ask you to provide more information about the LLC, including the following:
- The number of members in your LLC
- The state or territory in which your business operates
- The reason why you are requesting an EIN
- The responsible party for the LLC. The responsible party is anyone who controls, manages or directs the business as well as the disposition of the business's funds and assets.
- Address and phone number of the LLC—a U.S. address is required, and a PO box cannot be used.
- Other information about the LLC, including name or trade name, state in which the LLC was formed and the date the LLC began doing business. If your business is new and you haven't started doing business yet, then enter the future date on which you expect to begin doing business.
- Questions that help to determine whether your LLC is subject to federal excise taxes.
- What your business does.
Choose to Receive Your Confirmation Online or by Email
If you choose to receive your confirmation letter online, you should have Adobe Reader already installed on your computer.
You will now be asked to verify your information. Check to make sure all of the information you've entered is correct. If there are any errors, you'll have to start over with a new application. If everything is accurate, click on Submit.
After hitting the Submit button or link, you will receive your EIN number.
Other Methods of Applying for an EIN
If you prefer not to use the online application process, you can also apply for an EIN by mail or by fax. To apply by mail or by fax, you will need to fill out Form SS-4 (pdf). Make sure you've provided all required information on the form before you mail or fax it in. You can find the appropriate fax number and address for filing Form SS-4 on the IRS website.
Unfortunately, only international EIN applicants can apply for an EIN by phone. If you live in the U.S., you can only apply online, by fax or by mail.