Tax season is upon us, and if you are a small business owner, there is a good chance that you will need your Employer Identification Number (EIN) to file business taxes. For example, if you have an EIN for the first time this year, or are using a new CPA or service to file your business taxes, you will need to bring your EIN and other information to your accountant when you file your business taxes. There are also various other reasons you might need your EIN, such as to open a business bank account,Â open an online store, or apply for business financing. If you have misplaced your EIN, or aren’t sure if you even have one, you have come to the right place! Read on to learn what an EIN is, how you can find your EIN, and how you can apply for an EIN if you don’t already have one.
What Is An EIN?
An EIN (also sometimes called a “business tax ID number”) is a unique 9-digit number that identifies your company, similar to the way your social security number represents your personal identity. Specifically, your EIN identifies your business to the IRS. However, in addition to IRS-related filings such as business taxes, you might also need your EIN to apply for a business license, apply for a business loan, or open a business bank account.
The IRS requires most, but not all business types to have an EIN. For example, most sole proprietors and LLCs with no employees are not required to have an EIN and can instead use their social security number as their taxpayer identification number. As the name indicates, employer ID numbers are required for companies that employ people; if you have employees, then you need an EIN. Even if you are not required to have an EIN, you may opt to get one in order to establish your business as its own entity, separate from your personal identity. For example, having an EIN can help you establish your business credit profile so you won’t have to use your personal credit for your business.
How To Find Your EIN
If you have applied for and received an EIN in the past, then it shouldn’t be too difficult to find it. You’ll just have to do a little digging.
Method 1: Check Your Business Documents
Your EIN can be found on many of your important business documents, whether you have physical or virtual copies of these items. You should have the easiest time finding your EIN on your EIN confirmation letter from the IRS, and on your previous business tax returns.
Here are some documents where you can find your EIN:
- Your EIN Confirmation Letter — The document the IRS issued when you originally applied for the EIN
- Previously filed business tax returns — Your EIN should appear prominently at the top of your federal return
- Your business credit report
- Business licenses or permits
- Business bank statements
- Other tax filings, such as 1099 forms issued to independent contractors
- Old business loan applications
- Any tax notices from the IRS
Method 2:Â Run Your Business Credit Report
Okay, so let’s say you don’t have any copies of the above documents on-hand and you need your EIN, ASAP. Another option is to run your business credit report online and get your EIN that way. This is not free, but it’s a quick and easy way to get your EIN (or another company’s EIN), and it’s a good idea to check your business credit report from time to time anyway.
The three major business credit scoring agencies are Dun & Bradstreet, Equifax, and Experian. Equifax and Experian are more appropriate for smaller, less-established companies, and Experian offers the cheapest business credit report at $39.95.
Method 3: Call The IRS
You can also get your EIN by simply calling the IRS and asking them for it. Just keep in mind that they might have you on hold for a long time. From the IRS’s website:
Ask the IRS to search for your EIN by calling the Business & Specialty Tax Line atÂ 800-829-4933. The hours of operation are 7:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m. local time, Monday through Friday. An assistor will ask you for identifying information and provide the number to you over the telephone, as long as you are a person who isÂ authorized to receive it.Â Examples of an authorized person include, but are not limited to, a sole proprietor, a partner in a partnership, a corporate officer, a trustee of a trust, or an executor of an estate.
Method 4: Ask Someone Else
IRS hold times too long? Call someone else who might know your EIN.
Here are some people who should be able to look up your EIN and give it to you over the phone:
- Your account manager at the bank where you do your business banking
- Your accountant (or you can consult your accounting software)
- Your CPA
- Any organization that you have a business license or permit from
Method 5: Use Other EIN Lookup Options
There are a few other places where you should be able to look up your EIN online:
- Your online account with the bank where you do business
- For publicly traded companies, the SEC’s online database
- For nonprofits, the free Melissa database
As a last resort, you could also try a paid EIN database, but I would only recommend this if you’ve exhausted all other options. And if you’ve gone through all the other options and still can’t find your EIN, well … are you sure you even have an EIN?
Don’t Have An EIN? Here’s How To Get One
If you’ve read all the way to the end of this post without finding your EIN, odds are that you probably don’t have one. Or, you may have discovered that although you have an EIN, you need to apply for a new one. This may be the case if your ownership or business structure has changed, or you are subject to a business bankruptcy proceeding.
Fortunately, an EIN is actually pretty easy to apply for and obtain.
As long as your company is located inside the United States or a U.S.-owned territory and you have a taxpayer ID number such as your SSN or ITIN (Individual Taxpayer Identification Number), you can apply for an EIN on the IRS’s website.Â The application is short and sweet, and you will receive an EIN immediately upon successful form completion and validation of your information.
Note that while you will receive your EIN immediately online, it will take up to two weeks before your EIN becomes part of the IRS’s permanent records. You will have to wait until this happens before you can use your EIN to file an electronic tax return, make an electronic payment, or pass the IRS Taxpayer Identification Number matching program.
The IRS’s online EIN assistant is secure, but if you’re not comfortable submitting sensitive info online, you can download a PDF of Form SS-4 (also from the IRS’s website) and apply via snail mail.
For just about any business owner, an Employer Identification Number, or EIN, is a very useful thing to have. It’s useful for completing various legal tasks related to your business, such as filing taxes. You also need an EIN to build your business credit profile or apply for a business loan.
If you already have an EIN and need it in a hurry, don’t panic; it shouldn’t be too difficult to find. If you need to apply for an EIN, either for the first timeÂ or because you need a new EIN, this is also a quick and easy process. Once you have an EIN or have rediscovered it after doing some digging, please keep track of it because it will likely only be a matter of time before you need to retrieve it again.
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