4 Easy Ways to Apply for an Employer ID Number (EIN)

How to Apply for an Employer ID Number
How to Apply for an Employer ID Number. mevans/Getty Images

What is an Employer ID Number? 

An Employer ID Number (EIN) is an identifier used by the IRS for businesses and other entities. Most businesses need an EIN even if they don't have employees. For example, many banks require an EIN before you can apply for a business checking account. Consider the EIN to like a social security number for a business. Although it is primarily used for employment tax identification purposes, an EIN can also be used as a general tax number.

 

Before You Apply for an EIN

If you begin the process of applying and you don't know answers to some of the sections, you may have to begin over again. It's best to print out a copy of the application, on IRS Form SS-4. and answer all the questions on this form. 

For more information, read this article on how to complete the EIN application form on Form SS-4.  If you decide you need help completing the EIN you can get an attorney to help, This article on finding help to complete the EIN also discusses the trickiest part - designating your business legal type. 

Filing as a Responsible Party

You will be filing for the EIN as the "responsible party" so you will need to be sure you have the authority to make this filing. The IRS has set up the designation of responsible party to make sure someone with authority to do business for a company is completing the form. A responsible party should be

"the individual or entity that controls manages, or directs the entity and the disposition of the entity’s funds and assets...."

For a small business, a responsible party is a general partner, owner, or principal officer of the company. 

4 Ways to Apply for an EIN

You can apply for an EIN in one of four ways:

You can apply online

Many people use the online EIN application form, called the EIN Assistant between the hours of 7 a.m. and 10 p.m., Eastern time, Monday through Friday.

It's best to have the application completed and all the questions answered before you go online, because you will have to begin over if you have to stop to figure out the responses. The IRS says: 

  • You must complete this application in one session, as you will not be able to save and return at a later time.
  • For security purposes, your session will expire after 15 minutes of inactivity, and you will need to start over.

To file online, you must meet some qualifications: You must have a valid U.S. id number (like a social security number), 

When you have completed the form, the information is validated and you can receive your EIN immediately. The online method is available for businesses located in the U.S. or its territories. You must have a valid taxpayer identification number before applying online.

You can apply by phone

Call the Business & Specialty Tax Line at (800) 829-4933. The hours of operation are 7:00 a.m. - 10:00 p.m. local time, Monday through Friday. Someone will take your information over the phone and assign you an EIN at the end of the conversation. Note: International applicants must call (215) 516-6999 (Not a toll-free number).

You can apply by FAX

Fax the completed SS-4 application form to your state fax number.

If you include your fax number, you will receive your EIN by fax within four business days.

You can apply by mail

Mail your completed SS-4 Form to the appropriate IRS office. You will receive your EIN by mail within four weeks. 

As you can see, if you are comfortable applying online or by phone, you can receive your EIN immediately instead of waiting days or weeks.

Beware of FAKE EIN Application Web Sites

If you search on "apply for EIN" you will find lots of sites that look like they are the IRS. They will start you on the application process, but only when you get ready to file will they ask for money. Don't waste your time or money. The EIN application process is free, relatively painless, and quick. 

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