What is an EIN?
How To Apply For And Get A Free Employer Identification Number From The IRS
An Employer Identification Number (EIN), also known as a Federal Employer Identification Number (FEIN), or Federal Tax Identification Number (FTIN), is like a Social Security number (SSN) for your business. The unique nine-digit EIN number allows the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to identify businesses for tax reporting.
Keep reading our What is an EIN guide to find out if your business needs an EIN and learn how to apply online, by telephone, fax, or mail to get one for free from the IRS website.
Does My Business Need an EIN?
When does the IRS require an EIN number?
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has specific, established rules that determine when you need to apply for an EIN for your business.
If any of the following statements are true, you'll need to get an EIN:
- Your business has employees
- Your business is a partnership or corporation
- Your business files excise taxes
- Your business withholds taxes for nonwage income paid to a nonresident alien
All businesses can benefit from having an EIN. Visit our EIN Benefits guide to learn more.
Need help starting a business? Read our comprehensive how to start a business guide.
If your business structure is a sole proprietorship without employees (and doesn’t file any excise or pension plan tax returns), then you are not required to get an Employer Identification Number (EIN).
Sole proprietors with employees are required to have an EIN.
A sole proprietor who is hiring employees should start thinking about when to form an LLC. Our sole proprietorship to LLC guide can help you decide when to take the next step in growing your business.
It's recommended that taxpayers get an EIN number in order to open a business bank account, build business credit, and lower the risk of identity theft.
Learn more about EINs for Sole Proprietorships.
If your business entity is a single-member LLC without employees (or excise tax liability), then you are not required to get an Employer ID Number.
Single-member LLCs are required to have an EIN if they have employees.
It’s still recommended (and sometimes required) to open a bank account, to hire employees later, and in order to maintain your corporate veil.
Learn more about EINs for Single-Member LLCs.
Multi-Member LLC or Partnerships
If your business structure is a partnership or multi-member LLC, you are required to get an EIN number because the LLC must file a partnership return and provide K-1s to members of the LLC.
Learn more about EINs for LLCs.
If you have an S corporation tax structure, you are required to have an EIN for tax reporting purposes.
If you have a C corporation, your business is viewed as a separate entity and you are required to get an EIN for tax reporting purposes.
If your business structure is a nonprofit, you are required to have an Employer ID Number for tax reporting purposes.
Trusts and Estates
EINs are used for specific types of trusts and estates under varying circumstances.
When Should A Business Get an EIN?
No matter what kind of business you have, it is usually a good idea to get an EIN number. An EIN is required when applying for a business bank account or business credit card.
Most banks require an EIN in order to open a business banking account.
- A business bank account will simplify the process of tracking and managing your professional expenses.
- You can also build business credit and qualify for more loans.
Learn more about why you need a business bank account and visit our best banks for small business review.
You need an EIN to get a business credit card.
- An EIN acts like a Social Security number for a business. Banks use EINs to approve you for a business credit card.
- A business credit card is a great way to start building your business credit and acquire larger and more lines of credit down the road.
- Most new businesses have a difficult time getting approved for a business credit card, but some credit card companies like Divvy approve even new businesses.
Recommended: Visit Divvy to apply for their business credit card, earn points, and build your business credit quickly.
You will need an EIN before you can hire employees.
- Employees will file their taxes separately under the LLC’s 1040 form.
- Employers need an EIN for an LLC to set up payroll, and the IRS will use the business’s EIN to track payroll taxes for taxpayers.
- An EIN number is necessary to register for your State's employer taxes.
If you’re an LLC, an EIN helps you maintain your corporate veil.
- The corporate veil protects business owners from personal liability for the business’s debts.
- Maintaining the corporate veil also establishes credibility and professionalism by allowing your business to have its own identity separate from its owners.
An EIN will help to prevent identity theft.
- Your Social Security number (SSN) will be more private.
- It’s less likely for someone to break into your accounts when you keep business finances and personal finances separate.
Read more about the benefits of getting an Employer Identification Number (EIN).
How To Get a Free EIN
The quickest and simplest way for taxpayers to get a free EIN is to apply online on the IRS website using the EIN Assistant.
You must form your business before getting an EIN. The IRS will ask for your business formation date and legal business name. You will need to register your business and get approval for the business's name from your state before getting an EIN. Visit our LLC before EIN guide to learn more.
For help with business formation, visit our free How to Form an LLC or How to Start a Corporation guides for step-by-step instructions.
If you are undecided on what business structure to choose, visit our How To Choose a Business Structure guide or our LLC vs Sole Proprietor guide.
Here is some helpful information to guide you in requesting your EIN number from the IRS EIN Assistant:
- The IRS’s hours of operation for obtaining your EIN are Monday-Friday from 7 am to 10 pm
- Only United States and U.S. Territories-based businesses are eligible
- You must have a valid Taxpayer Identification Number (SSN, ITIN, EIN)
- The entity owner or responsible party may only apply once per day
- Your application must be filled out in one session and cannot be saved
- The session will time-out after 15 minutes if not in use
- You will immediately get an EIN after the form is completed
- Applications cannot be processed if an EIN was previously obtained online
You can apply for an Employer Identification Number (EIN) by fax or mail by completing Form SS-4.
If you are submitting by fax, send your EIN application to fax number (855) 641-6935.
If applying by mail, submit to Internal Revenue Service, Attn: EIN Operation, Cincinnati, OH 45999.
Get an EIN
Option 1: Request an EIN from the IRS
- OR -
Option 2: Apply for an EIN by Mail or Fax
Internal Revenue Service
Attn: EIN Operation
Cincinnati, OH 45999
Fax: (855) 641-6935
Online EIN Application Process:
- What type of business do you wish to start? (LLC, Sole Proprietorship, Corporation, etc.)
- How many owners does your business have, and in what state is your business located?
- Why are you applying for an EIN?
- Who will be the “responsible party” or principal officer of the business?
In addition, you will need to fill out the name, SSN or TIN, and contact information of your business’s responsible party. If you have any further questions, you can also call the IRS customer service line by dialing (800) 829-1040.
International EIN Applicants
If you don’t have an SSN and you are not a U.S. citizen, you can still get an EIN number. Simply download and fill out IRS Form SS-4. You can leave section 7b blank.
To submit your application, call the IRS at 267-941-1099 (NOT a toll-free number) Monday through Friday between 7:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. You may also apply for an EIN by fax at 304-707-9471.
TIP: This phone number is not toll free. We recommend using a web calling service to save money on the call. You should expect to spend up to an hour on the phone before you get your EIN. Since Mondays are the busiest day for the IRS to receive calls, we suggest calling any other day of the week.
Learn more about getting an EIN as a foreign person.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do I need an EIN if I’m self-employed?
You don’t need an EIN if you’re self-employed; you can simply use your Social Security number. However, some people who are self-employed choose to apply for an Employer Identification Number (EIN) instead of using their Social Security number to reduce the risk of identity theft; it’s less likely for someone to break into your accounts when you keep business finances and personal finances separate.
Is there a difference between an EIN and a TIN?
No, there is not a difference between an Employer Identification Number (EIN) and a Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN). Both refer to the nine-digit number issued by the IRS for your business.
Is there a difference between an EIN and a FEIN?
No, there is not a difference between an Employer Identification Number (EIN) and a Federal Employer Identification Number (FEIN). A FEIN can also be referred to as a Federal Tax Identification Number.
How do I look up my EIN number?
It is very easy to look up your EIN number, and there are several ways you can do so. First, the IRS will typically email or send a physical letter confirming your EIN application. You can also check business documents such as tax returns to find your EIN printed there.
If you are looking for an existing EIN number, use the instructions on our page: How to Look Up an EIN Number.
How do I look up another business’s EIN?
You can look up another business’s EIN by searching for the company on the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) EDGAR online Forms and Filings database.
How do I recover my EIN if I forget or lose it?
If you still aren’t able to find your EIN by checking for a confirmation email or letter, or by identifying it on your business documents, you can simply call the IRS EIN Department at 1-800-829-4933 to speak with one of their representatives. Their hours of operation are Monday-Friday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
What is the difference between an EIN and a DUNS number?
An Employer Identification Number (EIN) is a nine-digit number issued by the IRS to keep track of a business’s tax reporting. The Data Universal Numbering System (DUNS) a nine-digit number issued by Dun & Bradstreet, a business analytics company; a DUNS number helps businesses create and identify their credit reports.
Does a DBA need an EIN?
A DBA doesn't need an EIN because a DBA is only a name for a business.
Do I need an EIN for my LLC?
LLCs need an EIN number when they hire employees.
Do I need an EIN before or after I form my LLC?
In most states, you will need to form your LLC before getting an EIN. This is because the IRS will request your approved business name and business formation date on the EIN application.
You can learn more in our LLC before EIN guide.