If you operate a business the IRS may require you to obtain an Employee Identification Number (EIN), which is also referred to as your business tax ID number. Each EIN is unique in the same way that your Social Security number is. The number allows the IRS to identify your business and requires you to provide it on all of your tax documents and forms. Fortunately, the IRS makes it very simple to obtain a new EIN.

Step 1—Determine whether you need an EIN

If your business employs workers, withholds taxes on the wages and salaries it pays or you operate the business as a corporation or partnership, then the IRS requires you to obtain an EIN number. An EIN number is also necessary for estates, trusts, and non-profit organizations, to name just a few. However, if you operate a sole proprietorship, you can still obtain an EIN and use it in the same way even though it’s only required if you have employees.

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Step 2—Apply for an EIN

You can apply for your EIN by fax, phone or mail; however, the IRS prefers that you submit your application online. When you do, you can receive your EIN immediately after completing the short application. Go to the IRS website to access the EIN Assistant page and click on “Begin Application” at the bottom to get started.

Step 3—Answer five short questions

The first question requires you to select the type of EIN you are applying for such as a sole proprietorship, corporation, LLC, partnership, or estate. You then need to choose the option that best describes why you are applying for an EIN. This can be to start a new business, for banking purposes or for a range of other reasons. The online questionnaire then requests your name and Social Security number before you can finish your application.

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Step 4—Save the document with your EIN

Once you complete all sections of the application, the system will generate a new EIN that you can begin using immediately. An official IRS document will load onto your computer, which confirms that your application was successful and provides your EIN. It’s a good idea to save a copy on your computer and to print one for your records in case you forget the EIN.

EIN Tips

  • If you ever lose your EIN you can always call the IRS Business & Specialty Tax Line at 800-829-4933. When you call, the representative will require some identifying information to ensure you are the person authorized to receive the EIN.
  • Once you finalize your application and are assigned an EIN, the number can never be canceled. However, if you find that you don’t need the EIN, the IRS can close your business account, but the EIN remains available to you if you ever need it in the future; it will not be reassigned.