Summary Definition: A unique nine-digit identifier assigned to businesses by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for use in tax filings or other legal documents.
An Employer Identification Number (EIN), also called a Federal Tax ID, is a unique nine-digit number assigned to a business by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). It's used to report taxes and for legal purposes, such as filing for contracts or loans.
All businesses with payroll taxes and employees are required to have an EIN. This includes corporations, limited liability companies (LLCs), trusts, and nonprofits. Even businesses without employees may need one for certain purposes, such as opening a business bank account.
EINs are formatted as XX-XXXXXXXX. As of 2001, the two-number prefix no longer indicates the geographic location of the business, but which IRS campus assigned the number.
As the business equivalent of a Social Security Number (SSN), an EIN's primary use is in filing taxes and identifying a business in government documents.
Other uses include:
Businesses can apply for an EIN directly from the IRS using a user-friendly online application or by manually completing and submitting a Form SS-4. Find out where to mail Form SS-4 on the IRS' website.
This form requires the applicant to provide information, such as their name and address, type of entity, and number of employees. It also includes questions about the purpose of the business and its legal structure.
Online applicants will receive an EIN immediately after application. Those who apply by mail have to wait up to four weeks.
If you've lost your EIN, there's several places you could look to find it.
An EIN is one of several types of Taxpayer Identification Numbers (TINs) the IRS uses to identify persons or entities in tax filings. Others include SSNs, ITINs, ATINs, and PTINs:
|Type of TIN||Meaning and Use|
|EIN||Employer Identification Number – Issued to employers, such as LLCs, nonprofits, or corporations, as well as some sole proprietorships.|
|SSN||Social Security Number – Issued to individuals by the Social Security Administration. Most U.S. citizens use this to file their personal taxes.|
|ITIN||Individual Taxpayer Identification Number – Available for certain nonresident and resident aliens, their spouses, and dependents who can't get an SSN.|
|ATIN||Adoption Taxpayer Identification Number – Issued to individuals who are in the process of legally adopting a child but who can’t get an SSN for that child in time to file their tax return.|
|PTIN||Preparer Tax Identification Number – Issued to paid tax preparers, such as CPAs assisting with filings.|
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