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34 Min. Read

EIN Comprehensive Guide

Employer Identification Numbers Explained: Learn what it is, if you need one, how to get one from the IRS & more to help you properly setup your EIN.

Content:

Image describing the 4 ways to apply for an Employer Identification Number (EIN) with processing times: Apply Online and receive your EIN immediately, Apply by Mail and receive your EIN in 4 weeks, Apply by Fax and receive your EIN in 4 business days, Apply by Telephone and EIN is issued immediately.

What is an Employer Identification Number (EIN)?

An Employer Identification Number (EIN) is a unique nine-digit number assigned to businesses by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). IRS Publication 15 (Circular E), Employer Tax Guide states that the IRS uses EINs for the purpose of business identification and for the reporting of taxes. It is not intended for use in any other activities.

An Employer Identification Number is commonly referred to as a Federal Employer Identification Number (FEIN), or a Federal Tax Identification Number.

Example Employer Identification Number Confirmation Letter from the IRS.gov. Shows assignment of a 9 digit EIN to an LLC.

Do I Need an EIN?

If you are planning to do business in the United States or any US territories, you will most likely need an Employer Identification Number (EIN). IRS Instructions for form SS-4 explains that an EIN may be required for both businesses whose origins are in the US and foreign owned companies looking to do business in the US.

The IRS.gov Business and Self Employed resource states that businesses must apply for an EIN if any of the following are true: 

  • I have employees.
  • I operate my business as a partnership or as a corporation.
  • I file one or more of these tax returns: Excise, Employment, or Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms?
  • I withhold taxes on income, other than wages, paid to a non-resident alien.
  • I have a Keogh plan.
  • I am involved in an estate. 
  • I am involved with a trust, (except certain grantor-owned revocable trusts, IRAs, Exempt Organization Business Income Tax Returns)
  • I am involved with Real estate mortgage investment conduits.
  • I am involved with Plan administrators
  • I am involved with Farmers’ cooperatives
  • I am involved with Non-profit organizations 

How Much Does an EIN Cost?

Obtaining an EIN is free. The IRS provides free services to businesses needing to obtain an EIN. You can apply for an EIN in various ways with the IRS—by phone, fax, mail, or online. They are all free. 

The IRS has previously issued warnings of online companies charging people for an EIN, when in fact they can obtain one at no cost, “Applying for an Employer Identification Number (EIN) is a free service offered by the Internal Revenue Service. Beware of websites on the Internet that charge for this free service.”

Note: When forming a business entity, some business owners opt to pay a fee for the company providing their incorporation services to apply for and obtain their EIN. Note that this fee goes to the business service company, not the IRS. The business owner is paying for a service, not the EIN. There is no charge to obtain an Employer Identification Number from the IRS. 

How to Apply for an Employer Identification Number

IRS Publication 1635 (Rev. 2-2014) states that you can apply for an Employer Identification Number online, by fax, by mail, or via telephone (only for international applicants).

Form Needed to Apply for an EIN: IRS Form SS-4

The IRS uses form SS-4, Application for Employer Identification Number:

Form SS-4: https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/fss4.pdf

Form SS-4 Instructions: https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/iss4.pdf

Example IRS form SS-4. This is the IRS application to apply for an employer identification numbers. It is called "Application for Employer Identification Number."

See Form SS-4PR (for Puerto Rico) and SS-4PR Instructions for the Spanish-language versions:

Form SS-4PR: htps://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/fss4pr.pdf

Form SS-4PR Instructions: https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/iss4pr.pdf

IRS Instructions for form SS-4 (Rev. December 2017)-4 explains

If applying online, you do not need to fill out the IRS form and send it in. However, when using the online EIN Assistant to apply, you will be prompted to answer the same questions found on form SS-4. To prepare yourself, gather the information requested on form SS-4 prior to starting your online application.

If applying for an EIN by mail or fax, you will need to fill out for SS-4 and send it in.

If applying for an EIN by telephone (international applicants only), you will need answer questions found on form SS-4 however, you may or may not have to actually send in a physical copy of the form. The IRS representative that assists you on the telephone will not either not require you send in the form or they can ask you to mail or fax in for SS-4 within 24 hours of your telephone call.

Apply For an EIN Online

The IRS.gov business and self employed resource states that the online EIN application is the best method for customers who wish to apply for and obtain an EIN. The IRS.gov website explains that all information is validated during the online session and an EIN is issued immediately upon completion of the application. The online application is open to any entities whose principal business, office, agency, or legal residence is situated within the United States or U.S. Territories.

Before Starting the Online Application

Confirm You are Eligible to Apply Online 

The Employer ID Numbers section of the IRS.gov Business resource shares that: 

  • You may apply for an Employer Identification Number online (https://sa.www4.irs.gov/modiein/individual/index.jsp) if your principal business is located in a US territory or the United States.
  • The individual who applies online must have a valid Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN, SSN, or EIN). Foreign filers who do not possess an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) are not permitted to use this assistant to acquire an EIN. International applicants can apply by telephone.
  • Applicants are limited to one Employer Identification Number per responsible party, per day. A “responsible party” is the individual who owns or controls the business entity or the individual who exercises ultimate effective control over the entity. The responsible party must be an individual (not an entity), unless they are a government entity.
  • You cannot apply for an EIN online if you were incorporated outside the United States or U.S. territories. Call 267-941-1099 for any questions. 
  • Your online application will not be processed if the responsible party is an entity with an EIN already obtained online. In this case, another application method will be required. 
Become Familiar with the Online Application Process

The IRS EIN Assistant introduction page explains that:

  • The online application must be completed in one session. Applicants are unable to save their application and come back to complete it at a later date.
  • After 15 minutes of inactivity, your session will expire and you will have to start the application process over. This is for security purposes. 
  • Upon completion of the online application, you will receive your EIN. At this time, the EIN Confirmation Letter can be downloaded, stored, and printed. If preferred, you can request that the EIN Confirmation Letter is sent to you via mail.

Step-By-Step Online Application Process (With Screenshots)

APPLY NOW WITH THE EIN ASSISTANT

A screenshot of the first page of the EIN assistant. On the first page, click on the button "Begin Application" to start the process of applying for an EIN online.

1. IDENTITY: Answer questions regarding the identity of your legal structure and why you are applying for an EIN.

Screenshot of step 1, page 1 of the online EIN application. Choose the correct legal structure for your business. Screenshot of step 1, page 2 of the online EIN application. Confirm what business selection you made or go back and make edits. Screenshot of step 1, page 3 of the online EIN application. Provide additional information about your entity. Screenshot of step 1, page 4 of the online EIN application. Confirm the additional information provided about your entity. Screenshot of step 1, page 5 of the online EIN application. Select the reason you are applying for an EIN.

2. AUTHENTICATE: Provide information about the “Responsible Party” for your business.

Screenshot of step 2, page 6 of the online EIN application. Provide personal information about the responsible party.

3. ADDRESSES: Provide location and contact information for your business.

Screenshot of step 3, page 7 of the online EIN application. Provide the location and phone number for your business.

4. DETAILS: Provide additional details about your business including information from the articles of organization and data about the activities of the business.

Screenshot of step 4, page 8 of the online EIN application. Provide information about your entity found on your articles of organization.

Screenshot of step 4, page 9 of the online EIN application. Provide more information about your entity.Screenshot of step 4, page 10 of the online EIN application. Identify your entity's primary activity.Screenshot of step 4 page 10 of the online EIN application continued. Identify your entity's primary activity.

5. EIN Confirmation: Let the IRS know how you would like to receive your EIN Confirmation Letter. 

Screenshot of step 5, page 11 of the online EIN application. Tell the IRS how you would like to receive your EIN confirmation letter - immediately online or within 4 weeks in the mail.

6. If you select “Receive letter online” you will be able to download your EIN Confirmation Letter in PDF form, immediately. If you select “Receive letter by mail” you will receive your EIN Confirmation Letter by mail within approximately 4 weeks.

Step 5, page 12 of the online EIN application. If you selected to receive your EIN immediately, download your EIN Confirmation Letter. Image shows sample EIN confirmation letter.

Apply for an EIN by Fax

Steps to apply for an Employer Identification Number by fax. 1. Fill out form SS-4. 2. Fax the form to the iRS. 3. Receive your EIN by fax within 4 business days. Once taxpayers correctly complete Form SS-4 (PDF), they should send the application to the relevant fax number. IRS Instructions for form SS-4 (Rev. December 2017)-4 explains that it will take up to four business days for a fax containing an EIN to be sent back. If no return fax number is indicated, an EIN will mailed to the entities address within 4 weeks.

To find the correct fax number, refer to Where to File Your Taxes or see below:

If your principal business, agency or office, or legal residence (in the case of an individual), is located in one of the 50 states or the District of Columbia, fax your completed form SS-4 to:

Internal Revenue Service
Attn:  EIN Operation
Fax: (855) 641-6935

If you have no legal residence, principal place of business, or principal office or agency in any state, fax your completed form SS-4 to: 

Internal Revenue Service
Attn:  EIN International Operation
Fax: (855) 215-1627 (within the U.S.)
Fax: (304) 707-9471 (outside the U.S.)

 

Apply for an EIN by Mail

Steps to apply for an Employer Identification Number by mail. 1. Fill out form SS-4. 2. Mail the form to the iRS. 3. Receive your EIN by mail within 4 weeks.IRS Instructions for form SS-4 states that it takes approximately four weeks to process an EIN application sent by mail. Make sure that the Form SS-4 (PDF) contains all required information. If the IRS determines that the entity needs a new EIN, it will assign one using the appropriate procedures for the entity type. They IRS will then mail the new EIN to the taxpayer. 

For the correct mailing address, refer to the Where to File Your Taxes (for Form SS-4) page or see below:

Mail your completed form to the correct processing center.

If your principal business, agency or office, or legal residence (in the case of an individual) is located in one of the 50 states or the District of Columbia, mail your completed form SS-4 to: 

Internal Revenue Service
Attn:  EIN Operation
Cincinnati, OH 45999

If you have no legal residence, principal place of business, or principal office or agency in any state, mail your completed form SS-4 to: 

Internal Revenue Service
Attn:  EIN International Operation
Cincinnati, OH  45999

 

Apply for an EIN by Telephone – International Applicants Only

Steps to apply for an Employer Identification Number by Telephone. 1. Fill out form SS-4. 2. Call the IRS at 261-941-1099. 3. Receive your EIN immediately. If requested mail your form SS-4 to the IRS within 24 hours.Instructions for IRS form SS-4 (Rev. December 2017)-4 advises that if an international applicant wishes to obtain an EIN, they can call 267-941-1099. Representatives are available from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m EST from Monday through Friday. The caller must be authorized to receive the EIN. They will also be asked questions about Form SS-4 (PDF), Application for Employer Identification Number. The IRS representative who assists you may also ask you to mail or fax in a copy of your completed SS-4 form within 24 hours of the phone call.  

IRS Instructions for form SS-4 warns that if an applicant wants to authorize the named individual to receive the entity’s EIN, they must fill out the Third Party Designee section. In addition to this, answer any questions concerning the completion of Form SS-4. The designee’s authority ends when the EIN is assigned and released to the designee. A signature must be completed for the authorization to be considered valid.

Important Information to Note When Applying for an EIN

Responsible Party

IRS Instructions for form SS-4 (Rev. December 2017)-4 states that all EIN applications must state both the name and Taxpayer Identification Number (SSN, ITIN, or EIN) of the true principal officer, general partner, grantor, owner or trustor. The IRS calls this individual or entity the “responsible party.” The responsible party is responsible for the control, management, and direction of the applicant entity. The responsible party is also responsible for the disposition of all funds and assets. Outside of the applicant being a government entity, the responsible party must be an individual (i.e., a natural person). It cannot be an entity. Recently, some changes have been made to the language of EIN process. These changes have been made for purposes of identifying the correct individuals and entities applying for EINs. To learn whether these changes affect you, refer to Responsible Parties and Nominees before applying for an EIN.

Third Party Authorization

The Third Party Designee section needs to be completed at the bottom of Form SS-4 (see IRS Instructions for form SS-4 (Rev. December 2017)-4 for exact instructions). For the third party designee authorization to be considered valid, the taxpayer needs to sign the form, as well. Once the form is completed and signed, the taxpayer should mail or fax the form to the relevant service center. The third party designee’s authority covers only newly assigned EINs. The authority terminates upon the assignment and release of the EIN.

Tax Exemption Status

Make sure that your organization is legally formed before applying for an EIN. When applying, the IRS presumes that the organization is legally formed. Nearly all organizations that are exempt under IRC 501(a) are subject to automatic withdrawal of their tax-exemption status if the required annual information returns or notice is not filed for three consecutive years. If this applies to you, take note that when you submit your application, the clock begins ticking down on this three-year period.

Daily Limitation of Employer Identification Numbers

The IRS has now limited the issuance of Employer Identification Numbers to one per “responsible party” per day. This limitation applies regardless of what application method (online, fax, telephone or mail) is chosen by the applicant. This, according to the IRS, is to ensure the fair and equal treatment of all taxpayers.

In Home-Care Service Recipient?

If you are a home-care service recipient who has a previously assigned EIN either as a sole proprietor or as a household employer, there is no need to apply for a new EIN. You can use the EIN previously given to you.

  • If you don’t have your EIN by the time a tax return is due, write “Applied for” and the date you applied for one in the space left on the form for the number. It is advised that you do not use your Social Security Number.·        
  • If you don’t have your EIN by the time a deposit is due, you should send your payment to the service center address for your state. Make your check or money order payable to the Internal Revenue Service and display your name (as shown on the SS-4), along with your address, type of tax, period covered by payment, and the date you applied for an EIN.·        
  • Businesses that have changed their ownership structure usually need to apply for a new EIN. For example, sole proprietors who plan to incorporate their business may need to apply for a new EIN.        
  • The IRS cannot process an application online if the “responsible party” is an entity with an EIN previously obtained online. It is advised that any of the other methods can be used to apply (fax, mail, telephone).

How Long Will it Take to Get My EIN? 

The length of time it takes to get an Employer Identification Number depends on the type of application process you choose (online, mail, fax, or telephone). Each takes a different amount of time to be processed. 

Apply Online Processing Time

When you apply online, your EIN is issued immediately.

Apply By Fax Processing Time

When you apply by fax, your EIN is issued within approximately 4 business days.

Apply By Mail Processing Time

When you apply by mail, your EIN is issued within approximately 4 weeks.

Apply By Telephone Processing Time

When you apply by telephone, your EIN is issued immediately. The option to apply via telephone is now only available to international applicants. Be advised that the IRS agent who handles your case may require you to fax or mail in form SS-4 within 24 hours of your phone call. 

What Do I Do if I Need to Make a Deposit but Haven’t Received My EIN?

Make sure to apply for an EIN in time to have your number at hand for when you need to file a return or make a deposit. An EIN can be obtained immediately by applying online. International applicants need to call (267) 941-1099. Another option is to fax a completed Form SS-4 to your state’s service center for your state. They should respond within roughly one week. Make sure to include a return fax number. Without it, the process could take up to roughly two weeks. If you choose to apply by mail, give yourself four to five weeks in advance of the date at which you expect to need your EIN to make a deposit or file a return.

If you do not have your EIN available when a return is due, write “Applied for” and the date you applied for your EIN in the space where you would otherwise write your EIN number. Make sure not to use your social security number. 

If you do not have your EIN when a deposit is due, send your payment to your state’s service center address. Checks or money orders should be payable to the Internal Revenue Service. They should have the same name, address, kind of tax, period covered, and date your EIN application.

If you need more information, refer to Publication 1635, Understanding Your EIN (PDF).

Is an EIN the Same as a Social Security Number?

An EIN is the business equivalent of a Social Security Number (SSN) but they are not the same. An EIN identifies a business entity doing business in the US, whereas a SSN identifies an individual resident in the country. Do not use your EIN in place of your Social Security Number or individual taxpayer identification number (ITIN).

 

The unique nine-digit EIN allows the IRS to identify taxpayers that must file various business tax returns. The number is essential as a business needs an EIN in order to pay employee payroll taxes, pay income tax, and file their business income tax returns.

Does My Business Need a NEW EIN?

Businesses will generally need to apply for a new EIN if the structure of the business or business ownership has changed.

The act of changing the name of your business does not necessarily stipulate that you must also apply for a new EIN. Business owners can visit IRS.gov’s Business Name Change page to see what requirements you must follow. 

Find your entity structure below to see if your recent changes require you to apply for a new EIN:


Sole Proprietors

If any one of the following statements are true, you must obtain a new EIN: 

  • You incorporate your business
  • You inherit or buy an already established business that you operate as a sole proprietorship
  • You establish partners and begin to operate as a partnership.
  • You’re subject to a bankruptcy proceeding

If any one of the following statements are true, you DO NOT need to obtain a new EIN: 

  • You operate more than one business
  • You formally change the name of your business
  • You relocate your business or add other business locations


Corporations

If any one of the following statements are true, you must obtain a new EIN: 

  • The Secretary of State gives you a new charter
  • You change to a sole proprietorship or a partnership
  • After a statutory merger, a new corporation is established
  • You become a corporation’s subsidiary
  • You are a subsidiary of a corporation that is using the parent’s Employer Identification Number

If any one of the following statements are true, you DO NOT need to obtain a new EIN: 

  • You are a division of the existing corporation 
  • The corporation declares bankruptcy
  • The corporate location changes
  • The corporate name changes
  • The corporation elects to be taxed as an S-corporation
  • After a corporation merger, the surviving corporation uses the existing Employer Identification Number
  • Only the corporate identity or place is changed after reorganization of a corporation
  • State level conversion with an unchanged business structure


Partnerships

If any one of the following statements are true, you must obtain a new EIN: 

  • If you incorporate
  • One of the partners takes over the partnership and operates the business as a Sole proprietorship
  • An old partnership is ended and a new one begins

If any one of the following statements are true, you DO NOT need to obtain a new EIN: 

  • The partnership files for bankruptcy
  • The name of the partnership changes
  • The partnership location changes
  • Additional locations are added
  • As a result of termination of a partnership (under IRC section 708(b)(1)(B)) a new partnership is created
  • Within a 12 month timeframe, 50% or more of the partnership ownership changes hands (measured by interests in profits and capital)


Limited Liability Company (LLC)

State statutes are responsible for LLCs. When the LLC was created by the states, the IRS did not create a new tax classification corresponding to it. In lieu of any new classification, the IRS uses its longstanding classifications for business taxpayers–corporation, partnership, or “disregarded entity” to indicate an entity separate from its owner. The IRS will always employ one of these tax classifications for an LLC. If an individual is the proprietor of a “disregarded entity,” that individual is regarded as the sole proprietor of the LLC. Conversely, the “disregarded entity” would be considered as a division or branch of its owner were it owned by another entity. 

Changes Affecting Single Member LLCs with Employees

Effective as of January 1, 2009, single member/single owner LLCs that have made the decision not to be treated as corporations might be required to shift the way they report and pay wage payments, federal employment taxes, and specific federal excise taxes. Changes to Treasury Regulation Section 301.7701-2 were issued on Aug. 16, 2007. Per these new regulations, an LLC, and not its sole proprietor, will be considered responsible for the filing and payment of all employment taxes on wages paid on or after January 1, 2009. Additionally, for some excise taxes the LLC itself, rather than its sole proprietor, will be accountable for any actions first required or permitted and liabilities imposed during periods starting on or after January 1, 2008. 

A New EIN will be required for wages paid on or after January 1, 2009 for the following scenario: if a single member LLC has been filing and paying employment taxes under the name and EIN of the owner, providing that the LLC was not previously assigned an EIN. For help in determining whether a new EIN is necessary, refer to the following examples:

  • A new EIN will be necessary if the primary name on the account is John Doe.
  • A new EIN will be necessary if the primary name on the account is John Doe and the second name line is Doe Electric (the latter organized as an LLC under state law).
  • A new EIN will NOT be necessary if the primary name on the account is Doe Electric LLC.

You must obtain a new EIN if any one of the following are true: 

  • A Multi-member LC–a new LLC with more than one owner–is formed under state law.
  • A Single Member LLC–a new LLC with one owner–is formed under state law and opts to be taxed as either a corporation or an S corporation.
  • A Single Member LLC–a new LLC with one owner–is formed under state law, and has an employment tax filing requirement for wages effective January 1, 2009, or an excise tax filing requirement for tax periods effective January 1, 2008.

If any one of the following statements are true, you DO NOT need to obtain a new EIN: 

  • The LLC has no excise tax liability and no employees and you report income tax as a branch or division of a corporation or other entity. 
  • A preexisting partnership shifts to an LLC classified as a partnership.
  • Either the name or the location of the LLC changes.
  • An LLC that currently has an EIN opts to be taxed either as a corporation or an S corporation.
  • A Single member LLC–a new LLC with one owner–is formed under state law, has neither employees nor excise tax liability, and opts not to be taxed as either a corporation or an S corporation. NOTE:You are allowed to request an EIN for banking or state tax purposes. However, there is no requirement for an EIN for the purpose of federal taxes.


Estates

If any one of the following statements are true, you must obtain a new EIN: 

  • Funds from the estate create a trust (not a simple continuation of the estate)
  • You represent an estate that operates the business after the owner’s death

If any one of the following statements are true, you DO NOT need to obtain a new EIN: 

  • A personal representative, executor, or the administrator changes their name or address 


Trusts

If any one of the following statements are true, you must obtain a new EIN: 

  • A trust changes into an estate
  • An intervivos trust or a living trust changes into a testamentary trust.
  • A living trust is terminated by distributing its property to a residual trust
  • Many trusts have one person as the maker/grantor

If any one of the following statements are true, you DO NOT need to obtain a new EIN: 

  • The beneficiary or grantor changes their address or name
  • The trustee is changed

What if I Lost My Number? 

If you lost your Employer Identification Number (EIN) for your business, make use of these actions in order to replace your lost EIN:

  • When you applied for your EIN, the IRS gave you a computer-generated confirmation of your application and receipt of your EIN. Locate this notice.
  • You might have used your EIN to apply for state or local licenses or open a bank account. Contact the bank or agency. They might be able to help you retrieve your EIN.
  • Locate any tax return you might have filed for your existing entity. A previously filed return should contain your EIN.
  • Call the IRS’s Business & Specialty Tax Line at 800-829-4933 from 7:00 a.m. to 7 p.m on Monday through Friday. Once you provide identifying information and prove you are authorized to receive the EIN, an assister will provide you with the number. A sole proprietor, a partner in a partnership, a corporate officer, a trustee of a trust, or an executor of an estate are all considered persons authorized to receive an EIN over the Business & Specialty Tax Line.

How Do I Cancel My Employer Identification Number?

Once an EIN is issued to a business entity it is permanent and cannot be cancelled. It is never reused or reassigned to any other business entity. It will always be available for use at a subsequent date.

The IRS can close your business account if you receive an EIN but decide at a later date that you do not need the number. In order to close your account, send the IRS a letter that includes the complete legal name of the entity, its EIN, and its business address. Make sure to include the reason you want to close your account. If you have a copy of the EIN Assignment Notice, make sure to include that.

You can write to the IRS at:
Internal Revenue Service
Cincinnati, Ohio 45999

You must file the appropriate tax returns before the IRS can close your account. File these returns if you made a Federal Tax Deposit or any other Federal tax payment, if you are liable for any Business Taxes, or if the IRS has informed you that a business tax return is due. Refer to Closing a Business Checklist for any other necessary actions.

Information for Exempt Organizations

If you applied for an EIN for an exempt organization, you can request a closing of your account. You can make this request if you never applied for a formal exemption, if the organization is not covered in a group ruling, or if you never filed an information return.

Address these requests to:

Internal Revenue Service
Attn: EO Entity
Mail Stop 6273
Ogden, UT 84201

You can also fax the request to (855) 214-7520.

In your request, make sure to state the reasons why you want to close your account. Include a copy of the EIN Assignment Notice if available. If the EIN Assignment Notice is unavailable, make sure to include the complete legal name of the entity, the EIN, and the mailing address.

If you are an exempt organization that does not meet the criteria just outlined, refer to Termination of an Exempt Organization.

For further information on closing the account of an exempt organization, call (877) 829-5500.

Valid EIN Prefixes and How they are Assigned

EIN Prefixes Explained

Before 2001, the geographical location of a business was designated by the first two numbers (known as “prefixes”) of an EIN. As of 2001, the EIN prefix no longer designates location. The first two numbers now designate which campus assigned the EIN (though the process is largely centralized). Each campus uses specific prefixes. The online application and the Small Business Administration use their own prefixes. The prefix breakdown is as follows (campus or other location will be listed, followed parenthetically by the valid EIN prefix):

Andover (10, 12). Atlanta (60, 67). Austin (50, 53). Brookhaven (01, 02, 03, 04, 05, 06, 11, 13, 14, 16, 21, 22, 23, 25, 34, 51, 52, 55, 56, 57, 58, 59, 65). Cincinnati (30, 32, 35, 36,  37, 38, 61). Fresno (15, 24). Kansas City (40, 44). Memphis (94, 95). Ogden (80, 90). Philadelphia (33, 39, 41, 42, 43, 46, 48, 62, 63, 64, 66, 68, 71, 72, 73, 74, 75, 76, 77, 85, 86, 87, 88, 91, 92, 93, 98, 99).

Internet (20, 26, 27, 45, 46, 47, 81, 82, 83, 84).

Small Business Administration/SBA (31).

Daily Limitation of an Employer Identification Number

As of May 21, 2012, the Internal Revenue Service will restrict EIN issuance to one per responsible party per day. This pertains to all requests, regardless of format (online, mail, or fax). EINs whether online or by fax or mail. 

Responsible Party Vs. Nominee

Responsible Parties

Whether mailed, faxed, or submitted electronically, all EIN applications must list the name and Taxpayer Identification Number (SSN, ITIN, or EIN) of the true principal officer, general partner, grantor, owner or trustor. The IRS calls this individual or entity the “responsible party.” They control, manage, or otherwise direct the applicant entity and the disposition of assets and funds. The responsible party must be an individual. An exception exists in the case of the applicant being a government entity. In some cases there is more than one responsible party. In these cases, the entity can choose to list the party it wants the IRS to recognize as the responsible party. 

The Instructions for the current revision of the application defines the “responsible party” in the following terms:

“For entities with shares or interests traded on a public exchange, or which are registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission, “responsible party” is (a) the principal officer, if the business is a corporation, (b) a general partner, if a partnership, (c) the owner of an entity that is disregarded as separate from its owner (disregarded entities owned by a corporation enter the corporation’s name and EIN), or (d) a grantor, owner, or trustor if a trust.

For all other entities, “responsible party” is  the person who has a level of control over, or entitlement to, the funds or assets in the entity that, as a practical matter, enables the individual, directly or indirectly, to control, manage or direct the entity and the disposition of its funds and assets. The ability to fund the entity or the entitlement to the property of the entity alone, however, without any corresponding authority to control, manage, or direct the entity (such as in the case of a minor child beneficiary), does not cause the individual to be a responsible party.”

Nominees

Someone who is given limited authority to act on behalf of an entity is called a “nominee.” Such authority is generally given for a restricted period of time, usually during the formation of the entity in question. The IRS defines the “principal officer, general partner,” etc., as the “responsible party” for the entity. The “responsible party” is the individual or entity that controls, manages, or directs the entity. The “responsible party” is also responsible for the disposition of the entity’s funds and assets. Unlike the “responsible party,” a “nominee” possesses little or no authorization to dispose of the entity’s assets. 

Recently, it has come to the attention of the IRS that nominee individuals are being listed as principal officers, general partners, grantors, owners, and trustors in the EIN application process. Crucially, none of these people constitute a nominee. Instead, nominees are individuals authorized for a limited period to act on behalf of entities during their formation. The use of nominees in the EIN application process has negative consequences. It prevents the IRS from gathering appropriate information on entity ownership. It also aids tax non-compliance perpetrated by entities and their owners. Nominees are not authorized to obtain EINs. All EIN applications, whether mailed, faxed, or completed electronically, must list the name and Taxpayer Identification Number (SSN, ITIN, or EIN) of the true principal officer, general partner, grantor, owner or trustor. 

In order to correctly submit a Form SS-4, the responsible party should include  the name, Taxpayer Identification Number, and signature in both the form and the authorization. Third party designees filing online applications need to keep a complete, signed copy of the paper Form SS-4. They also need to keep a signed authorization statement. They should do so for each entity application filed with the IRS. Nominees cannot authorize third party designees to file Forms SS-4, nor should they be listed on the Form SS-4.

In the case of a nominee being used in the state formation process when the true responsible party has not yet been identified, the entity is required to identify that individual before applying for an EIN. The IRS uses enforcement actions order to prevent improper use of EIN applications.

Correcting Business Information Where a Nominee Was Incorrectly Used

You must correct the information if a nominee was used to obtain an EIN. If no correction is made, a risk exists of information being disclosed to unauthorized parties. The IRS is currently experimenting with different methods of identifying responsible parties of entities. By updating the information itself, an entity can prove that it is in compliance with Federal tax laws.

In order to update the information, complete Form 8822-B, Change of Address or Responsible Party – Business. Send to the completed form to the relevant address as shown below.

If your old business address was in Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia or Wisconsin, send form 8822-B to:

Internal Revenue Service
333 W. Pershing Road
Mail Stop 6055 S-2
Kansas City, MO 64108

If your old business address was in Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Washington, Wyoming, or any place outside of the United States, send form 8822-B to:

Internal Revenue Service
M/S 6273
Ogden, UT 84201-0023

Once the IRS receives updated information they will issue a notice of receipt. If more than 60 days have passed without delivery of the notice, an entity should mail a copy of the original Form 8822-B, annotated “Second Request,” to the relevant campus listed above.

Frequently Asked Questions About EINs

What is an EIN?

An EIN stands for Employment Identification Number. An EIN is a number assigned by the Internal Revenue Service to identify a business for tax purposes. It is the equivalent of a Social Security Number for businesses.

Is an EIN the Same as a Tax ID Number?

Yes, an EIN and taxpayer identification number (TIN) are the same. In certain cases a social security number (SSN) is used as a TIN, as in the case of a sole proprietor with no employees.

Why do I need an EIN?

An EIN is like a Social Security Number for a business. It identifies your business on business permits, business licenses, and tax returns. It also identifies your business on any applications or forms requiring an IRS identifier. An EIN also allows you to separate personal and business expenses when you open a business bank account with it.

Does my business need an EIN? 

Your business will need an EIN if you have employees, file certain kinds of taxes, or if you are taxed as a corporation or a partnership. If you are a sole proprietorship, you might not need one. In this case, your SSN would serve as your EIN.

How do I apply for an EIN?

You can apply online, by mail, by telephone, or, in many states, in person.

4 ways to apply for an EIN: Online, by mail, by fax, or—if you are an international applicant—by telephone

You will need to complete the Application for Employer Identification Number (Form SS-4). You can directly complete Form SS-4 online or by phone. In order to apply by mail, you will need to have printed out and completed Form SS-4.

When do I need a new EIN? 

Many basic changes to your business will not require you to obtain a new EIN. However, you might need to obtain a new EIN if you change your legal business structure. Contact the IRS directly to find out if your change requires a new EIN.

If I apply online, how long will it take before I can use my Internet EIN?

You can use your Internet EIN immediately to open a bank account, apply for a business license, or file a tax return by mail. You will have to wait up to two weeks before your EIN becomes part of the IRS’s permanent records. You need to wait for this in order to file an electronic return or make an electronic payment.

Are any entity types excluded from applying for an EIN online?

No. All entity types can apply for an EIN online.

What if I forget my EIN number?

Call (800) 829-4933 and select EIN from the list of options. You can then receive assistance to retrieve your EIN. 

Does the IRS accept symbols as part of a business name?

No. Letters and numbers are accepted, as well as hyphens (-) and the ampersand symbol (&). 

Glossary

Corporation: A type of business structure that is a separate legal entity from its owners.

EIN: An EIN stands for Employment Identification Number. An EIN is a number assigned by the Internal Revenue Service to identify a business for tax purposes. It is the equivalent of a Social Security Number for businesses.

EIN Assistant: An online program that will guide you through the process of obtaining an EIN.

EIN Prefixes: Two numbers that the IRS assigns to a business in order to designate the IRS campus that assigned the EIN.

Entity: An organization created by one or more persons to carry on a trade or business.

Estate: The total net worth of an individual. This includes real estate, land, cash, possessions, financial securities, cash, and any additional assets that the individual owns or has a controlling interest in.

Form 8822-B: A form that allows you to correct business information where a nominee was incorrectly used when obtaining an EIN.

Limited Liability Company (LLC): A corporate structure where owners are not personally liable for the company’s debts or liabilities. 

Nominee: Individuals authorized for a limited period to act on behalf of entities during their formation.

Partnerships: A business owned by several individuals.

Responsible Party: The individual who owns or controls a business entity or the individual who exercises ultimate effective control over an entity. The responsible party must be an individual (not an entity), unless they are a government entity.

Sole Proprietors: Someone who owns an unincorporated business by herself or himself. 

SS-4: A form that the IRS requires to be completed in order to obtain an EIN. SS-4 stands for Application for Employment Identification Number. 

Taxpayer Identification Number: These are assigned numbers that the IRS uses to identify individuals and businesses (ITIN, SSN, EIN). Both SSN and EIN are taxpayer identification numbers, but an EIN is used for a business. Do not use your SSN in place of your EIN.

Third Party Designee: A third party granted authorization to resolve federal tax issues. A third party can be designated on the SS-4 by filling out the Third Party Designee section. 

Trust: A legal entity through which a second party, the trustee, holds the right to manage a trustor’s property or assets. 

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