How to Find Your Employer Identification Number (EIN)
An Employer ID Number (EIN) is an important tax identifier for your business. It works in the same way as a Social Security number for individuals, and almost every business needs an EIN. The most important reason for an EIN is to identify your business for federal income tax purposes, but it’s also used to apply for a business bank account, loan, credit card, and for state and local taxes, licenses, and other registrations (like sales tax or a local business license).
How Do I Get an EIN?
You can apply to the IRS for an EIN in several ways: by phone, fax, mail, or online. Filing online is the easiest way, using the IRS EIN Assistant application. Using the online or phone option you can get your number immediately.
Before you begin the application process, it’s a good idea to print out a copy of the application form (IRS SS-4) and work through the application questions so you have all the answers you’ll need.
Beware of Fake EIN application sites. They look like the IRS site, but they will walk you through the process and charge you to file the form. The IRS never charges for this application.
How To Find the EIN for your Business
More often than not, there will be an instance when you are working through a business document or application and you come upon a question asking for your EIN and you can’t remember it. Now what?
The three best places to find your business EIN:
- Your business tax return from a previous year.
- The original document of your receipt or the document you received from the IRS when you applied for your EIN.
- Your state’s business division website, if you registered your partnership, LLC, or corporation with your state. All state business divisions have a “business lookup” feature.
You could also look for your EIN on other business documents or applications:
- A business bank account application
- An application for a business loan
- The application for a business credit card
- A copy of a state or local license or tax permit (a sales tax permit or a fictitious name statement, for example)
- On a 1099-MISC form you received for your work as an independent contractor or freelancer
- On the 1099-MISC that you used to report payments by your business to outside contract workers.
Getting IRS Help to Look Up Your EIN
You can ask the IRS to search for your EIN by calling the Business and Speciality Tax Line at 800-829-4933. This department is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. local time, Monday through Friday.
Only the “authorized person” for your business can get this information.
The IRS will ask for your identification, and you must be able to prove your identity as a sole proprietor, a partner in a partnership, an LLC owner, or corporate officer.
Finding an EIN for Another Business
Getting someone else’s EIN is a bit of a trickier process. Many of the documents with an EIN on them are public documents (available for public information), but there still is an overall concern about privacy and business identity theft involved.
If the business is a public company (with shares traded to the public), you can look them up on the EDGAR Search service on the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) website.
If the company is not a public company, your search will be more difficult. You might be able to buy a business credit report for the company or you may be able to find another public document that includes the company’s EIN.
Your Company’s EIN and Business Identity Theft Issues
As you can see, it’s easy for someone to get your business EIN, and they might be able to use it to steal your business identity. The IRS recognizes that a company’s EIN may be the target of hackers and identity thieves. It suggests some ways to be watchful for identity theft related to taxes. Your business may have been hacked if:
- You receive tax notices about fictitious employees
- Your business tax return is accepted as amended, but you didn’t file for that year yet
- You receive bills for a line of credit or a credit card you don’t have
The best way to check for business identity theft is to get a copy of your business credit report periodically. Check it in detail for unexplained creditors, inaccurate or out of date information.