An Employer ID Number (EIN) is an important tax identifier for your business. It works in the same way a Social Security number does for individuals, and almost every business needs one. 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 business bank accounts, loans, or credit cards, and for state and local taxes, licenses, and other registrations (like sales tax or a local business license).
You'll have a little extra time to find your EIN. The IRS has extended the deadline for 2020 tax filings from April 15, 2021, to May 17, 2021. For residents of Texas, Louisiana, and Oklahoma, the IRS extended the deadline even further to June 15, 2021, in response to the 2021 winter storms.
When Your Business Needs an EIN
Your business will need an EIN when:
- You have employees
- You are starting a business that is registered with a state, like a partnership, LLC, or corporation
- Your business must pay excise taxes, or you are subject to alcohol, tobacco, or firearms regulations
- You withhold taxes on income, not including wages, paid to a non-resident alien
- You use a Keough Plan or tax-deferred pension plan
- Your business works with certain organizations like nonprofits, trusts, estates, and farm cooperatives
Get an EIN For Small Business Disaster Loans
- Your business will need an EIN to apply for Small Business Administration (SBA) loans, including disaster loans for businesses affected by the public health crisis and economic downturn, as well as the 2021 winter storms.
- The Economic Injury Disaster Loan program is an SBA disaster loan program for businesses with fewer than 500 employees, including sole proprietors, independent contractors, and self-employed persons. Check with your local lender to see whether they participate in this program.
How to Get an EIN
You can apply to the IRS for an EIN in several ways: by phone, fax, or mail, or online. Filing online using the IRS EIN Assistant online application is the easiest way. You can get your number immediately using the online or phone option.
Beware of Fake EIN application sites. They look like the IRS site, but they'll charge you to file the form. The IRS never charges for this application. Here are some ways to tell whether the site is the "real" IRS:
- Look at the URL. It should be irs.gov, NOT irs.com.
- Most IRS pages have the letters "IRS" and a special symbol with a scale of justice.
- Look at the fine print on the bottom of the page. Non-IRS sites are required to state that they're not affiliated with the U.S. Treasury Department or the IRS.
How to Find the EIN for your Business
More often than not, there will be an instance when you're working through a business document or application, and you come upon a question asking for your EIN. What if you can’t remember it? The three best places to find your business EIN are:
- 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
You could also look for your EIN on other business documents or applications, including:
- 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-NEC form (or a 1099-MISC form before 2020) you received for your work as an independent contractor or freelancer
- On the 1099-MISC form or 1099-NEC form that you used to report payments by your business
Getting IRS Help to Look Up Your EIN
You can ask the IRS to search for your EIN by calling the Business and Specialty 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 obtain 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 a corporate officer.
State Business Tax ID Numbers
You may also need a tax ID number in order to pay taxes to your state. Even states that have no income tax may have other taxes you'll need to pay. Check with your state's department of revenue for more information.
Finding an EIN for Another Business
Getting someone else’s EIN is a more challenging process. Many of the documents with an EIN on them are public documents (available for public information), but there's still an overall concern about privacy and business identity theft.
Your search will be more difficult if the company isn't a public company. You might be able to buy a business credit report for the company, or you might be able to find another public document that includes the company’s EIN.
Your Company’s EIN and Business Identity Theft Issues
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, but you haven’t file for that year yet
- You receive bills for a line of credit or a credit card that you don’t have
The best way to check for business identity theft is to get a copy of your business credit report. Check it in detail for unexplained creditors and inaccurate or out-of-date information.