Getting an EIN for your Startup
After you start a new business, you should get a federal employer identification number (EIN) as soon as possible. An EIN is essential to running your business: It lets you set up a US bank account and do payroll. And you will also need it for tax purposes.
When you incorporate with Capbase, we’ll automatically gather all the information you need to apply for an EIN. But if you don’t use Capbase, be ready to do it yourself.
In this article we'll walk you through getting an EIN step-by-step and supply all the necessary information and forms.
What is an EIN?
Your EIN is a unique nine digit number the Internal Revenue Service uses to identify your business. You’ll include it any time you file a federal tax return.
Think of your EIN as a social security number for your business. While your EIN typically isn’t considered sensitive information in the same way a social security number is, you should be careful about who you share it with. Your EIN can be used for the purpose of identity theft.
EIN, FEIN, TIN, and tax ID, oh my!
Your EIN may also be referred to as a Federal Employer Information Number (FEIN) or a Federal Tax Identification Number (TIN). These all mean the same thing.
Likewise, when your bookkeeper or accountant refers to your tax ID, federal tax ID number, or business tax ID number, they’re referring to your EIN.
Do you really need an EIN?
Briefly: Yes. As long as you’re incorporated, you need an employer ID number. Other businesses—sole proprietors—aren’t legally required to have an EIN, so long as they meet certain conditions. In that case, they use the business owner’s SSN. As far as the business needs of other entities are concerned, you’ll need to go through the EIN application process and get the number.
Importantly, you need an EIN to open a business bank account.
Just to clear the air, if any of the following apply to you, you legally require an EIN—regardless of your business structure:
- Your business has employees
- You file employment or excise tax returns
- You withhold taxes from income other than wages paid to a non-resident
Even if none of the above apply, you’ll need an EIN to pay employees and take care of other essentials.
How to get an EIN
Applying for a new EIN number is pretty straightforward, but there are a few variables involved depending on your location. Also, you’ll need to complete the application in one sitting, so make sure you have everything you need on hand before you get started.
When you incorporate using Capbase, all the information you need to provide the IRS is automatically collected, so applying for an EIN is easy.
Applying for an EIN as a US taxpayer
Applying for an EIN as a non-US resident
If you don’t have legal residence in the USA, or your principal place of business is outside the USA, you qualify as an international applicant. The process of applying for an EIN is a bit more complex.
You’ll need to:
- Call the IRS at 267-941-1099 between 6am and 11pm EST Monday – Friday.
- Answer questions pertaining to IRS Form SS-4. To make the process go smoothly, it’s best to fill out the form beforehand.
- The IRS agent will fill out a Form SS-4 and open an account for you.
Alternatively, you can fax or mail your application according to the instructions on Form SS-4.
Remember that you are limited to one EIN per responsible party per day. What that means is that the person who owns the company, or is entitled to exercising the ultimate effective control over the business entity, can only apply for one employer ID number (as per the IRS website).
What you need to apply for an EIN
You can get an idea of the information you need to apply for an EIN by looking at IRS Form SS-4.
In summary, you’ll need the following information:
- Legal and trade business names
- Executor, administrator, or trustee name
- Your business address
- Your SSN or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN)
- Your business entity type
- Your reason for applying
- The date you started your business
- The closing month of your accounting year
- The first date you paid wages
- The principal activity of your business
Also, if you’d like to designate a third party to receive your EIN, you need their name and contact information; the IRS will get in touch with them to answer questions about Form SS-4.
After you apply, the IRS will send you a letter (Notice 147C), which includes your EIN.
Changing your EIN address
If your principal place of business changes, you need to notify the IRS. You can do this by filling out IRS Form 8822-B and mailing it to the applicable address listed on the form.
After this, the IRS will send a letter (Notice CP148A) to both your old and new addresses, confirming the change. To confirm the change, you don’t need to do anything.
If, for some reason, the address change is wrong, you need to return the letter to the IRS along with a complete IRS Form 8822-B listing your address.
How to look up another company’s EIN
If you need to find the EIN of another company, the process is straightforward. You can either:
- If you have an SSN, you can apply for an EIN by filing Form SS-4 online with the IRS
- If you don’t have an SSN, you can get a tax ID (an ITIN, specifically), and then using it to file Form SS-4 online
- If your business is not registered in the US, you’ll need to apply for an EIN by submitting Form SS-4 via phone, snail mail, or fax