Employer Identification Number (EIN)

What Is an Employer Identification Number (EIN)?

An Employer Identification Number (EIN) is a nine-digit ID assigned by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). One of five Tax ID Numbers (TINs), it’s used to identify business entities and administer tax laws. The two-digit EIN prefix indicates where the number was assigned and the subsequent seven digits identify the entity itself (e.g. XX-XXXXXXX).

Using this unique number reduces the likelihood of your business being misidentified as another. Much like a fingerprint, a business’s EIN is entirely unique—it never expires or gets recycled for another company.

What Is the Difference between a TIN and an EIN?

Tax Identification Number (TIN) and EIN are often used interchangeably, but TIN is a more general term. It may refer to an EIN, as well as several other ID numbers, such as:

What Is the Difference between an EIN and a FEIN?

Your business tax ID number may also be referred to as a Federal Employer Identification Number (FEIN). There is no difference between EIN and FEIN—these terms are both used to describe the same nine-digit ID from the federal government.

What Is a State EIN?

Even if your business has an EIN at the federal level, you may also be required to get another at the state level. Many companies must have a State Employer Identification Number, or a State EIN, for each state in which they pay taxes. It may also be used by some entities to guard against identity theft (e.g. sole proprietors).

Tax ID laws vary from state to state. Business owners should review local requirements to find out if they need a State EIN and how to get one.

Do I Need an EIN for My Business?

You will most likely need an EIN for your business to fulfill tax reporting requirements. For instance, you need one if you have employees.

You’ll also need an EIN if any of the following apply:

Even if your entity doesn’t fall under any of the categories outlined above, you might still need an EIN to open a checking account or apply for a business loan.

Can I Get an EIN without a Business?

If you do not have a business, you cannot get an EIN. Instead, your SSN serves as your tax ID number. Keep in mind, if you're running your business as a sole proprietorship and don’t have any employees, you may not need or want an EIN since you’ll file a business tax return with your personal taxes using your SSN.

However, you may have to register for an EIN if any of the following changes occur:

How to Apply for an EIN

If you need a business tax ID from the IRS, simply apply for an EIN online. The processing time depends on how you apply, so it’s important to plan accordingly.

You can submit Form SS-4 in the following ways:

To receive a State EIN, contact a local agency that handles employment taxes.

Where Do I Find My EIN If It’s Lost?

If you once had an employer ID but can’t find it, you don’t have to apply for it again. Instead, try these methods:

How to Report Business Identity Theft

If you suspect your misplaced EIN is being used fraudulently, report this information to the IRS. Businesses, estates, trusts, and other entities may use Form 14039-B if they think someone else is submitting tax returns or W-2 forms under their number.

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