What's an IRS Employer Identification Number (EIN)?

An Employer Identification Number or "EIN" is a nine-digit number assigned to sole proprietors, corporations, partnerships, estates, trusts, and other entities for tax filing and reporting purposes.  An EIN is assigned by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and is generally used in connection with business activities.

Why do you need an EIN?

You or your company will need an EIN for various reasons, even if the company has no employees. An EIN, for example, is necessary to:

  1. Start a business;
  2. Purchase a going business;
  3. Open a bank account;
  4. Comply with the IRS withholding regulations to benefit from a U.S. income tax treaty;
  5. Withhold taxes on income paid to an alien;
  6. Hire employees;
  7. Create a trust; and
  8. Effect other actions.

How can you apply for an EIN?

You can apply for an EIN online, by telephone, by fax, or mail.  Processing times differ based on the method chosen.  Generally, online is the fastest, and mail is the slowest.  

If you have a legal residence, principal place of business, or principal office or agency in the U.S., you can receive an EIN by filing the request online at the IRS website www.irs.gov/businessess.   Moreover, in order to apply online, you must have a social security number or taxpayer identification number.

If you have NO legal residence, principal place of business, or principal office or agency in the U.S. or U.S. possessions, you can't use the online application to obtain an EIN.

What if you don’t have a Social Security Number (SSN) or Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN)?

If you do not have a have a social security number or an ITIN, then the good news is that you can still get an EIN.  However, you will need the help of a third party designee such as a U.S. attorney or accountant to help you out through the process.  Typically the attorney or accountant will charge a nominal fee to help with the process.