We like to think of the Employer Identification Number (EIN) as a Social Security number for your business. In other words: It will be the number that you use to identify your business entity with the government for the main purpose of tax administration. After you've registered your legal business entity (LLC or corporation), you'll need to know how to get one quickly.
This is a process that a business owner can do themselves through the IRS website, but it will take some time, know-how and organization. It’s important to obtain your EIN soon after starting a business so that you can keep on track with your taxes. If you're up for getting an EIN on your own, there are three steps to follow.
First, What Does an EIN Do?
Needed to file tax returns for your business
Required to open a business bank account in your business’s name
Often required to open a business credit card or obtain a business loan
Helps you pay your employees
Establishes credit for your business
Maintains your business’s standing as a legal business entity
3 Steps to Get an EIN Number
Getting your EIN will require some time to get your business information organized, to find a secure Internet connection if you are applying online or to locate the correct forms and addresses if you choose to apply by mail or fax. Once you're ready, you can follow these steps to get your EIN number in the same day.
1. Find Out If You're Eligible
According to the IRS, you are eligible for an EIN if you have a business that is located in the United States or its territories and if you have a valid Taxpayer Identification number (like a Social Security number). If you meet those two requirements, then you are eligible to get your EIN. You can only get one EIN per responsible party per day.
2. Apply Online
The IRS EIN application is available online. If you are applying online, make sure to have the information you need at your fingertips. You will not be able to save your progress and revisit the application to finish later. You must answer all questions on the application in one session. After verifying your online application information, you can choose to immediately download a PDF with your EIN or have the EIN mailed to you.
You may also fill out the Form SS4 for the IRS to apply for your EIN by paper. According to the IRS, the processing timeframe for an EIN application that is received by mail is three months. This can be delayed if the form is not legible or complete. In recent years, delays have been reported due to staffing shortages at the IRS.
Believe it or not, you also have the option to fax your completed Form-SS4 to the IRS for processing. The IRS estimates that the processing time for processing forms received by fax is four business days. You can find the right fax number and mailing address on the IRS website, "Where to File Your Taxes (for Form SS-4)."
3. Submit Your Application and Get Your EIN
Here is the information needed for the IRS EIN application:
The legal structure of your business, i.e., LLC, corporation or a trust
Depending on the legal structure of your business, the application will then ask you details, such as how many members are in an LLC, the type of corporation, if you are a CEO, etc.
Next, you will need to provide your Social Security number.
You will then need to provide your address and your business address, any DBAs you've filed for the business, and the date your business was started.
The IRS will then ask a series of questions about the type of business you do, such as if you plan to sell firearms, tobacco or alcohol; if your business owns any motor vehicles; if your business will have employees who file a W-2; and if you will file a Form 720 (Quarterly Federal Excise Tax Return); plus other questions about your industry.
After you have input your business details, then you will choose how you would like to receive your EIN number. You can choose to download it immediately, or you can choose to have it mailed to you.
How Easy Is It to Get an EIN Number?
The answer to this depends on how much time you have. The process for obtaining an EIN number for your business is pretty easy to follow through the IRS website if you have a solid Wi-Fi connection and about 10-20 minutes. Remember, you must complete the application in one session. You will not be able to save your progress and return later. For security reasons, your session will expire after 15 minutes of inactivity.
Additionally, the IRS recommends you install Adobe Reader before beginning the application if you don’t already have it on your computer. That is because the EIN number can be immediately downloaded after you finish the application in PDF format.
The EIN application and verification process takes about 10-20 minutes if you have access to the information you need with you. You will get your EIN immediately upon completion. You can then download, save, and print your EIN confirmation notice. You may also choose to have a hard copy letter with your EIN number mailed to you.
How Much Does It Cost to Set up an EIN Number?
It is free to set up an EIN number on your own with the IRS. The IRS EIN application does not require any payment details whatsoever, and you will receive your EIN quickly after you complete the application and verification process. Some professional services, including Incfile, offer packages that will obtain an EIN on behalf of your business.
Our service offers the additional bonus of keeping your EIN information on record, stored securely and instantly accessible on your dashboard, so you always have it exactly when you need it. The process for retrieving a lost EIN can be tedious and confusing, so this option is advisable for business owners who have a lot of account numbers, passwords and data to keep track of.
If you are too busy to get around to the application, have trouble keeping track of important documents or just need to delegate the task so you can focus on growing your business, then this might be a smart choice for you. Incfile's convenient service will help you apply for an EIN online and obtain your number typically within one day.
You let us know your phone number and email address, then we’ll contact you with a few questions. We then take the lead with the IRS, filing everything and emailing you your EIN. Then, we store the EIN for you securely in your Incfile dashboard so you never lose it. (And remember, once you have an EIN, it will never expire.)
Nicole Bowman is a freelance writer who thinks turning research into stories is the best gig ever. She started writing billboards back in 2002, worked in book publishing in New York for many years and now she creates all sorts of engaging content for the web. Nicole lives in Rehoboth Beach, DE, with her husband, two sons and their poodle, Tootsie. She loves the great outdoors, bookstores and tennis.