Looking for Form SS-4 instructions to get an Employer Identification Number (EIN)? Learn more about how to fill out this essential IRS form and get an EIN for your business. IRS forms can be complicated, and there may be some unique circumstances affecting your business that could make the process of getting an EIN more or less time-consuming.
This article is intended to be a helpful guide and overview of this process. But make sure to read the full IRS Form SS-4 instructions on the IRS website before you proceed.
What Is an Employer Identification Number?
One of the most important aspects of starting a business is being able to get an Employer Identification Number (EIN) for tax purposes. When you form an LLC, incorporate as a C Corp or create another type of legal entity for your business, you will be able to get an EIN from the IRS.
Why Do I Need an EIN for My Business?
The EIN serves as a Tax ID number for your business. Just as individual taxpayers have a Social Security Number (SSN) for their personal tax returns, the EIN identifies your business to the IRS and makes it possible for you to operate your business legally for tax purposes.
The IRS has a detailed list of Form SS-4 instructions on their website, and you can submit your form online, by phone, by fax or by mail. However, the IRS generally recommends that you complete your Form SS-4 before you contact the IRS to formally apply for your EIN.
Here is a general overview of the necessary steps. Please note: This is just an abbreviated version, not the entire form, and you should consult the IRS website for full instructions.
Line 1. Legal name of entity (or individual) for whom the EIN is being requested.
This where you put your official business name. Make sure your business name is spelled correctly and that it looks the same on this line as it appears on your Articles of Incorporation or official business formation documents.
Line 2. Trade name of business.
Use this line if your business is Doing Business As (DBA) a trade name or “fictitious name” that is different from the legal name in Line 1.
Line 3. Executor, administrator, trustee, “care of” name.
Put the full name (first, middle and last) of a person who is authorized to manage the legal matters of the business: typically a business owner, general partner, principal officer, grantor or trustor, or someone who is authorized to receive tax-related information for the business.
Lines 4a–b. Mailing address.
Enter the address where the business will receive mail. This should generally be the same address that is used for the business’s tax returns.
Lines 5a–b. Street address.
If the business has a physical address that is different from the mailing address in lines 4a–b, enter the physical address here. (If the business’s physical address and mailing address are the same, leave lines 5a–b blank.)
Line 6. County and state where the principal business is located.
Enter the business’s county and state.
Lines 7a–b. Name of responsible party.
Enter the full name (including the first name, middle initial and last name) and SSN, ITIN or EIN of the business’s responsible party. The “responsible party” is defined by the IRS as “the person who ultimately owns or controls the entity or who exercises ultimate effective control over the entity. The person identified as the responsible party should have a level of control over, or entitlement to, the funds or assets in the entity that, as a practical matter, enables the person, directly or indirectly, to control, manage, or direct the entity and the disposition of its funds and assets.”
Lines 8a–c. Limited Liability Company (LLC) information.
If your business is an LLC, you will need to enter information into these lines to provide further details about your company, including the number of members.
Line 9a. Type of entity.
Check only one box to describe what type of entity your business is. If your business is an LLC, you need to be careful and read the specific instructions for which box to check (such as Sole Proprietor, Partnership, Corporation or Personal Service Corporation). For example, if you want your LLC to file taxes as an S Corporation, this is where you would check the box for Corporation and enter the number of the return that will be filed (Form 1120S). However, filling out this Form SS-4 is not the same as making a tax classification election for your LLC. That requires a separate set of forms.
Line 10. Reason for applying.
Why are you applying for an EIN now? Did you just start a new business, are you hiring employees for the first time, have you purchased an existing business or other reasons? Enter a few words of explanation next to the appropriate box.
In addition to these, there are several other lines of information that you need to provide, if relevant to your business, such as your estimated employment tax liability, number of employees expected (if you have employees), principal activity of your business, principal line of merchandise/products/services sold and a special section where you can assign a Third Party Designee who is authorized to receive the business’s EIN and answer questions about the completion of Form SS-4.
Can I Get an EIN Myself or Do I Have to Pay?
As you can see, filling out Form SS-4 can be complicated. Some business owners may have particular situations that need additional questions to be answered; depending on your business, you might want to get professional help to evaluate your options and clarify how to proceed.
But if you’d rather not do it yourself, Incfile can help with this process with our EIN filing service. If you don’t want to deal with the time and hassle of filling out Form SS-4, and if you want the peace of mind of working with an experienced partner who has dealt with this process before for many other business owners, Incfile’s EIN service can be a great value for you.
DISCLAIMER: This article does not constitute professional tax advice or legal advice. Consult with a tax adviser or legal professional if you have specific questions about Form SS-4 or any other aspect of classifying your business for tax purposes.
Ben Gran is a freelance writer from Des Moines, Iowa. Ben has written for Fortune 500 companies, the Governor of Iowa (who now serves as U.S. Secretary of Agriculture), the U.S. Secretary of the Navy, and many corporate clients. He writes about entrepreneurship, technology, food and other areas of great personal interest.