Small Business Taxes – How to Get an Employer Identification Number (EIN)

Do you need an Employer Identification Number (EIN) for your small business?  You may be required to get an EIN for any number of reasons, such as:

1. Hiring employees
2. Forming a corporation
3. Forming a partnership
4. Buying a business
5. Starting a retirement plan
6. Filing excise tax returns
7. Opening a business bank account

There are four ways to get an EIN.

1. Apply online.
Go to the IRS website and complete the application online.  This is the fastest way to obtain an EIN because once the application is completed, the information is validated during the online session, and an EIN is issued immediately. You can then download, save, and print your EIN confirmation notice.   It doesn’t take very long to do this, and the IRS screens are user-friendly.

To insure you have all the information requested, you should print out Form SS-4 before starting the online application process and be sure you can answer all the questions on this form. You can get a copy of Form SS-4 at the IRS website.

One other important requirement – in order to use the online application, the principal officer (for corporations), general partner (for partnerships) or owner of the business (for sole proprietorships) must have a valid Taxpayer Identification Number (Social Security Number or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number).

2. Apply by phone.
Call the IRS Business & Specialty Tax Line at 800-829-4933 from 7:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m., Monday through Friday. An IRS employee takes the information, assigns the EIN, and provides the number to an authorized individual over the telephone, so this is also a quick method, provided you have all the information assembled beforehand.

3. Apply By FAX.
Fill out Form SS-4 and fax it to the appropriate IRS fax number. To find the fax number for your state, visit the IRS website.  If you provide a fax number, you will receive the new EIN via return fax within four business days, otherwise it will be mailed to you.

4. Apply By Mail.
Fill out Form SS-4 and mail it to the IRS.  It takes four (4) weeks for the IRS to process a mailed Form SS-4, so obviously this is the least desirable method.

If you’re not inclined to tackle this task yourself, you can authorize a third-party (such as your accountant or CPA) to submit the EIN application for you.  Check with your tax professional for details.

One final note.  Regardless of how you apply (online, phone, fax, snail-mail), it will take up to two weeks before your EIN becomes part of the IRS’ permanent records. You must wait until this occurs before you can file an electronic return, make an electronic payment, or pass an IRS Taxpayer Identification Number matching program.

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