person applying for EIN on a laptop

How to Get an Employer Identification Number

If you plan to hire employees, you’ll need to obtain an Employer Identification Number (EIN). The IRS requires most businesses have one to identify each employer’s tax account. Keep reading to learn how to apply for one.

1. Determine if you need an EIN

Per IRS, you need an EIN if you can answer “Yes” to any ofthe following questions:

  1. Do you have employees?
  2. Is your business either a corporation or a partnership? Read also: How to Choose a Business Structure
  3. Do you file an employment, excise, or alcohol, tobacco, and firearms tax return?
  4. Do you have a Keogh retirement plan?
  5. Are you involved with one of the following types of organizations?
    • Trusts
    • Estates
    • Real estate mortgage investment conduits
    • Nonprofit organizations
    • Farmers’ cooperatives
    • Plan administrators

2. Choose whether to apply online, via fax, or by mail

Choose a method based on how quickly you need the tax number and where you’re located:

  • When you apply online, you’ll typically receive your EIN immediately. You can apply online if your principal business, office or agency, or legal residence is in the United States or U.S. territories.
  • If you choose fax, you’ll usually receive your account number within four business days. You can apply by fax even if your company is not primarily located in the U.S.
  • When mail in your application, you’ll typically receive your EIN within four weeks. You can mail your application no matter where your business is primarily located.

3. Complete Form SS-4

No matter which method you choose, you’ll need to complete Form SS-4: Application for Employer Identification Number.

When you apply online, the IRS will ask interview-style questions, but your answers will supply the information required by the paper form. It’s important to note that you must complete the application in one session, and the system will log you out if you’re inactive on the page for 15 minutes. So, make sure you have all the information nearby before you start.  

The information you will need includes the following:

  • Your business’s legal and trade name If you operate under a name other than your company’s legal name, you will need to include both your legal and trade name. The IRS will only accept letters, numbers, hyphens (-), and ampersands (&). If your company’s legal name contains a backslash (\) or forward-slash (/), you can use a hyphen instead of the slash. For example, list Jones/Smith Enterprises as Jones-Smith Enterprises. If your name includes an apostrophe (’), drop the apostrophe altogether. For example, use Smiths Company instead of Smith’s Company. If your business name contains any other special character, either spell it out or replace it with a space. For example, if your company’s name is Smith.com, you can either submit it as Smith Dot Com or Smith Com.
  • Executor, administrator, trustee, or “care of” name – If you’re applying for a trust’s EIN, include the trustee’s name. If you’re applying on behalf of an estate, use the executor or administrator’s name. If your company has a designated person who receives tax information, include their name. If none of those situations apply, you can enter “N/A” on line 3 of the form.
  • Your company’s mailing and street addresses
  • The full legal name and Social Security Number (SSN) or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) – The responsible party is the person who owns or controls the company. If your company is a corporation, that might be the president, vice president, or other principal officer.
  • The date your business started or changed the form of ownership
  • Closing month of the accounting year – Your accounting year is usually 12 consecutive months and can either be a calendar year (ending December 31) or a fiscal year (ending on the last day of the month of your choice).
  • Whether you plan to file Form 941 or 944 – As an employer, you’re required to file an employment tax return. Typically, you’ll submit Form 941 once a quarter. If you expect your payroll tax liability for the year to be $1,000 or less, however, you can file Form 944 once a year instead.
  • First date wages were paid – If you already have employees, enter the first day you paid them.

 4. Submit your application

After you’ve completed Form SS-4, make sure you’re submitting it to the correct place.

If you’re applying by fax:

  • If your business is primarily located in one of the 50 states or D.C., submit your application to (855) 641-6935.
  • If you’re located in a U.S. territory or outside the U.S., use (855) 215-1627 or (304) 707-9471.

If you’re applying by mail:

  • If your business is primarily located in one of the 50 states or D.C., send your application to Internal Revenue Service, Attn: EIN Operation, Cincinnati, OH 45999
  • If you’re primarily located in a U.S. territory or outside the U.S., mail it to Internal Revenue Service, Attn: EIN International Operation, Cincinnati, OH 45999