Compare Small Business Loans
An employer identification number (EIN) is like a Social Security number (SSN) for a business. The IRS assigns an EIN — also known as a federal tax ID number — to any business that is eligible. EINs aren't always necessary, but we'll walk you through why having one can benefit your business and how to do an EIN lookup when you can’t find yours.
What is an EIN?
An EIN serves as a unique identifier for your company. It’s used mainly for tax purposes. The IRS requires an EIN for any registered business with employees, corporations, partnerships, and businesses that file employment, excise, or alcohol, tobacco and firearms tax returns.
Your EIN serves as the primary ID of a business to the government. It's also commonly referred to as a "tax identification number (TIN)" or "federal tax ID number." You might use it to:
- File business tax returns
- Open a business bank account
- Apply for small business loans
- Obtain a business license
- File various business legal documents
How to get an EIN
Applying for an EIN is easy; it can be done online within minutes on the IRS website or by faxing or mailing a completed Form SS-4 to the IRS.
We recommend that businesses apply for an EIN as soon as possible because it’s crucial for basic business functions. You don't need an EIN if you are a sole proprietor with no employees, but if you're looking to scale your business, having an EIN early on is beneficial.
Applying for an EIN online is fastest, but you also have these options if you’re based in a U.S. state or the District of Columbia:
- Fax: (855) 641-6935
- Mail: Internal Revenue Service, Attn: EIN Operation, Cincinnati, OH 45999
If you're an international applicant and don't have a legal residence or place of business in the U.S., you can apply for an EIN by one of these methods:
- Telephone: (267) 941-1099 (available Monday through Friday from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. Eastern time)
- Fax: (855) 215-1627 if within the U.S., or (304) 707-9471 if outside the U.S.
- Mail: Send your SS-4 form to Internal Revenue Service, Attn: EIN International Operation, Cincinnati, OH 45999
If you call to request an EIN, fill out an SS-4 form ahead of time to have your answers prepared for the questions the agent will ask. If you're filing via fax or mail, complete Form SS-4 and mail or fax it to the IRS. These methods take much longer than applying online — while faxing can result in an EIN within four business days, mailed applications can take at least four weeks to process.
Once you receive your EIN, make sure to keep it somewhere safe. It's unlikely that you’ll use an EIN as frequently as something like an SSN, so it's easy to forget. However, since your EIN is your business's tax ID, you’ll need it handy when dealing with taxes and applying for certain financial accounts or business licenses.
Does my business need an EIN?
Businesses of all types are able to apply for an EIN. However, the IRS requires certain businesses to have one. If you answer yes to any of the following, you'll need an EIN:
- Does your business have employees?
- Do you operate your business as a partnership or corporation?
- Does your business file employment, excise, or alcohol, tobacco and firearms tax returns?
- Does your business withhold taxes on non-wage income paid to a nonresident alien?
- Do you have a Keogh plan?
- Is your organization involved in a trust, non-profit organization, estate, real estate mortgage investment conduit, farmer’s cooperative or plan administration?
Even if your business is a sole proprietorship or single-member LLC with no employees, it’s still beneficial to get an EIN. It makes it easier to keep your personal and business taxes separate, and it may be required to open a business bank account or apply for business licenses. If you don't have an EIN, you'll need to use your SSN for various tax documents.
Keep in mind that those with an SSN, individual tax identification number (ITIN), or an existing EIN may apply for an EIN.
Does my business need to reapply for a new EIN?
Sometimes, your business may need to reapply for a new EIN. The IRS requires you to reapply for one rather than amending your business's existing EIN. According to the IRS, here are the most common reasons:
- You change the structure of your business, like incorporating or turning your sole proprietorship into a partnership.
- You purchase or inherit an existing business.
- You created a trust with funds from an estate.
- You are subject to a bankruptcy proceeding.
If your circumstances require you to reapply for an EIN, the application process is the same as if you’re applying for one for the first time.
How do I find my EIN?
If you’ve forgotten your EIN, there are a few ways to do an EIN lookup:
Contact the IRS to find your EIN
If you can't find your EIN on any of your documents, you can contact the IRS at 800-829-4933, but you'll need to call them Monday through Friday between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. local time.
If your EIN changed recently and isn’t on older documents, this should be your first option. Be sure that the person contacting the IRS is authorized to do so. Authorized people generally include the sole proprietor, a partner in a partnership or a corporate officer.
Check anywhere your EIN could be recorded
Doing an EIN lookup or tax ID number lookup should be simple since it should be on many essential documents. Here are a few places your EIN might appear:
- CP 575 Notice. When the IRS issues an EIN, they send you a CP 575 confirming your employer identification number. They may have issued this digitally when you applied online, faxed it or sent it via mail. Check to see if you received an electronic or printed letter from the IRS confirming your EIN when you first applied.
- Prior year tax returns. Check your previous income, employment or excise tax returns. You generally have to include your EIN on any tax returns, so assuming this isn't your first time using your EIN, it should be on most official government forms.
- Loan or license applications. You may have also used your EIN when applying for a loan, business license or permit.
- Bank or financial institution. If you used your EIN to open a business bank account, try calling the bank or visiting a branch to get the EIN you used when you opened the account.
Performing an employer identification number lookup isn’t difficult; you don’t need to hire a service to find your EIN on your behalf.
How to find an EIN for a business
The nature of your business may require that you regularly look up EINs of other companies, or you may want to look up another business's EIN to validate their information.
If the company is publicly traded and registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), you can use the SEC's EDGAR system to look up such a company's EIN for free. You can do an EIN lookup for nonprofit organizations on Guidestar.
If a company is not registered with the SEC, it will be more difficult since there’s no central EIN database for these companies. Here are a few strategies you can use:
- Contact the company's accountant or financing office and ask for the EIN, though they don’t have to provide it.
- Search for the company on the secretary of state’s website or seek out other local or federal filings that may be online.
- Hire a service or use a paid database to do the EIN search.
How to cancel an EIN
If you apply for an EIN and realize you don’t need it or close your business, you can close your business account with the IRS.
How you close your account depends on whether you’ve ever used the EIN to file tax returns or not.
If you never used the EIN, send a letter to the IRS that includes the complete legal name of your business, your EIN, business address, and the reason you need to close your account. Send your letter to Internal Revenue Service, Cincinnati, OH 45999. You may want to send the letter certified return receipt so you have confirmation that the IRS received it.
If you’ve filed an income tax return using the EIN, you need to file a final return before the IRS can close your account. Business tax returns, including Form 1065, Form 1120-S, and Form 1120, include a checkbox to mark the return as final. You need to file a final return even if you didn’t have any revenues or expenses during your last year in business.
Once the IRS assigns an EIN, it will never assign it to another business entity, even after closing your business account. It remains the permanent federal identification number for that business, and you can reopen your account and reuse the EIN for that same business later if needed.