There’s a lot to focus on when starting your own business. How will you get customers?  Are you going to employ people to help you get started?  How are you going to market your business? Do you need to open a joint bank account with your business partner? In the excitement it’s easy to lose track of things, like an Employee Identification Number. 

An Employer Identification Number (EIN) is like a Social Security Number for your business. It’s also known as a Federal Employer Identification Number (FEIN) and Federal Tax Identification Number (FTIN). The nine-digit number is assigned by the IRS. It’s useful on several different levels. Below we’ll walk you through how an EIN works and how to look up your EIN.   

Does my Business need an EIN?

Under most circumstances if you’re running a small business, you’ll need an EIN. A business needs an EIN to file business tax returns and to pay employees. If you want to be considered a Partnership, LLC, Corporation, S Corporation, or a Non-profit, then your business is going to have to obtain an EIN. Without the number the IRS sees you as a private individual taxpayer.

If you’re a single-person enterprise — a Sole Proprietorship or Single-Member LLC — you’re not technically required to get an EIN and can use your Social Security Number for tax purposes. But you might want to get an EIN anyway, for the reasons listed in this article.  

Primarily, the EIN is used for tax purposes.  This includes filing for taxes at the end of the year.  Additionally, companies need an EIN to open a business bank account, which is important to keep business and personal expenses separated.  The number is also used when applying for business licensing.  If you want to hire contractors or consultants in a Form 1099 relationship an EIN is required.  Other financial requests on behalf of the business, like loans or credit cards, typically require an EIN.  

Is an EIN public record?

For publicly traded companies, the EIN is a public record.  In this scenario, the SEC maintains the EIN for these companies online. This is one of the easiest ways to do an EIN lookup.

How is an EIN issued?

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issues the EIN when businesses apply for it.  Depending on how the business applies will determine how it is issued.  For those who apply with a physical form, the IRS mails a letter with the EIN on it. For online applications, the EIN is emailed back.  When first applying for an EIN, make sure that you keep this information in a safe place so you don’t need to conduct an EIN lookup later.

How to Find Your EIN Number

There are six ways to conduct an EIN lookup.  Before reaching out in more formal ways, there are a few tips and tricks to find the EIN.  Start by looking for how it was originally issued.  After that, try these other ways to find the number.  

Tax Forms

Previous years’ tax returns or correspondence with the IRS may contain the EIN.  If a tax professional assisted in filing your organization’s taxes, they might also have the ability to look up the paperwork for you.

Contact the IRS

The IRS issued the EIN, and they are the official source to get the answer.  They should be able to provide the information for free.  While they will most likely require proof of identification, they will not require you to pay for this information.

Ask Your Licensing Agency

Many people utilize legal professionals or representatives to license their business.  If someone licensed your business on your behalf, check with them to see if they retained the EIN for you.

Request a Credit Report

The big three credit bureaus (TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian) can provide EIN for a fee.

Ask your Bank

Since an EIN is required for a business bank account, the bank is a good source for the information.  Additionally, an EIN would be required by a bank if your business has ever received a loan or uses a credit card with them. 

Check Your Records

In the same vein, applications for various bank accounts, loans, credit cards, licenses, and permits would require the number, so check those old banker’s boxes.  Have you ever issued a 1099 form to a contractor?  The paperwork would have included an EIN there, too.

EIN Lookup: Alternative Ways

Specifically, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) maintains the EIN for publicly traded companies online.  Additionally, many companies will provide a database of EIN numbers for a charge.  These options may be valuable, especially if you need several EIN’s from companies you do not currently have a direct relationship with. This is common for those in the insurance or legal industries. But, you may need to do this if, for instance, you are a vendor that requires EINs from companies that you work with. There is also a database for non-profit organizations’ EIN.  The Melissa Database is free and maintains this information for all non-profits.

All this talk of EIN’s getting you excited to start your business?  It’s step 7 on this article on How to Start a Business in 10 Steps!  Check it out to learn more.

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