Guide to EIN FEIN Employer Identification Numbers and Tax ID

Are you starting a business and wonder if you need to get an EIN (Employment Identification Number)? Read on my fellow entrepreneur for all the information you want about how to get an EIN number, what it is, its uses and purposes and examples (number of digits and prefixes).

legalzoom EIN obtainment start a businessAn EIN or FEIN – Federal Employer Identification number is to your business what a social security number is to your person. It is a unique number that identifies your company for taxation and other regulatory purposes.

FAQ for Employer Identification Numbers


Do I need an EIN for my Business?

Yes, if you plan to hire any employees or are structured as a partnership or corporation, whether you operate as a DBA or not. Certain types of businesses such as trusts, nonprofit organizations, farmers cooperatives, estates and real estate investment entities must obtain an EIN.


What is an EIN? What does EIN stand for?

EIN is an abbreviation for Employer Identification Number, also called Federal Employer Identification Number (FEIN) or Federal Tax Identification Number. No wonder us business owners are confused with so many names for the same thing!

It is a unique number assigned to your business by the IRS Internal Revenue Service for companies operating in the United States.

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What is the Purpose of an EIN?

It is an identification number that is used by the IRS to track your business income and taxes. While its name implies that it is for employers only, Employers Identification Number. The main purpose is to identify your business for tax reporting purposes. It is a form of taxation registration with the US Federal government.


Examples of EIN

EIN numbers are 9 digits in length. The format is as follows XX-XXXXXXX. Sometimes the letter “P” follows the number to indicate it is an employee plan.  The first two digit prefix indicates the geographic area of the company headquarters.  However, since 2001, the IRS has centralized the EIN assignment process so not all new EIN numbers get prefixes. Thus Employer Identification Numbers issued before 2001 may have state specific prefixes.


How to Get an EIN or FEIN Number?

I recommend using our preferred small business legal resource Legalzoom to get your EIN Federal Tax ID. It is inexpensive – $79, fast and accurate.  While you can also register yourself and get an EIN number at the IRS government website. I found it difficult and time-consuming so I opted to use the legal services of Legalzoom.  Time is money and I choose to spend my time on activities that build my business – not paperwork.

Alternatively, you could fill out the IRS Form SS-4 and submit it by fax or mail.


If I have a DBA do I also need to get an EIN?

If you operate your business as a DBA (doing business as), sole proprietorship you may need to get an EIN for federal tax purposes. If your business hires employees, temporary or permanent, full or part-time you must obtain an EIN. Additionally, if your business tax return will show taxes withheld from income other than wages that were paid to non-resident aliens you too must also obtain an EIN.  Also if your business structure is a partnership or corporation but is operating as a DBA you need to have an EIN.


What if my business is an LLC do I have to get an EIN?

Because the IRS does not recognize LLC Limited Liability Companies as separate entities for taxation purposes you don’t necessarily need an EIN number. The exception is when your LLC is structured as a partnership or corporation you must obtain an EIN. However, if your LLC is a sole proprietorship structure you do not need to have an EIN, but you will need an ID number if you hire employees.


Do Corporations require EIN?

Yes, both S corp and C corporations are required by the IRS to get an EIN or Federal Tax ID number, whether you plan to hire employees or not.


I don’t have any employees so why do I need to get an Employer Identification Number?

While the ID number is generally called an “Employer” ID number it is actually a tax registration number for the IRS. So even if you do not have employees you may be required to get an EIN Number.


How much does it cost to get an EIN?

For $79 at Legalzoom you can get an Employer ID Number in three easy steps. You can also apply for an EIN number at the IRS website, but I found it confusing and time-consuming.


How long does it take to get the EIN number?

If you have completed your application properly and completely you should get your EIN number certificate within 1-2 weeks.


Do I need an EIN to open a bank account?

Depends on your bank. However more and more commercial banks are requiring your EIN number before opening your business accounts. Bank of America requires new businesses to bring copies of the EIN certificate in order to open a business checking account.


I Lost and Forgot my EIN number – How can I find it?

Start by trying to find the original computer notice from the IRS that contains your number. You may have it filled with your checking account papers from when you presented your EIN to open the bank account.  If you can’t find this letter, then contact your bank they probably have it recorded in your original account paperwork.

Still no luck, then search your past tax returns which most likely have it listed.

Finally, if you still cannot find your EIN number you can call the IRS EIN Business and Specialty Tax Line (800) 829-4933, 7 am – 7 pm who can lookup your EIN number.


How to Lookup an EIN Number for Business?

To locate your employers EIN on your W2 form. If you want to look up an EIN FEIN for other companies go to the company website and if they are a publically traded company they will have an Investor Relations page with a link to the Filing documents.  Securities and Exchange Commision filings have EIN numbers on the first page.

The online database SEC EDGAR is a free way to look up SEC filings online.


Are EIN and TIN Tax ID numbers the same thing?

Yes, you know how the IRS likes to make everything nice and complicated this is no different.  This ID number is called alternatively, EIN (Employer Identification Number), FEIN (Federal Employer Identification Number) and TIN (Taxpayer Identification Number).  For more confusion, it used to be called the “95 number” also! All of these names refer to the nine-digit number assigned by the IRS to your business.


Are EIN numbers free?

You can get a free EIN number if you do the work yourself of obtaining the correct forms, completing them properly and then faxing or mailing to the IRS. There is also an online application system that requires the principal officer, general partner, grantor, owner, trustor to have a valid Taxpayer Identification Number (Social Security Number or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number) in order to use the online EIN application site. I recommend getting your EIN quickly and inexpensively at Legalzoom.


Are EIN numbers confidential or public record?


Can EIN numbers be transferred? How to Transfer EIN Numbers?


Can one EIN number be used for multiple businesses?


Do EIN numbers expire?


Do EIN numbers change every year?


I have an EIN now what is next step to start my business?


Should I use an EIN or SSN for my business?


Should I put my EIN on Divorce Papers?


Should I put my EIN on Invoices?


Can EIN numbers start with 0 zero?


Do EIN numbers have letters in them?

Yes, in some cases. These types of employers EIN numbers begin with the following letters:

A – Agricultural Employer

H – Household Employer

F – Federal Government

G – State or Local Government

N – Nonprofit Employer

S – Foreign subsidiary of US Employer

W – Reporting Entity not subject to Social Security taxes.


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