e i e i N – What’s an EIN?

Employers Identification Number is commonly referred to as an EIN.  Start a new business and someone is going to be asking, “What’s your EIN?”

First, do you need one?  As the name implies, if you are an employer then you MUST have an EIN.  Anyone issuing a W2 is required to use an EIN, even household employers.  If you are starting a new business, have no employees and are a sole proprietor, then no you don’t.  You use your social security number for tax filing and bank purposes.  Separate entities, and by this I mean legally separate such as corporations, partnerships and LLCs, need an EIN.  The exception is a LLC that is a single member disregarded entity (unless they have employees).

To obtain an EIN the first thing you do is fill out an IRS form SS-4 regardless of the method used.  Then you can file:

  • Online 
  • Toll-free Telephone Service 1-800-829-4933
  • Fax (number depends on where you live)
  • Mail (address depends on where you live)

If you’re applying for an EIN, first of all, know what type of entity you are!  If you’re not sure, then don’t apply until you are certain.  If you mark corporation, then the IRS is expecting to see a form 1120 filed even if you decide that you’re really a sole proprietor.  Secondly, there is a question about employees in the next year.  If you don’t have employees and are not certain you’re going to have employees, then say zero.  Again, you put a number and the IRS is then expecting a form 941 and form 940 to be filed.

Unsure about a question on the application?  Ask your tax professional.


  1. Glad you addressed this, Clare. It isn’t an issue for me anymore, but I noticed on the fly tribe board there seemed to be a lot of confusion.

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