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How to find your business EIN number

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

An easy guide to finding your employer identification number

Business information extends well beyond the business name or business logo. In fact, one of the most important pieces of information that a business holds is the employer identification number (EIN). Whether self-employed or managing a public company, business leaders should be aware of the purpose of EIN information and how to locate it.

What is an EIN number and what is it for?

An EIN is also known as a business tax ID number or a federal tax ID number, and almost every business needs one. The EIN is a nine digit number that, among other things, helps the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) identify your business. The IRS can process income tax documents, IRS forms, and business account information with the business entity's EIN information. The EIN differs slightly from the taxpayer identification number (TIN) that is associated with individuals, specifically individual tax filings. The TIN is usually the person's social security number (SSN).

The most important reason for an EIN is to identify your business for federal income tax purposes; but it’s also used to apply for business bank accounts, small business loans, business credit cards, to file state and local taxes, and for obtaining a small business license.

Companies of all sizes are required to have an EIN in order to run their business. The only exceptions are sole proprietors and single-person limited liability companies (LLC). In most cases, a sole proprietor does not need to obtain an EIN. Usually, it is totally acceptable for a sole proprietor to use their social security number in the place of any other tax identification number. An LLC needs an EIN as soon as the LLC's business involves two or more owners or the law requires the LLC to function as a taxpayer separate from its owners.

Business owners typically obtain an EIN at the start of incorporation and business establishment. Critical business tasks that require an EIN include the filing of business tax returns, operating with a specific business license, or utilizing services for business finances (using a business bank account or a business credit card, for example). Also, without having an EIN on hand, businesses may not be able to apply for business loans. In the case of non-profits or nonprofit organizations, not having an EIN may be a barrier toward applying for grants or special funds.

More often than not, there will be an instance when you're working through a business document or application, and you’re asked to enter your EIN. What if you can’t remember it? Of course, memorizing a company's EIN isn't standard practice and so it is important that business owners like you know how to access their EIN. This article provides the steps to locate your business’s EIN.

How to locate your EIN information

Checking important business or entity documents

The best place to start with searching for your EIN number is referencing your business or entity documents; specifically, by reviewing business records or finding your unique EIN confirmation letter. The EIN confirmation letter is issued upon the establishment of your business with the IRS and includes the nine digit EIN as well as other important information about your business (e.g., address, state of operation, company type, etc.)

If you applied for your EIN online, the confirmation letter should be available either as a saved document or something you elected to receive in the mail. If you applied by fax or mail, your EIN confirmation letter would have been sent back using the same modality.

Check financial statements and tax documents

The next best place to check for your EIN is through tax documents and financial statements. When referencing entity documents, such as documents outlining your business structure (for example, determining if it is a sole proprietorship), you can check at the top of the document where official information about your business is provided. Other options may include business credit reports or financial statements that provide the identification information. With tax filings, the EIN is in Box B of your W-2 form. Look for a 9-digit number with a dash separating the second and third digit (NN-NNNNNNN). It's usually right above your business's name or below the address.

Ask your banker

The IRS recommends that if you used your EIN to open up a bank account, you may be able to reach out to them to locate the EIN. When communicating with the financial representative or banker, the information can only be provided if you are an authorized person on the account (for example, the business owner or an approved representative who can advocate on behalf of the business). Note that bank representatives are trained to be extra cautious in releasing sensitive information because of concerns of identity theft.

Contact the IRS

As a final option for EIN lookup, you can call the IRS's Business and Specialty Tax Line. The number for this department is 800-829-4933. The IRS is open for calls from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. your local time (note that Alaska and Hawaii follow Pacific Time). Upon providing your identification, including proof that you are an authorized person to receive the EIN, the IRS representative can provide the EIN directly over the phone. This option can be timely, especially during tax season when the customer service line is busier, so it should be your final option.

How to complete an EIN lookup for other companies

The nature of your business may require that you regularly look up EINs of other businesses, or you may want to look up another business's EIN to validate their information, especially in developing partnerships with other vendors or suppliers.

Let’s look at some ways to locate another business’s EIN.

Ask the company directly

Someone in the payroll or accounting department should know the company's tax ID. Calling the company directly is usually a quick and efficient method of locating the EIN.

Search SEC filings

If a company is publicly traded, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) website will have records that are associated with the company. You can search the website for free through their EDGAR system. Simply enter the company name to locate their EIN. For nonprofit organizations, you can perform an EIN lookup on Guidestar.

Use a paid EIN database

Another option to consider in searching for another company's EIN is to use a database that charges a fee to access. The benefit of this option is that additional information, like company size or year of incorporation, may be available.

Next steps

EINs are critical for business operations; and if you misplace the EIN number, you have multiple options to recover the data and continue with important aspects of your business.

Do you need help obtaining an EIN? Or, do you need additional support around other aspects of EIN information?

Heartland is ready to help.

Every day, America’s entrepreneurs wake up and grind away at the day-to-day operations that keep their businesses afloat. But Heartland customers get a head start because they trust us to deliver a complete technology solution that makes it easier to stay competitive, connect with customers, sell more, and even manage and pay their employees. With our POS, payments and payroll technologies in place, and our people passionately committed to their success, nearly 1 million businesses have peace of mind, a growing bottom line and more time to focus on leading their businesses into the future. Learn more at heartland.us.