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If you want to employ workers, get business financing, or open a business bank account, you will need an EIN. This number is your company’s federal tax ID, and it lets you access additional resources that you can’t access with your Social Security Number alone. 


Sole proprietors don’t always need an EIN number when they are getting started. However, this 9-digit number becomes more important as your business grows. It can even be a requirement depending on your industry and how you want to grow your business. This guide will uncover how to get an EIN.

What is an EIN?

An Employer Identification Number helps the IRS identify your business for tax purposes. Small business lenders and financial institutions will also request this number before letting you access financial products for your business. Every EIN is a nine-digit number, and no two businesses can receive the same EIN number. There's a dash between the second and third numbers, making the format XX-XXXXXXX.

When and why to get an EIN

You'll need an EIN to start a partnership, and the IRS requires an EIN for certain industries. Business owners must have this tax ID number to hire employees and obtain business licenses. However, you don't need an EIN number to work with freelancers. You’ll also need an EIN if you have a Keogh retirement plan or withhold taxes on income, excluding wages.


Getting a new EIN number offers several benefits, even if you are self-employed. You will need this number to apply for small business financing. Business loans and lines of credit usually have higher maximums than personal loans. For instance, a business owner can borrow up to $5 million with an SBA 7(a) loan. On the other hand, most personal loan providers don’t let consumers borrow more than $100,000. You’ll also have the opportunity to build business credit if you get an EIN.


Business owners with EINs can also open business bank accounts and separate personal assets from business assets. Separating personal and business tax returns can also make filing taxes less complicated and ensure you pay the right amount of income tax. 


An EIN number also provides more privacy since you can use your EIN for important business documents instead of your Social Security Number. That extra privacy can reduce the risk of identity theft.

Do small business lenders still require your Social Security Number?

An EIN will give you more financing opportunities. You can access types of financing that aren’t accessible to individual taxpayers without a business tax ID number. However, you may have to provide your Social Security Number even if you have an EIN.


Most business financing companies will want you to make a personal guarantee. This guarantee pops the corporate bubble and requires that the borrower repay the business loan with their personal funds if the business doesn't generate enough revenue to cover the loan payments. 


It’s still advantageous to have an EIN, but you may still have to provide your Social Security Number for business-related activities.

Does getting an EIN cost money?
It’s free to get an EIN number. You can apply on the IRS website and receive your number promptly. Beware of fraudulent websites that offer a paid application for an EIN, as you can go straight to the IRS instead. You don't have to pay an annual fee to maintain your EIN. Your Employer Identification Number never expires.

How long does it take to get an EIN number?

The timeframe for getting an EIN number depends on how you apply. You can receive a response immediately if you apply online. Faxing your application can increase the timeline to four days. Mailing an application takes the most time. It can take up to four weeks to get a response from the IRS if you submit your EIN application via mail.

How to apply for an EIN online

Applying for a free EIN online is a straightforward process. You can follow these steps to get started.

Step 1: Check if you are eligible

You can apply for an EIN if your business is a sole proprietorship or a legal business entity. LLCs, corporations, trusts, and estates are all eligible business structures for an EIN number. Non-profit organizations and farmers’ cooperatives also qualify. Applicants must have a valid Social Security Number, a valid Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN), or an existing EIN.

Step 2: Visit the online application page

The IRS has a straightforward application process. You'll have to visit the IRS website to start the process.

Step 3: Fill in the application

The IRS will want to know why you are requesting an EIN and who handles the company’s taxes. You'll also have to provide basic information like your legal name, business entity type, business address, and phone number. You can receive a confirmation letter online or via mail. It can take a few weeks to receive confirmation through physical mail, while online delivery will let you access your confirmation immediately.


You’ll have to complete the entire application in one sitting, since the session will expire if you're inactive for 15 minutes. If that happens, you'll have to start the application over again.

Step 4: Review your EIN application

It only takes a minute to double-check your business EIN application and make sure there aren’t any mistakes. Reviewing your application can prevent additional hassles later.

Step 5: Submit your application

Once you feel confident with your application, it’s time to submit it. You can receive your EIN immediately if you apply online. 

Other ways to get an EIN number

While it’s easy and convenient to submit an online application, not everyone wants to go that route. These are some of the other ways you can get an EIN number for your business.


You'll have to complete Form SS-4 and mail it to the IRS. It can take up to four weeks to hear from the IRS about your EIN application. You can mail your EIN application to the following address:


Internal Revenue Service
Attn: EIN Operation
Cincinnati, OH 45999

The address is slightly different if you want to apply by mail from outside of the United States. Applicants who are applying from outside of the U.S. should send their mail application to the following address:

Internal Revenue Service
Attn: EIN International Operation
Cincinnati, OH 45999


Business owners can call the IRS Business and Specialty Tax Line to apply for an EIN over the phone. The line’s number is 1-800-829-4933. The line is open on weekdays from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. local time.


You can receive your EIN via fax in as little as four business days. The number you fax your EIN application to depends on whether you are inside or outside of the U.S.


Domestic applicants: 859-669-5760

International applicants: 859-669-5987


You can submit a fax at any time. Make sure you provide a return fax number so the IRS can fax your EIN back to you.

Do you ever have to change your EIN?

You might have to get a new EIN number for your business. These are some of the scenarios when you must apply for a new EIN:


  • Your business structure changes (i.e., you incorporate your business)
  • You form a partnership or bring new partners into an existing partnership
  • You acquire a business
  • You're subject to a bankruptcy proceeding


You don't have to get a new EIN if you operate multiple businesses, change your business name, or move your company’s location.

What happens if you lose your EIN?

If you lose your EIN, you should first search for the online letter you received from the IRS upon getting approved. You can also look through your filed tax returns, which list your EIN, or contact the bank that provides your business accounts. You can also call the IRS Business & Specialty Tax Line during business hours if you can't find your EIN number.

Get a Ramp card using only your EIN number

An EIN number allows you to separate your business and personal finances. However, it can be hard to find EIN-only business credit cards. Most providers ask for your SSN in order to perform a credit check and hold you personally liable for any debts on your card.


Ramp allows you to access corporate cards with just your EIN number–there’s no credit check or personal guarantee required. That’s because we determine eligibility based on your business revenue and capital in the bank, not your credit score.


Plus, you can access credit limits up to 20 times higher than traditional business credit card options and enjoy 1.5% cash back on purchases every time you use your Ramp card. All of this comes with built-in expense management software that lets you automate expense reporting and streamline your business finances.

Try Ramp for free
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CPFC, Contributor Finance Writer
Marc Guberti is a certified personal finance counselor and a freelance writer. His work has been featured in US News & World Report, Newsweek, Fox Business, and other publications.
Ramp is dedicated to helping businesses of all sizes make informed decisions. We adhere to strict editorial guidelines to ensure that our content meets and maintains our high standards.


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