An EIN is a very important nine digit number that helps identify your business. It can also be known as a Federal Employer Identification Number (FEIN) or the Federal Tax Identification Number. There are many reasons why you might need an EIN or ideally want to have one. Here are a few questions that are frequently asked when getting an EIN, and some answers that can clear up any doubts you have.
Do I need an EIN if I’m self-employed?
The simplest answer is no – you do not, because you can use your own SSN (Social Security Number) instead. But there are some reasons you might need one even if you’re self-employed, such as if you’re a sole proprietor who pays other employees working for you, or if you maintain a Keogh or other pension plan.
That being said, lots of self-employed voluntarily choose to apply for an EIN, and there are various reasons for this. Having an EIN helps with identity theft and personal privacy, because you’ll use the business’ EIN for things instead of your own SSN – like business credit applications. It’s less likely someone will get the chance to break into your personal accounts when you keep business accounts separate, and you might also look more professional if you have an EIN. there’s no harm in getting one – after all they are absolutely free and can be applied for instantly.
What’s the difference between having an EIN or a TIN or a FEIN?
What can be confusing is whether you need to use an EIN or a TIN, which can happen on a form. But these two numbers are the exact same! Both refer to the nine-digit number that’s issued by the IRS for your business. When the number is used for identification rather than employment tax reporting, it’s usually referred to as a TIN (Taxpayer Identification Number), and when used for reporting employment taxes it’s referred to as an EIN. An EIN/TIN is for tax administration, and shouldn’t be used for any other purpose.
It’s similar for the EIN and FEIN too – they are both the exact same thing. While it can be confusing, it is useful to know all of these different types of abbreviations so you’re never confused.
What if I lose my EIN?
If you can’t find your EIN, you might just not know how to look for it. There are lots of ways to look up your EIN number. The IRS will always send you a confirmation letter or email, so it’s always good to check those for the EIN number. Apart from this, you may have used the EIN on business documents such as tax returns, or on other exchanges with the IRS, which are worth having a look at.
If, however, you’ve done something like delete all your documents or lost your EIN before even using it, all hope is not lost. All you have to do is call the IRS EIN department, at 1-800-829-4933 to speak to someone about the issue. Their opening hours are Monday to Friday, 7a.m. to 7p.m.
How do I look up another business’ EIN?
In rare instances you’ll need to look up another company’s EIN. This could be because the nature of your business requires it, or you want to validate their information.
If the company is publicly traded and is registered with the SEC, they are required to have their EIN on all documents. So in this case it’s quite easy to find – you just have to use the SEC’s EDGAR system and look up the EIN for free.
If, however, the company is not registered with the SEC and is held privately, it isn’t so simple to locate the EIN. Nonetheless, here are a few things you can try to find the EIN:
- Hire a service to look up the EIN
- Contact the company
- Try purchase the company’s business credit report
TRUiC has more general, very useful information on EINs. Read more on their site.