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What is an EIN? When do You Need it? And How do You Get One?

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An Employer Identification Number (EIN), also known as a Federal Tax Identification Number, is a nine-digit number that the IRS assigns to business entities. The IRS uses this number to identify taxpayers that are required to file various business tax returns. EINs are used by employers, sole proprietors, corporations, partnerships, non-profit organizations, trusts and estates, government agencies, certain individuals and other business entities.

Determine If You Need a Federal ID Number

The Basics

If you’re a sole proprietor (no employees) and are not incorporated, you probably don’t need a separate Federal ID Number (FEIN), but if you’re incorporated or have employees, you do. You can download the form from the IRS Web site. See “Where To File” below.


New Business

If you become the new owner of an existing business, do not use the EIN of the former owner.  If you already have an EIN, use that number.  If you do not have an EIN, apply for one on this form.  If you become the “owner” of a corporation by acquiring its stock, use the corporation’s EIN.

Changes in Organization or Ownership

If you already have an EIN, you may need to get a new one if either the organization or ownership of your business changes.  If you incorporate a sole proprietorship or form a partnership , you must get a new EIN.  However, do not apply for a new EIN if:

  • You change only the name of your business, or
  • You elected on Form 8832, Entity Classification Election, to change the way the entity is taxed.


If you are electing to be an “S corporation,” be sure you file Form 2553, Election by a Small Business Corporation. File only one Form SS-4, regardless of the number of businesses operated or trade names under which a business operates.  However, each corporation in an affiliated group must file a separate application .

Caution:  An EIN is for use in connection with your business activities only.  Do NOT use your EIN in place of your Social Security Number (SSN).

Where To File

Apply Online

Click here to go to the IRS website and apply right now online.

Download The Form

If you are not comfortable with sending information via the Internet , then download the form SS-4 PDF file and mail it to the address indicated on the form.



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As a small business owner, understanding the concept of Shareholder Basis is crucial, especially if your business is structured as an S Corporation or a partnership. Many shareholders have found themselves owing a considerable amount of taxes because they did not understand this concept. Here is everything the average S Corporation business owner needs to know on this important topic.

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