In much the same way that a person needs a Social Security number in order to file income tax returns, businesses, estates and trusts, and organizations must also have an identification number to put onto the return. An Employer Identification Number, or EIN for short, is an identification number obtained from the Internal Revenue Service for tax-filing purposes. One method for obtaining an EIN is to file IRS Form ss-4, but there are actually four ways to apply of it.
Applications submitted through the mail
It takes about four weeks for the IRS to process an ss-4 form from when they receive it if you apply through the mail. The information requested on an ss-4 includes:
. Name and address of the entity or person for whom the EIN is requested
. The name and Social Security number or EIN of a responsible party acting on behalf of the entity or organization applying for an EIN
. The type of entity or organization
. The reason for applying for an EIN
. Number of employees of the entity
The ss-4 must be signed by someone authorized to sign on behalf of the party or entity in need of the EIN. The completed application must be sent to the IRS processing center indicated in the instructions that accompany the ss-4.
Applications by fax
The IRS allows you to file your Form ss-4 with them via fax. The process is essentially the same as applying for an EIN through the mail except that the completed ss-4 is sent by fax. The processing time for a faxed application is four business days from the date of its receipt by the IRS. The EIN will be sent to you by fax once the application is processed.
Online applications for an EIN
The fastest way to obtain an EIN is to apply for it over the internet. You can go to the IRS website and complete an online application that asks for the same information contained in the paper ss-4 you fill out to apply by mail or by fax.
The owner, general partner or officer of a business entity must have a Social Security number or EIN in order to apply online. Executors of estates and trustees of a trust applying for an EIN must have their own Social Security number or EIN in order to complete the online application process.
The online application will get you an EIN immediately. As soon as you complete the online process, the website issues you the EIN and allows you to print, save and download confirmation.
Telephone applications for EINs are available to international applicants. The process involves the answering questions concerning the information on the Form ss-4.
Whether you apply online, through the mail, by fax or by telephone, the IRS does not charge a fee for an EIN. IRS Form ss-4 can be obtained free from the IRS website. Businesses and entities that already have an EIN might need to obtain a new one if there has been a change in ownership.