Free Enterprise - The FindLaw Small Business Law Blog

Employer Identification Numbers (EINs): Who Needs Them and How Do You Get One?

For the growing number of people opting or needing to start up a new business venture, one of the first things required is an Employer Identification Number (EIN). Before getting too far, new businesses should know that they likely need an EIN and how to get one.

As discussed here and here, sour economic times appear to have sparked new business ventures. These new businesses will likely need EINs. EINs are, like Social Security Numbers, a type of Taxpayer Identification Number. EINs are assigned by the IRS to identify businesses, primarily for federal tax purposes.

Just about all businesses need an EIN, including any business that has employees or is operated as a partnership or corporation. Look here to find out in you need an EIN.

One issue sometimes overlooked is the need for a new EIN in certain circumstances. Generally, a change in the ownership or structure of a business requires a new EIN. Changing the business' name, however, does not. Look here to see when specific business forms (partnership, corporation, etc.) need a new EIN.

Those needing an EIN can apply for one on the IRS website, by mail, by phone or by fax. According to the IRS, to complete an application, you will need to know, among other information:

  1. the legal form of your business (e.g., sole proprietorship, corporation, partnership, etc.);
  2. the place where your business is incorporated, if applicable;
  3. the highest number of employees you expect to have within the next 12 months; and
  4. the principal activity of your business (e.g., construction, transportation, finance, etc.).

New businesses also need to check whether their state requires an identification number. Here is the IRS collection of links to state tax resources.