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If you own a business, you likely have an EIN (Employee Identification Number) that identifies your business. As a business owner, it’s important to know how to look your EIN up, what you can do with it, and how to do a reverse EIN lookup.
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What Is an EIN?
Each business has a unique number called an EIN that they use to file their taxes and conduct other business with the government. Just like your Social Security Number identifies you as an individual, an EIN identifies your business.
Most businesses must have an EIN. You may also hear it called a Tax Identification Number (TIN) or 95 number. You'll use the number in a variety of ways, but it’s most important for your tax filings and payroll.
Why You Need an EIN
Any business can apply for an EIN, but some businesses require it. Financial or legal activities associated with your business require your EIN.
If any of the following apply to your business, you must have an EIN:
You have employees
You file business taxes
You operate as a partnership, corporation, or limited liability company
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Are EIN Numbers Public Record?
EIN numbers are federal, public record, which means someone could get their hand on it if they wanted to. Just like your Social Security Number, your EIN contains private, crucial information. Theoretically, someone with your EIN number could open up an account as your business.
Avoid displaying your EIN in public areas. You’ll only need your EIN when you conduct business with the government or financial institutions. Customers and vendors don't need it, so avoid displaying it on your business license or on other certificates.
Getting an EIN
If your business has employees, or you want to file your taxes under your business name and not under your personal Social Security Number, you’ll need to get an EIN. Fortunately, this process is easy.
The fastest way to apply is online, which is also the method preferred by the IRS. Within seconds of completing the application, you’ll have your own EIN. As long as your business is located in the U.S., you’re eligible to apply online.
If applying online isn't an option, your other options are:
Complete IRS Form SS-4 and fax it to the appropriate number. If you provide a fax number, you'll receive your EIN within four business days from the IRS.
Complete IRS Form SS-4 and mail it to the IRS. The turnaround time is four weeks, so make sure you plan accordingly.
International applicants may apply for an EIN over the phone. You'll complete Form SS-4 over the phone, and you must be authorized to receive the EIN number.
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How to Cancel or Change an EIN
Just like your Social Security Number, your EIN stays with you forever. If your business closes, however, you can close the business with the IRS and no other business will ever receive your EIN.
Should you choose to reopen your business after closing it, you'll be given the same EIN. However, if you have an EIN but close your business with the IRS before you’ve ever used it, then deciding to “reopen” your business will be like opening a completely new business and you will receive a new EIN.
If you submit a cancellation request, be sure to do so in writing. In your letter to the IRS, include your business's legal name, EIN, and the reason you want to close the account. Include a copy of the original EIN certificate, too.
Technically, you can't change your EIN, but some situations may require that you add an additional number, such as:
Changing your business structure
Starting a company retirement plan
Merging with or acquiring another business
How to Look Up Your EIN
Your EIN is on many business documents, but if you can't find it easily, here are a few places you can search for it:
On your EIN confirmation letter. You should keep a copy of this letter (which was sent to you via email, fax, or mail). This is the easiest way to find and verify your EIN number.
On your business tax returns, business license, business credit report, or payroll.
If you can't find your EIN through any of the above methods, you’ll need to call the IRS at +1 (800) 829-4933. They are available Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. EST. Before a representative will give you your EIN, they will need to verify your identity, much like they would before providing other sensitive information like Social Security Number.
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Can I Look up My EIN Online?
If your company is public, you can find your EIN online on the SEC's website. When you search for your company name, look at the 10-Q for EIN verification.
How Do I Get a Copy of My EIN Confirmation Letter?
Unfortunately, you can't get a copy of your EIN confirmation letter. It's a one-time issuance.
While the IRS can't provide a copy of your EIN confirmation letter, they can provide an EIN letter which is close to an EIN verification. Most banks and financial institutions will accept this letter in place of the original confirmation letter.
The IRS will only send the EIN verification letter by mail or fax; they won't email it. Note that if you accept it via mail, it could take four to six weeks whereas a fax will likely be sent while you're still on the phone with them.
How to Look up Another Company's EIN?
Searching for another company's EIN depends on whether their business is public or private.
Public companies' EINs are easy to find. Head to the SEC's website and search for the 10-Q or other business documents which will contain the company's EIN.
If the company is private, you won't find their information on the SEC's website. Instead, you'll have to do a little investigating. You can ask an employee for the number from their paycheck, or you can contact the company's payroll department.
If you still can't find the number with either of these methods, you could get it by paying for the company's credit report.
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Reverse EIN Lookup
Sometimes, you'll have a company's EIN but won’t know which company it’s associated with. In this case, you can do a reverse EIN lookup.
On LexisNexis, you will need to register for an account, and pay for a membership, for which fees vary based on the number of reverse lookups you need to do.
EIN Lookup Is Important
If you run a business or do business with other businesses, you'll need their EINs. Rather than asking a company for their EIN, you can do an EIN lookup yourself. Or, if you have a company's EIN but not their name, you can do a reverse EIN lookup just as easily as you can look up a company's EIN.
Remember to keep your business EIN private unless the IRS or a financial institution is asking for it. Just like you wouldn't share your Social Security Number with just anyone, avoid sharing your EIN with someone you don't trust.