How to get a tax ID number if you're self-employed or have a small business

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  • A Tax ID number, also known as an EIN number, is an ID number issued by the IRS to identify small businesses for tax purposes.
  • To get a Tax ID number, you can speak with your accountant or bank, call the IRS directly, fill out a form and mail it to the IRS, or apply online.
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Your Tax ID Number – sometimes also referred to as a Federal Tax Identification Number, a 95 Number, or EIN Number – is a nine-digit number issued by the IRS to be used by self-employed individuals for certain tax or business purposes.

If you’re not sure if you already have one, you can call the IRS Business & Specialty Tax Line (800-829-4933), check with the institution that you think may have issued one for you (like your bank, for example), or take a look at your most recent tax return.

The IRS has a handy questionnaire to figure out if you need a Tax ID number, or if you can just use your Social Security number. If you answer “yes” to any of its six questions, like “Do you have employees?” and “Do you operate your business as a corporation or a partnership?” the IRS says you need a Tax ID number.

If you don’t currently have a Tax ID Number and need to get one, follow these steps.

How to get a Tax ID number

1. Firs of all, if you haven’t actually set your business up yet, speak with your accountant about putting together the proper paperwork to file as a business. (That’s a whole separate article – or three.) Just being self-employed does not mean you necessarily need a Tax ID number.

2. Once you have a legal business structure, you have a few options to get a tax ID number:

  • your accountant or financial institution may be able to help you obtain a Tax ID Number
  • you can use the IRS Business & Specialty Tax Line listed above (800-829-4933)
  • you can manually fill out Form SS-4 and mail it to the IRS
  • you can submit an online application for a Tax ID number yourself

3. No matter which route you go, you’ll need to gather together the pertinent information necessary for completing the application.

This includes your business name and business address, as well as what type of legal structure your business takes, like a sole proprietorship, partnership, or corporation. This is important to know before filing online, because once you start an online application, your session will expire after 15 minutes of inactivity and you will need to start all over.

4. To apply online, visit the IRS website to apply for an Employer Identification Number (EIN).

5. Under Step 3, “Submit your application,” click on the blue button that says “Apply Online Now”

IRS.govUnder Step 3, ‘Submit your application,’ click on the blue button that says ‘Apply Online Now’

6. Read through the application rules and guidelines.

7. Once you have a thorough understanding of what’s involved, click “begin application” at the bottom of the page.

IRS.govOnce you have a thorough understanding of what’s involved, click ‘begin application’ at the bottom of the page.

8. Answer all of the questions pertaining to your business, starting with which type of business structure you have (Corporation? Sole proprietorship? Partnership? Estate? Trust?), the reason you’re applying for a Tax ID Number, and how you’re related to the business (is it your business, or are you applying on behalf of another business?).

9. Receive your EIN immediately.

10. Download, save, and print all paperwork to keep on file for future needs.

11. You’ll need this number for any future business dealings, like filing taxes, opening a business bank account or signing contracts.

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