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Get Federal and State Tax ID Numbers for Your Business

Tax ID numbers are often required by federal and state governments for tax purposes. Find out if your business needs a federal or state tax ID — or both.

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Not all businesses need a tax ID number; however, the federal government might require your company to have one if it meets certain conditions. You may also need a separate state tax ID, depending on the area your business operates and other factors, such as how many employees you have.

In this guide, we’ll explain everything you need to know about state and federal tax ID numbers.

What is an EIN? Do I need one for filing taxes?

Think of the EIN — Employer Identification Number — as a Social Security number, except it’s for your business. An EIN is used to hire employees, pay taxes, apply for permits or licenses, and open a bank account for your business.

The federal government requires you to have an EIN if your business:

  • Operates as a corporation or partnership
  • Pays employees
  • Withholds taxes on income other than wages paid to a nonresident alien
  • Files tax returns for excise, employment, alcohol, tobacco, and firearms
  • Works with specific types of organizations
  • Uses a Keogh Plan (tax-deferred pension plan)

Some single-member limited liability companies (LLCs) and sole proprietorships don’t require an EIN, but having one can benefit these businesses in several ways. You can use an EIN to:

  • Keep business and personal finances separate: This is useful for filing federal or state income taxes. Separating finances makes it easier to keep track of business expenses, profits, losses, and operating costs, so you’ll have fewer headaches when it’s time to file taxes.

  • Open a bank account for your business: Many banks require an EIN to open an account in your business’s name. Business accounts typically include checking, savings, and a credit card account. They can also come with a merchant service account, enabling you to accept credit card and debit payments from customers. Merchant services also provide purchase protection for customers that keeps their payment data and personal information secure.

  • Reduce the risk of personal identity theft: A business EIN can be used instead of your individual Social Security number, which helps keep sensitive personal information safe. Because your EIN works much like your Social Security number, it can still be used to commit business identity theft. Unexplained bank account withdrawals, credit report discrepancies, missing bills, or other mail errors are some indications of business identity theft. If the IRS identifies a suspicious return, it will send Letters 6042C and 5263C to validate the entity filing the return.

  • Protect yourself legally: An EIN can help substantiate that you and your business are separate entities, which may be useful if your company is sued.

How do I apply for an EIN, and what documents do I need?

It’s free to get an EIN from the IRS, so you’ll never need to pay fees for one. There are several ways you can apply for your EIN:

  • Online: This is the preferred way to apply for and get an EIN, according to the IRS. The internet EIN application is available on the IRS website. After you’ve applied and your business’s information is received, your new EIN will be issued the same day, typically immediately. You must reside in or do business in the U.S. to use this method. The IRS will send a letter confirming the EIN, and this is the only document the IRS will send that contains it.
  • Mail: To apply by mail, you’ll need to fill out Form SS-4 and send it to the main IRS office in Cincinnati, Ohio. Once filed, the processing time for an EIN is about four to five weeks. Your new EIN will be mailed to your home, business, or other address provided.
  • Fax: Form SS-4 is required to apply via fax. If you live in or do business in the U.S., you can fax the document to (855) 641-6935. For businesses outside of the U.S., the fax number is (304) 707-9471. After the form is received, it takes approximately four business days to receive your EIN.
  • Phone: International applicants can apply by phone by calling (267) 941-1099. The person calling must be authorized to receive the EIN and answer questions as provided on Form SS-4. Calls are answered Monday through Friday between the hours of 6 a.m. and 11 p.m. EST.

The IRS also allows a third-party designee to receive an entity’s EIN on your behalf. Designee authority is terminated once the EIN is assigned and released. To authorize a third-party designee, you’ll need to complete the corresponding section and provide your signature at the bottom of Form SS-4. Signed third-party designee applications must be mailed or faxed to the appropriate IRS Service Center, so you won’t be able to apply online or over the phone.

If your business needs an EIN, ZenBusiness can obtain one for you.

A state tax ID number is similar to the EIN. Whether you’ll need one depends on the state in which your business operates. Often, if the state requires you to pay business taxes, you need a tax ID number. Some states may only require you to have a tax ID if your business meets certain conditions, such as retail sales or a specific number of employees.

Your tax obligations vary at the state and local levels. You’ll need to research your state’s laws regarding employment, business-related, and income taxes to know whether you’re required to get a tax ID number. To apply, contact the appropriate department for your state. This could be the Comptroller Office, Secretary of State, Department of Taxation and Finance, or other departments. Check your state’s government website for more information.

Conclusion

ZenBusiness can obtain an EIN for you and help your business stay compliant with our Worry Free Compliance service.

Federal and State Tax ID Number FAQs

  1. 1. Does a single-member LLC need an EIN?

    A single-member LLC that’s classified as a disregarded entity and doesn’t have employees or excise tax liability isn’t usually required to have an EIN. This type of LLC can use the member’s Social Security number for tax purposes. To be classified as a disregarded entity, your LLC must not elect to be treated as a corporation, and its activities should be reflected on your federal tax return. If your single-member LLC is owned by a partnership or corporation, it should be reflected on your tax return as a division of that corporation or partnership. If you have any employees, you’ll be required to get an EIN. This also applies if your business withholds taxes on income paid to any individual who isn’t a U.S. citizen or U.S. national.

  2. 2. Do I need an EIN even if I have no employees?

    Even if you don’t have employees, you’ll still need an EIN in certain circumstances. The IRS requires you to have an EIN if you use a Keogh plan, which is a tax-deferred retirement plan for self-employed individuals, sole proprietorships, and partnerships in the United States. An EIN is required if your business files tax returns for alcohol, tobacco products, or firearms. If you’re a sole proprietorship with an EIN and become the owner of an LLC with employees or that files excise or pension plan taxes, you’ll need to obtain a separate EIN so the LLC can file employment taxes. If your LLC has more than one member, you need an EIN.

    Businesses that don’t have employees but are involved with certain types of organizations are required to get an EIN. These include:
    • Nonprofit organizations
    • Farmers’ cooperatives
    • Real estate mortgage investment conduits
    • Plan administrators
    • Estates
    • Trusts, with the exception of some grantor-owned revocable trusts

    Additionally, some government agencies require their contractors — regardless of corporate structure — to have EINs to qualify for government contracts, grants, and preferred statuses.
    If you’re a sole proprietor with no employees and don’t file a pension plan tax, then you likely aren’t required to have an EIN. Instead, your social security number can be used in its place.

  3. 3. How long does it take to get an EIN?

    Processing time depends on the method you use to apply. Applying online is the fastest — the IRS usually issues your EIN instantly upon approval. If you apply via fax and include a return fax number, expect a response within four to seven business days. If you don’t supply a return fax number, processing can take up to two weeks. The slowest method is applying by mail, which can take up to four weeks to receive your EIN.

    If you don’t receive your EIN by the time your tax return is due, you can write “Applied for” and the date of your application in the space provided for the EIN. The IRS requests that you don’t put your social security number in this space.

    If you don’t have your EIN by the time a deposit is due, send a check or money order to the IRS Service Center for your state. Include your name as provided on Form SS-4 and the date you applied for the EIN with your payment.

  4. 4. Does a single-member LLC need an EIN?

    A single-member LLC that’s classified as a disregarded entity and doesn’t have employees or excise tax liability isn’t usually required to have an EIN. This type of LLC can use the member’s Social Security number for tax purposes. To be classified as a disregarded entity, your LLC must not elect to be treated as a corporation, and its activities should be reflected on your federal tax return. If your single-member LLC is owned by a partnership or corporation, it should be reflected on your tax return as a division of that corporation or partnership. If you have any employees, you’ll be required to get an EIN. This also applies if your business withholds taxes on income paid to any individual who isn’t a U.S. citizen or U.S. national.

  5. 5. Do I need an EIN even if I have no employees?

    Even if you don’t have employees, you’ll still need an EIN in certain circumstances. The IRS requires you to have an EIN if you use a Keogh plan, which is a tax-deferred retirement plan for self-employed individuals, sole proprietorships, and partnerships in the United States. An EIN is required if your business files tax returns for alcohol, tobacco products, or firearms. If you’re a sole proprietorship with an EIN and become the owner of an LLC with employees or that files excise or pension plan taxes, you’ll need to obtain a separate EIN so the LLC can file employment taxes. If your LLC has more than one member, you need an EIN.

    Businesses that don’t have employees but are involved with certain types of organizations are required to get an EIN. These include:
    • Nonprofit organizations
    • Farmers’ cooperatives
    • Real estate mortgage investment conduits
    • Plan administrators
    • Estates
    • Trusts, with the exception of some grantor-owned revocable trusts

    Additionally, some government agencies require their contractors — regardless of corporate structure — to have EINs to qualify for government contracts, grants, and preferred statuses.

    If you’re a sole proprietor with no employees and don’t file a pension plan tax, then you likely aren’t required to have an EIN. Instead, your social security number can be used in its place.

  6. 6. How long does it take to get an EIN?

    Processing time depends on the method you use to apply. Applying online is the fastest — the IRS usually issues your EIN instantly upon approval. If you apply via fax and include a return fax number, expect a response within four to seven business days. If you don’t supply a return fax number, processing can take up to two weeks. The slowest method is applying by mail, which can take up to four weeks to receive your EIN.

    If you don’t receive your EIN by the time your tax return is due, you can write “Applied for” and the date of your application in the space provided for the EIN. The IRS requests that you don’t put your social security number in this space.

    If you don’t have your EIN by the time a deposit is due, send a check or money order to the IRS Service Center for your state. Include your name as provided on Form SS-4 and the date you applied for the EIN with your payment.

  7. 7. Will I ever need to get a new EIN for my business?

    As a sole proprietor, you’ll need a new EIN in any of these circumstances:
    • You take on a partner and operate the business as a partnership
    • You inherit or purchase an existing business that you operate as a sole proprietorship
    • You incorporate
    • You’re subject to a bankruptcy proceeding

    Sole proprietors don’t need a new EIN if you operate multiple businesses, change the name of your business, change its location, or add new locations.

    Corporations are required to get a new EIN if:
    • You create a new corporation after a statutory merger
    • You change to a partnership or sole proprietorship
    • You receive a new charter from the Secretary of the State
    • You’re a subsidy of a corporation using its parent EIN or become a subsidiary of a corporation

    Corporations don’t need a new EIN if:
    • You’re the division of a corporation
    • A surviving corporation uses the existing EIN after a corporate merger
    • Your corporation’s name or location changes
    • Your corporation’s reorganization only changes its identity or place
    • Your corporation declares bankruptcy
    • You choose to be taxed as an S corporation
    • There is conversion at the state level but the business’s structure is unchanged

    Partnerships need a new EIN if:
    • The partnership is taken over by one partner and operated as a sole proprietorship
    • You end one partnership and start a new one
    • You incorporate

    Partnerships do not need a new EIN if:
    • The partnership changes its name
    • The partnership declares bankruptcy
    • The partnership changes its location or adds other locations
    • You form a new partnership as a result of a partnership termination under IRC section code 708(b)(1)(B)

  8. 8. Do all states require a state tax ID number?

    Not every state will require your business to have a state tax ID number. Visit the website of the appropriate department for your state to learn if yours does. To find this information, you can use the state lookup tool on the U.S. Small Business Administration government website.

  9. 9. What are state tax ID numbers usually used for?

    A state tax ID is sometimes needed to pay several types of business taxes, such as sales tax, franchise tax, workers’ compensation insurance, and employment insurance. Sales tax IDs can be used to obtain a seller’s permit or resale certificate for tax-exempt status.

    A sales tax ID is also used to withhold state taxes from employee paychecks if your state has an income tax. As of 2021, eight states have no income tax. These states are Texas, Nevada, Florida, Alaska, Tennessee, Wyoming, Washington, and South Dakota. New Hampshire doesn’t collect income tax on wages earned, but does tax interest and dividends, although the state plans to phase these taxes out by 2025.

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