Start Your Business

If you’re looking into getting an Employer Identification Number (EIN), then you will inevitably find yourself looking for an SS4 form. But what is Form SS-4? Where do you get one, and how do you fill it out?

Navigating any IRS form can feel overwhelming, so we’ve laid out the essential facts you’ll need to complete Form SS-4. In this guide, you’ll learn what an EIN is, if you need one, and how to fill out the application you need to get one.

What is an EIN, and do I need one?

An EIN, or Employer Identification Number, is a nine-digit code assigned to a business by the IRS. It’s a business tax identification code. In a way, it acts like a Social Security number, but for a business entity instead of a person. A large number of businesses need one because they meet one or more of the criteria set by the IRS. Here are some of the criteria that would qualify you for an EIN:

  • You have employees.
  • You formed a general partnership or corporation (or in the case of a multi-member LLC, you’re taxed like a partnership).
  • You owe one of the following taxes: employment, alcohol, excise, tobacco, or firearms.
  • You withhold taxes (but not wage taxes) from a non-resident alien.
  • You have a Keogh plan.
  • You’re in one of the following categories:
    • Most types of trusts, IRA retirement plans, and exempt business organizations
    • Estates
    • Certain real estate investment groups
    • Nonprofit groups
    • Farmers cooperatives
    • Plan administrators

Sole proprietorships may or may not be required to get an EIN, depending on their circumstances. If the sole proprietor is operating solo, they might not need one. But many sole proprietors will need one, especially if they hire employees or get a business bank account. The same applies for single-member LLC EINs. Most banks require an EIN before they’ll issue a business bank account, too.

Generally speaking, the majority of business structures (and a few other organizations) will need an EIN.

What is an SS4 Form?

Form SS-4, Application for Employer Identification Number, is the form business owners use to apply for their EIN. The form also provides a detailed table describing the scenarios when you’d need an EIN, if you have continued questions.

How to Get Form SS-4

You can easily download Form SS-4 from the IRS website for free. Alternatively, you can use the IRS’s online application instead; that translates the form into a web form.

How to Complete Form SS-4

You have three options for filing the EIN application: online, by mail, or by fax. No matter how you file, you’ll have to fill in several categories of information regarding your business. Let’s walk through the basics.

Section 1: Basic Identifying Information About Your Business

The first section, Lines 1-7, requires some basic information about your business. You’ll need to provide your legal business name, any trade names, and your mailing address. You’ll also list your executor or “care of” name (if applicable). Finally, you’ll need to list the responsible party for the EIN and their Social Security number, Taxpayer Identification Number, or EIN.

The “responsible party” is, in a sense, the person or organization that manages or otherwise controls the entity receiving the EIN. As a rule, the IRS will only issue one EIN to each responsible party per day. So if you’re getting multiple EINs for different uses, you’ll need to space them out.

Underneath this section, Line 8 will inquire if you’re an LLC (or foreign equivalent).

Section 2: Business Status Details

From line 9 on, you’ll provide more specific information that details why you’re required to get an EIN. You’ll describe why you’re applying, what type of entity you are, your principal business activity, and your products or services. You’ll also provide the date you started your business, how many employees you expect to have, and the date you first paid wages (if applicable). You also need to include the closing month of your fiscal year.

Line 14 applies only to the smallest businesses that expect to owe only $1,000 or less in employment-related taxes. If that’s your business, you can opt to check the box and file employment tax returns annually instead of quarterly (Form 944 instead of Form 941). Typically, this option only applies to employers who pay $5,000 or less in wages for a given year.

Section 3: Third Party Designation and Signature

One of the last lines of the SS-4 form is optional, and it’s the Third Party Designee section. If you’re filing the form on behalf of someone else, and that person will be responsible for the EIN, you’ll designate them here. You’ll also need to provide their telephone or fax number.

Beyond that, you’ll execute the document by signing it. You should also provide your printed name and your contact information.

Processing Methods and Speeds

The easiest way to submit your SS4 form is online. Your information is received right away, and you’ll get your EIN back as soon as the IRS verifies your info. You can also file by mail or by fax, too. Be sure to look up your local service center for the mailing address or fax number for your submission. Generally, you can expect to wait about a week for a faxed response or four to five weeks if you filed by mail.

International applicants can file the Form SS-4 application by phone. Domestic applicants cannot use this method. 

No matter how you file, the federal government doesn’t charge a filing fee for the EIN application.

How do I navigate taxes with my EIN?

Getting your EIN will help you get set up for federal tax reporting purposes, especially employment tax returns. Most employers have to file employment tax returns for Social Security, Medicare, and income tax withholding on a quarterly basis. This goes on top of your other requirements for corporate or personal income taxes (and more).Tax filing can be pretty complicated, so we highly recommend talking with a licensed tax professional for assistance. You can also learn more with our small business tax tips guide.

We can help!

Running a business can sometimes feel like you’re wading through red tape. ZenBusiness can help you cut through that red tape so you can focus on making your business succeed. Whether you need help filing the SS-4 form to apply for your EIN, starting your LLC or corporation, or anything in between, we’ve got your back.

Disclaimer: The content on this page is for information purposes only and does not constitute legal, tax, or accounting advice. If you have specific questions about any of these topics, seek the counsel of a licensed professional.

Form SS4 FAQs

  • Not technically, no. Form SS-4 is titled the “Application for Employer Identification Number” because it’s the document you use to apply for your EIN. While the two are inextricably linked, they’re not identical.

  • As long as you have all the proper information on hand, it should only take you a few minutes to fill out the form. If you have to collect all the information as you go, you can expect to spend an hour or so.

  • You can download a copy of the SS-4 form right away from the IRS’s website, or you can fill it out online without downloading anything.

    How long it takes to receive your EIN also varies depending on how you file. We recommend taking the internet application option because you’ll likely get your EIN almost right away. If you file the form by fax, you should have your EIN within a few business days (up to a week). Filing by mail takes the longest: usually four to five weeks.

  • Almost every type of business entity needs an EIN automatically. The exceptions are sole proprietors and single-member limited liability companies. Those entities may or may not need an EIN. From a practical standpoint, though, many will because most banks require an EIN before issuing a business loan or bank account.

    That said, an EIN should not be confused with a business license. In the states that require them, business licenses usually apply to most entity types.

  • Most businesses will submit their SS-4 form shortly after submitting their formation documents, especially if their business classification requires one. However, for businesses that aren’t automatically required to get an EIN, they’ll submit the application when they first meet the IRS criteria for obtaining one. Alternatively, they should apply for their EIN before they open a business bank account.

Start a Business in Your State

Popular States for Starting a Small Business