Employer Identification Number (EIN)

Written By
Paul Tracy
Updated November 4, 2020

What is an EIN number?

An employer identification number (EIN) is a number assigned to businesses by the IRS. It is also known as the Federal Employer Identification Number (FEIN) or the Federal Tax Identification Number.

How an EIN Works

The EIN is nine digits long, and the format is XX-XXXXXXX. Similar to a Social Security number, the EIN reflects the state in which the company exists, though this rule ceased after 2001.

Companies need to obtain EINs if they have employees, operate as partnerships or corporations, have tax-deferred pension plans, or withhold income taxes for nonresident aliens. Companies that deal with REITs, farms, nonprofit activities or certain trusts may also need EINs.

Companies can apply for EINs online at IRS.gov. Click here for more information.

Why is an EIN Important?

An EIN helps the IRS distinguish among different employers. Companies sometimes have to obtain new EINs if their ownership structures change significantly.

EINs are for tax purposes only; they do not replace Social Security numbers, authorize a person to work in the United States, or create eligibility for Social Security or other benefits. EINs are not the same as Taxpayer Identification Numbers (TINs). It’s also important to note that EINs are for federal tax purposes; states may have additional identification requirements.

EIN Lookup

There are many ways to find or look up a business entity's EIN. These include:

  • The EIN can also be found on a company-issued W-2 Form or 1099 Form. It's listed in box "b" of the form W-2 and on form 1099 beneath the company's name and address.
  • An EIN for a nonprofit organization can be found in the IRS Exempt Organizations database. 
  • Another way to find an EIN is by calling the company's accounting department and asking for it. Be aware, however, that a company might have reason to refuse the request due to identity theft reasons. As such, the requester should be prepared to provide a valid reason for the inquiry.
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