Employer Identification Number
An Employer Identification Number (EIN, also known as a Federal Employer Identification Number or Federal Tax Identification Number) is issued by the US Internal Revenue Service (IRS). You will use your Employer Identification Number when you pay employees and file business tax returns. It is often also required for other business purposes, such as opening a bank account or obtaining a loan. Your EIN is a unique identifier for your business - it does not expire and, once a number has been assigned to a business, it is never issued again.
If you are a sole proprietor and do not have any employees, you may use your personal Social Security Number in place of an Employer Identification Number. However, you may still consider obtaining an EIN - it's a fast and easy way to protect your Social Security Number.
Before you apply for your EIN, you should have already determined what type of legal structure you will be using for your business (for instance, sole proprietor, corporation, etc).
You may apply for an EIN from the IRS either online, by fax, or by mail. Applying online should take no more than 15 minutes, and you will receive your EIN right away. If you are not a resident of the US and do not have a Social Security Number or an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN), you will not be able to apply online - you may only apply by fax or by mail using Form SS-4.
If you have a fax number, write it in bold on the top of your application. The IRS will be able to fax your EIN back to typically within 4 days. Applying for your EIN by mail may take 2 to 4 weeks.
Individual Taxpayer Identification Number
If you are not a resident of the US and do not have, or are not eligible for, a Social Security Number, you may need an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN). While having an ITIN is not required to apply for an Employer Identification Number, it will enable you to apply for an EIN online and may be necessary for the purposes of paying taxes and other business transactions. Review the IRS website to learn more about how to apply for an ITIN.