Last updated January 3, 2021

What is an EIN? How to get an EIN for an LLC?

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How to get EIN online
How to get EIN by mail or fax
How to get EIN without SSN or ITIN

Note: An EIN is a type of Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN) issued by the IRS. If you’d like to learn more about the different types of TINs, please see understanding Taxpayer ID Numbers.

An EIN stands for Employer Identification Number and it is issued by the IRS to business entities, such as an LLC.

Federal Tax ID Number (EIN): Form an LLC (9/11)

Video Transcript:

A Federal Tax ID Number is issued by the IRS to business entities. A federal tax ID number is also known as an EIN or Employer Identification Number. For simplicity, we will refer to it as the EIN. The EIN is to a business what a Social Security number is to an individual. It basically identifies your business to the IRS. Even though it’s called an Employer Identification Number, it doesn’t mean that you have to have employees. EINs are used for opening business bank accounts, filing taxes, handling payroll if applicable, obtaining business lines of credit or business loans, obtaining credit cards in the name of the LLC, and applying for some business licenses. You must wait until your LLC is approved by the state before obtaining your EIN. You do not want to have any issues with an EIN assigned to the wrong LLC. Dealing with the IRS to cancel an EIN is a pain in the neck. An EIN is similar to a Social Security number in that it has nine digits. To differentiate an EIN from an SSN, there are two digits, followed by a hyphen, and then seven more digits. For example, 68-3302819. How much does an EIN cost? An EIN is free. No, really. They’re completely free. You can obtain an EIN from the IRS. Unfortunately, many websites charge $50 to $100 for this. So how can you obtain your EIN? They can be obtained in three ways: by mail, by fax, or via the IRS’s online questionnaire. By fax takes four days. Too long. An EIN by mail can take up to four weeks. Way too long. But the EIN by online application takes fifteen minutes. Your EIN will be issued immediately after you answer all of the questions in the online application. You’ll then be able to save and print your new EIN as well as your confirmation letter. Make sure to save copies of these and keep them with your LLC documents. You’ll need to have the member’s SSNs or ITINs ready before you begin the online application. If you’re a US citizen, you’ll use your SSN, Social Security Number. If you’re a foreign national, you’ll use your ITIN, Individual Taxpayer Identification Number. If you’re a foreign national, and you do not yet have your ITIN, you will first need to apply for one before getting your EIN. If you need to apply for your ITIN, please contact the IRS. How do you get the online application? Well, you have a few options. You can pay a website to get your EIN, although it’s actually free so why would you do that? You can go directly to the IRS.gov website and fill it out yourself, or you can watch a step-by-step video and learn how to navigate the IRS.gov questionnaire correctly. The link to the online application is available on our website. Remember, you do not fill out your EIN application until your LLC has been approved. Do you happen to already have an EIN for your business? If you already have an EIN it’s most likely attached to a sole proprietorship. This is quite common. In this case, you’ll need to close out that EIN and get a different one for your newly formed LLC. You can find detailed instructions on our website, as well as a template letter that you can download and then send to the IRS.

Even though it’s called an Employer Identification Number, it doesn’t mean that you have to have employees. The EIN is just a type of Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN) that identifies your LLC with the IRS.

An easy way to think of an EIN is that it’s like a “social security number” for your LLC.

An EIN is similar to a social security number in that it has 9 digits.

To differentiate an EIN from an SSN (123-45-6789), there are 2 digits followed by a hyphen and then 7 more digits (ex: 12-3456789).

EIN Synonyms

An LLC’s EIN has many different names, but they all mean the same thing:

  • EIN Number
  • Employer ID Number
  • Employer Identification Number
  • Federal Employer ID Number
  • Federal Employer Identification Number
  • FEIN
  • Federal Tax Number
  • Federal Tax ID Number
  • Federal Tax Identification Number

What is an LLC’s EIN Number used for?

EIN Numbers are used for:

  • All correspondence with the IRS
  • Deposits and payments for federal taxes
  • Opening an LLC business bank account (checking, savings, or investment accounts)
  • Filing tax return and other documents (federal, state, and local)
  • Handling employee payroll (if applicable)
  • Obtaining business lines of credit or business loans
  • Obtaining credit cards in the name of the LLC
  • Applying for business licenses

Wait for LLC Approval

Important:
Wait for your LLC to be approved by the state before applying for your EIN. Otherwise, if your LLC filing is rejected, you’ll have an EIN attached to a non-existent LLC.

Exception to the rule:
If you are forming a Louisiana LLC or a West Virginia LLC, things are a little backwards (make sure to follow our lessons step-by-step). You’ll need to confirm your LLC name availability first, then get your EIN from the IRS, and then file your Articles of Organization with the state.

Applying for an EIN for your LLC is free ($0)

Applying for an EIN for your LLC is completely free.

The IRS doesn’t charge anything for applying for an EIN.

Don’t have an SSN or ITIN?

I made a mistake in the video above. I said: “If you are a foreign national you will need to use your ITIN. If you don’t have your ITIN, you will first need to apply for your ITIN before applying for your EIN.” This is not true.

Apologies for the confusion. We now have better information from the IRS about how to get an EIN without an SSN or without an ITIN.

If you have a foreign-owned LLC, you can still get an EIN without an SSN or ITIN. You just can’t apply for your EIN online. Instead, you’ll need to mail or fax Form SS-4 to the IRS. We have instructions here: How to Apply for EIN without an SSN or ITIN.

EIN Phone Application

Note: The video above also explains how you can get an EIN by phone. This is no longer the case. The IRS has discontinued this service.

The only businesses that can get an EIN by phone are Exempt Organizations (like non-profits) and Foreign Companies (companies formed or organized outside of the United States).

EIN for Husband and Wife LLC

If you have a 2-member LLC owned by husband and wife, and are located in a community property state, you can elect a special form of taxation called a “Qualified Joint Venture LLC“.

A Qualified Joint Venture with the IRS allows your husband and wife LLC to file taxes as a Sole Proprietorship instead of a Partnership. This can save you time and money in accounting and tax costs.

There may be additional benefits to obtaining Qualified Joint Venture status with the IRS and this is a conversation you’ll want to have with an accountant.

Please see our full article here: Qualified Joint Venture (Husband and Wife LLC)

EIN Responsible Party for LLC

The EIN Responsible Party is the person that goes on file with the IRS when you apply for an EIN for your LLC.

Think of the Responsible Party as the LLC’s “contact person”. This is the person the IRS will send mail and correspondence to.

If you have a Single-Member LLC:

You will be the EIN Responsible Party.

If you have a Multi-Member LLC:

One of the LLC Members will be the EIN Responsible Party.

The IRS just wants one EIN Responsible Party. They don’t want all the LLC Members information. The IRS gets the other Members’ information when you file your 1065 Partnership return and issue K-1s each year.

Although any LLC Member can be listed, the person listed will take on the responsibility of making sure the LLC’s taxes are handled properly.

If your LLC is owned by another company:

The IRS made changes in 2018 that no longer allow an EIN Responsible Party to be a company. The EIN Responsible Party must be an individual person. So it’s best to list one of the individual owners of the parent company.

Note: If you have an LLC that is owned by another company and you try to get an EIN online, you’ll just get an error message at the end of the application.

Learn more:

To learn more about who can be the EIN Responsible Party for your LLC, please see EIN Responsible Party for LLC.

LLC taxed as a Corporation

By default, an LLC is taxed based on the number of Members (owners).

And “by default” means the LLC doesn’t elect to be taxed as a Corporation (either a C-Corporation or an S-Corporation). Instead, the LLC is just taxed in its default status.

(related article: how are LLCs taxed)

The default tax status for a Single-Member LLC is a Disregarded Entity, meaning if the LLC is owned by an individual, the LLC is taxed like a Sole Proprietorship. If the LLC is owned by a company, it is taxed as a branch/division of the parent company.

The default tax status for a Multi-Member LLC is Partnership, meaning the IRS taxes the LLC like a Partnership.

If instead, you want your LLC to be taxed as a C-Corporation, you’ll first apply for an EIN and then later file Form 8832.

If you want your LLC taxed as an S-Corporation, you’ll first apply for an EIN and then later file Form 2553.

If you choose to have your LLC taxed as a C-Corporation, make sure you speak with an accountant as there are a lot of details you need to consider. Having an LLC taxed as an S-Corporation is a much more popular choice than having an LLC taxed as a C-Corporation. S-Corporation taxation usually makes sense once an LLC generates about $70,000 in net income per year.

How to apply for an EIN for your LLC

Below you will find 3 different sets of instructions:

1. If you have an SSN or ITIN, use the online EIN application

We recommend applying for an EIN online for your LLC if you have an SSN or ITIN.

This is the easiest filing method and has the fastest approval time.

We have instructions here:
How to apply for an EIN online

2. If you apply for an EIN online, but you get an error message

If you have an SSN or ITIN, apply for an EIN online, but you get an error message (called a reference number) at the end, you will need to mail or fax Form SS-4 to the IRS instead.

We have instructions here:
Apply for EIN for LLC with Form SS-4

3. If you don’t have an SSN or ITIN

If you don’t have an SSN or ITIN, you can still get an EIN for your LLC. You just can’t apply for an EIN online.

You will need to mail or fax Form SS-4 to the IRS. You must also fill the form out a certain way (on line 7b) in order to have your EIN approved.

We have instructions here:
How to get an EIN without an SSN or an ITIN

EIN Confirmation Letter (EIN Approval)

Once the IRS issues an EIN for your LLC you will receive your official approval, known as an EIN Confirmation Letter (CP 575).

The method in which you applied for an EIN will determine how you receive your EIN Confirmation Letter.

If you apply for an EIN online:
You’ll be able to download a PDF copy of your EIN Confirmation Letter at the end of the online application. There is no waiting time. The IRS will also send you a duplicate copy in the mail in about 4 to 5 weeks.

If you send Form SS-4 by fax:
The IRS will fax you back your EIN Confirmation Letter within 4 to 7 business days.

If you send Form SS-4 by mail:
The IRS will mail your EIN Confirmation Letter within 4 to 8 weeks.

Here is what the EIN Confirmation Letter for an LLC looks like:

EIN Confirmation Letter (CP 575) for LLC

How to Cancel an EIN?

If there was a mistake with your first EIN application or you need to cancel your EIN Number for any reason, you just need to mail a cancellation letter to the IRS.

We have instructions here: how to cancel an EIN.

You don’t have to wait for your EIN cancellation to be finalized before getting a new EIN for your LLC.

LLC Business Bank Account

After getting your EIN, you can then open a separate business bank account for your LLC.

Banks usually ask for the following documents to open an LLC business bank account:

  • EIN Confirmation Letter
  • LLC Approval (stamped and approved Articles of Organization, Certificate of Organization, or Certificate of Formation)
  • LLC Operating Agreement
  • Driver’s License and/or Passport

Aside from the above, banks may also require other paperwork (like proof of address), so we recommend calling a few banks ahead of time before going in. It’s also a good idea to ask if they have monthly fees on their “basic” business checking accounts. There are a number of banks that don’t have monthly fees.

If you’re a non-US resident (foreigner), you will need to show 2 forms of identification, such as your foreign passport and your foreign driver’s license. There are additional things (shown below) to keep in mind when opening a U.S. bank account for your LLC: Non-US resident opening U.S. bank account for an LLC

IRS Contact Information

If you have any questions, you can call the IRS at 1-800-829-4933. Their office hours are 7am – 7pm local time, Monday through Friday.

We recommend you call the IRS early to avoid the typically long holding times.

Matt Horwitz
Founder & Educator, LLC University®
Forming an LLC shouldn't be so complicated. Our step-by-step guide will make the process a breeze – and no complex legal jargon! LLC University® teaches people how to form an LLC for free in all 50 states. We hope you find our free guides and resources helpful in your business journey.
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