A federal employer identification number (EIN), also known as a Federal Tax ID Number (FEIN), is something an unemployed person may need when filing for unemployment insurance (UI) benefits. An employer's EIN is also a must when an employee or former employee files their taxes online. There are a few ways to get this information, including searching the web and looking at Internal Revenue Service (IRS) tax forms. Employees usually receive their W-2 and 1099 tax forms by mid-to-late February and can easily find the information there.
Purpose of an EIN
According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, an EIN is assigned by the IRS to a business. Companies of all types use it for tax filing and reporting purposes. It is free to apply for an EIN on the IRS website, and business owners can also apply by fax or mail.
Entrepreneurs need an EIN to open their business bank account, get a business license or permit, and report and file their business tax returns. A person starting a business should do this as soon as they are start plans for their company, so there are no delays of licenses, permits or financing. Workers also need the EIN of their former employer to receive state unemployment insurance benefits or to e-file taxes; however, they can file their taxes without an EIN by mailing them in.
Types of Businesses With EINs
All businesses need an EIN if they retain employees. Self-employed people and companies that don't have employees must also obtain an EIN if they operate as a corporation or partnership. The IRS has a guide that tells a person if they need to apply for an EIN after answering a few simple questions.
Sole proprietors do not always need an EIN, but they do under certain circumstances, including:
- If they hire employees.
- If they have a Keogh or solo 401(k) retirement fund.
- If they purchase or inherit an already existing business and run it as a sole proprietor.
- If they incorporate, become an LLC, or form a partnership.
- When filing for bankruptcy.
- When opening a business bank account.
- When applying for a business credit card.
- When applying for business permits, licenses or loans.
- When creating forms 1099 for independent contractors.
Finding an Employer's EIN
Both W-2 and 1099 forms usually include a business's EIN, according to Turbo Tax. The nine-digit number with a dash between the second and third digits is usually right above the employer's name or below their address on most income tax forms. If an EIN doesn't exist on the employee's current tax form, they can contact their former employer and ask for it through their company's payroll, HR or accounting departments.
Employees can also find this information on an older tax form if the business kept the same EIN. The IRS does not retrieve EINs for anyone requesting them with the exception of an authorized employee or business owner. Those with authorization can contact the agency's customer service line, give the IRS the applicable information and receive the EIN.
Workers who work with publicly traded companies can search online for an EIN using the Security and Exchange Commission's EDGAR portal, but this may not work if a company has more than one EIN. There are also websites with EIN data for smaller businesses not publicly traded, but there may be a fee for this information. According to Value Penguin, employees can also hire a service to do the work or do it themselves by researching local and state registration forms or by purchasing a company's credit report. Bankruptcy does not stop a former employee from locating an EIN – the court documents will include the business's EIN on a docket sheet along with its name and address.
- U.S. Small Business Administration: What Is an EIN and Why Is It Important?
- NOLO: When Does a Sole Proprietor Need an EIN?
- Turbo Tax: How Do I Find My Employer's EIN or Tax ID?
- The Security and Exchange Commission: EDGAR | Company Filings
- IRS: Employee ID Numbers
- IRS: Do You Need an EIN?
- Value Penguin: EIN Lookup: How to Find Your Own and Other's EINs
Michelle Nati is an associate editor and writer who has reported on legal, criminal and government news for PasadenaNow.com and Complex Media. She holds a B.A. in Communications and English from Niagara University.