The abbreviation EIN stands for employer identification number, the business equivalent of an individual's Social Security number. This unique number assigned by the IRS identifies the business for Internal Revenue Service purposes and is also required for other, business-related matters.
Given the private nature of EINs, there is no simple way to access them, regardless of the state in which the business operates, and Ohio is no exception. But it is certainly possible to track down the EIN of a company when necessary. How hard that may be depends on whether the company at issue belongs to the person searching for the EIN.
What Is an EIN?
An EIN is a federal employer identification number, also called a federal tax identification number. Its main function is to assist the IRS in identifying those business taxpayers that have an obligation to file certain business tax returns. A business obtains an EIN by applying through the IRS' website. Similar to a Social Security number, the EIN does not expire; it continues in existence unless and until a company cancels their business account with the IRS.
Which businesses need EINs? Not sole proprietorships. In Ohio, sole proprietors are not even required to register as businesses and, by definition, they have no employees. However, some sole proprietorships prefer to keep individual and business finances separate and may use an EIN for that purpose.
An EIN is required of every business that has employees; operates as a corporation or a partnership; has a Keogh plan; and files employment, excise or Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms tax returns. In addition, if a small business works with trusts, estates, real estate mortgage investment conduits, nonprofit organizations, farmers’ cooperatives or plan administrators, it is required to have an EIN.
What Is the EIN Number in Ohio?
Note that the process of finding an EIN in Ohio is the same process as for finding an EIN in any other state. An EIN number is a unique number issued to a business by the Internal Revenue Service. The number assigned does not depend on the state in which the business operates.
Businesses in every state have the same EIN rules since this is a federal tax number, not a state tax number. A lost tax number can usually be tracked down by looking at federal tax documents or correspondence, whether the person looking lives and works in Ohio or in any other state.
EIN Application Process for Ohio Businesses
Although EINs are often termed the SSNs of businesses, applying for the federal tax number is a much easier and more straightforward process. Almost any business that wants an EIN is eligible to get one, and it is necessary to have one before attempting to open business bank accounts or bringing on employees.
The IRS makes getting this number very easy, with online fax and mailed applications possible. The applicant must be an individual (not a business entity) and the true owner, principal owner, general partner, grantor or trustor of the business at issue. And they must have either an SSN, an Individual Tax Identification Number or an existing EIN to get one.
To apply for an EIN online, just visit the IRS website. There is an EIN online application on that site that is easy and quick to use. To apply for EIN by fax, download and print a copy of Form SS-4 from the IRS website. Those who prefer mailing in an application will need a paper copy of Form SS-4 and lots of patience. Mail it to the address on the application form.
Where to Find an EIN?
Once a business obtains an EIN from the IRS, business owners will need to have it on hand to use for tax returns and other business filings. Sometimes these numbers get lost. That is usually no big deal since a business' EIN can be found on every federal tax filing.
If those are difficult to locate, look on any correspondence from the IRS, whether emails or paper documents. Absent that, try looking on legal or financial papers related to the business. Most business loan applications, permits and certifications contain the company's EIN. If all else fails, call the IRS Business & Specialty Tax Line at 800-829-4933.
If the desired EIN belongs to a business that is not owned by the individual seeking it, they will not likely have access to the business' tax records. However, if the individual works for the business, the EIN will be on every W-2 form sent out by the company. It's also quite simple to call the employer and ask for the EIN, assuming it is required for taxes, unemployment insurance or similar matters.
Looking Up EINs
It may seem that there should be a fast-and-easy EIN lookup web search engine that allows anyone to plug in the name of a business and get their EIN. But this is far from the case. Just like an individual's Social Security number, a federal tax ID number of a private company is not a public matter. Note that the EINs of public companies are not considered private, and so it is possible to look them up using the SEC’s EDGAR system.
To obtain the EIN of a private company, the easiest way to proceed is to personally contact the company. Assuming that the person has a legitimate reason to know the EIN, the business is likely to simply give it to the individual calling. As an alternative, it is possible to purchase or view a business' credit report from one of the credit reporting bureaus. The credit report will almost always contain the EIN, and some websites will locate and provide the EINs of businesses for a fee.
Teo Spengler earned a JD from U.C. Berkeley Law School. As an Assistant Attorney General in Juneau, she practiced before the Alaska Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court before opening a plaintiff's personal injury practice in San Francisco. She holds both an MA and an MFA in English/writing and enjoys writing legal blogs and articles. Her work has appeared in numerous online publications including USA Today, Legal Zoom, eHow Business, Livestrong, SF Gate, Go Banking Rates, Arizona Central, Houston Chronicle, Navy Federal Credit Union, Pearson, Quicken.com, TurboTax.com, and numerous attorney websites. Spengler splits her time between the French Basque Country and Northern California.