A tax ID number, also called an employer identification number (EIN), is a number assigned by the federal government to a registered business for identification and tax purposes. The EIN is like a Social Security number, except it's for a business and not a person. You can find out your own company's EIN by reviewing certain documents or by calling the IRS. Finding another company's EIN is trickier, but a number of websites are available that can help.
What Is a Tax ID Number?
The federal government issues EINs; however, your state government may also issue your business an identification number. Your state identification number and your federal tax ID number are different numbers, but each is distinct to the business to which it is assigned. The numbers are used to prepare tax returns, open bank accounts and apply for loans on behalf of the business, as well as to hire and pay employees.
Unlike individual Social Security numbers, tax ID numbers are public record.
Obtaining a Tax ID Number for Your Business
To obtain a federal tax ID number, you must file an application through the IRS. You should do so as soon as you register your business with the state. You can apply for an EIN online, or you can mail or fax your application. If you are located outside the United States but doing business in the U.S., you can apply for an EIN by phone.
Finding a Lost or Misplaced Tax ID Number for Your Business
To find your own company's EIN, you can:
- Review old tax returns, which will have the number on every page.
- Contact your bank. If you opened a bank account in the name of the business, you'll have provided the EIN when you applied for the account, and the bank will have that information.
- Locate the IRS notification of your EIN that you received when you originally applied for it.
- Contact the IRS Business and Specialty Tax Line. The IRS will give you the information over the phone if you can prove that you're authorized to receive the information; that is, as long as you can show that you're the owner, partner, sole proprietor, managing member, officer or other person with authority.
Read More: How to Find State Tax ID Number for a Company
Finding a Tax ID Number for a Public Company
If you want to find a tax ID number for a publicly traded company, you can review that company's SEC filings. The Securities and Exchange Commission requires public entities to make certain quarterly and annual disclosures, which are available to the public. SEC Filings will provide financial information for the entity as well as the EIN, and you can find SEC filings online at the SEC website. A simple name search will pull up the information reported by that company.
You can find state identification numbers easily by going to the state's website and finding the department that handles business registration. In Michigan, for example, the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs handles business registrations, and their website allows you to look up a Michigan entity and find out its state ID number.
Finding a Tax ID Number for a Nonprofit Organization
If the entity you're researching is a nonprofit organization, you can use the Melissa lookup website and search by name. The search results will show plenty of information about the nonprofit including its federal EIN.
Other Options for Finding an EIN
If all else fails, there are online companies that will allow you to look up business information for a fee. You may also be able to find that information on the state's business lookup, but you'll likely have to pay to see the state registration documents, which may or may not contain the federal EIN, as many companies don't have an EIN until after they've registered. However, if the company is a corporation and files annual reports, the tax ID number may be listed there.
To find your own company's tax ID number, you can look at your corporate tax returns, call your accountant, review the documents that assigned you the number or call the IRS if you've exhausted all other options. Looking for another company's EIN may require that you to do a little more legwork.
- IRS: Employer ID Numbers
- Michigan Department of Licensing & Regulatory Affairs: LARA Corporations Online Filing System
- Small Business Administration: Get Federal and State Tax ID Numbers
- IRS: Lost or Misplaced Your EIN
- Securities & Exchange Commission: EDGAR Company Filings
- Melissa Lookups: Nonprofit Organization
- IRS: How to Apply for an EIN
Rebecca K. McDowell is a creditors' rights attorney with a special focus on bankruptcy and insolvency. She has a B.A. in English from Albion College and a J.D. from Wayne State University Law School. She has written legal articles for Nolo and the Bankruptcy Site.