8 reasons why you need an EIN for your business and how to apply for one

Business owners can apply for their Employer Identification Number in minutes and use it to hire employees, borrow, pay taxes, and more.

As a business owner, it is critical that you keep your business and personal lives separate. One of the best ways to do that is to get an Employer Identification Number (EIN). EINs not only keep Social Security Numbers private, but they also project more legitimacy for your business.

Below, CNBC Select explains how to apply for an EIN for your business and eight reasons why you need one.

What is an Employer Identification Number (EIN)?

An Employer Identification Number (EIN) is a federal identification number for your business. It is a nine-digit number that is similar to a Social Security number. However, it is formatted as 12-3456789 instead of 123-45-6789 on official forms. An EIN is also referred to as a Federal Tax Identification Number.

Separate business entities like corporations and LLCs need them for tax purposes. Sole proprietors share their EINs to avoid sharing their Social Security Numbers when conducting business.

8 reasons why you need an EIN

Although many small businesses operate without an EIN, it is required for many business functions as your business expands. These are a few of the most common reasons why you need to apply for an EIN.

  • Operate a separate legal entity. While sole proprietors can use their Social Security Number (SSN), other forms of business must apply for an EIN. These include corporations, LLCs, trusts, and more which are separate legal entities from you personally.
  • Protect your Social Security Number. Sole proprietors can operate a business using their SSN. However, they must share it with vendors, clients, tax authorities, and more for tax purposes. Using an EIN protects your SSN from being shared and reduces the potential for identity theft.
  • Open a business bank account. You cannot open a business bank account for most forms of business without an EIN.
  • Apply for credit in the name of the business. Many banks require an EIN for your business when applying for a loan, line of credit, or credit card.
  • Hire employees. The government requires businesses to have an EIN if they hire an employee or withhold taxes on income paid to a non-resident alien. Your EIN is used for Federal and state payroll tax reports and payments.
  • Apply for business licenses and permits. Use your EIN when applying for business licenses, permits, and other requirements.
  • Use a Keogh Plan. This tax-deferred pension plan requires that the business has an EIN.
  • File taxes for your business. Your business must have an EIN when filing tax returns for employment, excise, alcohol, tobacco, and firearms.

How to apply for an EIN for your business

Applying for an EIN is free to do through the Internal Revenue Service. In fact, you can apply online at the IRS website and have your EIN within minutes. Follow these steps to apply online for an EIN for your business.

  1. Determine eligibility. You may apply online if your business is located within the U.S. or a U.S. territory. Otherwise, you need to apply over the phone. The person applying must have a valid taxpayer identification number.
  2. Apply at the IRS website. Visit this link to start your EIN application.
  3. Select your business type. Are you a sole proprietor, partnership, corporation, LLC, estate, trust, or another type of entity?
  4. Provide a reason for requesting an EIN. Are you starting a business, hiring employees for the first time, opening a bank account, changing the type of organization, or purchasing an active business?
  5. Authenticate your personal information. Provide your personal information, including your Social Security Number, and authenticate that you are eligible to apply for an EIN.
  6. Business location. Share the address of the business (and mailing address, if needed).
  7. Business information. Provide the name of your business, which county and state it’s located in, and when and where it was formed.
  8. Receive EIN. Print out the confirmation letter with your EIN.

Applicants are limited to one EIN per responsible party per day. You can also apply for an EIN by fax, mail, or telephone.

Best small business resources

Once you have your EIN, it will be easier to separate personal and business expenses and take advantage of various small business resources, such as business credit cardsbusiness checking accounts, business savings accountsbusiness loans, and business expense trackers. Here are some useful business tools to consider:

Best no annual fee business credit card

Best small business credit card for travel

Best overall business checking account

Best overall small business expense tracker

Bottom line

Applying for an employer identification number (EIN) is an important part of your business. It not only keeps your personal information safe, but it also makes it possible to open a business bank account, hire employees and handle other important tasks. You can apply for an EIN online through the IRS website and get your number in minutes. It is free and easy to do.

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