Building Your Business Business Taxes 4 Easy Ways To Apply for an Employer ID Number (EIN) By Jean Murray Updated on August 17, 2022 In This Article View All In This Article Before You Apply Filing as a Responsible Party How to Apply for An Employer ID Number Beware of Fake EIN Application Websites Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) Photo: Cecilie_Arcurs / Getty Images An Employer ID Number (EIN) is an identifier used by the IRS for businesses and other entities. Most businesses need an EIN even if they don't have employees. For example, many banks require an EIN before you can apply for a business checking account. Consider the EIN to be like a Social Security number for a business. Although it is primarily used for employment tax identification purposes, an EIN can also be used as a general tax number. Key Takeaways Employer ID Number (EIN) is an identifier used by the IRS for businesses and other entities.Your business may need EIN to open bank accounts and get licenses, even if you don't have employeesYou apply for an EIN as a "responsible party", which means the IRS holds you responsible for all business decisions for that businessYou can apply for an EIN online, over the phone, via fax or even through mail Before You Apply If you begin the process of applying and you don't know answers to some of the sections, you may have to begin over again. It's best to print out a copy of the application, on IRS Form SS-4, and answer all the questions on this form. If you decide you need help completing the EIN, you can get an attorney to help, or find other help to complete the EIN, including the trickiest part, designating your business legal type. Filing as a Responsible Party You will be filing for the EIN as the "responsible party" so you will need to be sure you have the authority to make this filing. The IRS has set up the designation of "responsible party" to make sure someone with authority to do business for a company is completing the form. A responsible party should be "the individual or entity that controls, manages, or directs the entity and the disposition of the entity’s funds and assets." For a small business, a responsible party is a general partner, owner, or principal officer of the company. How to Apply for An Employer ID Number You can apply for an EIN in one of four ways: Online Many people use the online EIN application form, called the EIN Assistant, between the hours of 7 a.m. and 10 p.m., Eastern time, Monday through Friday. It's best to have the application completed and all the questions answered before you go online, because you will have to begin over if you have to stop to figure out the responses. Note You must complete your online EIN application in one session, as you will not be able to save and return at a later time. For security purposes, your session will expire after 15 minutes of inactivity, and you will need to start over. To file online, you must meet some qualifications: You must have a valid U.S. ID number (like a social security number), When you have completed the form, the information is validated, and you can receive your EIN immediately. The online method is available for businesses located in the U.S. or its territories. You must have a valid taxpayer identification number before applying online. Phone The option to apply for an EIN over the phone is available to international applicants only. International applicants are business owners who are eligible to receive an EIN but have no legal residence, principal place of business, or principal office or agency in the U.S. The person making the call must be authorized to receive the EIN and should be able to answer any questions regarding the application form SS-4. Note International applicants must call 267-941-1099 (not a toll-free number) between 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. (Eastern Time) Monday through Friday to apply for an EIN. Fax Fax the completed SS-4 application form to your state fax number. If you include your fax number, you will receive your EIN by fax within four business days. Mail Mail your completed SS-4 Form to the appropriate IRS office. You will receive your EIN by mail within four to five weeks. Note If you are comfortable applying online or by phone, you can receive your EIN immediately instead of waiting for days or weeks. Beware of Fake EIN Application Websites If you search online for "apply for EIN" you will find lots of sites that look like they are the IRS, but may in fact be fake EIN application sites. They will start you on the application process, but only when you get ready to file will they ask for money. Don't waste your time or money. The EIN application process is free, relatively painless, and quick. Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) How long does an EIN application take? You can get Employer ID number (EIN) immediately, if you apply online. You can also fax your completed application to a service center in your state and provide a return fax number, you can expect to receive your EIN within a week. If there's no return fax number, it may take two weeks. It takes four to five weeks to get an EIN if you send in your application by mail. How do I check the status of my EIN application? Given that online applicants receive EINs immediately, checking on the status of an application really pertains to mail applications that may take a few weeks. If you want to check the status of your EIN application you sent in by mail, you can call 800-829-4933. Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! Tell us why! Other Submit Sources The Balance uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. Internal Revenue Service. "Apply for an Employer Identification Number (EIN) Online." Internal Revenue Service. "Instructions for Form SS-4 - Apply by telephone—option available to international applicants only." Internal Revenue Service. "How to Apply for an EIN." Internal Revenue Service. "How Long Will it Take to Get an EIN?" Internal Revenue Service. "Instructions for Form SS-4 - Apply by mail."