Jo Willetts, EA
Director, Tax Resources
Published on: February 05, 2021
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If you need an employer identification number (EIN), you need to file Form SS-4 or complete the IRS’ online application, where individuals or businesses could receive this number in minutes.
Most people need an EIN when they decide to open a new business or hire employees. However, government agencies, nonprofit organizations, and trusts and estates also need to request EINs in order to pay vendors, hire employees, and file tax forms that are separate from the owners’ and managers’ personal finances.
While the word “employer” might suggest you have and are paying employees, you do not need to actually hire employees to apply for and use an EIN.
Even if you are a freelancer, have a side gig or operate as a sole proprietor with no employees, there are numerous benefits to using an EIN to file your taxes instead of your Social Security number. For example, EINs helps provide an extra layer of protection as enterprise-scale data breaches are becoming more common. A hacker who only possesses your EIN may not be able to do as much damage to your personal finances as they could if they gained access to your Social Security number.
If you plan on forming a business entity other than a Sole Proprietorship, you should wait until you have your approved articles of organization or corporate charter from the state where you formed your business. Once you have these documents, you should file for an EIN before you take other steps to formalize your operations, such as opening a business bank account.
If you are operating as a sole proprietorship without creating an actual business entity, you can request an EIN right away and immediately begin using it with your clients, bank accounts, and any other situations requiring a tax identification number.
Your EIN will be created instantly if you use the online application and the IRS will also mail a copy of the notice containing your new EIN. If you are filing SS-4 on paper, your EIN will arrive in 4-6 weeks, 8-10 weeks if you are outside the United States.
There are several situations where you are mandated to change your EIN. The most common reasons include:
However, if you simply change the name or location of your business, you do not need to request a new EIN.
About the Author
Jo Willetts, Director of Tax Resources at Jackson Hewitt, has more than 25 years of experience in the tax industry. As an Enrolled Agent, Jo has attained the highest level of certification for a tax professional. She began her career at Jackson Hewitt as a Tax Pro, working her way up to General Manager of a franchise store. In her current role, Jo provides expert knowledge company-wide to ensure that tax information distributed through all Jackson Hewitt channels is current and accurate.