Federal Identification Number
Best Practice Summary

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The Internal Revenue Service issues federal identification numbers (FIN), also known as an Employer Identification Number (EIN) or a tax identification number to new corporations, partnerships, limited partnerships, limited liability companies, certain trusts and estates and household employers. In order to obtain an EIN, you must complete a IRS Form SS-4. Using LeapLaw's Form SS-4 Checklist may be helpful.

IRS Procedures
for obtaining a federal identification number

Apply Online

The easiest way to obtain an EIN is to apply online at the Internal Revenue Service web site. By completing an online SS-4, you will receive the tax number immediately. Evidence is provided by printing a copy of the completed SS-4.

NOTE: when filing for a new EIN, if the responsbile party is a company that obtained its EIN online, the online application will not issue an EIN online. These applications must be phoned in.

Application Limits: There is also a limited placed on online applications. A responsible party is limited to one online application per day.

Phone-In Applications

To apply for a FIN via the telephone, an IRS Form SS-4 (pdf) you must have a completed SS-4, be either an officer of the company or be the third party designee.

Federal identification numbers may be obtained
using a toll-free telephone number regardless of where the taxpayer files.

(800) 829-4933

Monday through Friday
7:30 a.m. - 5:30 p.m. local time

Fax Applications

Fax requests may still be made 24 hours a day, 7 days a week by dialing the fax number at the location accepting applications from your state. See LeapLaw's IRS Service Centers for the appropriate location. Taxpayers may also mail Form SS-4 to get a federal identification number at the appropriate service center.

Third Party Designee

Powers of attorney (IRS Form 2848) are no longer necessary when filing on behalf of a third party. In its stead, completing the new "Third Party Designee" section on the Form SS-4 will suffice. Third party designees may phone in the application. However, the IRS will not provide the EIN over the phone to the third party. If the number is required immediately, the officer signing the SS-4 must phone in or be available at phone-in time.

Once the application has been provided over the phone, the designee must fax the application to the IRS.

NOTE: You should ask for an IRS Tele-TIN Representative's name for the fax cover sheet. Once the application is received, the third party designee information is reviewed. The application should be returned via fax within 24 hours. It is common that the application is not returned. In this case, the third party designee can call the IRS and receive the EIN over the phone once the designee information has been entered into the system.
NOTE: Place of filing for the federal identification number may be different from the location a taxpayer or practitioner used in the past.

Assigning a federal identification number to a company surviving the merger

When two companies merge, the surviving company may have been a merger vehicle without a federal identification number and it may be preferred that the surviving company keeps the federal identification number of the merged out company. In this instance, a Form SS-4 should be filed. The current federal identification number should be inserted in the top right hand corner. Provide the name and address of the surviving corporation. Follow the following procedures:

In section 18, answer "yes" to "has the applicant ever applied for an employer identification number for this or any other business.

Enter the EIN previously used.

The form may be completed online. Or you may fax or mail it to the IRS. A letter from the IRS confirming the transfer of the federal identification number will be sent to the company within six weeks.

Changing the Name of a Company with the IRS

To change the name of an entity that already has been issued an EIN, letter should be sent to the IRS stating the name change.

NOTE: If you want to be able to call the IRS to check on the status of the transfer, a power of attorney must be filed with the Form SS-4.

Limited Liability Tax Treatment

Limited liability companies may choose to be taxed as a partnership (one level of tax that flows through to the partners) or a corporation (two levels of tax where the business is taxed and the members pay taxes on earnings). An LLC with two or more members may be treated as a corporation or a partnership. An LLC with a single member may be treated as a partnership or a sole proprietorship. If no tax treatment is specified, the IRS will treat an LLC as a partnership by default. Tax treatment is specified in item 8 of the Form SS-4.

If the LLC is to be treated as a partnership, "partnership" box may be checked in item 8.

If the LLC is to be treated as a corporation, check "other corporation" and insert "limited liability company" in the space provided.

If the LLC has a single owner and is to be treated as a sole proprietorship, check "other" in item 8 and insert "disregarded entity" in the space provided.

BEST PRACTICE TIP: When forming a DE LLC that is a single member LLC and the manager/member is a non-US citizen without an SSN or TIN, the SS-4 filing must be made in the Philadelphia IRS office. If the LLC is not a single member, to be taxed as a partnership or corporation, submitting a copy of the passport of the non-US citizen will make the filing acceptable in the local IRS office.

Changing the Type of Entity Classification

Form 8832 (pdf) may be used to change the entity classification of an LLC from partnership to corporation, for instance.

Corporate Liquidations or Dissolutions

When a corporation dissolves or merges out of existence, the federal identification number must be discontinued by filing a Form 966 (pdf), Corporate Dissolution or Liquidation. A secretary's or clerk's certificate must accompany the Form 966 certifying that a resolution to dissolve was taken by the stockholders of the corporation. This filing is generally not required for LLCs or other business entities. A final tax return will suffice for IRS purposes.

Avoiding Common Problems:

Be sure the legal name is exact in line 1. If a trade name is entered in line 2, use it consistently with all returns filed.

If you want to file a Form 2553 (pdf), S Corporation Election or Form 1023 (pdf), Application for Recognition of Exemption and have not yet received the EIN, "applied for" may be inserted in the EIN line.

Be sure to include the social security number of the officer or other responsible party listed on line 7.

If the corporation changes its principal address, a Form 8822 (pdf) should be filed with the IRS.

If duplicate federal identification numbers were issued, contact the IRS Service Center where tax returns should be filed (it may be different from where the Form SS-4 was filed.

Additional Information

SS-4 instructions
Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about EINs (pdf)

Federal Identification Number Worksheet

Related Best Practice Summaries

Limited Liability Companies
Limited Partnerships

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