Key Takeaways

  • Having an EIN can be helpful when applying for business loans, opening business bank accounts and for other business tasks.
  • Obtaining an EIN is free of charge and can be done online, by mail, fax or via telephone.
  • If an EIN is lost or misplaced, it is not possible to look it up online.

An EIN or employer identification number is a nine-digit number assigned by the Internal Revenue Service to organizations with and without employees. It’s also referred to as a Federal Tax Identification Number or business tax ID. It allows the IRS to identify businesses in the U.S. 

Companies use EINs to apply for business licenses in their state and open business bank accounts. EINs are also needed to secure business financing and file business taxes. 

Ideally, you want to note your EIN when it’s issued and store it in a safe place. If you’re having trouble locating it, you can access your EIN without paying a fee — though online options are limited. Read on to learn how to find, change or get an EIN.

Do you need an EIN? 

You’ll need an EIN if any of the following are true: 

  • You operate as a partnership or corporation. 
  • Your organization has employees. 
  • You have a Keogh plan. 
  • You withhold taxes on non-wage income paid to one or more non-resident aliens. 
  • You file an alcohol, employment, excise, firearms or tobacco tax return for your company. 

Companies operating in certain industries or doing business with organizations within these industries also need an EIN. They include estates, farmers’ cooperatives, non-profits, plan administrators, real estate mortgage investment conduits and select trusts. 

Obtaining an EIN can be beneficial for many reasons, allowing your business to do such things as open a business bank account or take out loans in your business’s name. An EIN can also be required if your company needs specific licenses or permits to do business. Additionally, having an EIN means you can typically avoid using your own Social Security number on business documentation.

EIN lookup: The best options

If you’ve misplaced the notice received from the IRS when you applied for an EIN, there’s no free online EIN lookup or tax ID lookup database you can use to perform a quick search. However, you can do the following to find it: 

1. Review business documents

Your EIN may be printed on a business document, like your articles of formation or a business loan application. Or it could be written down on another document in your files. Either way, it’s worth looking to see if you’ll have any luck. If you’ve filed a tax return for the business entity, you can also find your EIN there. 

2. Check your EIN confirmation letter 

Refer to the notice generated electronically by the IRS when you applied for your EIN. If you applied for an EIN online, an approval notice should have been generated at the end of the session that you could print or save. The IRS also mails an EIN assignment notice after an application for an EIN has been completed if you applied through a third party. If you don’t have that notice handy, search your records to determine if you saved or printed the computer-generated notice and filed it away.

3. Call the IRS

The Business and Speciality Tax Line is open Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. local time. Call 1-800-829-4933 to speak with an assistor who can provide you with your EIN if you can share identifying data regarding your business. But be ready for a long wait on hold.

How to look up another business’s EIN

Finding another company’s EIN is possible, but you’ll have to do some legwork. Here are some ways to retrieve it: 

Contact the company directly

Try calling the organization to request its EIN. You may find that they’re unwilling to provide this information, but asking to be connected with the accounting or payroll department is a good starting point. 

Get a copy of the company’s credit report 

Many business credit reports include EINs. These reports are easily accessible from the major business credit bureaus. You’ll also gain insight into how the company you’re searching for handles its debts and if they pay on time or struggle to manage accounts effectively. 

Perform an online search

Refer to the Security Exchange Commission’s website and search for the company’s most recently filed 10-K or 10-Q to identify the EIN. If you’re searching for a nonprofit’s EIN, use the IRS database instead.

Get help with your search 

Some online databases let you search for EIN in exchange for a fee. But if you don’t have much luck finding the EIN on your own, consider hiring a third party to find it for you. 

How to cancel or change an EIN

The IRS cannot cancel an EIN once issued — it remains connected to your business entity forever. However, you can contact the IRS by mail and request your business account’s closure. Your letter should include your company’s legal name, address and EIN, plus the reason for the request. It’s also helpful to send a copy of the notice you received from the IRS when the EIN was issued. 

Send this correspondence to one of the following: 

  • Internal Revenue Service, MS 6055, Kansas City, MO 64108
  • Internal Revenue Service, MS 6273, Ogden, UT 84201

Exempt organizations should send cancellation requests to: 

  • Mail: Internal Revenue Service, Attn: EO Entity, Mail Stop 6273, Ogden, UT 84201
  • Fax: 855-214-7520

If you need to change your company’s EIN, you’ll need to apply for a new one. 

How to get an EIN 

You can apply for an EIN, free of charge, online, by mail or fax. Be mindful that you’re only allowed to obtain one EIN daily, regardless of how you apply. 

Apply online

The online application is available Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. ET. You’ll need to complete the application in one sitting because progress on the form can’t be saved. Note that the system will time out after 15 minutes of inactivity and require you to restart the application. You’ll receive an EIN immediately after submitting the online application.

Apply by mail

Complete Form SS-4 (Application for Employer Identification Number) and mail it to the address listed below to apply for an EIN by mail: 

  • Internal Revenue Service, Attn: EIN Operation, Cincinnati, OH 45999
  • Internal Revenue Service, Attn: EIN International Operation, Cincinnati, OH 45999 (if your legal residence or place of business is outside the 50 states or the District of Columbia)

The processing time is roughly four to five weeks, and you’ll receive a response by mail. 

Apply by fax

You can also send Form SS-4 to the following numbers to apply by fax: 

  • 855-641-6935
  • 855-215-1627 (if your legal residence of place or business is outside of the 50 states or the District of Columbia)
  • 304-707-9471 (if your legal residence or place of business is outside the 50 states or the District of Columbia and you’re sending a fax from outside of the U.S.)

The IRS will reply to you by fax within a week. Form SS-4s submitted without a return fax number delay the response time by up to two weeks.

Apply by telephone

This option is limited to international applicants. Call 267-941-1099 anytime Monday through Friday between 6 a.m. and 11 p.m. to request an EIN. If you want to authorize another party to apply on your company’s behalf, print Form SS-4, complete and sign the “Third Party Designee” section and send it to the IRS. In most cases, the EIN is issued during the call. 

The bottom line

There are many reasons why it can be good to obtain an EIN for your business. An EIN functions very much like your business’s Social Security number and allows you to pursue loans in your business’s name and other important business tasks. Once you obtain an EIN for your business, be sure to keep electronic or paper records of this important number, as you will not be able to retrieve this number online if it is lost.

EIN Frequently asked questions

  • Unfortunately, looking up your EIN on isn’t an option, as there’s no EIN lookup tool. Still, that doesn’t mean you’re entirely out of luck. You can find it on the official IRS notice you received when it was issued, call the IRS directly or locate your EIN on business documents.
  • No, the IRS does not require entities taxed as individuals to obtain an EIN. Sole proprietors and single-member LLCs fit into this category. Still, many apply for an EIN to use in place of their Social Security number when conducting business affairs. This includes applying for business credit cards and providing tax forms to clients.
  • The two terms are used interchangeably and share the same meaning.