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One of the first steps to registering your business or organization in the United States is obtaining an Employer Identification Number (EIN). Unless you operate as a sole proprietorship, you will need an EIN to apply for business licenses, hire employees, file taxes, and accept payments.
This number is critical to starting your business—so, how long does it take to get it? Let’s take a look at the EIN application process and examine various factors that may affect its timeframe.
Getting Your EIN: What Do You Need to Do?
Your EIN essentially serves as your tax ID credential to conduct business. Just like you have a unique Social Security number (SSN) to identify yourself during tax season, your business’s EIN validates its existence with the government.
Before setting out to apply for your EIN, make sure you have all the necessary documents on hand to minimize delays. You’ll need the following details to start your application:
- Business name, mailing address, and entity type.
- Details about the person(s) or entity responsible for the business and its financial affairs.
- The reason for applying—such as starting a new business, hiring employees, or opening a merchant account.
- Supporting documentation to validate the legal structure of the business entity, such as articles of incorporation or partnership agreements.
- The number of staff you anticipate hiring within the next year, and whether you anticipate paying more than $1,000 in payroll tax.
Estimated Timeframe for an Online EIN Approval
Applying online is the fastest, most convenient application method. Once you complete and submit all the required information, you can also validate your submission during your online session. You’ll receive a digital EIN—right to your email—shortly after submitting your online application.
Mailing Instructions for Applications
Applying through the mail presents a fallback option if you cannot access an application online—but it should not be your go-to. This is the most time-consuming approach, with a minimum of four weeks of processing time.
Should you choose to do so, however, you’ll need to print and complete Form SS-4. You will send the form, along with the required business documentation, and mail it to the appropriate IRS address.
Processing Time for EIN Applications via Fax
Applying for an EIN via fax is a fairly outdated option—but still faster than applying through the mail. You must complete Form SS-4 and fax it to the relevant IRS department, along with any required documentation. If you provide your fax number, you will receive an EIN via fax within four days.
Telephone Application Process for International Applicants
Only applicants who are not based in the United States may apply for an EIN over the phone. Applicants can call (+1) 267-941-1099 between 6 a.m. and 11 p.m. EST, Monday through Friday. It is important to note that the number is not toll-free.
The individual making the call must answer questions in line with Form SS-4 and be authorized to receive the EIN. Thus, it’s advised that you complete the form prior to contacting the IRS to streamline the application process. An IRS representative will process the required information and assign you an EIN after establishing your account.
Note: Any mistakes or omissions can lead to delays or possible rejection of the application.
Factors Affecting the Timeframe for EIN Issuance
While you may receive a digital EIN quickly, official paper records can take up to 30 days to arrive. However, wait times for these documents are often much less than that time frame. Holidays and office operating hours can affect your wait time.
The IRS limits EIN issuance to one per day per responsible entity, regardless of the application method you use. Therefore, if you need multiple EINs, you will need to apply for them separately on different days.
While unlikely in most standard applications, rejection may occur if:
- The application contains incomplete or incorrect information.
- The entity name has duplicate records.
- There is an existing EIN for the entity on file.
To avoid this, make sure your application is filled out correctly and completely. If the application is rejected, the IRS will provide you with instructions to re-apply.
Duration and Validity of an EIN
Your business EIN does not expire. Once issued it will remain valid indefinitely, regardless of whether or not you use it or file federal tax returns. The number is a permanent federal taxpayer identification for your entity. Even if you dissolve the business, the number is not discontinued or reassigned.
Having said that, it is important to notify the IRS if there is a change in business structure, ownership, business name, or business address.
If you are unsure whether or not you need a new EIN, you can verify the validity of an EIN by contacting the IRS.
Timeframe for Recovering a Lost EIN
If you previously received an EIN for your business but have since misplaced it, you should be able to find your EIN number via previous IRS communications or past tax return files for the entity in question.
If you used your EIN to open a business bank account or to obtain a license from a state or local authority, you can contact the respective institution or check communications received from them.
The IRS can also assist you. You can call the Business and Specialty Tax Line on weekdays, local time, between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., Monday through Friday. An IRS agent will verify your identity and provide the number immediately over the telephone.
Streamlining the EIN Application Process for Timely Results
Now that you have a handle on how long it takes to get an EIN and what information you need to do so, you can jumpstart your business plans! Gather all the necessary information and file ASAP—and then it’s time for the next big step in establishing your business: opening a merchant account.
A merchant service provider can help propel your business one step further once you’ve set the financial foundation of your business. With the right provider at your side, you’ll not only accept payments effortlessly but also steer your business toward success.