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IRS Form SS-4 is a key document when establishing your business’s legal and financial foundation, as it is used to register your business for an EIN.
Unless you’re a sole proprietor with no employees, you will need an Employer Identification Number (EIN) for your business. Your EIN serves as your business identification code for filing employment, income, and payroll tax. It also allows you to receive credits for payroll and FICA payments. As such, it’s essential to conducting business.
Let’s dig deeper into everything you need to know about Form SS-4 so that you can obtain your EIN and get your business in gear as soon as possible.
Who Needs to Fill Out Form SS-4?
If you want to obtain an EIN—and most businesses operating within the United States need to—you must submit Form SS-4 to the IRS. Certain other circumstances may also warrant filling out the form, so consider the following guidelines a good rule of thumb for determining if you should submit one.
Legal conditions apply if you:
- Pay employees or plan to pay employees in the future, even if part-time.
- Have a corporation, partnership, trust, or non-profit organization.
- Are a plan administrator or part of a farmers’ cooperative.
- File tax returns for excise, alcohol, tobacco, or firearms.
- Withhold taxes from salaries paid to non-resident workers.
- Have a Keogh plan.
- Are involved with real estate conduits.
Form SS-4: Layout and Components
Form SS-4 comprises three main information categories. It’s important that you fill out all the required information accurately. Leaving out applicable fields or inserting incorrect or unclear information can result in application rejection and delays in obtaining your EIN.
The general information section includes basic facts about your business, including its name and contact details. In this section, you will also nominate a responsible party as a contact person for communicating with the IRS. This person should be the business owner or LLC member exercising ultimate effective control over the organization’s assets and finances.
In the second section of Form SS-4, you need to provide details about your business’ legal classification. Depending on your business type, not all the fields in this section may apply to you.
This last category largely solicits your reason for applying, and information about the number of employees and wages involved. If you already have an EIN, double-check whether it is necessary to apply for another one. If you’re simply adding or changing business locations or starting to hire employees, you can generally use your existing EIN for the same business.
Step-by-Step Instructions for Completing Form SS-4
The IRS requires Form SS-4 for businesses and other entities to obtain a unique identification number for tax purposes. Here’s how to complete Form SS-4 in six easy steps:
1. Collect the Required Information
First, gathering all the necessary information before starting Form SS-4 will expedite the process. Be sure to have the following details on hand before you get started:
- Business legal name
- Business trade name (if different from business legal name)
- Legal classification of your business (LLC, partnership, trust, etc.)
- Business physical and mailing address
- Information about the person responsible for the business (owner or other assigned responsible party), including their SSN or individual tax ID number
- Reason for applying for an EIN
- Business start or acquisition date
- Closing month of your business accounting year
- The number of employees you plan to have within the next year
- Your line of business or trade
Please note: be sure to confirm whether or not you have applied for an EIN before, or if your annual payroll will total over $1000.
2. Navigate the General Information Section
Now that you have all the necessary details on hand, it’s time to fill in Form SS-4. Lines 1 through 6 require you to fill in your business legal name, trading name, and address.
Complete Line 3 as follows if you require an EIN for a trust or an estate of a deceased person:
- If you require an EIN for a trust, provide the name of the trustee.
- If you require an EIN for the estate of someone who has passed away, provide the name of the administrator, executor, personal representative, or other fiduciary.
- Should the applicant have a designated individual who receives and handles tax information, provide the individual’s name as the “care of” person.
- Use the address of the “care of” person as the mailing address information in Line 4.
Line 7 requires you to provide the full name and SSN or taxpayer ID of the organization’s responsible party. Your application will not be accepted without this information.
3. Fill Out the Business Type Information Section
Lines 8 and 9 require you to confirm your business type, such as a corporation, partnership, sole proprietor, personal service corporation, government entity, estate, trust, or plan administrator. If your business is a:
- Single-owner LLC, mark the according checkbox and enter your SSN
- Multiple-owner LLC, choose the Partnership checkbox
- LLC that has chosen to be taxed as a corporation or S-corporation before submitting Form SS-4, you might need to select the Corporation checkbox (check this detail with a licensed tax professional before submitting your EIN application)
4. Enter Your Details in the Other Business Information Section
Then, you will need to enter other business details. Line 10 requires a reason for your EIN application. Select only one option—if more than one option applies, choose the strongest motivator only.
You should be able to find your business start date on Line 11 on any of your business registration documents. You are then asked to give the closing month of the organization’s accounting year on line 12. Many businesses follow the standard calendar year; in this case, December would be your closing month. If, however, your fiscal year is different, provide the month your financial year ends.
Lines 13 through 15 relate to employees and wages. If you are a sole proprietor and do not intend to have any employees in the next 12 months, you can enter “0” on Line 13.
Following employee information, you will need to select your primary business category and describe it in more detail. If the business has previously applied for and received an EIN, indicate this in Line 18 and make sure to provide the EIN.
5. Sign Form SS-4
Form SS-4 must be signed by the following, according to the applicable entity type:
- Individual: The signee must be the individual
- Corporation: The signee must be the president, vice president, or principal officer
- Partnership, government entity, or other unincorporated organization: The signee must be a responsible and duly authorized member or officer knowledgeable of its affairs.
- Trust or Estate: The signee must be the fiduciary.
6. Submit Your Completed SS-4 Form for Processing
Once completed and checked for accuracy, it’s time to submit your application. You can do this online, via fax, or by mail. The method you choose will determine how long it takes to receive your EIN.
If you apply online, you only have 15 minutes to complete the form until it times out. Therefore, it’s essential that you have all the information ready beforehand. You will generally receive your EIN on the very same day via email.
Fax applications take around four business days to process, while mail applications take a minimum of four weeks (provided everything is correctly and accurately submitted).
Streamlining the EIN Application Process: Mastering Form SS4
One of the first steps to registering your business or organization in the U.S. is obtaining an Employer Identification Number. The more accurately you complete Form SS-4, the smoother your application process will be.
Once you have your EIN, you can apply for a merchant account to start accepting credit card payments from customers and clients. Since this process can be confusing, be sure to select a payment provider with experience assisting new businesses. PaymentCloud is well-equipped to assist you in navigating the intricate startup process, allowing you to experience seamless credit card processing.