EIN: IRS Form SS-4, Application for Employer Identification Number

Despite its name, this form is required for many businesses that don’t have employees. You must file it to obtain an employer identification number (EIN): a nine-digit number that identifies your business for tax purposes, just as a Social Security number identifies an individual. Your business must have an EIN if you have at least one employee. Even if you have no employees, you must get an EIN if either of the following are true:

  • You operate your eBay business as a partnership, limited liability company, or corporation (the EIN is necessary to identify your business on your tax returns).

  • You are a sole proprietor and have a Keogh retirement plan (a plan for self-employed people), buy or inherit an existing business, or file for bankruptcy.

Finding the forms. The IRS has made it easy to apply for an EIN. You can download the fillable Form SS-4 (“fillable” means that you can complete the form on screen instead of printing it out and completing it), then mail or fax it to the IRS, or you can apply for an EIN online at the IRS website and get your EIN immediately. You can also apply by phone at 800-829-4933. If you file electronically or by phone, you will immediately receive a provisional EIN, which will become your permanent EIN once the IRS verifies your application information. Don’t forget to write the number down and store it someplace safe; if you file online, print a copy of the form for your records.

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