An Employer Identification Number, or EIN, is a specific number assigned to a business by the IRS. The number is used to identify the business to the IRS and corresponding state tax departments for tax purposes. A limited liability company must apply for an EIN if required to do so under IRS or state tax rules, but the best EIN application method depends on how quickly the EIN is needed and the availability of the person applying for the company.
An LLC must apply for an EIN if the company has employees, withholds taxes on money not derived from wages of nonresident aliens or files a Excise, Employment, or Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms return. A company with a Keogh plan, a tax-deferred retirement plan available to unincorporated businesses, has to have an EIN, as well as a non-profit LLC or an LLC involved with mortgage investments.
An LLC can file for an EIN through the IRS, and some states offer businesses the option of filing for the EIN through the state tax department; the number is ultimately issued by the IRS in both cases. The IRS has online and telephone methods available for receiving an EIN, as well as fax and mail-in procedures; the mail and fax options require the completion of Form SS-4. The LLC receives an EIN immediately if using the online or phone options as of 2010. The fax option can take up to four business days, while the mail-in carries a four week processing time. The online process is only available for LLCs with a principal address in the U.S. or a U.S. territory.
All EIN application methods require the LLC to submit information to the IRS. The LLC must supply the legal company name, trade name (if any), principal office address and the name and Social Security number of the person responsible for the LLC. Only the personal information of one person from the LLC is needed, even if the company has more than one member. The LLC's creation date and the highest number of employees the company plans to have over the next year must be disclosed, as well as the LLC's business purpose. Paper and fax forms must be signed and dated by the responsible person.
A LLC that needs an EIN immediately should chose the Internet or phone options. As of 2010, the online process is available Monday through Friday from 6 a.m. to 12:30 a.m., on Saturday from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. and on Sunday from 7 p.m. to 12 a.m., Eastern Standard Time. The phone method is available Monday through Friday, from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., local time. The "Where to File" section of the IRS' official website has the fax numbers and mailing addresses for Form SS-4, and the form can be downloaded and printed from the IRS website.