How Do I Obtain a Federal Tax ID When Forming an LLC?

By Jane Haskins, Esq.

How Do I Obtain a Federal Tax ID When Forming an LLC?

By Jane Haskins, Esq.

The quickest and easiest way to get a federal tax ID number for a limited liability company (LLC) is to apply online at the Internal Revenue Service website. If you apply online, you will receive your tax ID number immediately after submitting your application. You can also apply for a tax ID number by fax or mail, or you can hire a service to take care of the application for you.Before you apply for a tax ID number, it's a good idea to understand what it's used for, whether you need one, and the information you'll need. Here are four steps to follow.

Pink piggy bank in black glasses sitting next to calculator

1. Determine if your LLC needs a tax ID number.

A federal tax ID number, also known as a Federal Employer Identification Number, FEIN, or EIN, is a number that identifies your business for certain tax purposes. It's essentially the business version of a Social Security number.

Most LLCs must have an EIN—you won't even be able to open a bank account without it. But if you own a single-member LLC with no employees, you may be able to use your Social Security number instead. You must have an EIN if any of the following are true:

  • You have employees.
  • Your LLC has more than one owner.
  • You file employment; excise; or alcohol, firearms and tobacco taxes.
  • You withhold income taxes on wages paid to nonresident aliens.
  • You have a Keogh plan.
  • You are involved with certain types of organizations, such as certain trusts, estates, real estate mortgage investments, and nonprofits.

Some solo LLC owners choose to get an EIN even though it's not required, both to plan for growth and to protect their personal Social Security numbers.

2. Form your LLC.

Your LLC doesn't legally exist until you've filed the formation paperwork and it has been approved by your state. Wait until you receive confirmation that your LLC has been officially formed before you apply for an EIN.

3. Gather required information.

The IRS doesn't ask for long and detailed information in its tax ID number application, but there are a few facts you'll want to have handy. These include:

  • The official name of your LLC, as shown on the paperwork you received from the state
  • The LLC's mailing address
  • The name and Social Security number of the “responsible party"
  • The number of members the LLC has
  • The date you started the LLC

The application also asks you to specify the number of employees you expect to have within the next 12 months.

4. Fill out the federal tax ID number application.

The IRS prefers that you apply for a tax ID online. The online application can be used by any business whose principal place of business or legal residence is in the United States. If you apply online, you will receive your tax ID number immediately. If you are applying for EINs for more than one LLC, you should know that the IRS limits applications to one per responsible party, per day.

If you can't or prefer not to use the online application, you can apply by filling out an Application for Employer Identification Number (Form SS-4) and either faxing or mailing it to the IRS. Fax applicants should receive their EIN by return fax in about a week. If you apply by mail, you can expect to wait at least four to five weeks for your EIN. International applicants can apply by phone.

Finally, if you prefer to let someone else handle the paperwork and make sure it's done right, you can use an online service to submit your application for you.

Applying for an EIN isn't difficult, but it's an important step in getting your LLC up and running. Apply after your LLC has been officially formed, but before you try to set up banking and payroll accounts.

This portion of the site is for informational purposes only. The content is not legal advice. The statements and opinions are the expression of author, not LegalZoom, and have not been evaluated by LegalZoom for accuracy, completeness, or changes in the law.