How Should an LLC Business File for an EIN Number?

By Tom Speranza, J.D.

How Should an LLC Business File for an EIN Number?

By Tom Speranza, J.D.

If you've recently formed a limited liability company (LLC), you should apply promptly for a federal employer identification number (EIN) from the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) by web, fax, or mail. Not only is this number legally required for most employers, but obtaining one also helps you establish a separate legal identity for your company that can protect you from liability.

Man hunched over computer screen

How does an LLC get an EIN?

To apply for an EIN, your company must complete an Application for Employer Identification Number (Form SS-4) and submit it to the IRS. There are three ways to apply.

Applying Online

The online application is the easiest and fastest method because the IRS immediately reviews the information on Form SS-4. If the IRS approves the application, it issues the EIN in minutes. Any LLC with a principal place of business in the U.S. can use the online application process so long as the member, officer, or manager applying on the company's behalf has a valid Social Security number.

Applying by Fax

You can also complete a paper copy of Form SS-4 and fax it to the correct number. If you provide a return fax number for your business, the IRS can confirm your information and issue an EIN by return fax within four business days.

Applying by Mail

By far the slowest method is to fill out and mail a paper copy of the SS-4 to the correct IRS address. The IRS confirms your information and issues an EIN within four weeks.

When is an LLC required to have an EIN?

Generally speaking, an LLC needs an EIN as soon as the business involves two or more owners or the law requires the business to function as a taxpayer separate from its owners. There are three major factors that trigger the requirement to get an EIN.

Having Employees

If your LLC has workers who provide services to the business as employees—not as independent contractors—your company must have an EIN so that you can report and pay federal, state, and local income and employment taxes for the employees. Companies with employees must issue an annual Wage and Tax Statement (Form W-2) to each employee detailing wages paid and taxes withheld. Employers that use independent contractors as workers issue an annual Miscellaneous Income statement (Form 1099-MISC) to each contractor detailing the compensation paid. Payments made to contractors are typically not subject to withholding requirements.

Being Taxed as a Corporation or Partnership

When an LLC has one member, the IRS considers it a disregarded entity, and the member reports the company's income and expenses on their individual tax return just like a sole proprietorship. A disregarded entity is not required to have an EIN.

If a business has two or more members, the IRS considers it a partnership. An LLC taxed as a partnership must obtain an EIN.

Any LLC, whether it has a single member or two or more, can elect S corporation or C corporation tax treatment by filing an Entity Classification Election (Form 8832) with the IRS. An LLC taxed as a corporation must obtain an EIN.

Being Required to File Certain Types of Tax Returns

You must obtain an EIN if your company's business activities require it to file Employment, Excise, or Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms tax returns.

If you have two or more employees and your company is taxed as a partnership or corporation, your business will need an EIN. Applying for this as soon as you determine you need one will help protect you from liability related to your business and ensure that you are complying with IRS requirements.

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.