How to Get a Business Tax ID

Small-business owners need a tax ID in order to pay employees and perform basic operations; here’s how to get one!

We are committed to sharing unbiased reviews. Some of the links on our site are from our partners who compensate us. Read our editorial guidelines and advertising disclosure.

If you run a small business, you need a federal tax ID number. Much like a social security number, this nine-digit ID is assigned only once and will never be redistributed to anyone else. A tax ID ensures your ability to legally pay your employees, file for your annual tax return, apply for business licenses, and participate in business banking. Let’s go over how to get a business tax ID, who is required to have one, and a few reasons you might want to apply for one—even if you don’t have to.

Table of contents

What is a tax ID?

A tax ID is an identification number required by the internal revenue service (IRS) for almost all businesses. It’s a unique nine-digit number that is only assigned once (even if you don’t end up using it for long), and it acts as a sort of social security number for your business. Any business that is responsible for paying employees must have a tax ID, and some sole proprietors choose to apply for one as well.

What is an Employer Identification Number (EIN)?

An employer identification number (EIN) is the same thing as a tax ID number, and the two are often used interchangeably. When filling out tax information, you may either see “tax ID” or EIN listed, but don’t worry—it’s the same number!

How to get a business tax ID

Taxes can be overwhelming, but luckily, acquiring a tax ID is relatively simple and free. Here are a few ways to apply.

1. Apply online

The easiest way to get a business tax ID is to apply for one on the IRS website. You’ll see several business entity type options at first, and small businesses typically fall into one of the following categories:

  • Sole proprietor: You own and operate a business by yourself and have no employees
  • LLC: A limited liability company. This entity type protects you and any partners or employees from personal liability and provides tax options.
  • Corporation: A business recognized as a separate legal entity that can provide stock options.
  • Partnership: Two or more people agree to share liability and assets.

If your business is an LLC, corporation, or partnership, you must register it with both the state and federal government before moving forward with a tax ID application.

Once you’ve selected your business type, the application is only one page long and shouldn’t take more than a few minutes to complete.

Information you need when you apply:

  • Company name and business address
  • Your name
  • Your social security number
  • Reason for applying
  • Phone number and email address

Once you submit your application, you should receive a downloadable file with your employer identification number information. Save this file to your computer and print out a hard copy for your records as well.

Best Tax Software for Small Businesses
Turbo Tax
Best overall
H&R Block
Best for accounting
Liberty Tax
Best for beginners
eFile.com
Best for small business
FreeTaxUSA
Best budget option
Learn more about our top brands.

2. Call the IRS tax line

If you prefer to do business over the phone, you also have the option of applying for a tax ID through the IRS Business & Specialty Tax Line (800-829-4933).

3. Fill out and mail an SS-4

The third option for applying for a tax ID is through mail or fax. With this option, you must complete an SS-4 tax form and send it to the Internal Revenue Service physical address.

Resources to help get a tax ID

If all of this still feels a bit overwhelming, or you have questions about your specific application, there are some resources to help you apply for a tax ID as well.

  • Accountant

If you’re already working with an accountant for your small business, ask them to help you apply for an EIN number.

  • Financial institution

You can also ask for help from a financial institution like your personal bank or credit union.

  • The tax helpline

As mentioned above, the IRS Business & Specialty Tax Line (800-829-4933) is an available resource for tax ID questions. This office is typically open Monday through Friday from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. ET.

Is a federal tax ID the same as a state tax ID?

To make things a little more confusing, you may also need a state tax ID in addition to your federal tax ID number.

If you live in one of the following seven states, you do not need a state tax ID, because these states don’t collect income tax or require a tax return.

  • Alaska
  • Florida
  • Nevada
  • South Dakota
  • Texas
  • Washington
  • Wyoming

For everyone else, you will need to visit your state’s government website and use your federal tax ID to apply for a state ID.

Does my business need a tax ID number?

Most businesses are required to obtain a tax ID, including small businesses. If your business falls into these categories, you must get a business tax ID number.

  • Any business that pays employees
  • Businesses that file returns for firearms, alcohol, or tobacco
  • Businesses using a pension plan
  • Any business that operates as a corporation or partnership

If you’re a sole proprietor, you technically don’t need a tax ID, but you may want to look into getting one regardless.

Reasons to get a tax ID as a sole proprietor

If you’re not required to get a tax ID, there are a few reasons you may still want to file for one.

1. You plan on paying employees.

If there’s a chance you might take on employees in the future—even just one or two—getting a tax ID in advance is a smart move to help you stay ahead.

2. You want added privacy.

Because a tax ID acts as the main identification for your business, obtaining one can be helpful in protecting your personal information. With an EIN, you won’t need to use your personal social security number for business-related purposes.

3. You want to apply for business cards or loans.

Having a tax ID number is also helpful if you want to apply for a business credit card or a small-business loan.

Don't sweat tax season

Get your maximum refund for your small business with TurboTax.

The takeaway

Getting a tax ID is crucial for small-business owners—especially if you’re responsible for any employees. If you don’t have one already, apply for free as soon as possible through the IRS to ensure tax compliance. Even if you’re not required to get a tax ID as a sole proprietor, it can still be a smart business move for added personal security, and eligibility for credit cards and loans.

Want to learn more about employer identification numbers? Check out Do You Need an Employer Identification Number (EIN)? on Business.org.

Related reading

Business tax ID FAQ

Does an LLC give you a tax ID number?

Registering your business as an LLC won’t automatically generate a tax ID number. You will need to apply for a tax ID separately through the IRS.

Should I get a tax ID number for my home business?

If you pay any employees, you need to obtain a tax ID number. If you’re a sole proprietor, you might also want to apply for a tax ID to be eligible for business credit cards and small-business loans.

Is a business EIN the same as a tax ID?

Yes—your nine-digit EIN (employer identification number) is the same thing as a federal tax ID number.

Can I start a business with a tax ID number?

Before you get a tax ID number for your business, you should register your business as an LLC or corporation in your individual state. Obtaining a tax ID will officially register your business with the IRS.

Disclaimer

At Business.org, our research is meant to offer general product and service recommendations. We don't guarantee that our suggestions will work best for each individual or business, so consider your unique needs when choosing products and services.

Emily Garland
Written by
Emily Garland
Recent Articles
Feature image of a young woman of color typing on a calculator while looking at financial documents
SnapCap Review: An Okay Lender, But We’ve Seen Better
SnapCap’s not the worst lender out there, but hidden rates and fees keep it from...
businessman considering term loans
What Is a Term Loan?
Almost three quarters of American small businesses used some type of financing—including term loans—in 2016.1...
Coffee shop owner working on laptop
How to Create an Online Store
Thinking of setting up your own e-commerce store? We’ve got you covered. In 2016 alone,...
How to Open a Business Bank Account
Need a place to stash your cash? Just follow our guide to opening a small-business...