One of the many steps involved in starting a business is obtaining an employer identification number (EIN), which is also known as a federal tax identification number. This unique nine-digit number is used for all sorts of things required to run a legitimate business. After applying for your EIN, you’ll receive an EIN verification letter from the IRS.
You should hold onto this letter for as long as you own your business. But thankfully, if you lose it, you’re not totally out of luck. This article will cover everything you need to know about EINs and what to do if you lose your EIN confirmation letter from the IRS.
The basics of employer identification numbers
You can think of an EIN as being the equivalent of a Social Security number for your business. It allows your business to pay state and federal taxes—which is why the IRS sends verification letters—along with other essential aspects of your daily business.
In addition to paying taxes, you need an EIN to hire employees, open a bank account, and to apply for a business license. Of course, not all businesses need employees, but a business owner can get in a ton of trouble for operating without a license or not paying taxes. Additionally, having a business bank account is a smart way to help ensure you run a successful organization.
How to apply for an EIN
The IRS has taken a number of steps to make EIN applications easy for business owners. These are the options you have when applying for your EIN:
- Apply online: Filling out the online application is the easiest way to get an EIN. The information is validated upon completion of the application, so you receive your EIN immediately. However, keep in mind that you won’t get the confirmation letter until it arrives in the mail. This application process is available for entities with principal locations in the U.S. or U.S. Territories.
- Apply by fax: If you’re a taxpayer with access to a fax machine, you can fill out Form SS-4 and fax it back to the IRS. You’ll just want to ensure that all of the information is correct, as this option doesn’t have instantaneous confirmation like the online application. If your application is approved and you provide your fax number, the IRS will fax you back within four business days with your confirmation.
- Apply by mail: You can also submit Form SS-4 through the mail. However, the mail can be a bit slow at times, so this method of EIN processing takes around four weeks to complete. Again, you’ll want to double-check that every field is filled out correctly on your SS-4 form.
- Apply by telephone: International applicants can also apply by telephone Monday through Friday from 6:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. Eastern Time. This method simply involves telling an IRS agent all of your answers to the questions on Form SS-4. Applicants calling in must be authorized to receive EINs (which we’ll cover in the next section).
What is an EIN confirmation letter from the IRS?
The EIN verification letter from the IRS is a document that’s sent to business owners upon receiving their EIN. If you know your EIN off the top of your head, this letter will likely only be needed one time. You’ll just need to present a physical copy to open your business bank account.
However, that nine-digit number isn’t always easy to remember, so it’s not a bad idea to keep the verification letter in a safe place. Plus, you’ll need it if you need to open up a new business bank account.
How do I get my EIN confirmation letter?
Keeping your EIN verification letter from the IRS in a secure location (like a safe deposit box) is the best way to ensure you never lose it. But with so many documents to keep track of, it’s not out of the ordinary for these confirmation letters to go missing.
Although you don’t want to find yourself in bad standing with the IRS, the agency is fairly understanding when it comes to needing a new copy of your EIN confirmation letter, so they make it easy to get a new copy. Here are the steps to take if you misplace your IRS EIN confirmation letter:
- Call the IRS: If you need to contact the IRS, it’ll have to be over the phone. To get a copy of your verification letter, you can call them toll-free at 1-800-829-4933. This is the “business and specialty tax line.”
- Speak to an agent: Once you’re on the phone with an IRS agent, tell them you need a 147c letter—the document number for a new copy of your EIN verification letter from the IRS—and give them your EIN.
- Confirm your identity: Only authorized individuals can request a 147c letter. Even if you know your EIN, the agent will need to ask some questions to verify your identity. Examples of people who can request a 147c letter are business owners, partners in an LLC, corporate officers or anyone who has power of attorney over a company. In addition to providing your EIN, you’ll need to tell the agent your name, business address and the type of tax return you file.
- Choose how you’d like to receive your letter: Even though it’s the fastest way to receive documents, the IRS will never email you any sensitive information, so your only two options for receiving your 147c letter are through the mail or via fax. It’s not uncommon for mail from the IRS to take several weeks to arrive, so we recommend choosing the fax option if you need your 147c letter sooner rather than later.
What if my address has changed?
Getting a 147c letter is a bit more complicated if either your business address or personal address has changed since you started your company. If your business address changed, you’ll need to file Form 8822-B. And if your personal address changed, you’ll need to file Form 8822. You can download both of these forms online, but you’ll need to print them and mail them back to the IRS.
Can I get a copy of my EIN letter from the bank?
We get it—calling the IRS or waiting by the mailbox for your EIN verification letter from the IRS can be tedious. Thankfully, your bank can help you out! Although they can only provide you with a scan of your letter, this may be enough to accomplish whatever task you initially needed the document for.
Of course, you’ll want to verify that a scanned copy of the letter will suffice, but only waiting for a few minutes to get the document compared to several weeks is obviously preferable.
Get the small business banking help you need
The options are nearly limitless when you need to open up a small business bank account, but for a seamless banking experience, be sure to choose NorthOne. We’re committed to helping small businesses succeed and making life easier for business owners. Apply for an account today to start taking advantage of our innovative financial and organizational tools. Just be sure to submit your EIN verification letter from the IRS when you apply!