Guide to the EIN for Small Businesses in the U.S.

This page is part of our general Guide to the Law for Small Business.

What is an EIN?

EIN stands for Employer Identification Number, but it’s a bit of a misnomer. It’s really just a tax ID number, like a social security number, for a business. Whether the business has employees or not, it may still be required to get an EIN; even if not required, it’s highly recommended to have one.

The EIN is sometimes confused with a business license or certificate. See our Guide to Business Licenses and Registration.

Does my business need an EIN?

The short answer is yes. The longer answer is that it’s legally required for all businesses other than sole proprietorships. However, even for sole proprietorships, it’s highly recommended to get an EIN. Otherwise you would have to use your personal social security number on various forms and documents, which is not a good idea.

Can I get more than one EIN for a sole proprietorship if I have multiple business activities?

No, an individual person who operates multiple businesses or business activities as a sole proprietor can only get one EIN.

However, you may be able to get multiple trade names or DBAs.

How do I get an EIN?

You can get one for free at the IRS website.

How much does it cost to get an EIN?

It’s free!

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