1. Employer Identification Number
2. Using an EIN to Look Up a Company

A company identification number, or CID, is given to a company when it is formed and the articles of organization or incorporation are approved by the Secretary of State. The CID is an important step when establishing a new company as it acts as a way to track important company information. After the company identification number is assigned, the incorporator or a legal agent of the company can apply with the Internal Revenue Service to obtain a tax ID number, or employer identification number (EIN). The CID and EIN are different and are used for different purposes.

The EIN is nine digits long and is displayed as XX-XXXXXXX. However, some states have state EIN's. For example, in California, the numbers appear in a different format based on the business entity type. Corporations are given seven-digit numbers that begin with the letter C, like C9876543. Whereas LLCs or Limited Liability Companies receive twelve-digit numbers that start with the year of incorporation, like 2018123987165432.

Employer Identification Number

The employer identification number is also known as a tax identification number and is assigned by the Internal Revenue Service. This number is required to file the company taxes. The number is the equivalent of a persons social security number, but for a business. An EIN is required by any business that:

  • Hires employees
  • Operates as a corporation or partnership
  • Offers tax-deferred pension plans
  • Withholds income taxes for non-resident aliens
  • Pays ATF taxes
  • Deals with REITs, farms, non-profit activities, or certain trusts

Employee identification numbers are important as they act as a way to separate companies from each other. If the ownership structure changes in a significant manner, a new EIN may be required. EIN's are used only for taxes. It is important to note that EIN's do not do any of the following:

  • Replace a person's social security number
  • Provide authorization to work in the United States
  • Establish eligibility for Social Security or other benefits

Using an EIN to Look Up a Company

Any company that files taxes can be found by searching their EIN. The filings show the current year's status regarding leadership and company ownership. Companies that have EIN's include:

  • Corporations
  • Limited Liability Companies (LLC)
  • Sole proprietorships
  • Partnerships
  • Non-profits
  • Government agencies

The steps to search for the EIN vary by business type.

  • Public companies who sell some or all of their stock to the general public are required to submit documentation to the United States Securities Exchange Commission (SEC). The documentation is considered public record by law and can be accessed easily. To do so, visit the SEC's EDGAR database to complete an EIN lookup. One document that is filed annually is the 10K annual report which has the employee identification number listed at the top of the first page. This report lists the company's ownership and leadership information.
  • Private companies are owned by private investors or founders and company stock is not sold to the public. As a private company, it is not a legal requirement to publicly share financial information because investors are not solicited publicly. To find the EIN of a private company, you need to use online databases which may be free or paid.
    • Paid databases will require an account and payment will be assessed either on the number of searches or the time you spend on the site. An example includes FEINSearch, which has a database that includes millions of identification numbers. Free sites include Westlaw and LexisNexis.
    • Free sites require registration before searching for the EIN. Additional information will be displayed to verify it is the correct company including:
      • Full company name
      • Location
      • Owner names
      • Leadership names
  • Non-profit organizations do not have owners like for-profit companies do, instead they have a board of directors or trustees who handle the organization's management and finances. In non-profits, any profit is put back into the organization. For tax filings, non-profits file Form 990. Through this filing you will be able to locate information regarding board members in Part V-A. All of this information is available through Guidestar which is a database for non-profit organizations and the information shared on Form 990. This site is free for a basic search, but requires registration.

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