Federal Tax ID Lookup: Everything You Need to Know
A federal tax ID lookup is a method of searching for a business's information using their tax identification number (FTIN), or EIN.6 min read
Updated July 6, 2020:
Federal Tax ID for a Business
A federal tax ID lookup is a method of searching for a business's information using their tax identification number (FTIN), or employer identification number (EIN).
Tax identification numbers are issued to businesses by the IRS depending on their structure. When a business changes its structure, it will usually be issued a new ID number. The United States federal government uses a federal tax identification number for business identification.
An EIN will possess nine numbers and is used by the IRS for administering taxes for the following entities:
- Sole proprietorship
- Trust or government agency
Either the grantor, owner, or trustee of an organization will be issued an EIN. The practice of “one per responsible party per day” applies to the issuance of EINs. To make sure tax administration is successful, the IRS is focused on only providing qualified parties with an EIN. Third-parties applying for an EIN must identify themselves as a third-party designee.
An EIN is not a replacement for a Social Security Number (or SSN).
The following organizations are required by law to possess an EIN:
- Government agencies at the state and local level
You can use the EIN to research information about different businesses. It is sometimes possible to perform a federal ID tax lookup for free, but there are also paid services that can be used. Businesses will use their FTIN to correctly file documents with the federal government. Employees can find their employer's EIN by referencing their W2 forms.
Is Employee Identification Number (EIN) Needed?
In most cases, small businesses are not required to have an Employee Identification Number. If, for example, somebody is running their business as a sole proprietorship and they have no other employees, they're most likely not going to need an EIN. If, however, the business in question has more than one employee or they have chosen to structure themselves as either a corporation or a partnership, they're going to need to apply for an Employee Identification Number.
Some other things that might trigger the need for an Employee Identification Number might include:
- Filing a tobacco tax return
- Filing a firearms tax return
- Setting a Keogh plan up through the business in question
If you're a business owner and you're not sure if you need to file for an EIN, it is probably in your best interest to contact an attorney with knowledge and experience in this area to examine your specific situation and help you determine if this is something you'll need to do. It's not a good idea to proceed without knowing for sure whether or not you're going to need an EIN.
Resources to Look Up a Tax ID and Verify EIN for A Business
The EIN for publicly traded companies can be found on the Investor Relations website. Almost every publicly traded company will possess a filings page.
On the filings page provided by the Securities and Exchange Commission, you can find the EIN number for a business by clicking the SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission) filing and reading the first page of the document.
It is also possible to use the EDGAR Online Forms and Filings database to search for an EIN. Searching the EDGAR database is completely free of charge, and can be used to find a business EIN that is not listed in the online SEC filings.
If you frequently need to search for business EINs, then you may want to sign up for a commercial database service. With a Commercial EIN database, you may have access to special offers that provide you with a certain number of free searches before you will need to pay a fee.
Several methods exist for looking up a business's tax ID. Generally, the searcher will need to provide a few basic details, including the type of entity for which they are searching.
There are ten types of entities you could search for including:
- Church controlled organization
- Estate of deceased individual
- Limited liability company
- Non-profit organization
- Personal service corporation
- Sole proprietorship/individual
Electronic Data Gathering, Analysis, and Retrieval System (EDGAR)
Using the Electronic Data Gathering, Analysis, and Retrieval (EDGAR) System is the easiest way to search for a federal tax ID number.
Maintained by the SEC, the EDGAR system is a database that includes information about for-profit companies. This online service is completely free.
The EDGAR database includes several forms that may contain a business's EIN, including the 8-K, 10-K, and 10-Q forms.
Before you start your EDGAR search, you should keep in mind that searching just the first few letters of a business's name will provide you better results, as many businesses are not listed under their full names.
There is an organization known as Melissa Data whose mission is to provide individuals with information about non-profit organizations.
For instance, this organization provides a free public online database that can be used to search for business information using:
- The business's name
- The business's EIN
- The business's zip code
When you search for a business using the Melissa Data database, you will be provided with a business's tax identification number.
You may also be able to find a business's tax ID number by contacting their accounting department.
Methods to Look up a Federal Tax ID
One of the easiest ways to obtain a company's Federal Tax ID or Employer Identification Number is to simply call the business and ask for it. This information is public record and there's really no reason that a business shouldn't be willing to give theirs out when asked. In fact, most keep this information readily available because they're asked for it pretty frequently. In most cases when you call and ask a business for their FTIN, you'll have it in a matter of seconds. This is particularly true when you're dealing with non-profit businesses and organizations due to the fact that their FTIN is usually required when claiming tax deductions.
If, for some reason, the company is unable or unwilling to provide you with their Federal Tax Identification Number, you can always contact the Internal Revenue Service and get it from them. The IRS is the government agency that's directly responsible for issuing Employee Identification Numbers to new businesses, so they have this information on hand at all times. Again, this is public record, so the IRS will have no problems with giving you this information.
These days, a lot of people underestimate the value of their local libraries. When you need to look up a company's Federal Tax ID Number, though, they can be a valuable asset. Most public libraries and even some college libraries have a reference desk on-site, manned by a reference librarian. Reference librarians are specialized professionals that can help you find specific types of information, such as a company's FTIN and EIN details. If your local library has a reference librarian, they'll normally have access to databases like Lexis Nexis and the Westlaw database, both of which will most likely contain the information you're interested in.
Tips for Looking up a Federal Tax ID
Regardless of the method or source of information you choose, there are a few helpful tips that will make finding the information you're looking for a bit easier:
- If you're asking the company for their FTN, be sure to ask for their accounting department. This department is more likely to have the information you need on hand than anyone else in the company.
- If you're using a service like EDGAR to look up your information, start your search by using only the first few letters in the company's name. You can always narrow your search results if you get too many hits.
- Keep in mind that a lot of companies register with the SEC with names that are similar to their public name but not always an exact match.
- If you're running a zip code search through Melissa Data, make sure you're using the zip code in which the company's corporate office is located, not the zip code for the local office that you're likely used to dealing with.
A lot of people have a much harder time than they really need to when searching for a company's information. These tips will help to reduce frustration and get you the information you're looking for more quickly and easily.
If you need help performing a federal tax ID lookup, you can post your legal need on UpCounsel's marketplace. UpCounsel accepts only the top 5 percent of lawyers to its site. Lawyers on UpCounsel come from law schools such as Harvard Law and Yale Law and average 14 years of legal experience, including work with or on behalf of companies like Google, Menlo Ventures, and Airbnb.