An organization EIN, also called an Employer Identification Number, is required for all businesses, both non-profit and for-profit. It is necessary in order to open a bank account, process payroll, and pay taxes.

How to Get an EIN

You must apply for your EIN from the Internal Revenue Service. It may be done over the phone, by fax, through USPS mail, or online. USPS mail applications will take a bit longer to be processed.

Here is how to apply online:

  1. Go to the IRS website: www.irs.gov. Click on “Apply for an EIN Online” which is located in the “tools” section you will find on the homepage.
  2. Provide the required information about your company and the way it is organized. If your business is a non-profit, choose that option.
  3. Download the PDF file provided as proof of your EIN. You should also print it out for your files.

Here is how to apply by mail or fax:

  1. Go to the IRS' website: www.irs.gov. Download a copy of Form SS-4.
  2. Enter the contact information for your organization in the form and select the correct type of business entity — profit or non-profit.
  3. Provide the required information about your company.
  4. Sign the form at the bottom, including the date, and if you will be mailing the form, be sure to make a copy for your own files.
  5. Mail the form to the IRS office listed in the instructions. These steps may vary depending on the state in which your company is formed. Alternatively, fax it to the IRS office. Be sure to check the instructions to make sure you have the correct fax number for your location.
  6. The IRS should send your EIN by mail within four business days if you sent it by fax, or up to four weeks if you sent it by mail.

Here is how to apply by phone:

  1. Call the IRS office at (800) 829-4933. The office is open between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. If your organization is located in another country, you must call the international phone number: (215) 516-6999.
  2. The representative will ask a series of questions about your company. These are the same questions you will find on Form SS-4.
  3. At the end of the call, the representative will give you an EIN, which you should write down.

Finding Another Organization's EIN

If you need to research a business, charity, or non-profit organization, having its EIN will help. The best way to do this is to simply contact the organization and ask for the EIN. If you are trying to research a non-profit, the EIN should also be displayed at some place on the organization's website or fundraising paperwork. You can also search for the non-profit organization's EIN on the CharityCheck101.org web directory.

Why do Non-profit Organizations Need an EIN?

You may be familiar with the fact that all for-profit businesses should have an EIN, even if they do not plan to hire employees. However, non-profits should have them too.

Some people think that an EIN is an indication that a non-profit organization is tax-exempt. The EIN has nothing to do with an organization's tax-exempt status. If a charity has been granted this status, it has been issued a document called the IRS Determination Letter.

Every organization that is classified as a 501(c)(3) should have this document, and it must be shared with anyone who wants to see it. It is especially necessary if the organization wishes to apply for a grant because foundations and government agencies will request a copy of it.

Occasionally small non-profit organizations may not be able to locate their IRS Determination Letter. This may cause problems for people who wish to donate to the charity for purposes of tax deductions. It may also cause people to suspect that the organization is not truly a charity.

Just saying that you have an EIN is not enough to prove tax-exempt charity status. However, the organization can always obtain a new one from the IRS. This is a simple process of mailing or faxing a form.

An EIN is needed for all of the organization's business activities, such as opening bank accounts, hiring employees, getting licenses, filing taxes, and more. It is similar to a Social Security Number for individuals. It is also referred to as a Federal Employer Identification Number or Federal Tax Identification Number.

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