What Is an Employer Identification Number (EIN)?

Meow Technologies, Inc.

Meow Technologies, Inc.

Operating a successful business involves navigating complex legal and tax requirements. One key task for many company owners is obtaining an Employer Identification Number, commonly known as an EIN. This unique nine-digit number helps identify your business entity and is used for important tax filing and reporting purposes.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explain what an EIN is, outline scenarios where you need to get one, detail the various application options, and provide additional resources for business owners and tax professionals.

What is an Employer Identification Number?

An Employer Identification Number (EIN) is a nine-digit number assigned by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to business entities operating in the United States. It is used to identify the tax accounts of employers and certain non-employers such as sole proprietors, corporations, partnerships, estates, trusts, certain individuals, and other business entities.

EINs are also known as Federal Tax Identification Numbers and are used for the purpose of tax administration. They allow a business to identify itself to the IRS and other government agencies. The IRS uses EINs to track various tax obligations including employment tax reporting, income reporting, excise tax filings, and more.

In short – an EIN functions like a social security number for your business. Nearly all businesses need one.

When Do Businesses Need an Employer Identification Number?

There are many scenarios where a business needs to obtain an EIN. Although it is commonly associated with having employees, many non-employer entities need EINs as well.

You will likely need an EIN if your business:

  • Has employees
  • Operates as a corporation or partnership
  • Files employment, excise, or alcohol, tobacco and firearms tax returns
  • Withholds taxes on payments made to non-resident aliens
  • Operates a Keogh retirement plan
  • Involves estate and trust entities, non-profit organizations, farmers’ cooperatives, real estate mortgage investment conduits (REMICs), certain individuals, and certain types of trusts

Essentially, self-employed individuals operating a sole proprietorship need an EIN once they begin hiring employees or creating a qualified retirement plan. Most other business structures like corporations, partnerships, and LLCs need EINs from the outset of operations. Non-profit entities and estates may also require one when applying for tax-exempt status.

How to Apply for an Employer Identification Number

If you’ve determined your business needs an EIN, the next step is applying with the IRS. Thankfully obtaining an EIN is free - beware any websites that charge a fee for this service.

There are a few different options available:

Online Application

The fastest and most efficient way is to apply online via the official IRS website. This method has several key benefits:

  • Get your EIN immediately upon completing all validations
  • Avoid mailing delays and wonder about application status
  • Simple interview-style application with embedded help content
  • Download, save and print your confirmation notice

The online EIN Assistant is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Sessions will expire after 15 minutes of inactivity, so make sure to have all required information handy before starting.

Fax Submission

For those who prefer paper applications, Form SS-4 PDF can be faxed to the appropriate IRS fax number designated for the state where your business is located. Ensuring the form is fully completed with responsible party information is critical prior to sending.

Approved applications typically receive their official EIN confirmation via fax in 4 business days if a return fax number was provided. Otherwise allow additional time for postal service delivery.

Mail Submission

The final option is to mail a completed paper Form SS-4 to the appropriate IRS address for your state. As long as the form includes all required information, the IRS will process the mailed request and mail your EIN confirmation letter typically within 4 weeks.

Special Instructions for International Entities

For applicants located outside the United States or U.S. territories, call 267-941-1099 to receive your EIN over the phone. This number is not toll-free and is available from 6 a.m. to 12 a.m. Eastern time Monday through Friday.

Who Needs to Be Listed as the Responsible Party?

All applications, whether online, faxed or mailed must disclose the name and Taxpayer Identification Number of the true responsible party. This is the person or entity that controls, manages, or directs the applicant business and disposition of its funds and assets.

For most companies, the responsible party will be the owner, sole proprietor, managing partner, or principal officer. Unless your business is a government entity, the responsible party must be an individual person rather than a business entity. Listing information about partnerships, corporations, LLCs or trusts in the responsible party section will cause processing delays.

Additional EIN Application Tips and Resources

  • Apply early, but not before officially forming your business to start the tax clock.
  • You are limited to one EIN per responsible party per day across all application methods.
  • Record your confirmation notice details in a safe location and tell colleagues in case you misplace the original.
  • Refer to IRS Publication 1635 Understanding Your EIN for additional context about uses and responsibilities.
  • Check if your organization should designate a Taxpayer Advocate to resolve future tax disputes.
  • Refer questions about beneficial ownership reporting to the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN).
  • Confirm whether your state or local agencies require additional business licenses or registrations beyond obtaining a federal EIN.

In Conclusion – Apply for your Free EIN as Soon as Possible

We’ve explored the critical reasons why the vast majority of business entities need to obtain an Employer Identification Number. Although commonly associated with having employees, many organizations without workers still require an EIN for tax and organizational purposes.

Thankfully obtaining an EIN is a quick and free process through the IRS website or alternative application methods. Be sure to follow the guidelines regarding listing a responsible party and allow sufficient processing time based on your selected approach.

With a solid understanding of what an EIN is and does for your business, the final step is taking action to submit your application. The unique nine-digit number will serve your company’s tax reporting and identification needs for years to come!


Meow Technologies is a financial technology company, not a bank or FDIC-depository insured institution. Likewise, Meow Technologies is not an investment adviser and none of the information presented herein should be relied upon as financial advice or a recommendation to make any financial decision nor should it be considered to be tax or legal advice. The information is the opinion of Meow Technologies for educational purposes and may not be suitable for all companies. Products, like the one described herein, are offered through Meow Technologies and are not advisory services which are only offered through Meow Advisory, LLC.** The FDICs deposit insurance coverage only protects against the failure of an FDIC-insured bank.**

Get started with Meow in under 10 minutes

*Disclaimer: Meow Advisory LLC is a registered investment adviser. Registration as an investment adviser does not imply any level of skill or training.
For accounts opened through Atomic Brokerage LLC: Meow Advisory LLC has an engagement with Atomic Brokerage LLC (“Atomic Brokerage”), a registered broker-dealer and member of FINRA and SIPC , to bring you the opportunity to open a brokerage account. Brokerage services for customers of Meow Advisory LLC are provided by Atomic Brokerage. For more details about Atomic Brokerage, please see the Form CRS, General Disclosures, and the Privacy Policy. Check the background of Atomic Brokerage on FINRA’s BrokerCheck.
For subadvisory services for accounts opened through Atomic Invest LLC: Meow Advisory LLC has an engagement with Atomic Invest, LLC (“Atomic Invest”), an SEC-registered investment adviser, to bring you the opportunity to open an investment advisory account. Investment advisory services are provided by Atomic Invest. Companies which are engaged by Atomic Invest receive compensation of 0% to 0.85% annualized, payable monthly, based upon assets under management for each referred client who establishes an account with Atomic Invest (i.e., exact payment will differ). Atomic Invest also shares a percentage of compensation received from margin interest and free cash interest earned by customers with Meow Advisory LLC. Meow Advisory LLC is not a client of Atomic Invest, but our engagement with Atomic invest gives us an incentive to refer you to Atomic Invest instead of another investment adviser. This conflict of interest affects our ability to provide you with unbiased, objective information about the services of Atomic Invest. This could mean that the services of another investment adviser with whom we are not engaged could be more appropriate for you than Atomic invest. Advisory services through Atomic Invest are designed to assist clients in achieving a favorable outcome in their investment portfolio. They are not intended to provide tax advice or financial planning with respect to every aspect of a client’s financial situation and do not include investments that clients may hold outside of Atomic Invest. For more details about Atomic Invest, please see the Form CRS, Form ADV Part 2A, the Privacy Policy, and other disclosures. Brokerage services for Atomic Invest are provided by Pershing Advisor Solutions LLC (“PAS”), a registered broker-dealer and member of FINRA and SIPC.
Neither Atomic Invest nor Atomic Brokerage, nor any of their affiliates, is a bank. Investments in securities are Not FDIC insured, Not Bank Guaranteed, and May Lose Value. Investing involves risk, including the possible loss of principal. Before investing, consider your investment objectives and the fees and expenses charged by Atomic Brokerage and/or Atomic Invest.
See the Legal Section within the Meow website for additional agreements.

U.K. Gilt pricing quoted net of fees. ~5% U.K. Gilt yield is sourced from Investing.com December 2023 6-month United Kingdom 6-Month Bond Yield. ~5% Treasury Bill yield is sourced from treasurydirect.gov December 2023 12-week U.S. Treasury Bill auction.

**Disclaimer: Meow Technologies is a financial technology company, not a depository, bank or credit union, and your account at Meow is not, itself, an FDIC-insured product.

Meow currently partners with three banking providers. Banking services are provided by Third Coast Bank SSB; Member FDIC, Grasshopper Bank, N.A; Member FDIC, and FirstBank, a Tennessee corporation; Member FDIC.

By opening a Maximum Checking account through Meow and if you choose to receive banking services provided by Grasshopper Bank, N.A, you deposit your funds into a deposit account at Grasshopper Bank, N.A. which sweeps those funds into deposit accounts across a network of Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (“FDIC”)-insured banks, for up to the current standard maximum deposit insurance amount (“SMDIA”) of $250,000 per eligible depositor, per destination institution, for each ownership capacity or category, subject to applicable terms and conditions, including Grasshopper's ICS Deposit Placement Agreement. Grasshopper Bank, N.A. uses a third-party vendor and agent to help administer this sweep process. Visit https://www.intrafi.com/network-banks/ for a list of the banks and savings associations with which we/Grasshopper, N.A. have a business relationship for the placement of deposits at destination institutions, and into which your deposits may be placed (subject to applicable terms with you, and any opt-outs by Grasshopper, N.A. or you). The current maximum deposit insurance amount for your funds is up to $125 million in FDIC insurance through the sweep network of Grasshopper Bank, N.A, subject to change at any time with notice from Meow and/or pursuant to applicable law. Terms and restrictions apply. Subject to applicable rate sheet. Interest rate on checking products quoted in Annual Percentage Yield (APY). Interest rates and yields are effective as per the date on the applicable rate sheet. See applicable terms and restrictions and refer to the applicable rate sheets for additional information.

By opening a Maximum Checking account through Meow and if you choose to receive banking services provided by Third Coast Bank SSB, you deposit your funds into a deposit account at Third Coast Bank SSB. If you also hold funds in a sweep program with Third Coast Bank SSB, Third Coast Bank SSB sweeps those funds into deposit accounts across a network of FDIC-insured banks, for up to the current SMDIA of $250,000 per eligible depositor, per receiving bank, for each ownership capacity or category, including any other balances you may hold at that receiving bank directly or indirectly through other intermediaries, including broker-dealers. Third Coast Bank SSB uses a third-party vendor and agent to help administer this sweep process. Visit Third Coast Bank SSB for a list of the banks and savings associations with which we/Third Coast Bank SSB have a business relationship for the placement of deposits at receiving banks, and into which your deposits may be placed (subject to applicable terms with you, and any opt-outs by Third Coast Bank or you). The current maximum deposit insurance amount for your funds is up to $50 Million in FDIC insurance through the sweep network of Third Coast Bank, subject to change at any time with notice from Meow and/or pursuant to applicable law. Terms and restrictions apply. Subject to applicable rate sheet. Interest rate on checking products quoted in Annual Percentage Yield (APY). Interest rates and yields are effective as per the date on the applicable rate sheet. See applicable terms and conditions and refer to the applicable rate sheet for additional information.

By opening a Maximum Checking account through Meow and if you choose to receive banking services provided by FirstBank, a Tennessee corporation, you deposit your funds into a deposit account at FirstBank, which sweeps those funds into deposit accounts across a network of FDIC-insured banks, for up to the current SMDIA of $250,000 per eligible depositor, per destination institution, for each ownership capacity or category, subject to applicable terms and conditions, including FirstBank's ICS Deposit Placement Agreement. FirstBank uses a third-party vendor and agent to help administer this sweep process. Visit IntraFi for a list of the banks and savings associations with which FirstBank has a business relationship for the placement of deposits at destination institutions, and into which your deposits may be placed (subject to applicable terms with you, and any opt-outs by FirstBank or you). The current maximum deposit insurance amount for your funds is up to $125 million in FDIC insurance through the sweep network of FirstBank, subject to change at any time with notice from Meow and/or pursuant to applicable law. Terms and restrictions apply. Subject to applicable rate sheet. Interest rate on checking products quoted in Annual Percentage Yield (APY). Interest rates and yields are effective as per the date on the applicable rate sheet. See applicable terms and restrictions and refer to the applicable rate sheet for additional information.

***FDIC insurance coverage is only available to protect you against the failure of an FDIC-insured bank that holds your deposits (and does not protect you against the failure of Meow or other third party). Your account with Meow and all services provided to you are subject to the Meow Terms of Service (“Account Agreements”) and other applicable terms and no other representations or warranties, express or implied, are provided to you except as expressly set forth in those written Account Agreements. If you have any questions regarding your account, please contact team@meow.com.

FirstBank Funds Availability Notice

FirstBanks general policy is to allow you to withdraw funds deposited in your account on the first business day after the day we receive your deposit. Funds from electronic deposits will be available on the day we receive the deposit. In some cases, we may delay your ability to withdraw funds beyond the first business day. Then, the funds will generally be available by the SECOND business day after the day of deposit.