How to Complete and File Form SS-4

SS-4 application

When you’re starting a business there are so many things to do and it’s hard to keep them all straight. One thing you’ll want to take care of sooner rather than later is applying for your Employer Identification Number (EIN).

An EIN is like a social security number for your business. The IRS will use this nine-digit number to identify your business when you pay certain taxes or pay employees. To apply for your EIN you’ll need to fill out and file Form SS-4. Below we’ll help you determine if you need to fill out and file an SS-4, and how to do it.

Do You Need to Apply for an EIN?
Before you start to fill out any information, you’ll want to determine if you need an EIN. If any of the following applies to you, you’ll need to fill out and file Form SS-4:

  • Do you or will you pay employees?
  • Is your business structure a corporation or a partnership?
  • Do you file tax returns for:
    • Employment?
    • Excise?
    • Alcohol, tobacco, and firearms?
  • Do you withhold taxes from income paid to a non-resident alien?
  • Do you have a Keogh plan?
  • Are you involved in a trust or estate?
  • Are you a non-profit organization?
  • Are you involved with real estate conduits?
  • Are you part of a farmers cooperative?
  • Are you a plan administrator?

How to Fill out Form SS-4
Once you determine that you need an EIN, your next step will be to complete Form SS-4. Because this form requires information about your business, you’ll want to have all your ducks in a row before you embark on filling it out. Here are a few important things to have on hand:

  • Your business’ legal name
  • What kind of entity you are (sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, etc.)
  • Why you’re applying now
  • The date you started or acquired your business
  • The closing month of your accounting year
  • How many employees you will have in the next year
  • Whether your annual payroll be under or over $1,000
  • What line of business/industry you’re in
  • If you’ve ever applied for an EIN before

Once you’ve completed this form, it’s time to submit it to the IRS. As we mentioned, There are a few ways to do this.

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How to Submit an SS-4

Electronically

You can complete the SS-4 on the IRS’ website through their online portal. To apply using this online portal you must have a business address in the U.S. and a valid taxpayer number (i.e., SSN). You must complete the application in one session (a session expires after 15 minutes of inactivity). Once you submit the application you will receive your EIN.

Pros of Submitting via the IRS Website
If you’re getting ready to start a business you have a lot on your plate, so applying from your computer and receiving an EIN immediately gets this off your to-do list faster.

Cons of Submitting via the IRS Website
Filling out tax forms isn’t always easy. As you’re filling out the application you may be confused or need to do additional research to complete certain sections. This can add time to this task, or even time out your session. Remember that this has to be completed in one go, so more than 15 minutes of researching can erase all of your hard work.

Mail
If you choose to file this form via mail, choose from the following.

If your business address is in the U.S., use this address:

Internal Revenue Service
Attn: EIN Operation
Cincinnati, OH 45999

If your business address isn’t in the U.S. or you don’t have a place of business, use this address:

Internal Revenue Service
Attn: EIN International Operation
Cincinnati, OH 45999

Once mailed, you can expect to get your EIN back by mail within four weeks.

Pros of Submitting by Mail
If you like to do things the old fashioned way, mail could be a good choice for you. If you’re someone who doesn’t need a lot of help interpreting the form and you don’t have any time constraints on getting your EIN, this method works just fine.

Cons of Submitting by Mail
If you’re managing most of your tasks digitally, running to the closest mailbox or post office might not be the most efficient way to file Form SS-4. This is also the most lengthy process for getting an EIN, coming in at one full month.

Fax
If you choose to file this form via fax, choose from the following.

If your business address is in the U.S., use this number:

Internal Revenue Service
Attn: EIN Operation
Cincinnati, OH 45999

Fax: (855) 641-6935

If your business address isn’t in the U.S. or you don’t have a place of business, use this number:

Internal Revenue Service
Attn: EIN International Operation
Cincinnati, OH 45999

Fax: (855) 215-1627 (within the U.S.)
Fax: (304) 707-9471 (outside the U.S.)

You’ll also need to provide your fax number to the IRS so it can fax you back your EIN within four business days.

Pros of Submitting by Fax
If you need your EIN sooner than a month, faxing is certainly a better option. This could also be a good choice if you’re opposed to applying online but want to save on postage and a trip to the closest mailbox.

Cons of Submitting by Fax
Fax machines aren’t easy to come by these days. If you don’t have one at home, you’re not going to want the IRS faxing your EIN back to the FedEx Office store where you filed your SS-4.

No matter which method you choose, it’s important that you do this early on. Your EIN will allow you to pay certain taxes, pay employees, and get specific kinds of tax returns; it is integral to your business to have one. Completing the SS-4 should be a high priority on your to-do list.

This article is intended as an overview on how to complete and file Form SS-4. It is not tax or legal advice that you can rely upon for your business. For specific guidance or advice, consult with a tax or legal professional.

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