If you run a small business as a sole proprietor, then you have probably used your social security number while filing your tax returns.

For most other forms of business, you are unlikely to use your social security number to file the returns and get away with it. The Internal Revenue Service or IRS requires that you have a unique identification number for your business called the employer identification number (EIN)

Also referred to as federal tax ID or business tax ID number, EIN is a nine-digit number that the IRS assigns businesses in the United States for identification purposes. 

You need this number as a business owner to not only file taxes, but also obtain a license for your business operations, open a business bank account, or apply for a commercial loan. 

In any of these cases, not having the business tax ID or missing a single one of the nine-digit number would mean you’re not getting the service. Misplacing the number could also prevent you from filing your business tax returns on time and end up shouldering burdensome legal charges.

Since it is not something you use all the time, memorizing your Federal Employer Identification Number can be difficult. You should ideally write and keep it at some safe location where you can retrieve it at a moment’s call. But if you lose your EIN for any reason, recovering it should be stress-free. 

This write-up guide’s you on how to look up your business tax ID in case you forget, lose, or misplace it. 

First things first, how to get your EIN

Like most government requirements, you obtain this business ID by applying for it through any of the EIN application methods available: 

  1. Applying online 
  2. Applying by Fax
  3. Applying by mail 
  4. Applying by telephone – for international applicants

The whole process should be easy, especially if you apply online. With the online option, you should be able to complete the application process in a matter of minutes. International applicants with no legal residence in the United States can also apply by fax or mail, in addition to telephone – and get their EIN within a couple of weeks, usually four. 

If you already got your EIN but somehow forgot or misplaced it, here are the methods you can use to look it up. 

Method 1: Check the places where the tax ID is usually recorded 

The very first place where your EIN is usually recorded is the Confirmation Letter. 

Your EIN confirmation letter is the original document that you get from the IRS when you first apply for the tax ID. Depending on the method you used to apply for the EIN, your confirmation letter could be available online, on mail, return fax, or return mail.

The chances are that you stored the EIN confirmation letter along with the rest of your key business paperwork, including the incorporation documents and bank account information. This should be the first place to look for the letter (if it came in the form of a physical letter from the IRS). 

Suppose you are unable to locate the letter anywhere, proceed to check: 

  • Your old federal tax returns, it should be stamped all over these piles of paperwork. More specifically, your EIN will be at the top of the first page of your return paperwork. 
  • Your business permits and licenses.
  • Official tax notices from the Internal Revenue Service – they’ll always include it to identify your business. 
  • The bank account statements of your business, or the bank itself via a telephone call. 
  • Your business’ payroll paperwork. These include the 1099 forms that you send out to independent contractors and more. 
  • Your business loan applications or credit report. 

One or more of these resources will have the number, and you can pick it up and write it down somewhere for future reference, in case you forget or lose it again. 

Method 2: Contact the IRS and ask them for the EIN

On the off chance that you do not locate your EIN in any of the resources mentioned above, then you still have another card to play: call up the federal revenue body and have them send it to you. 

Final thoughts 

In most cases, locating your EIN won’t be difficult. Oftentimes you’ll be able to find it without having to contact the IRS for help. And, if you use innovative technologies like Brief that minimize distractions and provide you with a way to focus and prioritize tasks, chances of losing the EIN in the first place will be extremely minimized. 

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