An EIN (Employer Identification Number), also known as Federal Tax ID Number, is a 9-digit number issued by the IRS that the United States federal government uses to identify a business for tax purposes. Every business with employees or registered in the U.S. as a partnership, multi-member LLC (limited liability company), or corporation is required to have an EIN. Foreign companies based in other countries that do business within the U.S. (including e-commerce or as an Amazon seller) must also have EINs to report income and pay taxes. But how do you apply for an EIN if you’re not a United States citizen?
EIN vs. SSN vs. ITIN
An Employer Identification Number (EIN), a Social Security Numbers (SSN), and an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) are all types of federal tax ID numbers issued by the IRS. However, who is eligible for them differs.
Employer Identification Number (EIN)
An EIN is used for tax purposes when a business owner doesn’t have an ITIN or SSN. Also, when importing goods into the United States, business owners must show an Employer Identification Number if they don’t have an ITIN or SSN.
EINs are used for:
- Filing business tax returns
- Opening a business bank account
- Payroll tax withholding, reporting, and payments
- Building business credit to make it easier to gain funding
The EIN application (Form SS-4) requests the name and Taxpayer Identification Number (SSN, ITIN, or EIN) of the “responsible party” who controls, manages, or directs the entity. The responsible party must be an individual, not a business entity.
Social Security Numbers (SSN)
Social Security Numbers are tax ID numbers exclusively issued to individuals who are citizens of the U.S. or its territories. Foreign individuals are not eligible to have an SSN. U.S. citizens can request an SSN using IRS Form SS-5.
Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN)
The IRS issues ITINs to individuals who must have a U.S. taxpayer identification number but are not eligible to obtain a Social Security Number. An ITIN allows individuals, including residents and nonresident aliens, to comply with federal tax laws, such as filing tax returns and making tax payments. To apply for an ITIN, individuals must submit IRS Form W-7.
Options for Non-U.S. Citizens
Non-U.S. citizens who own a business can obtain an EIN even though they do not have a Social Security Number.
- Foreign Business Owners with a Company Incorporated in the United States or U.S. Territories – Individuals not eligible for an SSN (only for U.S. citizens) can instead get an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number to identify themselves as taxpayers. Having an ITIN will allow a foreign business owner with a U.S.-based business to apply for an EIN online. Note that the company must have a physical presence in the U.S. (a U.S. mailing address alone is not sufficient) to qualify for using the online application.
- Foreign Business Owners with a Foreign Company – International business owners cannot use the online EIN form if their company is incorporated outside of the United States or U.S. territories.
Applying for an EIN Without an SSN or ITIN
Individuals without an SSN or ITIN will need to request an EIN by filing Form SS-4 by mail, fax, or phone. Form SS-4 asks for various information about the business, including its U.S. mailing address, the type of entity (e.g., partnership, LLC, corporation), the reason for requesting an EIN, and the industry the business is associated with.
Apply By Mail
International applicants without any legal residence, principal office, or principal agency in the U.S. or U.S. territories may submit their completed IRS Form SS-4 by mail if they wish.
IRS Mailing Address for Foreign Applicants:
Internal Revenue Service
Attn: EIN International Operation
Cincinnati, OH 45999
Know that it might take several weeks to get a business EIN when requesting one by mail from outside of the United States. After receiving an application by mail, the IRS’s processing time is four weeks, so factor in additional time for the assigned EIN to arrive by mail.
Apply By Fax
International applicants may fax their completed Form SS-4 to the IRS fax number dedicated for individuals outside the U.S.: 304-707-9471.
Generally, receiving an EIN will take approximately four business days after requesting one via fax.
Apply By Phone
The IRS allows only international applicants to apply for an EIN by phone. According to the instructions on Form SS-4: “If you have NO legal residence, principal place of business, or principal office or agency in the U.S. or U.S. possessions, you may call 267-941-1099 (not a toll-free number), 6:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. (Eastern Time), Monday through Friday, to obtain an EIN.”
The individual who will call the IRS must be someone authorized to get the EIN (i.e., the business owner or a Third Party Designee authorized to act on behalf of the business).
It’s helpful to prepare for the questions on Form SS-4 in advance of the phone call to save time and make the process go more smoothly. Generally, if all information is accurate and complete, the EIN will be issued at the end of the phone call.
CorpNet Simplifies the Process
While it’s not overly difficult to complete the EIN application, mistakes can delay the process. That could put a foreign-owned business entity at risk of not complying with federal tax requirements.
If you’re a non-U.S. citizen in need of an EIN, CorpNet is here to help you through the process. With our assistance, you can save time and have peace of mind that your EIN request is handled accurately and efficiently. Contact us to get started!