January 19, 2023

Everything you need to know about Form SS-4

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If you’ve spent any time looking over tax and accounting information for new or small businesses, chances are you’ve encountered Form SS-4, also known as the “Application for Employer Identification Number.” As the name indicates, this form is used when businesses apply for an employer identification number, or EIN.

An EIN is a 9-digit number issued by the IRS that serves as a unique identifier to your business for tax and accounting purposes. Most businesses will need an EIN, and even those that aren’t required can benefit from having one. 

In this guide, we’ll explain how to know if you need to file Form SS-4, and how to go about doing so. 

Do I need to file Form SS-4? 

An EIN is required in order to conduct many basic business functions, beyond just the ability to hire employees. Without an EIN, you won’t be able to pay federal taxes, open a business checking account or apply for business loans. 

Corporations and partnerships are required to file Form SS-4, as are businesses who have employees or pay employment taxes. Non-profit organizations, trusts and estates are also required. 

If you operate an LLC and want it to be taxed as an S-Corporation, you’ll need an EIN in order to file Form 2553. 

You’re not required to file Form SS-4 in every circumstance. If you’re a sole proprietor or have an LLC with no employees, for example, you don’t technically need an EIN. In this case, you’d use your personal social security number as your taxpayer identification instead.

Keep in mind, however, that the absence of an EIN will hamper your flexibility as a business. Situations may arise that will require you to file Form SS-4, like if your business grows such that you want to hire employees, or if you need to file for bankruptcy. Even if you’re a sole proprietor, it’s probably best to have an EIN even if you’re not required to have one right away. 

How to file

There aren’t separate sections on this form, so we’ll go line by line. 

  1. Begin with writing the legal name of your business. If you’re a sole proprietor, write your name instead. 
  2. If the trade name of your business is different from what you wrote on Line 1, indicate it here. 
  3. Enter the name of the trustee, or the name of the fiduciary in charge of the estate. Corporations should skip this line.  
  4. Enter the business’ mailing address.  
  5. If the business’ physical address is different from the mailing address listed in Line 4, indicate so here. 
  6. Indicate the county and state in which the business is primarily located. 
  7. Line 7a asks you to list the ”responsible party.” This is the person filling out the form, and could be the business’ owner, an officer or a partner. It should be an individual, assuming the applicant is a government entity. In 7b, enter the party’s social security number, EIN or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN). 
  8. Indicate whether the business is an LLC. If so, list the number of members, and whether it was organized in the United States. 
  9. In Line 9a, indicate the type of entity for which you’re filing Form SS-4 — even if you’re an LLC and checked “Yes” in Line 8. You may have to provide additional information, depending on the selection. Enter your social security number if you’re a sole proprietor, the tax form you plan to file if your business is a corporation, and so on. 
  10. Indicate your reason for applying for an EIN. This is straightforward; if you’re starting a new business, select “Started a new business.” If your reason is not listed, select “Other” and specify the reason. You must make a selection on this line. 
  11. List the date your business started (or the date you acquired it). This information should be readily available within state documents. 
  12. Enter the closing month of the business’ accounting year. Many businesses use the calendar year for accounting purposes, in which the closing month would be December. 
  13. Enter the highest number of employees expected in the next 12 months. Businesses with no expected employees should skip this line. 
  14. Indicate whether you wish to file Form 944. Businesses with expected employment tax liability of $1,000 per calendar year may elect to file Form 944 one per year, rather than file Form 941 every quarter. 
  15. Enter the first date wages or annuities were paid. 
  16. Select the description that best describes the principal activity of your business. If your business is a restaurant, for example, select “Accommodation & food service.” You must make a selection on this line; if none of the options fit, select “Other” and specify your business’ principal activity. 
  17. Describe your business in more detail here by indicating its primary services and/or products. 
  18. Indicate whether your business has ever applied for or received an EIN before. If so, enter the business’ previous EIN. 

Finally, sign and date Form SS-4. 

Can I apply for an EIN online? 

Instead of mailing or faxing Form SS-4 to the IRS, owners of U.S.-based businesses may apply online through the IRS website. The online portal is available Monday to Friday, and from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. Be aware that the session will expire after 15 minutes, so be sure to have all of the necessary information before you begin.

If you incorporate your business through Firstbase, we’ll take care of all the necessary paperwork to get an EIN for your company. Simply fill out the initial incorporation form and let us handle the rest. Click here to start the incorporation process now.

Final Thoughts 

At just one page long, Form SS-4 is relatively quick and easy to fill out. The required information shouldn’t take long to acquire, particularly if the applicant is a new or small business. 

As we’ve already noted, filing Form SS-4 has advantages even for business entity’s that are not required to do so. Consult with a tax professional if you have any further questions about whether you’re required to file, or whether it’s right for your business.

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