How do I obtain an EIN for my startup?

This article assumes your startup was incorporated in Delaware.

You may apply for an EIN online, by fax, or by mail. Be aware that your US taxpayer status may affect your eligibility for some of these methods.

Applying Online

You must have a US taxpayer ID to apply online.

Many startups can obtain an EIN on the IRS website. The person who fills out this online application is generally one of the startup’s founders or officers. Typically, the applicant must be what the IRS calls the “responsible party”, which is someone who controls, manages, and directs the startup. Someone other than the responsible party may only apply for the EIN if they’ve received proper authorization.

Note that when the online EIN application asks where your corporation is physically located, they mean your startup's primary physical location. This is usually the address of your startup’s headquarters, main office, or wherever your startup’s officers are most often working. For startups that don’t yet have an office or who split activities between multiple locations, this is often the home address of one of the founders. It is not the address of your startup’s registered agent.

Be aware that eligibility to apply online does not guarantee you’ll be able to obtain an EIN online. Some applicants may receive an error message directing them to apply by fax or mail.

Applying by Fax or Mail

You do not need a US taxpayer ID to apply by fax or mail. If your startup is a Delaware corporation but you don’t have a US taxpayer ID, you can use these methods.

You can also apply for an EIN by fax or mail. You can do this by faxing or mailing a completed EIN application form (Form SS-4) to the appropriate mailing address or fax number. If you have questions about how to fill out Form SS-4, you can find more information on the IRS website.

If you choose to apply by fax, the IRS will fax the new EIN back to you after it has been assigned. While the IRS estimates a wait time of four business days to a week for the EIN to be faxed back to you, we’ve observed that it can often take a month or longer. Some customers have had success receiving the EIN earlier than they might have otherwise by calling the IRS at 1-800-829-4933 and asking if the EIN has been assigned yet. If it has been assigned, the IRS may be able to fax it immediately. Note that calling the IRS will not cause the EIN to be assigned sooner — it just gives you a chance to shorten the delay between when the EIN is assigned and when it's faxed to you.

For customers who choose to mail their SS-4 instead of faxing it, the IRS estimates a wait time of four or five weeks. This is only an estimated turnaround time provided by the IRS and is not guaranteed.

What About Applying by Phone?

Only corporations that were incorporated outside of the US are eligible to apply for an EIN by phone. This can be a confusing topic because the IRS website states that “international applicants” may apply by phone. In practice, even if the corporation in question or its founders are located outside of the US, the IRS staff won’t allow corporations incorporated in the US (including in Delaware) to apply for an EIN by phone. If you consider yourself an “international applicant” but your corporation was incorporated in the US, you will need to apply for an EIN either online (if eligible) or by fax or mail.

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