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, which is the fastest method, or you can apply by fax or mail. Clerky startups that choose to apply by fax can either apply on their own or through Clerky. Be aware that US taxpayer status and other circumstances may affect your ability to use some of these methods.

This article will cover:

Applying on the IRS Website

You must have a US taxpayer ID to apply online.

Many startups can obtain an EIN on the IRS website within a few minutes. The person who fills out the online application typically needs to be 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

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

You can also apply for an EIN by fax. If your startup used Clerky to incorporate, you can choose to either do this on your own or through Clerky.

Whether you choose to apply on your own or through Clerky, the IRS will fax your startup’s EIN back after they assign it. The IRS estimates a wait time of four business days to a week to assign the EIN, but we’ve observed that it can often take a month or longer. See our article How long does it take to get an EIN? for more information around time estimates.

Applying for an EIN by fax on your own

You can apply for an EIN on your own by faxing the IRS your application, or Form SS-4. If you have questions about how to fill out Form SS-4, you can find more information on the IRS website. The IRS will then fax you back the new EIN back after it’s been assigned. If you’re curious about your application status with the IRS, see our article How do I check on the status of my EIN application?.

Applying for an EIN by fax through Clerky

Startups who incorporate using Clerky can use our in-house EIN functionality and apply by fax completely online. This is especially helpful for non-US founders and others without US taxpayer IDs who can’t use the IRS website. Simply go to the EIN step of your company formation checklist and we’ll walk you through the entire process.
EIN step of your company formation checklist on Clerky

After you answer a few questions to generate your EIN paperwork, we’ll fax it to the IRS. If you want to see where you are in the process at any time, you can go back to the EIN step in your company formation checklist to see your timeline. If you’d like more details about your application status with the IRS, see our article How do I check on the status of my EIN application?.

Timeline showing your EIN application progress on Clerky

As soon as we receive your startup’s EIN from the IRS, we’ll add it to your Clerky address book.

Your startup's EIN in your address book Clerky

Applying by Mail

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

Applying by mail is generally slower than applying by fax. If you choose to mail in your 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.

Applying by Phone

Delaware corporations are not eligible for this method.

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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