Get a Federal Tax ID (USA)

To pay taxes in the United States, the Internal Revenue Service ("IRS") requires each individual or entity submitting tax returns to use a Taxpayer Identification Number ("TIN") when filing.[1] The specific type of TIN you must use depends on your circumstances. Most individuals use a social-security number ("SSN") issued by the Social Security Administration to file. Business entities and certain individuals who cannot get an SSN must use different TINs, referred to as an Employer Identification Number ("EIN") and an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number ("ITIN"), respectively.


Getting a Social Security Number ("SSN")

  1. Determine if you are eligible for an SSN. U.S. citizens, and non-citizens authorized to work in the U.S., are eligible to receive a Social Security Number or a replacement card if they lose the first one.[2] This is the most common identification number used to file individual tax returns.
    • On Form 1040—the form most individuals use to file their income taxes—the default TIN is the filer's SSN, and there is a designated space for this number in the upper-right corner of the first page of the form.[3][4]
    • Thus, if you are filing as an individual and already have a SSN, you will not need a separate TIN, and should simply use your SSN when filing taxes.
  2. Gather documents. In most cases, you will need at least two documents that prove your identity ,such as a driver's license or state-issued identification card. If you are applying as a US citizen, one of these must be a US birth certificate or US passport.[5] To check your exact requirements, visit the Social Security requirements page and select the buttons on the left that describe your individual situation. The page will update to display exactly which documents you will need to obtain either a new or replacement SSN. All documents should be originals, or official copies certified by the issuing agency.
    • Select Child if you are applying on behalf of someone under 18. Otherwise, select Adult.
    • Select Original if you never had an SSN, or Replacement if you once had a card but no longer do. If you are at least 12 years old and have never had an SSN, you will need evidence that you never had an SSN, such as an old tax form or any documents showing you lived outside the US.[6]
    • Select U.S. Born Citizen, Foreign Born Citizen, or Noncitizen as applicable.
    • Photocopies, or even notarized copies, of required official documents are not accepted by the IRS. In addition, the documents must be current and unexpired. A receipt stating that you applied for a particular document is not acceptable in lieu of the actual document.[7]
  3. Fill out the application form. Print out Form SS-5 and fill out the application on the last page. If you do not have access to a printer, visit the Social Security office locator to find an office near you. The office locator will display contact information and operating hours for the IRS office closest to your zip code.[8] Call or visit this office to request Form SS-5, which will be provided to you free of charge.
    • Be sure to read the first four pages of Form SS-5 before you complete the last page, as they provide detailed instructions on how to complete the form.[9]
  4. Submit the form and accompanying documents. Use the online office locator to find a Social Security office near you. Mail the completed form and documents to this office and your Social Security card will be mailed back to you along with the documents you submitted to support your application.[10]
    • You can choose to visit the IRS office nearest you in person to apply for a new or replacement SSN. Doing so is recommended if you would otherwise be required to mail—and therefore be without for some time—important documents that you use in daily life, such as a driver's license or passport. If you are 12 or older and have never received a SSN, you must apply in person.[11]
  5. Let your employer know you've applied. If you are employed by a U.S. organization, it will need your SSN to report your wages to the IRS. If your employer is not sure what to do while you are waiting for a SSN, refer them to this website for instructions.

Getting an Employer Identification Number ("EIN")

  1. Determine if you are eligible for an EIN. Most business entities need an EIN. Individuals can also get an EIN so they don't have to put their social security number on tax documents.[12] The IRS provides a detailed checklist to determine whether you need one on its website. You likely need an EIN if any of the following is true:
    • your organization has employees
    • you operate as a corporation or partnership
    • you file employment, excise, or alcohol-tobacco-and-firearms tax returns
    • you withhold taxes on income paid to a non-resident alien
    • you have a Keogh plan, or
    • you are involved with nonprofits, trusts and estates, or farmers' cooperatives.
  2. Fill out the online form. From Monday to Friday, 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. EST, you can use the official IRS online form to apply for an EIN.[13] This is a fairly short application that asks for basic information such as your organization's name, address, and number of employees. The website should issue you an EIN immediately, as long as you have provided this information and meet the following criteria:[14]
    • You must be a responsible party of the organization (typically an owner or partner) and have a valid TIN (e.g., SSN, ITIN, EIN).[15]
    • The business must be located within the United States or U.S. Territories.
    • If the business (1) already has an EIN and (2) received this EIN online, it must apply using one of the other methods below when changing its EIN.
  3. Call for assistance. If you have any questions about the application process, or if you think your business might already have an EIN but you do not know what it is, call the IRS at (800) 829-4933.[16] If you are calling from outside the US, call 267-941-1099 instead.[17]
  4. Mail or fax the application form. If you would prefer to fill out a paper application, print a copy of Form SS-4 here or visit a local IRS office and request a copy of this form (enter your ZIP code here to find the IRS office closest to you). Be sure to read the official instructions for completing Form SS-4[18], as they will tell you exactly how to fill out the form based on your individual circumstances. Fill out the form according to the instructions and then send it to one of the following addresses:[19][20]
    • Mail, applicants located in a U.S. state or District of Columbia:
      • Internal Revenue Service
      • Attn: EIN Operation
      • Cincinnati, OH 45999
    • Fax, U.S. applicants: (859) 669-5760
    • Mail, international applicants:
      • Internal Revenue Service
      • Attn: EIN International Operation
      • Cincinnati, OH 45999
    • Fax, international applicants: (859) 669-5987
    • Response by mail may take up to five weeks. Response by fax typically takes one week if you provide a return fax number.
  5. Know how to file taxes without an EIN. If you cannot obtain an EIN before the deadline for mailing your tax returns, send your returns in anyway with this notation:[21]
    • In the Employer Identification Number box, write "Applied For."
    • If you have not yet sent in an application, print and fill out Form SS-4 and attach it to the return.

Getting an Individual Tax Identification Number ("ITIN")

  1. Determine if you are eligible for an ITIN. ITINs are reserved for those individuals who are required to file taxes in the U.S., but do not qualify for an SSN.[22] These individuals include:[23]
    • A nonresident alien required to file a tax return in the United States.
    • A U.S. resident alien required to file a U.S. tax return.
    • A dependent or spouse of a U.S. citizen/resident alien or nonresident alien visa holder.
    • If you have submitted an application for an SSN, but have not yet received it, do not apply for an ITIN. Only apply for an ITIN if the Social Security Administration tells you that it cannot issue you an SSN.[24]
    • If you are eligible for an SSN, apply for and use this number. An ITIN—issued to those ineligible for an SSN—neither authorizes work in the U.S. nor provides eligibility for social-security benefits.[25] You will also not be eligible to receive the Earned Income Credit if you use an ITIN to file taxes.
  2. Complete Form W-7. Print out Form W-7 from the IRS website and complete the form. Be sure to read the full instructions before filling out the form, as they provide detailed information on exactly how to complete the form.
    • You will need to submit, along with Form W-7, the following: a valid federal income-tax return, original documents proving your identity (or copies certified from the issuing agency), and documents establishing your foreign status.[26]
    • In Spanish (en español): the form and instructions.
  3. Get help with your application if necessary. You may need additional forms or documents to prove your identity and foreign status. If you have any questions, here's how to reach someone who can help:[27]
    • If you are in the U.S., call the IRS at its toll-free number: 1-800-829-1040.
    • If you are outside of the U.S., make an international call to 267-941-1000. (This is not free.)
    • The IRS offers in-person document review services at certain locations throughout the country.[28] You can visit one of these Taxpayer Assistance Centers for help with filling out the required forms, either by walk-in or appointment.
    • Visit this website to find an Acceptance Agent to help you out in person or over the phone. These are available even in some countries outside of the United States.
  4. Mail in the application. Once you have filled out Form W-7 and gathered any required documents, mail them to the address below. If you are filing a tax return, attach the completed tax return as well, with "Applied For" written where your TIN would normally go. You should receive your ITIN within seven weeks.[29]
    • Internal Revenue Service
    • Austin Service Center
    • ITIN Operation
    • P.O. Box 149342
    • Austin, TX 78714-9342


  • Keep all copies of tax forms, especially the one detailing your TIN. Even if you are a foreigner planning to leave the U.S., you can still be held accountable for tax liability after you leave. Keep the documents for at least three years after your last tax return.
  • You can only receive one EIN per day, even if you are applying on behalf of multiple organizations. If this limitation prevents you from receiving an EIN before taxes are due, send the tax form with "Applied For" written in the EIN box, and attach a completed Form SS-4.[30][31]
  • The IRS recommends that an organization does not apply for an EIN until it is officially, legally recognized.[32]

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  12. [v161285_b01]. 3 March 2020.