Applying for federal and state tax ID numbers

Your state tax ID and federal tax ID numbers — also known as an Employer Identification Number (EIN) — work like a personal social security number, but for your business. They let your small business pay state and federal taxes.

Get a federal tax ID number

Your Employer Identification Number (EIN) is your federal tax ID. You need it to pay federal taxes, hire employees, open a bank account, and apply for business licenses and permits.

It’s free to apply for an EIN, and you should do it right after you register your business.

Your business needs a federal tax ID number if it does any of the following:

  • Pays employees
  • Operates as a corporation or partnership
  • Files tax returns for employment, excise, or alcohol, tobacco, and firearms
  • Withholds taxes on income, other than wages, paid to a non-resident alien
  • Uses a Keogh Plan (a tax-deferred pension plan)
  • Works with certain types of organizations

Apply for an EIN with the IRS assistance tool. It will guide you through questions and ask for your name, social security number, address, and your “Doing Business As” (DBA) name. Your nine-digit federal tax ID becomes available immediately upon verification.

Change or replace your EIN

If you already have an EIN, you might have to change or replace it with a new one if certain changes have occurred with your business.

Types of business changes that might require you to change or replace your EIN are:

  • Name change
  • Address change
  • Changes in ownership
  • Changes in management
  • Change in tax status

Your requirements will depend on your business structure and the kind of change that occurred. Check with the IRS to determine exactly whether you need to change or replace your EIN.

What’s your number?

John and Kelly applied for federal and state ID numbers they need to pay taxes on income from their auto repair shop.

Get a state tax ID number

The need for a state tax ID number ties directly to whether your business must pay state taxes. Sometimes, you can use state tax ID numbers for other functions, like protection against identity theft for sole proprietors.

Tax obligations differ at the state and local levels, so you’ll need to check your state’s websites.

To know whether you need a state tax ID, research and understand your state’s laws regarding income taxes and employment taxes, the two most common forms of state taxes for small businesses.

The process to get a state tax ID number is similar to getting a federal tax ID number, but it will vary by state. You’ll have to check with your state government for specific steps.

State income and employment taxes for businesses

Seven states have no income tax, and another two only impose a tax on income from dividends. States that do tax income will determine figures based on business structure.

Taxes also vary by state on employment insurance and workers’ compensation insurance. Understand these and other implications in calculating startup costs and choosing a business structure.

Visit your state’s website to identify whether you need to get a state tax ID number to pay state taxes.