Paying taxes isn’t the highlight of anyone’s year, but it’s a mandatory task for most people in the U.S. Obviously, when it’s time to pay the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), you want to make sure every detail and all the calculations are correct. That starts with making sure you prepare all your tax information with the right tax ID. Whether you’re preparing tax and financial documents for the first time or you’ve simply misplaced your tax information, it’s possible to find your personal or business tax ID number.
Types of Tax Identification Numbers
Both individuals and businesses in the U.S. have to file tax returns every year to report their annual income and pay any unpaid taxes on that income. Names can be duplicated, so the IRS established a system of using completely unique numbers to identify each taxpayer. Officially known as a Tax Identification Number (TIN), TINs come in several forms. The Social Security Administration assigns numbers to American citizens and permanent residents in the form of social security numbers (SSN). Most citizens receive their social security numbers as children for use throughout their lives, and it’s common for them to memorize their SSNs by the time they are young adults.
In some cases, people are authorized to work in the U.S. but don’t qualify for an SSN. Examples include nonresident aliens and spouses and dependents of U.S. citizens or resident aliens who are not citizens themselves. The IRS issues Individual Tax Identification Numbers (ITIN) to these individuals to allow them to file income tax returns.
If your income comes from a business, you may file tax returns under your personal name, depending on the type of business. However, you must have an Employer Identification Number (EIN) if you pay other employees to work for you. You would then use that number to file income tax returns for your business. An EIN is also required for businesses that file taxes as a corporation or partnership and those that must pay certain types of taxes, such as taxes on alcohol, tobacco and firearms. It’s also possible that banks and certain business licensing authorities may require an EIN.
Track Down Your Social Security Number
In the U.S., an individual’s social security number is highly classified information. The number connects people to their credit histories and bank accounts in addition to their employment and tax histories. If you can’t remember your social security number, you won’t be able to simply do some electronic digging to find it. You will have to get creative and think about the resources you have at your disposal.
Your first course of action should be to check all your personal files and records, particularly financial documents, to look for your SSN. You can find this number on your tax returns, W-2 forms, 1099 forms, loan applications and documents, certain types of legal documents, and more.
Social security numbers are extremely sensitive because they are used as legal identification for bank accounts, credit card applications, public assistance and more. That means these entities have your social security number in their records. However, due to concerns about identity theft, they will usually require you to appear in person with several other forms of identification to prove your identity before sharing your SSN with you.
Replace Your Social Security Card
If you go to your local Social Security Administration office, you can leave with a new social security card in hand. Be sure to take the appropriate documents to prove your identity: driver’s license and birth certificate or passport (citizen); legal immigration documents and work eligibility documents (non-citizen). If you don’t need your SSN immediately, you can now request a replacement social security card online at the SSA.gov website by completing the security steps to set up a My Social Security account.
Contact the IRS for Your ITIN
If you have an ITIN number and can’t remember it, try searching through your existing tax, financial and employment records (as recommended for a social security number). If you can’t find a document with the information, you will need to contact the IRS for assistance. Confidential ITIN information will never be (legally) available online.
Search Business Records for Your EIN
Locating the EIN for your company should be much easier, as this number is often included on numerous types of company documents, including tax records, invoices, contracts, charitable donation letters, legal documents and more. Additionally, look for the official letter the IRS sent to your company when approving your EIN. You can also call the IRS to request the information, but you must be able to prove you are a person authorized to receive the information — partner, corporate officer, trustee, executor, etc.
If your company is a publicly traded company, many online services maintain databases of EINs that are accessible to the public — and most don’t charge for the service. For example, the Electronic Data Gathering Analysis and Retrieval system (EDGAR) is maintained by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and contains publicly disclosed information about thousands of companies. Additionally, Melissa Data provides tax ID information for nonprofit organizations.