What Is an IRS Tax Identification Number?

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Whether you’re applying for a new apartment, starting at a new job or opening a bank account, you usually need to provide your IRS tax identification number. But what exactly is that? And what do you do if you don’t know yours? Fortunately, you do have some options. If you want to find out more about IRS tax ID numbers, here’s what you need to know.

What Is My IRS Tax ID Number?

An IRS tax ID number is a personal identifier that allows the IRS to connect your tax-related activities to your future tax filings. No two people, businesses or entities have the same tax IDs; these numbers are wholly unique to each person, company or entity they’re assigned to.

For individuals, there are two potential tax ID numbers. First, Social Security numbers (SSNs) are traditionally used as tax identification numbers. If you aren’t eligible for an SSN, you may have an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) instead. If you aren’t sure whether you need one or the other, you can turn to the IRS interactive tax assistant for help.

Businesses may require an Employer Identification Number (EIN). These serve a similar purpose as SSNs and ITINs but point to a business instead of an individual. Again, you can head online to find out if you need an EIN and how to apply for one.

How Can I Look Up My Tax ID Number?

If you have an SSN, the easiest way to find your tax ID number is to check your Social Security card. You might also find it printed on past tax returns and other tax-related documents, such as W-2s or 1099s. Passports and immigrant visas may also show SSNs.

If you can’t find anything with your SSN and your Social Security card is lost or stolen, you’ll need to request a replacement. If you have an existing My Social Security account through the Social Security Administration (SSA), you may be able to do so online. You can also head into a local Social Security office to request a replacement.

If you have an ITIN, you can call the IRS at 800-908-9982 and answer some questions to confirm your identity. Once that’s done, you’ll learn about options for getting the information you need.

If you’ve lost or misplaced an EIN, the IRS can help. You can contact the Business & Specialty Tax Line for assistance at 800-829-1040 and potentially get the number over the phone.

Can I Look Up an EIN Online?

There are ways to look up an EIN online, but the approaches don’t work in every scenario. If you need information on a publicly traded company, you may be able to search the Securities and Exchange Commission website to find the information. For nonprofits, the IRS has a search tool.

If you have a state business license, you may find your EIN in your online account. It might also show up on old tax filings online or any online loan documents relating to your company. If you can’t find it there, then you likely can’t look up the number online.

Can I Look Up a Federal Tax ID Number?

Generally speaking, you won’t find federal tax ID numbers online, and for good reason. There are risks associated with making that information accessible online, such as increasing a person’s odds of experiencing identity theft. If the approaches above don’t work or aren’t applicable to your situation, you may need to contact the IRS or SSA over the phone to find out what to do.