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Nonprofits need an Employer Identification Number, also referred to as a Tax Identification Number, from the Internal Revenue Service even if they don't have employees. An EIN is required to open bank accounts and apply for tax-exemption, as well as to pay employee taxes and FICA. Nonprofits must be incorporated in the state they're headquartered in before applying for an EIN.
Incorporation involves filing articles of incorporation with the office of the Secretary of State or other appropriate state agency, as well as electing a board of directors and creating bylaws. If a nonprofit gets an EIN before becoming incorporated and doesn't file IRS informational tax returns for three years, it could lose IRS tax-exemption status, if it already has received it.
Obtaining the Number
For quickest results, nonprofits can apply online for an EIN at the IRS website, Monday through Friday, between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. Eastern time, and receive their EIN number almost immediately. They can also file a Form SS-4, "Form SS-4, Application for Employer Identification Number," by fax or mail. The EIN application requests basic information such as the organization's legal and trade names and the name of its principle officer, its address, start date, number of employees, main business purpose and closing month of accounting year.
Located in the mid-Atlantic United States, Elizabeth Layne has covered nonprofits and philanthropy since 1997, and has written articles on an array of topics for small businesses and career-seekers. An award-winning writer, her work has appeared in "The Chronicle of Philanthropy" newspaper and "Worth" magazine. Layne holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from The George Washington University.