For a small business, an EIN, or employer identification number, is the heart behind your taxes. Many sole proprietors and independent contractors choose to use EINs to avoid giving out their Social Security numbers. Of course, the IRS reminds you repeatedly to keep that number safe and never lose it – but hey, we're only human. Things undeniably happen. Maybe your server crashes and you lose massively important company information. Maybe a contractor simply forgot to fill out the Form W2 with the EIN. Typically, the only way to retrieve this company tax number is by contacting the company, but if they're unresponsive and tax time is looming, you may want to take matters into your own hands.
TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)
If you are unable to find an EIN after searching your records, you can contact the IRS directly. For some types of entities, such as nonprofits and publicly traded companies, the EIN might be available online.
If You Lost Your EIN Number
If you're one of the unlucky few who have lost their company's EIN number, you can retrieve it from the IRS. First, look at old tax returns to see if you can find the information. For example, if you used the EIN to open a bank account, you can ask the bank. If you're super-organized, you may also have the computer-generated notice the IRS initially sent you filed away in some cabinet in your office. It never hurts to double-check.
If you can't find your EIN, it's time to contact the IRS. Call the agency's Business and Specialty Tax line at 800-829-4933. You'll need to give some information over the phone and you must be an authorized person, such as a sole proprietor or a partner of the business.
Finding an EIN for a Nonprofit Organization
The IRS makes finding an EIN for a tax-exempt, nonprofit pretty simple. All you have to do is use the Tax Exempt Organization Search on the IRS website. Search the database by company name, and it will clearly list the company's EIN.
Finding an EIN for a Publicly Traded Company
Finding an EIN for someone else's business is a little more complicated. If the company is publicly traded on the stock market you can probably find the EIN on the company's Investor Relations website. Most publicly traded companies have a filings page on their website for investors to check out.
Using EDGAR to Find an EIN
Publicly traded companies are registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The SEC protects investors, and they have an online tool to help you find important company information. This tool is called EDGAR, or SEC's Electronic Data Gathering, Analysis, and Retrieval system. EDGAR is totally free to the public, and all you have to do is look up the company's name.
Examining Public Records
Not every business is registered with EDGAR, but sometimes the EIN is on public record. If the company has used an EIN on county government or local city forms, you may be able to retrieve these documents through your local government. For example, if a business takes out a business license, that paperwork includes an EIN and might be public knowledge.
The easiest way to retrieve a company's EIN is still to simply ask. They've got no reason to refuse to give it to you, especially if you've worked with them in the past.
Mariel Loveland is a small business owner, content strategist and writer from New Jersey. Throughout her career, she's worked with numerous startups creating content to help small business owners bridge the gap between technology and sales. Her work has been featured in publications like Business Insider and Vice.