All businesses need an Employer Identification Number (or EIN). To avoid having to use a personal social security number while you set up your nonprofit, it is wise to apply for an EIN as soon as possible.
The federal government and many state and local agencies use the EIN to identify your organization. The EIN takes the place of a personal social security number.
Anyone associated with your new nonprofit can apply for the EIN, using his or her social security number. But the best way to handle it is to ask the person who is acting as your incorporator to do it. Once the EIN is established no personal social security number will have to be used.
Getting an EIN has nothing to do with whether your organization actually has employees or not. It will be used for purchasing (many suppliers will ask for your EIN), for filing your organization's 990 tax form, on all of your legal documents, and for accounting purposes.
The person applying for the EIN will need to have, besides his or her social security number, your organization's legal name and address. It is safe to use that social security number. It's only a temporary "pass" to the actual EIN.
There are three ways to obtain the EIN and they are all simple:
- Call 1-800-829-4933 (toll free) to make the application, or
- Download IRS Form SS-4 from the IRS website. Fill out the form and fax or mail it in, or
- Apply online and have the confirmation letter emailed to you.
To make sure that you understand exactly what to do and how, check out the IRS instructions for applying for an EIN.
Once you have the EIN, you can use it on all the documents pertaining to your nonprofit.