How to Obtain Your Nonprofit Employer Identification Number

By Stan Hutton, Frances Phillips

The first thing to do for your nonprofit after you complete your incorporation is to apply to the IRS for an Employer Identification Number, or EIN. Even if you don’t plan to hire employees anytime soon, you need this number for your application for tax exemption and for all your state and federal reports. The EIN will be attached to your nonprofit forever.

Getting an EIN is easy and free. All you have to do is submit IRS Form SS-4. You can either download and print the form from Choose only one method to apply for your EIN. Don’t send in IRS Form SS-4 and apply by telephone. You may end up with two EINs, a confusing situation for everyone.

The name of the applicant isn’t your name; it’s the name of your new organization. As with the incorporation papers, you need to identify an individual as the principal officer and include that person’s Social Security number on the form. Here are some of the other items you need to fill out, line by line:

The IRS estimates that you’ll receive your EIN in four to five weeks if you apply by mail. You’ll receive your EIN immediately if you submit the online application.

If you want to apply for an EIN by telephone, the person named as the principal officer on the SS-4 Form must call the IRS Business and Specialty Tax Line at (800) 829-4933.

Be sure that you’ve completed the SS-4 Form before you make the call. An IRS worker takes your information over the phone and assigns an EIN to your organization. You must fax or mail the form to the appropriate IRS office within 24 hours of making the call.