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What Is Form SS-4 — and Why Would Need to Fill One Out?

By Erin Ryan Reviewed By Mike Lucas
By Erin Ryan
By Erin Ryan Reviewed By Mike Lucas

An SS-4 Form is an application you must complete to obtain your company’s federal employer identification number (EIN). 

After you submit it, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) responds by sending you an SS-4 notice, which is different from your application. This is an important document small business lenders ask to see when you’re applying for financing. 

Here’s what you need to know about Form SS-4, how you can apply for an EIN and why lenders ask to see your Form SS-4 notice.

What Is Form SS-4?

IRS Form SS-4 is completed by corporations, employers, estates, partnerships, sole proprietors, trusts and certain individuals seeking an EIN for tax reporting and filing purposes. Upon successful approval of the SS-4 form (also known as the Application for Employer Identification Number), the IRS will issue you a unique 9-digit number. 

The IRS also will send you your SS-4 notice, which you can use to show lenders your unique number, also known as a business tax ID.

  • Why Do You Need an EIN?

    You’ll need an EIN if you want to open a business bank account, pay your employees, need business financing or have to apply for a business license.

    Akin to Social Security numbers (SSNs), EINs are unique numbers. The same way that an SSN verifies the identity of a person living in the U.S., an EIN identifies a business entity.

How to File Form SS-4: Online, Mail or Fax

Applying for an EIN couldn’t be easier through the IRS website, which provides you with an EIN immediately when you apply online. An alternative to submitting your SS-4 through snail mail is completing your application on the EIN Assistant page. Here, you can essentially file your SS-4 online, and the application is free. This option only is available to applicants in the U.S. or U.S. possessions.

If you aren’t applying for Form SS-4 online, you can download the 2-page PDF of the application from the IRS website and submit your completed form via fax or mail. 

If you’re an international applicant, you can apply for an EIN by telephone.

If you submitted your form by fax, you should receive your EIN back by fax within 4 business days. Alternatively, if you apply by mail, you could have your notice in about 4 weeks.

It’s important to note that without a Form SS-4 notice, your application for a small business loan could be delayed or declined, so it’s good to know how long it will take for your notice to arrive. 

A man is seated at a desk taking a call on his cell phone as he uses a pen to write down details.

SS-4 Instructions: What You’ll Need to Apply

Completing the IRS Form SS-4 shouldn’t take much time. Answer 18 questions and provide a few details about your business.

Specifically, the SS-4 requires you to provide the following information:

  • Your company’s name and full address, including county
  • The name of the applicant and their SSN or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) 
  • The reason you’re applying for an EIN
  • Your business entity type (e.g., sole proprietor, partnership, corporation or nonprofit)
  • The date you first conducted business
  • The sector your business operates in
  • Closing month of accounting year
  • Highest number of employees expected in the next 12 months
  • First date wages or annuities were paid
  • Your principal business activity and the type of products and services your company sells

The IRS will allow any responsible party to submit Form SS-4 on your company’s behalf. Responsible parties include individuals or entities that control, manage or direct your business and its funds and assets.

A business professional in a yellow sweater is completing a paper form with a pen.

How to Get a Copy of Your SS-4

If you’ve checked every nook and cranny for your Form SS-4 notice and come up short, don’t worry. If you applied for your EIN through the IRS website, you should have received your Form SS-4 notice as a PDF.

Failing that, you still have a few options to get a copy of your Form SS-4 and be well on your way to getting a business loan.

Here’s how to get your IRS Form SS-4:

  • If your business has an accountant, they’re likely to have completed the Form SS-4 for you and should have a copy of the notice before completing your tax return. Ask for a copy.
  • To open a business bank account, you’re required to provide a copy of your Form SS-4 notice. Get in touch with your bank to see if it’s able to provide you with a copy of their records.
  • If you’ve tried the two methods above to no avail, you can contact the IRS Business and Specialty Tax Line at 1-800-829-4933 to request a copy of the EIN assignment letter. It’s important to note that only an authorized person within your business can request a copy of the EIN assignment letter.

Why Would a Lender Request a Copy of an SS-4?

When applying for a business loan, lenders will ask for a Form SS-4 notice, as opposed to requesting a copy of the EIN application itself. 

When applying for a personal loan, your lender could validate your SSN by checking your Social Security card. However, there’s no card for an EIN, so taking out a business loan will require the business’s SS-4 notice to be verified.

To ensure that your loan application goes smoothly, lenders may not allow you to use previous tax returns to verify your EIN. Tax returns often contain clerical errors, typographical errors and incorrect information. This prolongs the process of reviewing and underwriting your business loan application, causing further delays for you to secure business financing.

If you’re a sole proprietor or limited liability company without any employees, you might not have an EIN because you aren’t required to for tax purposes. In that case, a lender won’t need to see an EIN or Form SS-4 notice from you because the loan will be in your name. The lender will instead use your SSN to complete your loan application.

Get Prepared Before Applying for Business Finance

Before starting the application process, it’s crucial to gather your business documents. Struggling to find the relevant forms or requesting copies once the application process has begun will interfere with the lender’s ability to approve and fund your business loan. 

Ensure a smooth process by having everything you need to provide prepped and ready for your lender’s review.

Erin Ryan Social Community Manager, Senior Writer and Editor at Fast Capital 360
Erin has more than 15 years’ experience writing, proofreading and editing web content, technical documentation, instructional materials, marketing copy, editorials, social copy and creative content. In her role at Fast Capital 360, Erin covers topics of interest to small business owners, including sales, marketing, business management and financing.
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