The Benefits of Using an EIN

As of January 1, 2024, all limited liability companies (LLCs), including those without employees, must have an Employer Identification Number (EIN) to comply with the new Corporate Transparency Act (CTA) and Beneficial Ownership Information (BOI) filing requirements. While previously, single-member LLCs might not have needed an EIN, the advantages of obtaining one now are more significant than ever.

The benefits of having an EIN extend well beyond easing the process of filing federal and income tax returns and can be a crucial factor in enabling a variety of common business activities.

In this article, we’ll help you understand if and when obtaining an EIN is a wise choice for your business. For a comprehensive understanding of the EIN application process, please refer to our Ultimate Guide to EINs.

Benefits of Having an EIN

Understanding the diverse benefits of an EIN can help you decide whether it's right for your business. Here, we explore how an EIN facilitates tax filing and enhances your business's operational and financial landscape:

An EIN Indicates a Distinction Between a Person and their Business

One of the best reasons to apply for and obtain an EIN is for the benefit that comes with separating personal and business finances.

Many new business owners might initially choose to use their Social Security Number (SSN) as their tax filing number when starting out. However, SSNs are only meant to be used for identifying an individual for personal purposes such as taxpayer identification, securing employment, income reporting, collecting government benefits, and record-keeping.

On the other hand, an EIN is created as a company's unique identifier for business federal tax purposes.

But why is separating your personal assets from business liabilities important? Since January 1, 2024, all LLCs are required to have an EIN for CTA/BOI filings, making it essential for managing certain business structures and activities. This new mandate highlights the importance of obtaining an EIN to protect personal assets and ensure compliance.

For example, for small business owners, sole proprietors, self-employed independent contractors, single-member LLCs, and other entrepreneurs, overlapping expenses can create confusing gray areas in tax filings. This is especially important for single-member LLCs to remember, as they are required to manage distinct personal and business assets to maintain limited personal liability. Blurring the line between personal and business funds and transactions jeopardizes the personal liability protection inherent in an LLC structure and increases the risk of failing an audit. This can lead to the stressful necessity of clarifying unclear transactions when business owners can least afford the distraction.

A few other examples requiring sole proprietorships and LLCs to have an EIN:

  • If you plan to have a Keogh plan or retirement plan under self-employment
  • If you are in a partnership with two or more parties
  • If you have any form of employee benefits program, or
  • If you’re managing an estate or trust

Consider a freelance graphic designer, Alex, who initially used his SSN for all business transactions. After switching to an EIN, Alex secured a business credit card and qualified for business-specific tax deductions, clearly separating his personal and business finances.

In all of these cases, an EIN will ensure that any communication or tax filing requirements the business might incur will be seen by the IRS as separate from your personal tax profile, protecting yourself by establishing limited personal liability.

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An EIN Can Enhance Business Security and Credibility

An EIN is pivotal in enhancing your business's security and credibility. Using an EIN instead of your Social Security Number (SSN) for business transactions significantly reduces the risk of identity theft.

This safeguard protects your personal information from exposure to various business documents like W-9 and 1099 forms, sales tax invoices, and business credit applications.

For example, After obtaining an EIN, Michael, who owns a small online store, stopped using his SSN on supplier documents, significantly reducing the risk of identity theft.

An EIN establishes your business as a separate legal entity, enhancing your professional image and building trust with clients, vendors, and financial institutions. Whether you are an independent contractor in the gig economy or a small business owner, having an EIN reassures potential clients and partners of your commitment to best business practices and adherence to legal standards.

For example, Sara’s tech startup could partner with larger firms and received investment more easily once she obtained an EIN, signaling to partners and investors her commitment to professional business practices.

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An EIN Can Facilitate Financial Operations

An EIN is indispensable for opening business bank accounts and securing business loans. All national and regional banks require an EIN to set up dedicated business accounts, which is crucial for managing your company's finances separately from your personal ones. This separation is essential for accurate bookkeeping and financial management and simplifies tax preparation.

For example, A small café owner, Emily, could open a merchant services account under her business’s name using her EIN, facilitating smoother transactions and better cash flow management.

An EIN streamlines the process of securing business loans and credit, functioning similarly to a personal credit score to help build a corporate credit profile. Financial institutions view an EIN as a sign of a legitimate business, easing access to necessary funds for growth. This credibility allows businesses to obtain better loan rates and favorable credit terms.

For example, imagine a boutique clothing store looking to expand its operations. The owner, Jessica, applied for a business expansion loan. Having an EIN allowed her to streamline the application process, as the bank readily accepted her business financial statements and tax records linked to the EIN, proving the business's legitimacy and financial health. This eased the loan approval process, helping Jessica secure the funding she needed much quicker than if she had used her SSN.

Legal and Contractual Significance of an EIN

An EIN is a tax identifier and a critical component in various legal and contractual scenarios. Beyond the necessities of business licensing and filing a Beneficial Ownership Information Report (BOIR), an EIN is essential for:

  • Contract Enforcement: An EIN legitimizes a business entity in contractual agreements, enhancing its enforceability in legal disputes.
  • Compliance with Industry Regulations: Certain industries have specific regulatory requirements that can only be met with an EIN. For example, healthcare providers need an EIN to comply with HIPAA regulations, which safeguard patient information.
  • International Trade: Businesses engaged in international trade may require an EIN to comply with export and import regulations and to register with U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
  • Intellectual Property Registrations: For businesses that need to protect their inventions or trademarks, an EIN is required to register with the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
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An EIN Can Help Build Business Credit

While an EIN doesn’t necessarily build your business credit score on its own, the activities that are associated with it definitely do.

For example, using an EIN to open trade lines with suppliers or business credit cards can help a new company, like a catering business, establish a good credit history through consistent, on-time payments. These transactions help improve the business’s credit score, enabling access to larger credit lines and better operational expansion and stability terms.

Similarly, obtaining a D-U-N-S Number, also known as a D&B number, a unique nine-digit identifier by Dun & Bradstreet, is crucial for establishing a detailed business credit profile. It links directly to your credit information at Dun & Bradstreet, helping businesses and government agencies verify your company's activity and creditworthiness.

Once established, a DUNS number allows other businesses and lenders to access your D&B PAYDEX score, which is essential for securing supply credit and favorable loan conditions. While some government agencies no longer require a DUNS for contracts, having one can significantly enhance your eligibility for government business opportunities.

Together, an EIN and a DUNS number aid in building a reliable credit history and boost your company’s overall credibility, making it easier to secure loans and attract potential partners. These identifiers are key to establishing your business as financially responsible and operationally secure over the long term.

An EIN Can Be Essential in Contractual and Legal Activities

Whether you choose to apply for business bank accounts and loans or not, many other contractual and legal activities require you to have an EIN. Please see our Ultimate Guide to EINs for more information.

  • Applying for a Business License: Many states require an EIN before providing a state license to conduct business.
  • Filing Your Taxes: The primary reason for having an EIN if your business is required to have an EIN but you file taxes without one, you could face several tax penalties.
  • Filing a Beneficial Ownership Information Report (BOIR): A requirement of the U.S. federal government is that a business file a Beneficial Ownership Information Report (BOIR), which also requires an EIN.
  • Hiring Employees: Since an EIN is required to file a variety of employee-related tax items and is necessary for setting up a payroll system, it’s a good idea to think ahead and obtain an EIN before hiring your first employee.

For example, a tech startup requires an EIN to contract with software vendors and freelance developers. The EIN facilitated these legal agreements and was crucial when the company applied for a state business license as part of its compliance requirements. Additionally, the startup used its EIN to file a Beneficial Ownership Information Report (BOIR), a new regulatory requirement, demonstrating its commitment to transparency and compliance.

An EIN Can Simplify Employee Management

While obtaining an EIN is a fundamental step for hiring employees, its benefits extend into deeper aspects of employee management that are often overlooked. An EIN simplifies the complexities associated with payroll taxes by providing a unique identifier that separates business from personal tax obligations.

This separation is crucial for accurately reporting and remitting payroll taxes, including federal income tax withholdings, Social Security and Medicare taxes, and unemployment taxes.

Consider this example: A small tech company introduced an EIN to streamline its growing operations. Previously, mixing personal and business finances complicated payroll processing. With an EIN, they set up a dedicated payroll system that automatically handled withholdings for Social Security, Medicare, and income tax, ensuring compliance and reducing errors. This system also made year-end reporting much smoother and protected the company against potential audits and penalties.

Ensuring compliance with these employment tax regulations streamlines payroll processes and safeguards the business from potential legal and financial penalties associated with non-compliance.

An EIN Protects Personal Assets

One of an EIN's most significant but underappreciated advantages is its role in protecting personal assets, especially in scenarios where the business encounters financial challenges. By clearly delineating personal and business finances, an EIN minimizes the risk that personal assets such as savings, home, or other investments will be targeted to settle business debts.

This separation is particularly critical for sole proprietors and single-member LLCs, where the lines between personal and business financial responsibilities can blur, potentially leading to personal liability for business obligations.

For example, Lisa, a freelance graphic designer, transformed her sole proprietorship into an LLC and obtained an EIN. When her business faced financial strain due to a downturn in client work, her personal assets, such as her home and personal savings account, remained protected from creditors. The EIN helped establish clear financial boundaries, ensuring that only business assets were considered for debt resolution.

An EIN helps maintain this separation and upholds the protective barrier of business structures such as LLCs, safeguarding personal assets against business liabilities.

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An EIN Facilitates Compliance and Licensing

An EIN is a compliance tool intersecting with various regulatory requirements across state and federal levels. While the article mentions the necessity of an EIN for obtaining business licenses, it's important to emphasize that this requirement often extends to other regulatory filings that help maintain legal standing and operational permissions.

For instance, businesses may need an EIN to comply with environmental regulations, healthcare mandates, or consumer protection laws.

Consider this example: An environmental consulting firm needed an EIN to comply with federal environmental regulations. This requirement was critical as they applied for a federal contract that required proof of compliance with specific environmental standards. The EIN facilitated this process, enabling them to successfully bid for the contract and expand their business operations into new markets.

This broader regulatory compliance facilitated by an EIN ensures that a business can legally operate within its chosen jurisdiction and industry, minimizing legal risks and fostering a trustworthy relationship with customers and partners.

An EIN Supports Business Growth and Scalability

An EIN is pivotal in supporting the growth and scalability of a business. As businesses evolve, they often undergo changes in structure, such as transitioning from a sole proprietorship to a corporation or LLC, to better suit their expanding operations and to offer liability protection and tax benefits.

An EIN is indispensable in these transitions, providing a consistent business identity throughout structural changes and ensuring continuity with legal and financial obligations.

Consider a retail business that started as a small boutique and expanded into multiple states. The EIN allowed them to seamlessly manage payroll and tax responsibilities across different state jurisdictions. As they grew, the EIN was instrumental in helping them establish new store locations and navigate varying state regulations without disrupting their existing operations.

Additionally, as a business expands, particularly if it begins to operate in multiple states or internationally, having an EIN allows it to quickly adapt to new regulatory environments, manage multiple branches or divisions, and easily handle increased payroll and operational complexities.

An EIN Ensures Tax Compliance and Avoids Penalties

Possessing an EIN plays a crucial role in ensuring comprehensive tax compliance. This unique identifier is essential for filing various business tax returns, including income, payroll, and excise taxes.

An EIN helps businesses keep their financial activities well-documented and traceable by tax authorities, thus avoiding common pitfalls that lead to audits or penalties.

For example, a construction company used its EIN to maintain clear records of all financial transactions, which was crucial during an IRS audit. The EIN helped prove that all tax filings were accurate and complete, avoiding potential fines and penalties that could have arisen from misfiled reports. This compliance supported the company’s reputation and financial stability.

For businesses required to file specific reports or taxes, the EIN is a critical checkpoint that aligns business activities with IRS requirements, significantly reducing the risk of errors or omissions that could result in financial penalties. This comprehensive approach to tax compliance helps maintain a business’s good standing with tax authorities and avoids the disruption that non-compliance can cause.

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An EIN Enables Business Banking

An EIN greatly facilitates opening business bank accounts, but its impact extends far beyond this. For many businesses, an EIN is a prerequisite for establishing a formal banking relationship, enabling access to a broader range of financial services, from checking and savings accounts designed for business use to merchant services and corporate credit.

Consider this example: A new catering business acquired an EIN, which allowed them to open a business bank account and apply for a line of credit. With these financial tools, they managed cash flow more effectively and separated personal and business expenses. This separation was crucial during financial reviews and helped establish a credit history under the business name, facilitating future financing opportunities.

Additionally, an EIN often complements the requirement for obtaining a business license, serving as proof of legitimate business operations when setting up accounts with financial institutions. This capability is crucial for effective financial management, allowing businesses to better manage cash flow, track business expenses separately from personal finances, and prepare for financial audits. An EIN simplifies banking processes and reinforces a business’s financial infrastructure, supporting its broader financial strategies and needs.

Special Considerations for Different Business Types

Although some businesses may not require an EIN, as we’ve discussed above, there are many reasons why applying for and obtaining one can be key for establishing professionalism and growth of your business, especially for sole proprietors, freelancers or independent contractors, and LLCs. Here’s what this means for different types of businesses.

Sole Proprietors and Independent Contractors

While it’s true that most sole proprietors may not need to obtain EINs for their businesses, some benefits might make it worthwhile to apply for one. As we discussed earlier, some of the best reasons for having an EIN are that it enables you to separate your personal and business finances, protects your identity, allows you to apply for business bank accounts and establish credit, and much more. However, having an EIN rather than using your personal tax identification number will help you expand and grow your business with greater ease and clarity, which can pay dividends in the future.

Although several other business structures seem like small or individually run businesses, such as trusts, estates, household employers and their agents, and even individual bankruptcy, they actually require an EIN.

LLCs and Corporations

Corporations, as independent legal entities, must have an EIN to manage their tax obligations and debts. Obtaining an EIN is now mandatory for LLCs, whether a single-member or a multi-member LLC. Multi-member LLCs are automatically classified as partnerships unless they choose to file as either an S Corp or a C Corp, which requires additional filings after obtaining their EIN. In all scenarios, having an EIN is essential for these business structures to properly attribute their financial responsibilities.

Make the Most of Your EIN

Having an EIN is beneficial beyond the obvious tax requirements and advantages. Even if you don’t currently see the business need for an EIN, applying for and obtaining one early on can make running and growing a business a much easier process, enabling you to establish a unique entity, protect your privacy and personal liability, build credibility, and expand your business over time.

For more information about how to apply for and obtain an EIN and more details about how different business structures benefit from having an EIN, please see our Ultimate Guide to EINs.

And remember, at LLC Attorney we’re here to help. If you have any questions or want personalized assistance setting up your business entity or reviewing your EIN application, reach out today.

LLCs and Corporations

Corporations, as independent legal entities, must have an EIN to manage their tax obligations and debts. Obtaining an EIN is now mandatory for LLCs, whether a single-member or a multi-member LLC. Multi-member LLCs are automatically classified as partnerships unless they choose to file as either an S Corp or a C Corp, which requires additional filings after obtaining their EIN. In all scenarios, having an EIN is essential for these business structures to properly attribute their financial responsibilities.

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