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Understanding the Differences Between EIN and ITIN and When to Use Each

Silicon Valley Bank

Navigating the world of tax identification numbers can be confusing, especially when it comes to understanding the differences between Employer Identification Numbers (EIN) and Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers (ITIN). Both play essential roles in tax compliance and financial management but serve distinct purposes. In this article, we will delve into the differences between EIN and ITIN, their application processes, and when to use each.

  • Employer Identification Number (EIN)

An EIN is a unique nine-digit number assigned by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to businesses operating in the United States. It serves as a tax identification number for businesses and is required for various purposes, such as filing federal tax returns, hiring employees, and opening business bank accounts.

  • EIN Eligibility: All types of businesses, including sole proprietorships, partnerships, corporations, and nonprofit organizations, can obtain an EIN. Even businesses without employees, such as single-member LLCs, may need an EIN for specific financial transactions or tax filing requirements.
  • Obtaining an EIN: Businesses can apply for an EIN online, by mail, or by fax. The online application process is the fastest and easiest method, and you can obtain your EIN immediately upon completing the application. To apply, you will need a responsible party with a valid Social Security Number (SSN.
  • When to Use an EIN: Businesses should use their EIN for all business-related tax filings, such as federal income tax returns, employment tax returns, and excise tax returns. An EIN is also required when applying for business loans, opening business bank accounts, and obtaining business licenses and permits.
  • Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN)

An ITIN is a tax identification number issued by the IRS to individuals who are not eligible for a Social Security Number (SSN) but have tax filing requirements in the US. ITINs are primarily used by non-US residents, but they can also be used by US residents who do not have an SSN.

  • ITIN Eligibility: Nonresident aliens, resident aliens who do not qualify for an SSN, and certain dependents and spouses of US citizens or resident aliens are eligible for an ITIN.
  • Obtaining an ITIN: Individuals who require an ITIN can apply by submitting Form W-7 (Application for IRS Individual Taxpayer Identification Number) along with required identification documents, such as a passport or national identification card. The application can be submitted by mail, in person at an IRS Taxpayer Assistance Center, or through an IRS-authorized Acceptance Agent.
  • When to Use an ITIN: ITINs should be used for individual tax filing purposes, such as filing a federal income tax return or claiming a tax treaty benefit. Additionally, an ITIN can be used in some instances to open personal bank accounts or apply for personal loans.
  • Key Differences Between EIN and ITIN
  • Purpose: The primary difference between EIN and ITIN lies in their purpose. An EIN is used for business tax identification and reporting, while an ITIN is used for individual tax filing and reporting purposes.
  • Eligibility: EINs are issued to businesses operating in the United States, while ITINs are issued to individuals who do not qualify for an SSN but have tax filing requirements.
  • Application Process: While both EIN and ITIN applications are processed by the IRS, their application forms, required documents, and submission methods differ.


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