- An Employer Identification Number, or EIN, is an ID code issued to businesses by the IRS for tax purposes. It can often be found on documents that a business files with a Secretary of State office in order to begin operation.
- Most businesses need an EIN in order to legally operate in the US. An EIN is also required for businesses to hire additional employees, conduct financial transactions as a business, and shield owners from personal liability for the business’s actions. An EIN is a piece of evidence a company seeking B2B relationships should look for as partial confirmation it’s dealing with legitimate businesses.
- In addition to at a Secretary of State portal or the IRS, a business’s EIN may also be found on its SEC filings, a business credit report, or a copy of a document from the business itself. The most efficient option, however, is to use a dedicated business identity platform like Middesk to find the EIN—in addition to other essential information to verify that the business is legitimate.
Because US businesses are registered at the state level, Secretary of State offices are usually the most authoritative place to get information on them. One key piece of information on a business that can often be found at a Secretary of State office is an EIN number. This is a tax ID that most businesses need to have in order to legally exist, as well as perform many useful business functions.
In this article, we discuss what an EIN is and why it’s important – including in the context of verifying a business’s authenticity for a B2B relationship. We also talk about other ways to find a business’s EIN number if a Secretary of State office doesn’t have it – including some that are faster and more cost-efficient.
First, we’ll explain in greater detail what an EIN number is, where it comes from, and why it can often be found at a Secretary of State office.
An Employer Identification Number, or EIN, is a unique ID number issued to a business operating in the US. The number is used to track that business for tax collection and reporting purposes. With few exceptions, every business in the US must have a registered EIN to operate legally.
Who issues Employer Identification Numbers?
An EIN is a type of tax identification number (TIN). It’s issued by the US government’s primary tax agency: the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). However, most other information on US businesses is registered with Secretary of State offices in each state and territory.
Therefore, a Secretary of State office might have an EIN for a business if you know which state or territory the business was registered in. However, whether you actually find a business’s EIN at a Secretary of State office depends on the types of documents the office has on file for that business.
Ultimately, a Secretary of State EIN search can be a source of truth for verifying a business’s EIN number. But just because you don’t find a business’s EIN there doesn’t necessarily mean it’s fake or incorrect. To know for sure, you have to check with the IRS, which is the authoritative source of truth when it comes to EINs.
As we mentioned, having an EIN is a legal requirement for most businesses to operate in the US. But even for the few businesses that don’t need an EIN, many choose to get one anyway.
Having an EIN affords a business several useful functions and other advantages. These include being able to hire additional employees, conduct financial transactions as a business (separate from the owners’ personal finances), and shield business owners from personal liability for the actions of the business.
An EIN is also important from the standpoint of another company pursuing a business relationship. A unique EIN is a piece of evidence that a business actually exists and is operating within the law. This makes it more likely for another company to want to onboard that business as a client or partner.
Conversely, a missing, invalid, or stolen EIN number can signal to a company it’s dealing with a business that’s at least a heightened risk – or, at worst, illegitimate. The company will likely have to conduct enhanced due diligence to look for other potentially-suspicious details of the business.
You can try visiting a Secretary of State portal for an EIN lookup. But the surest place to find the number is with the IRS, as it’s the agency that issues EINs. There are a few other places you can find an EIN as well.
Here are some sources where you’ll likely find a business’s EIN number, or at least a document with the EIN number printed on it:
- Middesk: A dedicated business identity platform that searches all Secretary of State portals – along with many other official sources – at once. This makes it quick and easy to fetch not only a business’s EIN number, but also many other pieces of information needed to verify the business’s authenticity.
- Secretary of State office: It holds most documents related to a US business’s registration, so will likely have one with the business’s EIN number. It’s not a guarantee, though. Also, each state’s portal has to be searched individually, and may require account registration and/or fee payments.
- Internal Revenue Service: It’s the agency that issues EINs, so it’s the most official place to find a business’s EIN. It contains mostly tax-related information, though, and not a lot of other information needed for KYB compliance.
- Securities and Exchange Commission: Some types of reports filed with the SEC may have a business’s EIN number written on them. However, you’ll only find documents on businesses that issue stocks, and only as far back as 2001.
- Credit bureau: A business credit report from a major credit rating company is public information that may include the business’s EIN number. Whether or not it actually does, however, depends on the bureau’s available information and reporting standards. The report usually also costs money and takes a fair amount of time to be delivered.
- The business itself: A business may be able to personally provide you with a copy of a document that has its EIN number on it. This is mainly a last resort, though, as the business will need to be assured the document will only be used for verification purposes. Even then, it may take some time for the business to send the document over.
Note that if you find an invalid or duplicate EIN in any of these places, it doesn’t necessarily mean the associated business is illegitimate. In many cases, a business that changes its ownership structure – such as from a limited partnership to a corporation – has to re-apply for a new EIN. So cross-check the rest of the business’s information to make sure that the EIN isn’t just out of date from when the business had a different corporate structure.
Simplify your SoS EIN lookup with Middesk
The Secretary of State office where a business is registered sometimes isn’t in the same state where the business is headquartered. Many businesses are registered in states like Delaware, Nevada, or Wyoming because these states have business-friendly laws. However, the actual business may be headquartered in another state (e.g. California, for many tech companies).
Middesk’s Business Verification solution eliminates the need for this guesswork by searching all Secretary of State portals at once for a business’s EIN. It can also simultaneously search several other official sources. Middesk can also find lots of other information needed for B2B relationship compliance, including beneficial owner details, watchlist hits, formation documents, litigation and bankruptcy filings, and more.
See how Middesk can be your unified solution for verifying identities and assessing risk in B2B relationships. Contact our team for a demo.