EIN or ITIN

Non-US individuals often want to know the fastest and easiest way to obtain an EIN or ITIN.  I find a lot of misunderstanding about the two numbers. First you need to understand that EIN and ITIN are similar numbers that serve different purposes and have different requirements.

EIN-Employer Identification Number.

An employer identification number (EIN) is a nine-digit number assigned by the IRS. It’s used to identify the tax accounts of employers and certain others who have no employees. The IRS uses the number to identify taxpayers who are required to file various business tax returns. When you first formed your LLC, you should have received an EIN. If you did not, then go back to the individual or service that assisted you with formation and request that they obtain an EIN for you. Most of the online services will do this for you, but they do charge a fee. That is probably the fastest and easiest way. You could also do it yourself (not necessarily fast or easy) by completing an SS4 form About Form SS-4, Application for Employer Identification Number,

ITIN-Individual Taxpayer Identification Number

An Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) is a tax processing number issued by the Internal Revenue Service. The IRS issues ITINs to individuals who are required to have a U.S. taxpayer identification number but who do not have, and are not eligible to obtain, a Social Security number (SSN) from the Social Security Administration.

If you are a non-US individual who has US tax reporting obligations, then you will need to obtain an ITIN. If you do not have US tax reporting obligations, then you will not need and probably not qualify to obtain an ITIN.

How to obtain an ITIN:

I suggest you read www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/iw7.pdf about the documents you will need and process for obtaining an ITIN. There are several options to obtaining an ITIN, but if you need to file a US tax return, I suggest you not wait as it can take some time to obtain the number. The best document to use for the ITIN is a passport, but the W7 form above will list other options for documentation.

  1.  If you have an office of a IRS Acceptance Agent near you, take your documents to an Acceptance Agent Office and request an ITIN application from their office. Most of these offices will charge you a fee to prepare the paperwork, but you can check the list at: http://www.irs.gov/Individuals/A… to see if there is an office near you and that is option for obtaining the ITIN. (if you want fastest and easiest, this is probably the fastest and easiest method)
  2.  You can apply in person at an Internal Revenue Service Taxpayer Assistance Center a list of international offices is at International IRS Offices or US offices can be found at US IRS Offices.
  3.  To apply by mail, you should first obtain certified copies of your documents from the agency that issued your original documents or by taking the original documents to a US embassy or consulates office and have them certified there. (List of offices http://www.usembassy.gov/) You can then apply for an ITIN by mail. Prepare the Form W7 to mail in with your documents. The W7 has to be mailed along with a US tax return or it will be rejected. NOTE You can also apply by mail by sending your original document to the IRS along with your US tax return. They will return the documents to you, but it can take several weeks to receive your original documents back.
Summary

In summary an EIN is an informational number used to identify businesses. Some corporations use their EIN for tax filing, but it is not a substitute for an individual who needs an identification number to file a tax return.

An ITIN identifies an individual and is used for non-US individuals who have US tax return obligations. An ITIN serves the same tax reporting purpose as a social security number for individuals who do not qualify to obtain a SSN.