Your company's employer identification number should be on the W-2 form you receive at the beginning of the year. If you don't get this form or it's wrong or incomplete, you can contact your employer and the Internal Revenue Service. If you don't get your form in time, it's a good idea to file your taxes with the best information you have.
If you are unable to access your W-2 from your employer, you may think that you don't have enough information to complete your tax return. However, even if crucial aspects of your return are missing, such as your employer identification number, you must still submit your tax forms or risk significant fines and penalties.
How EINs Work
Employer identification numbers are issued by the IRS to identify businesses for tax and other government purposes, similar to how Social Security numbers are issued to individuals. That includes sole proprietorships, which are businesses entirely owned by a single person. Just as you include your Social Security number on your personal tax forms, businesses include their EINs on their own tax forms, including the W-2 forms they send to employees.
EINs and the W-2
At the beginning of the year, employers are required to send W-2 forms to each of their employees, saying how much they received in pay and how much was withheld for taxes over the course of the year. Employers are required to mail these or make them available digitally to employees by Jan. 31.
The W-2 form includes your employer's EIN and any state tax ID number it may have. You're required to include the W-2 with your federal tax return if you file on paper or the information on it if you file online. You're often required to include a copy with state tax returns as well.
Filing Without an Accurate W-2
If you don't receive your W-2 in a timely fashion, or something is wrong or missing, you should contact your employer with questions. If you can't reach your employer by the tax deadline, you can ask the IRS for help. The IRS can reach out to your employer to urge the process along, and it may have a copy of your W-2 that was filed with the IRS, even if you didn't receive one.
If that still doesn't help, you can file without a W-2 using the best information you have. Form 4852 allows you to specify the information that would be on the W-2, such as how much you were paid and how much was withheld in tax over the course of the year. Often, you can find this information on your last pay stub.
The form also asks for your employer's EIN if you know it. You can sometimes find the EIN on your employer's website, on prior tax forms you have received from the same employer or on other public government filings, such as the forms publicly traded companies file with the Securities and Exchange Commission. If you can't find your employer's EIN, don't use that as a reason not to file your taxes. Leave that field blank.
Steven Melendez is an independent journalist with a background in technology and business. He has written for a variety of business publications including Fast Company, the Wall Street Journal, Innovation Leader and Ad Age. He was awarded the Knight Foundation scholarship to Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism.