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Employee Identification Number
Running a business

What is an Employee Identification Number?

Employer Identification Number for Australian Businesses

If you are a business owner looking to sell products in the United States (US), you need an Employer Identification Number (EIN).

Much like your tax file number (TFN) or an Australian Business Number (ABN) in Australia, this number is given to a business for free. Therefore, it’s best to think of the EIN as a bureaucratic tag that doesn’t cost businesses anything, but is necessary to have nonetheless.

Its sole purpose is to track US tax efficiently.

In this sense, it benefits the IRS – that’s why they hand these numbers out for free. With this in mind, any site asking you to pay a fee for an EIN is illegitimate.

What is an Employer Identification Number?

EIN is not to be confused with an employee identification number.

An EIN is a unique identifying number that is allocated by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) of the United States.

The number is made up of nine digits and is formatted as XX-XXXXXXX. 

The EIN is the US equivalent of the ABN used for tax purposes by the ATO.

Think of it like a tax paying fingerprint for a business in the US. It will never expire or get recycled for another business.

The EIN is one of many taxpayer identification numbers (TINs) utilised by the IRS.

However, an EIN is not just for US businesses. Australian businesses can apply for EINs directly through the IRS, which can issue an EIN immediately. The EIN is then used as an identifier for any further tax purposes for the company.

How to Apply for an EIN

Getting an EIN from outside the US is slightly complicated but not impossible.

Unfortunately, online applications are only available to US-based businesses.

At some point in the process, international businesses do have to make a call to the IRS.

Here are the basic steps:

  1. Fill out an SS-4 form on the IRS website. This form starts the application for an EIN. You’ll need to provide details of your business, including business address, business type, number of employees etc.
  2. There is an option to have someone in the US receive your EIN for you. If you want to do that, fill out the Third Party Designee section of the SS-4. If not, proceed to step 3.
  3. Make an international call to the IRS. A rep will guide you through the process with more questions.
  4. If you answer the questions satisfactorily, you will be issued with your EIN.

If you are issued with an EIN, you can use it immediately. Make a note of your EIN as a physical letter will be sent to you, but this could take weeks to arrive.

With your EIN, you can now sell products in the US and pay taxes accordingly.

Grow Your Business with QuickBooks

Paying Taxes in the US

Many Australian businesses obtain an EIN to sell products in the US through platforms like Shopify or Amazon. You can’t sell on these platforms without an EIN. 

If you’re exporting products to the US, you need to pay tax to the IRS. You can’t pay tax to the IRS without an EIN, hence the need for an EIN.

The IRS has an online portal enabling you to pay tax easily.

Paying Tax With Quickbooks

When dealing with finances or paying tax, there can be a number of forms that you need to sign.

You might need help filling out a superannuation fund form and need an employee identification number. Or, you might need your employer identification number to pay US tax. Quickbooks can help guide you through these various processes.  

For smaller businesses in Australia, we streamline the process of filing your Business Activity Statement (BAS) with sophisticated Goods and Services Tax (GST) tracking. However, if you import products into the US, you’ll also need to pay US tax.

You may think that adding the element of paying US tax to the mix seems intimidating, but with our international experience dealing with the IRS in the United States, we can integrate that process into the tax-paying season for Australian businesses, giving you one less thing to worry about.

Find out about our solutions for small businesses today. Take our free trial for a spin to experience our helpful features that make tax-paying a breeze.


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