Launching a new real estate business is an exciting and rewarding way to build your path to financial freedom. However, as with any business, you have to pay taxes (womp womp). And a primary way that state and federal governments keep track of what you owe in taxes is with identification numbers. One of the first questions you’ll encounter when registering your business involves your Employer Identification Number (EIN). In this article, we’ll discuss what an EIN is and help you decide if you need to apply for one. What is an EIN? An Employer Identification Number—abbreviated on forms as EIN—is a nine-digit number that the IRS assigns and uses to identify businesses and individuals for taxation. An EIN is also known as a Federal Tax Identification Number. As an individual taxpayer, you identify yourself with your Social Security Number (SSN). However, as the owner of most business entities, you need an EIN to apply for your business license and file your tax returns. That’s right; we said “most” business entities. If your real estate business is a sole proprietorship or single-member LLC, you can use your SSN to file your taxes. On the other hand, the IRS requires your business to have an EIN if you do any of the following: hire employees operate your business as a corporation or a partnership have a solo 401(k) or Keogh retirement plan file for bankruptcy buy or inherit an existing business and plan to operate it as a sole proprietorship file alcohol, tobacco, and firearms; employment; or excise on your tax returns withhold taxes on income (other than standard wages) paid to a non-U.S. resident However, even if the IRS does not require your business to have EIN, many investors apply for one anyway. Why? As you can see from the above list, having an EIN allows you to make more business moves than you are able to make as a sole proprietor. Some banks will even refuse to allow you to establish a business account or apply for business loans or credit cards without an EIN. Some investors also feel that using an EIN can make your real estate business look more professional in business dealings. In a competitive real estate environment, an EIN can show that you take your new business seriously. Also, using an EIN allows you to keep your SSN more secure from identity theft. For example, identity thieves can use stolen SSNs to file fraudulent tax returns. All business EINs are considered public information, but if someone looks for credit information, your EIN will be the only identification number they will find. Does a general partnership need an EIN? Although your general partnership may appear to be a simple agreement between two or more business partners, the IRS sees it as a separate business entity. Therefore, all partnerships—including general and limited partnerships—must have a separate tax identification number. This requirement remains true even if your partnership has no employees. In addition, all partners must report their profits and losses on a Schedule K-1 when they file their personal income taxes. Does a sole proprietorship need an EIN? If you have a sole proprietorship with no employees, you may be able to file your business income taxes along with your personal tax return. You will use your SSN as your business taxpayer ID on your tax forms. However, an EIN for a sole proprietorship is needed when you do any of the following: change your business to a corporation form a partnership form an LLC revise your LLC to be taxed as a corporation or S corporation buy or inherit an existing business begin bankruptcy procedures How do you obtain an EIN? Fortunately, unlike many aspects of launching a new real estate business, applying for an EIN is easy, and it’s free. The quickest way to apply online, using the IRS EIN Assistant tool. The process takes less than 10 minutes, and you will receive your new number immediately upon completion. If you’d rather go the old-school route, you can download Form SS-4 and send it by U.S. mail to the IRS. The processing time for an EIN application received by mail is four to five weeks, according to the IRS website. Please note: The IRS warns business owners to beware of fraudulent online services that offer to apply for an EIN for you. What if you already have an EIN? If you already have an EIN and your business goes through some standard changes, you may be able to keep your old EIN. For example, if you change your business name or move to a different address, you can continue to use the same EIN. However, you’ll need to apply for a new number if the ownership or structure of your real estate business changes down the line.