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TIN vs EIN: Key Differences 

Read Time: 4 min

In the intricate world of business finances, navigating tax identification numbers can be a source of confusion. Two frequently encountered acronyms, TIN (Taxpayer Identification Number) and EIN (Employer Identification Number), serve distinct purposes. Understanding the differences between a TIN and an EIN is crucial for businesses of all sizes to ensure proper tax filing and financial compliance.

Table of Contents

What is a TIN?

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) uses a Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN) to identify and monitor taxpayers for tax-related purposes. It can be either a Social Security Number (SSN) for individuals or an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) for non-resident aliens and individuals ineligible for an SSN.

Here’s a breakdown of the types of TINs:

  • Social Security Number (SSN): A nine-digit number the Social Security Administration (SSA) assigned to U.S. citizens and permanent residents. Individuals commonly use the TIN to file tax returns, open bank accounts, and conduct other financial activities.

  • Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN): A nine-digit number issued by the IRS to individuals who do not qualify for an SSN but must file a U.S. federal tax return. This includes non-resident aliens, students, and temporary workers.

Key Points about TINs:

  • Issued by either the SSA (SSN) or IRS (ITIN)
  • Used for filing tax returns, opening bank accounts, and other financial activities
  • Not specific to businesses, it can be used by individuals

What is an EIN?

An EIN, or Employer Identification Number, is a unique nine-digit number the IRS assigns to businesses and other entities. It functions as a tax identification number for entities not eligible to use an SSN for tax purposes.

Here are some of the key reasons a business might need an EIN:

  • Filing Business Tax Returns: Businesses with employees, partnerships, corporations, and trusts must file tax returns and use an EIN.

  • Opening Business Bank Accounts: Many banks require businesses to have an EIN to open a business bank account.

  • Hiring Employees: Businesses that pay wages to employees need an EIN to report payroll taxes.

  • Operating Certain Business Structures: Sole proprietorships with no employees can typically use their SSNs for tax purposes. However, an EIN might be necessary if a sole proprietor operates under a “doing business as” (DBA) name.

Key Points about EINs:

  • Issued by the IRS
  • Used for businesses and other entities
  • Necessary for filing business tax returns, opening business bank accounts, and hiring employees

Who Needs a TIN?

  • Individuals filing federal income tax returns: U.S. citizens and permanent residents will use their SSN as their TIN.
  • Non-residents and individuals ineligible for an SSN must obtain an ITIN from the IRS to file a U.S. federal tax return.

Who Needs an EIN?

  • Businesses with employees: Businesses that pay wages to employees need an EIN to report payroll taxes.

  • Partnerships and Corporations: These business structures require an EIN for filing tax returns.

  • Trusts and Estates: Trusts and estates may need an EIN, depending on their tax filing requirements.

  • Sole proprietorships operating under a DBA name: While an SSN can typically be used for sole proprietorships, an EIN might be necessary if operating under a DBA name.

Here’s a table summarizing who needs a TIN vs. EIN:

Individual (U.S.citizen or permanent resident)Yess (SSN)No
Non-resident or individual ineligible for SSNYes (ITIN)No
Business with employeesNoYes
Trust or Estate NoYes
Sole proprietorship (no. employees, no DBA)Yes (SSN)No
Sole proprietorship (no. employees (DBA name)May or may not need EIN May need EIN 

TIN vs EIN: Similarities

  • TINs and EINs are nine-digit numbers issued by the U.S. government for tax purposes.
  • Both are used for identification purposes on tax returns and other financial documents.

TIN vs EIN: Differences

Here is a table showcasing the differences between TIN and EIN:

Feature TINEIN
Primary Purpose Identify individual taxpayersIdentify business entities for tax purposes
Issued ToIndividualsBusinesses and other entities 
ExamplesSSN, ITIN
Eligibility U.S. citizens, permanent residents, non-residents, and individuals indelible for SSNBusinesses with employees, partnerships, corporations, trusts, and some sole proprietorships 
Business Tax FilingNot required (except for certain sole proprietorships operating as DBAs)Required for businesses filing tax returns 
Opening Business Bank Accounts Not required Often Required 
Hiring Employees Not required Required for businesses that pay wages 

How to Get a TIN

  • Social Security Number (SSN): U.S. citizens are automatically issued an SSN upon birth or application. Permanent residents can apply for an SSN through the SSA.

  • Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN): ITINs can be obtained by filing Form W-7, Application for IRS Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, with the IRS. This form requires documentation to prove foreign status and tax filing requirements.

How to Get an EIN

  • Applying Online: The fastest and easiest method to obtain an EIN is through the IRS website. The online application process typically takes minutes, and the EIN is provided immediately upon successful submission.

  • Applying by Fax: To obtain an Employer Identification Number, businesses can complete Form SS-4 and submit it to the correct IRS service center through fax. Processing times can take up to four business days.

  • Applying by Mail: Form SS-4 can also be mailed to the IRS service center. Processing times for mailed applications can take several weeks.

  • Applying by Phone: The IRS does not accept applications for EINs over the phone.

Important Note: No fee is associated with obtaining an EIN from the IRS. Companies offering to expedite the EIN application process for a fee are not affiliated with the IRS, and their services may not be necessary.



Understanding the distinction between a TIN and an EIN is essential for businesses to ensure proper tax identification and compliance. Sole proprietors, partnerships, corporations, and companies with employees will typically require an EIN for various business activities. Individuals filing tax returns will use their SSN (for U.S. citizens and permanent residents) or ITIN (for non-resident aliens and those ineligible for an SSN). The IRS offers a user-friendly online application process to obtain an EIN free of charge.

By familiarizing themselves with TINs and EINs, businesses can navigate the tax identification landscape with greater clarity and confidence. Consulting with a qualified tax professional is always recommended for further guidance on specific tax filing requirements or complex business structures.