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IRS Form SS-4: What It Is and Exactly How to Get Yours

Billie Anne Grigg

Billie Anne Grigg

Billie Anne Grigg has been a bookkeeper since before the turn of the century (yes, this one). She is a QuickBooks Online ProAdvisor, Xero Certified Advisor, LivePlan Expert Advisor, FreshBooks Certified Beancounter, and a Mastery Level Certified Profit First Professional. Billie Anne started Pocket Protector Bookkeeping in 2012 to provide an excellent virtual bookkeeping and managerial accounting solution for small businesses that cannot yet justify employing a full-time, in-house bookkeeping staff.
Billie Anne Grigg

Applying for a small business loan can be overwhelming, but there are a few things you can do in advance to make the business loan application process go smoothly. Along with filing your most recent year’s business income tax return for your business (and any past due tax returns, too) and having clean, updated your bookkeeping, you’ll also want to locate and make copies of the documents your lender is likely to request.

Of all these tasks, obtaining copies of the documents your lender requests can be the most difficult. In fact, there’s one document you most likely won’t have and will need—and that’s a copy of your Form SS-4 notice.

What Is Form SS-4?

If you’re not familiar with Form SS-4 by name, don’t worry. Form SS-4 is nothing more than the official form number the IRS has given the “Application for Employer Identification Number” form. This is the form business entities from sole proprietorships to large corporations use to apply for an employer identification number (EIN). You might know it as your Business Tax ID number.

Why Your Lender Will Request a Copy of Your Form SS-4 Notice

When you’re going through the business loan process, your lender isn’t asking for a copy of your EIN application. When a lender—or anyone else—requests Form SS-4, they’re really asking for the notice the IRS sends out once they’ve assigned your EIN. Since Form SS-4 is referenced on this notice, the notice itself is often referred to as Form SS-4.

And, like Social Security Numbers, EINs are considered private. They’re essentially considered the SSN for your business.

A lender can verify your SSN for a personal loan by inspecting your Social Security card. But verifying an EIN is a little trickier. Cards aren’t issued for EINs like they are for Social Security Numbers, but lenders still need to be able to verify them. If your lender asks for your Form SS-4, it’s for verification purposes only.

Why You Need Form SS-4 to Verify Your EIN

Can’t my lender just use my tax return to verify my EIN? In a word, no. The IRS uses the EIN reported on your tax return to match your return to your business—so you better hope it’s correct!  But clerical errors and typos do happen.

Maybe your tax preparer entered your EIN incorrectly, and the IRS hasn’t notified you of the error yet. This is actually a pretty a common error with returns filed on paper instead of electronically, and it can take the IRS months—sometimes even longer—to identify the error and notify you of it.

You better believe that your lender knows about those little tiny errors sometimes—and wants to get straight to the right information. And you want to be approved quickly, too! So you lender needs to be sure they’re using the correct EIN when they’re reviewing your loan application and underwriting your business loan. They can’t risk a clerical error resulting in an unwise lending decision. 

The Only Instance When You Don’t Need to Your Form SS-4 Notice

If you’re a sole proprietor with no employees, you might have skipped getting an EIN altogether. If so, don’t worry. There’s no need to get an EIN or complete Form SS-4 in order to apply for a loan if you’re a sole proprietor, because the loan will be in your name and your lender will use your SSN.

But if you’re any other kind of business entity—including a freelance LLC—it’s considered a separate and distinct legal entity. And even if you’re asked to provide a personal guarantee for the loan, you’ll still need to complete your loan application in the name of the corporation, using your corporation’s EIN instead of your SSN. In that case, you’ll need Form SS-4.

What to Do If You Can’t Find Your Form SS-4 Notice

Don’t panic, seriously.

You might have a copy of your Form SS-4 notice on your hard drive or in your cloud-based filing system and not even realize it. If you applied for your EIN online, you received this notice—along with your EIN—immediately as a PDF.

If you’ve been in business for a while, though, you might not be able to locate your Form SS-4 notice, even if you applied online. And that’s okay, too! You can get a copy of your EIN assignment letter from the IRS.

Before you call the IRS for a copy of your EIN assignment letter, there are two more things you should try:

  • US-based banks require a copy of your Form SS-4 notice in order to open business bank accounts. Contact your banker and ask if they can provide you with a printout of the copy they have in their records.
  • If you engaged an accountant right when you first started your business, your accountant might have completed your EIN application form for you, At the very least, they probably asked for a copy before completing your first tax return. Ask your accountant if he or she has a copy of your Form SS-4 notice in their files.

Getting a Copy of Your Form SS-4 Notice

If all your attempts to recover a copy of your Form SS-4 notice have failed, you’ll have to request a copy of your EIN assignment letter from the IRS. Fortunately, this is relatively easy to do.

You can request a replacement copy by calling the IRS Business & Specialty Tax Line. The phone number is (800) 829-4933, and the line is open from 7 am to 7 pm, taxpayer local time, Monday through Friday.

The Tax Specialist will ask you to provide your EIN and some identifying information about your business for security purposes. They’ll also ask for your title within the business in order to prove you’re authorized to receive a copy of the EIN assignment letter.

Once you’ve satisfied the security requirements, the Tax Specialist will make arrangements to send you a copy of your business’s EIN assignment letter by mail or by fax. For security purposes, the letter will be sent to the address or fax number the IRS has on file for your business.

Requesting a copy of your EIN assignment letter is easy, but it will take some time to receive the copy, especially if the IRS has to mail it to you. The Tax Specialist will be able to tell you how long to expect to wait.

Prep Your Documentation—Including Your Form SS-4 Notice

If you plan to apply for business loans or other types of business financing, it’s a good idea to make sure you have all your documentation—including your Form SS-4 notice—on hand before you begin the application process. Scrambling to find or request this documentation once you have started the application process will only delay your loan approval… and the funding you need for your business.

If you don’t know where your Form SS-4 notice is, take some time soon to locate it. If you can’t find it in your files, request a copy of your EIN assignment letter from the IRS. Then, store this—along with your other important business documents—in a cloud-based storage system. This’ll help streamline your business loan application process when the time comes for funding, so you’ll be able to move your business forward that much faster.

Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.
Billie Anne Grigg

Billie Anne Grigg

Billie Anne Grigg has been a bookkeeper since before the turn of the century (yes, this one). She is a QuickBooks Online ProAdvisor, Xero Certified Advisor, LivePlan Expert Advisor, FreshBooks Certified Beancounter, and a Mastery Level Certified Profit First Professional. Billie Anne started Pocket Protector Bookkeeping in 2012 to provide an excellent virtual bookkeeping and managerial accounting solution for small businesses that cannot yet justify employing a full-time, in-house bookkeeping staff.
Billie Anne Grigg

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