Tax return forms are full of abbreviations, and it can be hard to keep track of them all. There’s the EIN, AGI, CTC, HSA, SSN, TIN, EIC, AMT, IRA—the list goes on.
Some of the most common abbreviations that come up again and again, especially for a small business owner, are TINs (Federal Taxpayer Identification Numbers) and EINs (Employer Identification Numbers).
The two terms may look very similar in name, but is TIN the same as EIN?
In this article, we’ll be going over all of the similarities and differences between TINs and EINs and some common causes of confusion between the two.
Are TIN and EIN the same?
TINs and EINs are not the same thing, but they’re often mixed up with one another.
Some of the reasons so many people wonder “is a TIN number the same as EIN” is because Employer Identification Numbers are sometimes referred to as Federal Taxpayer Identification Numbers.
This isn’t because the two terms are considered interchangeable, but because EINs are just one of many types of TINs.
What is a TIN?
A Taxpayer Identification Number is a business tax ID number that was designed to identify a person or an entity on tax return forms.
But TINs have expanded to fulfill a wide range of purposes beyond just taxes and can now be used when doing things like:
- Buying a home or car
- Opening a personal or business bank account
- Obtaining a line of credit
- Enrolling in Medicare
- Applying for government-sanctioned IDs like passports or driver’s licenses
All TINs are unique numbers assigned to a person or entity by either the SSA or the IRS depending on the type.
Types of TIN
There are five different types of TIN, all of which serve different purposes:
- SSN – Social Security numbers are nine-digit numbers that are used by the SSA and IRS to identify individuals. Most children born in the U.S. are assigned social security numbers shortly after birth, and non-citizens eligible to work in the U.S. can apply for one. Any person over 18 who works in the U.S. is legally required to have an SSN.
- EIN – Employer Identification Numbers are used as a unique identifier for a business entity or estates and trusts that earn income. They are most often used by the IRS for tax purposes, but can also be used on bank applications or certain government permits.
- ITIN – Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers are designed for certain categories of nonresidents and resident aliens, their spouses, and dependents to use on tax processing forms when they do not qualify to receive a Social Security number.
- ATIN – ATINs are Adoption Taxpayer Identification Numbers and they are temporary nine-digit numbers used by individuals who are planning to adopt a U.S. citizen or resident child and who cannot get an SSN in time to file their federal tax return.
- PTIN – If you are a paid tax preparer, you are required to get an eight-digit Preparer Tax Identification Number. Tax preparers who do not have a PTIN must apply for one either on the IRS website or by mail and tax preparers with a PTIN from before September 28, 2010 must register their number with the new PTIN system.
When to use an EIN
After seeing all the many types of TIN, you may be wondering when it’s appropriate to use an EIN for your Taxpayer Identification Number.
The IRS states that businesses that meet certain guidelines are required to have an EIN. This includes any business entity that:
- Pay wages to employees
- Have a Keogh plan
- Operate as a partnership or corporation
- Withhold taxes on income other than wages paid to a non-resident alien
- Are required to file one of the following federal tax returns:
- Alcohol, tobacco, and firearms
- Are involved in the following organizations:
- Estates and real estate mortgage
- Non-profit organizations
- Farmers’ cooperatives
- Plan administrators
People with sole proprietorship that do not meet the above guidelines are given the option to apply for an EIN if they choose, but are not required to use one. If they opt not to get an EIN, they may use their SSN as their TIN on their business tax forms.
Simplify government applications
We’re all about helping you stay on top of what government IDs you need and making sure you know exactly how to get them. Fill out our simple online SS-4 form to apply for an EIN Number today.
Our website also offers answers to questions like “how to find an EIN number,” “how to apply for an EIN number” and “what is an EIN number used for” on our site as well.