U.S. taxpayers who require an employer identification number (EIN) generally obtain one by filling out a Form SS-4 and submitting it to the IRS via mail, phone, fax, or over the internet. The IRS has now further simplified the process by allowing one to be issued immediately over the internet without using a Form SS-4. Instead, the online service prompts the taxpayer with questions, with succeeding questions varying based on the prior responses. The system also provides help screens so that the taxpayer does not have to go look at the Form SS-4 instructions to complete the answers.
At the end of the process, an EIN is issued to the taxpayer and a confirmation notice is provided which the taxpayer can view, print and/or save, so that the taxpayer does not have to wait to receive one in the mail.
An authorized person can go through the process on behalf of the taxpayer. However, in that case, no confirmation notice is immediately provided, and it is instead mailed to the taxpayer. At first review, the process does not appear to provide for issuance of an EIN to a foreign entity.
An EIN issued in any manner by the IRS (phone, fax, mail, or online) takes up to two weeks before it becomes part of the IRS' permanent records. While you can use an issued EIN immediately, you must wait until it is part of the IRS' permanent records before you can file an electronic return, make an electronic payment, or pass an IRS Taxpayer Identification Number matching program.
The online application can be accessed at https://sa1.www4.irs.gov/modiein/individual/index.jsp or by following the links starting at http://www.irs.gov.