TIN vs EIN: What’s the Difference?

Updated on April 9, 2024

At a Glance

  • TTIN and EIN are both tax identification numbers, but they have different purposes.
  • A TIN is used to identify taxable individuals in the US and can be issued by the IRS or Social Security Administration.
  • An EIN, on the other hand, is used to identify businesses and is issued by the IRS.
  • While both numbers serve reporting and identification purposes, they are not interchangeable.

People can be identified in a number of ways in the U.S., such as a Social Security number, passport number, DUNS number, and driver’s license number, among others. With so many possibilities, it could be easy to get confused.

When it comes to taxation, there are two primary identification types—Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN) and Employer Identification Number (EIN). In this article, we’ll distinguish the two and explain their uses.

Difference Between TIN and EIN

When you are asked to fill out personal or business-related documents, you will be asked for tax identification numbers. There are actually several numbers you can input for this purpose—the TIN and EIN being the most common ones.

While used interchangeably by people not aware of the difference, TIN and EIN are not the same. There is a fundamental difference between the two.

What Is a TIN Number?

A TIN is issued either by the IRS or Social Security Administration. It’s worth mentioning that there are actually various types of Taxpayer Identification Numbers. TIN is an umbrella term covering many other numbers. Mainly, the purpose of these numbers is to govern and administer U.S. tax laws aside from performing other functions.

So, when we talk about a Taxpayer Identification Number, we are referring to one of the numbers issued either by the IRS or the SSA. The Social Security Number is issued by the SSA while the Individual Taxpayer Identification Number is issued by the IRS.

Your Taxpayer Identification Number will be necessary when you file your U.S. taxes every year, whether you’re paying:

The above list is not the complete list of visa-related U.S. taxes. It’s important to research and understand what U.S. taxes you will owe based on your given visa. 

What Is an EIN Number?

An Employer Identification Number, on the other hand, is issued by the IRS to business entities operating in the U.S. Therefore, it is known as the Federal Employer Identification Number (FEIN) or Federal Tax Identification Number (FTIN).

Even though it is used mainly for identifying and reporting companies, it is also needed for opening bank accounts, getting permits and licenses, and handling payroll for employees.

What is the Difference Between EIN and TIN

The main difference between the two is that an EIN is used for identifying companies while a TIN is used for identifying taxable individuals in the U.S. While both are used for reporting and identifying purposes, the difference lies in the scenarios in which a particular number can be used.

Take an analogy. You can think of a TIN as a parent and an EIN as a child. An EIN is a type of TIN, but not vice versa. That means, when asked for your EIN, you can use your TIN, but when asked for your TIN, you cannot use your EIN.

How to Get a TIN Number

Since a TIN doesn’t refer to a single thing, you need to be more specific about which number you need. There are five different types of taxpayer identification numbers. One of them (the SSN) is issued by the Social Security Administrative, while the other four are issued by the IRS.

How to Get an EIN Number

An EIN, also known as a Federal Tax Identification Number, is issued to business entities by the IRS. As opposed to a TIN, an EIN can be obtained right away and free-of-cost after verification. To get an EIN, you must first check with your state guidelines.


You can apply for an EIN online through Internet EIN. It is a convenient application process, and you should be done within a day or two. After you’ve completed Form SS-4, Application for Employer Identification Number, the information you provide is validated, and then you receive your EIN. The online procedure is open to all business entities that have legal residence in the United States and its territories.  

Apply by Fax

If you want to get your EIN by fax, you have to fax the completed Form SS-4 to the appropriate fax number of your respective state. Visit this link to track down the number. Before sending it, however, ensure that all information on the application is correct and updated. It’s best to provide your fax number along with the application, which will allow the IRS to send you your EIN within 4-5 business days.

Apply via Mail

Getting your EIN by mail is another option. But bear in mind that the process is going to be relatively lengthy, and it could take approximately four weeks. To receive it via mail, you have to complete Form SS-4 and file it at your state’s IRS office. Click here to find out the address for your state. After the verification process, the IRS will mail you your EIN to the physical location you have entered.

Apply by Telephone

Lastly, you can apply for your EIN by making calling 267-941-1099. If you’re following this process, then you have to complete the Third Party Designee section of the form which authorizes the named individual to receive the EIN for your business. Their authority is terminated once the EIN is assigned and handed over to the designee.

Other Taxpayer ID Numbers

In this section, we’ll explain how to apply for ITINs.

Social Security Number (SSN)

An SSN is issued by the Social Security Administration to every U.S. citizen. To receive one for yourself, you need to meet its eligibility criteria and complete Form SS-5, Application for a Social Security Card. You can either file it online or at your nearest SSA office. Along with the form, you will be asked to submit your government-issued ID, age, and alien status (if applicable).


An ITIN is issued to individuals who, for some reason, are disqualified for an SSN. This is a nine-digit number with the format XXX-XX-XXXX which you can use as an alternative when paying your taxes. An ITIN is mostly issued to nonresidents, their spouses, and their dependents.

To apply for an ITIN, you have to complete Form W-7, IRS Application for Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, and mail the documentation to the respective IRS center. You can also file through an authorized Acceptance Agent or entities, which can be a college, financial institution, legal firm, etc. You can also obtain your ITIN from abroad but have to follow a whole different procedure.


As opposed to the above two taxpayer-identification numbers, an ATIN, which stands for Adoption Taxpayer Identification Number, is issued on a temporary basis. An ATIN is a nine-digit number given to people who are in the process of legally adopting a U.S. child, but for some reason cannot get an SSN for that child. You have to submit Form W-7A, Application for Taxpayer Identification Number for Pending U.S. Adoptions.


A PTIN is issued to paid tax preparers who file taxes on behalf of others. Before January 1, 2011, it was optional, but now a PTIN is mandatory for filing your own tax returns as a tax preparer. You can get a PTIN by applying online. Alternatively, you can fill out Form W-12, Application for IRS Paid Preparer Tax Identification Number, and send it to the designated IRS center. Foreign preparers who do not have or are unable to get an SSN should refer to this section for more information.

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Frank Gogol

I’m a firm believer that information is the key to financial freedom. On the Stilt Blog, I write about the complex topics — like finance, immigration, and technology — to help immigrants make the most of their lives in the U.S. Our content and brand have been featured in Forbes, TechCrunch, VentureBeat, and more.

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