Tax Tip Monday: Federal Tax ID Numbers

Ever had a client ask for your FEIN, EIN or TIN? They’re the same thing: a Federal Tax (or Employer) ID Number. These numbers are used for companies paying federal taxes. The ‘Employer’ in the name refers to the fact that employers are basically required to have such a number, in order to pay taxes on their employees’ wages.

But the average freelance writer doesn’t have employees — why should we care about EINs?

Many freelance writers communicate with clients entirely online, and may never meet a client in person. Because of the ever-present worry of identity theft, many freelance writers have cited EINs as an alternative to handing out their Social Security numbers to every employer they work with.

Personally, I use my SSN. I haven’t had any problems, but I do keep a close eye on my credit reports and such. I don’t know if using an EIN will protect you, but it seems to be an option. You do have to provide one or the other in most cases — otherwise, the IRS assumes you’re attempting to commit tax fraud. None of us would want to do such a thing, so decide which number you feel more comfortable with.

If you like the EIN option, they are very easy to obtain. The IRS has an online form to walk you through all of the necessary steps.


  1. Anne Wayman   •  

    I asked my accountant about this and he said my SS number was fine… as long as I kept an eye on things… he didn’t feel an EIN was particularly good protection against identity theft.

    But you should check with your own professional.

  2. thursday   •     Author

    I haven’t quite bought into the EIN’s curative powers when it comes to identity theft myself. Part of the problem is that I’ve heard quite a bit of contradicting advice, even from professionals.

    I’m going to stick with my SSN, though. Just like your accountant said, I think that as long as I keep an eye on things, I’m safe. And who wants an extra number to remember, anyhow?

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