EIN for Nonprofits: A Guide

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Olivia Camarena |
April 4, 2024 |
For Providers |
Understanding EIN - photo by Eric Anda Pexels

When you’re in the thick of running a nonprofit, juggling legal requirements is part of the job, right up there with your drive to make a difference. An important player in this game is your organization’s Employer Identification Number (EIN), a specific type of Tax ID. But trust us, this nine-digit lifeline paves the way for your organization to thrive, legally and financially. Let’s talk about it!

Understanding EIN and Its Importance

An EIN, or Employer Identification Number, serves as the IRS’s way of identifying businesses and other organizations—such as nonprofits running youth programs—as a unique entity within the vast landscape of U.S. businesses. Similar to how a Social Security Number works for individuals, an EIN is essential for nonprofits to engage in a range of activities, such as:

  • Banking and Finance: Opening a business account, securing loans, and managing your nonprofit’s finances are facilitated by an EIN, safeguarding your personal information and laying a foundation for financial health.
  • Payroll and Taxation: For nonprofits that employ staff or engage contractors, an EIN is integral to tax documentation, ensuring adherence to withholding and reporting standards.

Despite the nonprofit sector operating beyond traditional business motives, the IRS mandates every organization, regardless of its profit orientation, to obtain an EIN. This requirement highlights the role of an EIN in fostering transparency, accountability, and financial integrity.

Does Your Nonprofit or Organization Need an EIN?

Whether you’re embarking on a new educational initiative or scaling an existing after-school program or nonprofit, securing an EIN is a foundational step. Eligibility hinges on straightforward criteria: if your organization hires employees, operates as a corporation or partnership, or engages in activities regulated by federal tax statutes, an EIN is non-negotiable. In other words, if you get money from someone or spend money, you must get an EIN.

Thankfully, the IRS has streamlined the application process, offering multiple options including online, fax, mail, and phone applications. The online method, favored for its immediacy, allows eligible U.S. entities to receive their EIN shortly after submission.

How to Get an EIN Online?

  1. ​​Check Eligibility: Ensure your business is in the U.S. or U.S. Territories, and the applicant has a valid Taxpayer Identification Number (SSN, ITIN, EIN). Note: Only one EIN is issued per responsible party each day, where the responsible party is the individual who controls the entity.
  2. Application Process: Visit the IRS website and complete the EIN application in one go, as the system doesn’t save your progress. Be ready to input all required information without a break, as sessions expire after 15 minutes of inactivity.
  3. Receive Your EIN: Once your application is validated, you’ll immediately receive your EIN. Be sure to download, save, and print the confirmation notice for your records.

EIN Expiration, Cancellation, and Changes

A lesser-known aspect of EIN management is its permanence and the protocol for reporting organizational changes. EINs do not expire. They remain with your nonprofit indefinitely unless significant changes, such as restructuring or relocation, in which case you should request an update. This permanence ensures continuity in your financial and regulatory dealings, even as your program evolves.

Tax-Exempt Status and EIN for Nonprofits

A common misunderstanding in the nonprofit sector is the belief that acquiring an Employer Identification Number (EIN) instantly provides tax-exempt privileges. However, these are distinct steps on your organization’s path. Once you have your EIN, you must then meet specific IRS guidelines to achieve tax-exempt status. Achieving this status not only offers significant federal tax benefits but also bolsters donor trust through the promise of financial transparency and accountability.

Note: Before securing an EIN, ensure your nonprofit is properly established. This is crucial, as the IRS mandates strict adherence to filing specific returns or notices, with a failure for three consecutive years resulting in the automatic revocation of tax-exempt status.


Navigating the world of nonprofit administration can be complex, but understanding the role and application of an EIN doesn’t have to be. Remember, an EIN is a key component of your organization’s identity and operational integrity. With it, you pave the way for greater success and sustainability in your mission to enrich young lives. 

Additional Resources:

Secretary of State Rules: here.

Join Our Community!

Step into the AfterSchool HQ Facebook Group—a virtual hub for connecting with youth program leaders nationwide. Join here.


Photo by Eric Anda via Pexels.