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Can an individual open a personal (non-business) checking or savings account using an EIN instead of their SSN?

If so, what are the advantages or disadvantages of doing so?

  • Yes, but I can't think of any advantages of using one method over the another (other than the disadvantage/hassle of having to go get whichever ID you don't already have). – CactusCake Aug 17 '17 at 18:47
  • EINs (Employer Identification Numbers) are generally issued to employers (people or corporations) who need to withhold taxes on their employees' wages (and send the taxes to the taxman) or to pay their own employer taxes etc. If you have an EIN assigned to you and open a checking or savings account using that EIN, then the account belongs to the employer and is thus a business account. Any interest earned is interest paid to the employer etc. So whether the bank will allow you to hold a personal checking account for business purposes is up to the bank. – Dilip Sarwate Aug 17 '17 at 18:59
  • @CactusCake The link you point to is for ITINs (Individual Taxpayer Identification Number) which can be used in place of SSNs, whereas the question here is about EINs (Employer Identification Numbers) instead of SSNs. – Dilip Sarwate Aug 17 '17 at 19:03
  • @DilipSarwate good call, I didn't notice that. Though, the linked article mentions some banks don't require you to have either and will accept some other form of ID, so it should still be possible. – CactusCake Aug 17 '17 at 19:08
  • I think to answer this we need to know why you have the EIN, as the EIN is generally for an entity as opposed to an individual. (Though an individual may have an EIN if they have household employees like nannies or the like.) Can you clarify what the EIN is for? Or are you asking more about when one would get an EIN and what banking activities one can do with it? – user42405 Aug 17 '17 at 20:28
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According to IRS Publication 1635, Understanding your EIN (PDF), under "What is an EIN?" on page 2:

Caution: An EIN is for use in connection with your business activities only. Do not use your EIN in place of your social security number (SSN).

As you say your EIN is for your business as a sole proprietor, I would also refer to Publication 334, Tax Guide for Small Business, under "Identification Numbers":

Social security number (SSN). Generally, use your SSN as your taxpayer identification number. You must put this number on each of your individual income tax forms, such as Form 1040 and its schedules.

Employer identification number (EIN). You must also have an EIN to use as a taxpayer identification number if you do either of the following.

  • Pay wages to one or more employees.

  • File pension or excise tax returns.

If you must have an EIN, include it along with your SSN on your Schedule C or C-EZ as instructed.

While I can't point to anything specifically about bank accounts, in general the guidance I see is that your SSN is used for your personal stuff, and you have an EIN for use in your business where needed.

You may be able to open a bank account listing the EIN as the taxpayer identification number on the account. I don't believe there's a legal distinction between what makes something a "business" account or not, though a bank may have different account offerings for different purposes, and only offer some of them to entities rather than individuals. If you want to have a separate account for your business transactions, you may want them to open it in the name of your business and they may allow you to use your EIN on it. Whether you can do this for one of their "personal" account offerings would be up to the bank.

I don't see any particular advantages to using your EIN on a bank account for an individual, though, and I could see it causing a bit of confusion with the bank if you're trying to do so in a way that isn't one of their "normal" account types for a business. As a sole proprietor, there really isn't any distinction between you and your business. Any interest income is taxable to you in the same way. But I don't think there's anything stopping you legally other than perhaps your particular bank's policy on such things. I would suggest contacting your bank (or trying several banks) to get more information on what account offerings they have available and what would best fit you and your business's needs.

  • Great feedback. I agree that considering how the IRS perceives sole proprietors as inseparable from their business, then the use of an EIN may not provide a lot of value in opening bank accounts, whether those be personal or business accounts. – user59742 Aug 18 '17 at 19:31

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