CASE OF THE WEEK – EINs for Qualified Retirement Plan Trusts

By Jenny Kiffmeyer, J.D – The Retirement Learning Center

EINs for Qualified Retirement Plan Trusts

ERISA consultants at the Retirement Learning Center (RLC) Resource Desk regularly receive calls from financial advisors on a broad array of technical topics related to IRAs, qualified retirement plans and other types of retirement savings and income plans, including nonqualified plans, stock options, and Social Security and Medicare.  We bring Case of the Week to you to highlight the most relevant topics affecting your business.

A recent call with a financial advisor from Florida is representative of a common inquiry related to qualified retirement plan trusts. The advisor asked: “Can a business owner use the company’s employer identification number (EIN) to identify the firm’s 401(k)?”

Highlights of Discussion

No, it is not recommended that a company use the same EIN number for the retirement plan trust as it uses for the business. An EIN is a 9-digit number (for example, 12-3456789) assigned to sole proprietors, corporations, partnerships, estates, trusts, and other entities for tax filing and reporting purposes. The business and the qualified plan trust are separate legal tax entities in the eyes of the IRS; therefore, each needs its own EIN.

To obtain an EIN for a retirement plan trust, the plan trustee can either apply online, mail or fax a copy of Form SS-4, Application for Employer Identification Number to the IRS.1 For additional details on the process, please see the IRS’s post How to Obtain or Re-Establish an EIN for a Retirement Plan Trust.  The Instructions for Form SS-4 explain how to complete the SS-4 when seeking an EIN for a qualified plan trust.  Additional information on EIN’s for retirement plans in contained in IRS Publication 1635, Employer Identification Number.


The IRS is clear that it wants qualified retirement plans—even for plans for owner-only businesses—to use a separate EIN for plan reporting purposes.

1 Instructions for Form SS-4


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