Legal-Ease: Locating lost, misplaced government-issued numbers

We all like to think we are organized and will be able to find particular paperwork if and when we need it. Some of our most important paperwork a lot of people, like myself, keep in a lock box at their home. However, there could be unfortunate circumstances beyond our control that destroy our home (tornados, fires, floods, etc.) and result in lost or misplaced government-issued numbers.

So, what happens if you lose important government-issued numbers?

For your Social Security card, if lost and you do not know your Social Security number, you would then be at risk for identity fraud and would need to request a replacement Social Security card to obtain your Social Security number. This replacement social security card can be requested either online or in person at your local Social Security office. The Social Security office would require you to provide original identity documentation, such as a birth certificate, to be able to process the request.

But what if you lose your federal Tax Identification Numbers (TINs) and Employer Identification Numbers (EINs) used for a business, trust or estate? Unfortunately (or fortunately as to not avoid ease of fraud), there is no readily available search engine to help locate your TIN or EIN. However, there are a few places to look and ways to locate the missing TINs or EINs.

First, you should try to locate the computer-generated notice issued by the IRS when your EIN was applied for. This notice is either mailed or provided to you online directly from the IRS’s website if the EIN was requested online. The IRS automatically issues this EIN notice as a confirmation of your application for the EIN and as a receipt of an EIN.

Second, if you’re still unable to locate your EIN and you used your EIN to open a bank account, you could contact the bank to see if they are able to provide you with your EIN.

Third, you could check a previously filed tax return that included your lost or misplaced EIN. If you have filed a return, your EIN should be noted on any previously filed return.

Fourth, if you are still unable to locate your EIN, your last place to check would be to ask the IRS to search for your EIN by calling the business and specialty tax line. When you call the business and specialty tax line, a tax line assistor will confirm your identity by asking you for identifying information.

In most cases, the assistor is able to provide the number to you over the telephone. The assistor typically is only able to provide the EIN over the phone if you are a person who is authorized to receive it. Authorized persons include the sole proprietor, a partner in a partnership, a corporate officer, a trustee of a trust or an executor of an estate.

Losing important government-issued numbers is not ideal, but there are multiple ways to help us locate the number if we end up losing or misplacing it.

Nichole Y. Shafer is an Ohio-licensed attorney at Schroeder Law LTD in Putnam County. She limits her practice to business, real estate, estate planning and agriculture issues in northwest Ohio. She can be reached at [email protected] or at 419-659-2058. This article is not intended to serve as legal advice, and specific advice should be sought from the licensed attorney of your choice based upon the specific facts and circumstances that you face.