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Customer wants my Social Security number

   
12:54 am on Feb 8, 2008 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



I'm an online retailer and today I got a call on voice mail from a representative from the University of Texas who wants my tax ID number and mailing address to set my company up in their system as a vendor so they can buy stuff from me. I guess that's for tax-exempt purposes? My tax ID number would just be my Social Security number and I don't especially want to give that out. Should I call back and say I'm sorry but they can't have the tax ID? Wouldn't that be weird?
1:02 am on Feb 8, 2008 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator lifeinasia is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



Although it could be harmless, having a cold call ask for your tax ID right off the bat raises some red flags for me. Especially when they didn't even talk to you.

You may want to call the U of T (using a contact number form their site) and find out their policy and exactly WHY need your tax ID.

Also, you can always get a TIN at no charge and use that instead of your SSN.

1:06 am on Feb 8, 2008 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member marcia is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



Ask them to send the request in writing.
2:02 am on Feb 8, 2008 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



Government agencies rgularly want a company's tax ID.

Many States require a separate tax ID for a business.

Call UT business office directly and ask them what their policies are. That should get you the information that you need.

Doing business with government can be a pain in the rear. And, they don't always pay their bills on time.

3:14 am on Feb 8, 2008 (gmt 0)

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Doing business with government can be a pain in the rear. And, they don't always pay their bills on time.

True, but at least they ALWAYS end up paying. A former customer just went belly up earlier this week. Had they been a current customer we would have probably been screwed out of $40k+ (they were on terms). Sure, we have big government invoices that are at 60+ days right now, but I don't lose sleep over them not paying. Overall, we find government (and school) business very lucrative and devote people and resources to getting that business.

It's odd how the word travels around academic circles and I'm not exactly sure how it happens (we've asked, but get different answers). For example, we had a high school purchase a couple items from us about a year ago. Small order (about $300.00) but they needed to be billed on Net 30. No problem, we do it all the time. Since then we've received almost the exact same order from at least 40 different high schools around the country. I'm still not exactly sure how the word travels from California to New Jersey, but it does.

To the original poster question, it's not an odd request at all. We get that same request for tax ID several times each week. If you want their business you will have to comply. If you incorporate you can get a federal tax ID and avoid giving the SSN.

5:04 am on Feb 8, 2008 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



My tax ID number would just be my Social Security number and I don't especially want to give that out.

Many years ago when my attorney found out I was doing business under my own name she went ballistic on me. You need to form a corporation, get a TIN, and make sure you do all your business through the corporation. Otherwise you're potentially putting yourself and all your personal assets at risk.

Obviously you should talk to your lawyer about your own unique situation as WebmasterWorld is not the right place to get legal advice. :)

On a side note, verify this situation is legit. As others have mentioned word about good vendors spreads quickly through the academic community. Just like many of us have our own niche websites the same is true for teachers and professors. No doubt they share information about who's good and whom to stay away from.

Good luck and I hope things work out well for you! :)

5:19 am on Feb 8, 2008 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member marcia is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



There's too much going on (including phishing, which is not impossible on the phone) to give out sensitive information over the phone without verification of the source. And it's unlikely that a uni or gov agency would operate without a written alternative for submitting sensitive information.
6:37 am on Feb 8, 2008 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



True, but at least they ALWAYS end up paying.

I am aware of a western US State Department of Corrections that local merchants will ONLY deal with on a cash basis.

How's that for irony?

There's too much going on (including phishing, which is not impossible on the phone) to give out sensitive information over the phone without verification of the source. And it's unlikely that a uni or gov agency would operate without a written alternative for submitting sensitive information.

That's why you initiate the call to the business office to gain clarity about the school's policies. The number is publicly accessible.

It is not unlikely that the uni has a form (in quadruplicate, or more) that needs to be completed and sent in. It is govt. after all...

7:28 am on Feb 8, 2008 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



The request you received is standard procedure. Get an EIN (Employer Identification Number) and give that out instead of your SSN. It is free and you can apply for one online: [irs.gov...]

You usually submit a W9 to the requester as well:
[irs.gov...]

I think email attachment of a filled out W9 is fast, accurate, and secure. Fax is okay, but you should inquire if it is private or shared.

12:38 pm on Feb 8, 2008 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member



Since I am in Canada, Selling to US companies sometimes requires an IRS form W8-BEN. It is a form which is available online and bigger companies will require while paying on terms instead of credit card.

If they don't have this form, they would have to whithold 30% for the IRS.

1:06 pm on Feb 8, 2008 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



Thanks for everyone's responses.

Does anyone know how long it takes to get a TIN? Once I get it, I can give it out freely right? It's not sensitive information is it?

Would I submit that W9 to the university or to the government? Does that form get me a TIN or do I use it if someone wants my TIN?

1:49 pm on Feb 8, 2008 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



It's not sensitive information is it?

No, it is not sensitive. Companies freely give it out. We have a field on our check out for the Tax ID number, we need it for the purchase of very large and expensive equipment, so it is an optional field. Companies provide the TIN all the time when they don't even have to.

Like somebody else mentioned, form a corporation before something goes wrong and your personal assets are at risk.

2:08 pm on Feb 8, 2008 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



I've been reading lately that an LLC is the way to go these days. Do you think a corporation would be better?
3:42 pm on Feb 8, 2008 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member



It doesn't take long at all to get an EIN...mostly the time it takes to fill out the online form on the IRS website.
1:31 pm on Feb 12, 2008 (gmt 0)



Sole proprietors can apply for a TIN online on the IRS website and obtain it immediately online after submitting the required info.
2:01 pm on Feb 13, 2008 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



Done! Thanks guys!
6:43 pm on Feb 14, 2008 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member



If you're uncomfortable giving out your SS#, make up one. They are not a government agency. They can't check your SS number. It's not illegal to not give out your SS number.

As far as they are concerned, your SS# is whatever you say it is.

6:57 pm on Feb 14, 2008 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator lifeinasia is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



Giving out a false (or someone else's) SSN is *NOT* recommneded! There are civil and criminal penalties for doing this.

In some cases, it *IS* illegal to not provide your SSN. Whether or not this is one of those cases, it boils down to a simple matter of no SSN = no purchases from them.

[edited by: LifeinAsia at 6:59 pm (utc) on Feb. 14, 2008]