As you get started, you’ll need to file certain paperwork to register your business. The biggest ones involve getting an EIN, registering your business name, and getting any licenses and permits you need.
An EIN, or Employer Identification Number, is the business equivalent of a Social Security Number. You’ll need it to set up bank accounts, file corporate tax returns, and submit payroll tax filings if you have employees. If you’re a sole proprietor, you can get away with using your Social Security Number, but having an EIN allows you to not share your personal number when you’re doing business work. You get an EIN by filing a Form SS-4. This page has instructions for filing it. The easiest method is filing online through this portal, which allows you to get the EIN immediately, but you can also file by fax or mail.
If you’re setting up an LLC or corporation, you’ll need to register your business name with the Secretary of State of whichever state you live in, as well as articles of incorporation and bylaws. Registering your name ensures that you don’t pick a name that another company is already using, and the latter two establish your company as a legal entity. You’ll probably need to file updates with the state annually or every other year to maintain your registration.
If you’re operating as a sole proprietorship under a different name than the owner’s personal name, you should file a Doing Business As (DBA) name. For this, you’ll file a DBA certificate with your town or city clerk’s office. This will allow you to get an EIN and open a business bank account.
For any towns, cities, and states you operate in, confirm what licenses and permits you need to get for the type of work you’ll be doing. Examples of what might be required are:
- Business license, registering with your town or city to start operations
- Zoning and land-use permits, to make sure the land or space you’re using is zoned to allow what you’re business is doing
- Health department permits, especially if you’ll be preparing or selling food
- Fire department permits, mainly if your premises will be open to the public
- State-issued professional or occupational licenses, such as if you provide medical care, auto repair, electricians, plumbers, building contractors, real estate sales, tax services, insurance sales, cosmetology, or legal representation
- Sales tax license, if you’ll be selling taxable goods or services
- Sign permit, if you’ll be putting up a sign; there may also be requirements about the size of the sign and where you can put it
Keep track of renewal dates for your licenses and permits, and anything you need to do in order to maintain them. Some of them are also required to be displayed prominently so customers can see them.