You will need to acquire a variety of business licenses before you can legally operate your business. For example, you need to register your business with federal, state and local governments. There are several documents you must prepare before registering.
Articles of incorporation and operating agreements
To become an officially recognized business entity, you must register with the government. Corporations need an “articles of incorporation” document, which includes your business name, business purpose, corporate structure, stock details and other information about your company. Similarly, some LLCs will need to create an operating agreement.
Doing business as (DBA)
If you don’t have articles of incorporation or an operating agreement, you will need to register your business name, which can be your legal name, a fictitious DBA name (if you are the sole proprietor), or the name you’ve come up with for your company. You may also want to take steps to trademark your business name for extra legal protection. Most states require you to get a DBA. If you’re in a general partnership or a proprietorship operating under a fictitious name, you may need to apply for a DBA certificate. It’s best to contact or visit your local county clerk’s office and ask about specific requirements and fees. Generally, there is a registration fee involved.
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Employer identification number (EIN)
After you register your business, you may need to get an employer identification number from the IRS. While this is not required for sole proprietorships with no employees, you may want to apply for one anyway to keep your personal and business taxes separate, or simply to save yourself the trouble later if you decide to hire someone. The IRS has provided a checklist to determine whether you will require an EIN to run your business. If you do need an EIN, you can register online for free.
Income tax forms
You also need to file certain forms to fulfill your federal and state income tax obligations. The forms you need are determined by your business structure. You will need to check your state’s website for information on state-specific and local tax obligations.
“You might be tempted to wing it with a PayPal account and social media platform, but if you start with a proper foundation, your business will have fewer hiccups to worry about in the long run,” said Natalie Pierre-Louis, licensed attorney and owner of NPL Consulting.