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Steps to Registering a Business

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Steps to Registering a Business

Whether you are starting a new business or expanding and existing business, you will need to follow some basic steps to ensure you have all the necessary licenses, permits and registrations needed to legally operate.

  1. Determine the Legal Structure of Your Business

    This step involves organizing your business as a legal entity. There are several options to consider, and all have different legal, financial and tax considerations. The right legal structure for your business depends on a number of factors including the level of control you want to have, your business' vulnerability to lawsuits, and financing needs.

    The legal structure you choose will determine further registration requirements. Once you choose a legal structure, you may have to filing registration forms with your state and/or local government. The requirements vary from state to state.

  2. Register Your Business Name

    "Doing Business As," "DBA," "Assumed Name," "Fictitious Name" ... all these are used to describe the process of registering your business' legal name.

    By default, the legal name of a business is the name of the person or entity that owns a business. If you are the sole owner of your business, its legal name is your full name. If your business is a partnership, the legal name is the name given in your partnership agreement or the last names of the partners. For limited liability corporations (LLCs) and corporations, the business' legal name is the one that was registered with the state government.

    Your business' legal name is required on all government forms and applications, including your application for employer tax IDs, licenses and permits. However, if you want to open a shop or sell your products under a different name, then you may have to file an "assumed name" registration form with your state and/local government.

  3. Obtain Your Federal Tax ID

    Employers with employees, business partnerships, and corporations and other types of organizations, must obtain an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the U.S. Internal Revenue Service. The EIN is also known as an Employer Tax ID and Form SS-4:

    U.S. Internal Revenue Service
    Phone: 1-800-829-4933

    • Employer Identification Number
    • An Employer Identification Number (EIN) is also known as a Federal Tax Identification Number, and is used to identify a business entity. Generally, businesses need an EIN. You may apply for an EIN in various ways, and now you may apply online. This is a free service offered by the Internal Revenue Service. You must check with your state to make sure you need a state number or charter.
    • Apply for an EIN Online

      Check Out Our Interview-style Application

      No need to file a Form SS-4. We ask you the questions and you give us the answers. After all validations are done you will get your EIN immediately upon completion. You can then download, save, and print your EIN confirmation notice.

      This EIN is your permanent number and can be used immediately for most of your business needs, including opening a bank account, applying for business licenses, and filing a tax return by mail. However, no matter how you apply (phone, fax, mail, or online), it will take up to two weeks before your EIN becomes part of the IRS' permanent records. You must wait until this occurs before you can file an electronic return, make an electronic payment, or pass an IRS Taxpayer Identification Number matching program.

      Important Information for Home-care Service Recipients

      If you are a home-care service recipient who has a previously assigned EIN either as a sole proprietor or as a household employer, do not apply for a new EIN. Use the EIN previously provided.

      If you are a home-care service recipient who does not have an EIN, do not use the online application to apply for one. You must apply for your EIN using one of the other methods (phone, fax or mail).

      Attention Tax Exempt/Non Profit Organizations

      At the beginning of the online EIN application process, you will be asked to check a box that best describes your legal structure. The legal structure for all Tax Exempt/Non Profit Organizations is found under the 7th option, “View Additional Types, Including Tax Exempt and Governmental Agencies.” Non-profit organizations include corporations, trusts, limited liability companies, and unincorporated associations that qualify for tax-exempt status under Internal Revenue Code (IRC) 501(a) as described in Publication 557, Tax-Exempt Status for Your Organization (PDF).

      This Application Is Available During the Following Hours:

      Monday - Friday: 6:00 a.m. to 12:30 a.m. Eastern time
      Saturday: 6:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. Eastern time
      Sunday: 7:00 p.m. to 12:00 a.m. Eastern time

  4. Register with Your State Revenue Agency

    Just you must have a Federal Tax ID, you will also need to obtain tax IDs and permits form your state's revenue agency.

    If you plan to sell products and you are required to collect sales taxes, you will likely need to obtain a Sales Tax Permit or Vendor's License from your state or local government (or both).

    The State Tax Information page is a starting point for learning about your state and local tax registration requirements. If you are looking for a specific state or local tax permit or license, use our search engine to find specific state and local tax forms and requirements.

  5. Obtain Business Licenses & Permits

    Most businesses are required to obtain some type of business license or permit to legally operate. The vast majority of small businesses will need to obtain a general business license or industry-specific operating permits from state and local government agencies.

    Visit the Licenses and Permits guide to find tools and information to help obtain all the licenses, permits and registrations you'll need to get started or expand your business.

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