Register Your Business

Register Your BusinessDo I Need to Register My Small Business?

Registering a business can take multiple forms, from registering your company name as a trademark to filing for an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the Internal Revenue Service. In many areas, registering your business is required. Even if it's not required, some of the benefits of registration might make it a good idea to file the necessary paperwork.


Business registration takes multiple forms. If you do not do business under your legal name, you will need to register the name of your business to sign legal contracts and accept payments in your company's name. This registration might be known as "doing business as" or an "assumed name." Applying for a business license, which is handled on the state level, is often required to do business in a state. Registration might involve applying for a master business license, filing articles of incorporation or filing other paperwork. Certain types of businesses, such as daycare centers, home contractors or bed & breakfasts, are required to register and comply with licensing requirements on the state level. Many states with income and/or corporation taxes require that all new businesses register with the state department of revenue.


You might need to register for a business license with your county and/or city in addition to registering with your state. Research registration requirements and fees with your local governments.


In most cases, registering your business with your state makes it a legal entity separate from you. You can form a limited liability company, partnership, S-corporation or C-corporation. It also establishes you as the first person to use your business name, preventing a competitor from coming along and using the same company name in your state.


If you perform work in exchange for payment without registering your business, you are legally considered a sole proprietorship. While an unlicensed sole proprietorship might be entirely legal, it provides you with no legal protections if you are ever sued or go into debt. On the other hand, registering your business as a separate legal entity can protect your personal assets in the case of a business lawsuit or bankruptcy.


There is no need to register your business with the Internal Revenue Service. Simply file your first tax return for your business as required. However, you need to apply for an employer identification number from the IRS before you can hire employees.

How to Register As a Small Business

Register Your BusinessWhen you start accepting money in exchange for goods or services, technically you're operating as a small business. Many small business owners wonder when it's time to register the business. If you want to get a business bank account, hire employees and tackle other similar activities, you'll need to register with your state. Keep in mind that the exact process varies depending on the state where you plan to do business.

Step 1
Apply for a federal Employer Identification Number if you are a sole proprietorship that plans to hire employees, a corporation or a partnership (See Resources). You will need this number when filling out your business registration forms.
Step 2
Visit your state's commerce or business department website (See Resources). Choose the option to "Register a New Business" or similar. Many states have an online application tool while others require you to download and print an application to fill out by hand.
Step 3
Fill out the business registration application form. You need to provide your contact information, EIN, details about the ownership, planned business activities and type of business among other details to properly register your business with your state. The exact questions vary by state. Select the option to register for a sales tax identification number if you plan to sell products.
Step 4
Apply for a fictitious name with your state—this is a separate form on the state business website or included in your business registration application. Check your desired business name against existing records in your state before applying.

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