After selecting your business’s name and choosing its structure, you may need to register your business with your state and local governments. In this article, we’ll explain how to get started.
Why do I need to register my business?
When you register your business, you show that you have the legal capacity to operate in the state. It's a requirement—a must—for many business owners to register their businesses.
But beyond being a requirement, the process offers some benefits. Namely, it can afford you some protections, including personal liability protection, tax benefits, and an assurance that no other business in the state can operate under your business’s name.
Am I required to register my business?
Most states require companies that are organized as partnerships, LLCs, and corporations to register.
Many also require sole proprietors using a doing business as (DBA) name to complete a business name registration process. However, most sole proprietors who run their companies under their personal names do not need to register their businesses.
Where will I need to register?
In most cases, you’ll need to register in any state in which you conduct business activities. According to the Small Business Administration, most states define “business activity” in these ways:
- Your business has an office, facility, or physical presence in the state.
- You have in-person meetings with customers in the state.
- A significant portion of your revenue comes from the state.
- One or more of your employees work in the state.
|You’ll file in your home state as a “domestic entity,” and you’ll file in other states as a “foreign entity.”|
How do I register with a state?
Most states allow owners to register online. Some may require you to apply in person or complete a mail-in form. It’s important to connect with each state’s Secretary of State office to learn about the requirements you must meet.
Need to know who to contact? This list of Secretary of State offices should help you get started:
|Northern Mariana Islands
|U.S. Virgin Islands
|An online incorporator can help you complete this step. Inc. Authority and MyCorporation are two popular choices.|
Is there a cost to register my business with my state?
Yes. The fee varies by state and business structure, but often, it amounts to less than $300.
How can I learn about local requirements?
Contact your county clerk or city hall to learn about the registration requirements you may need to meet. Local officials can also tell you about the permits and licenses you’ll need to operate in your county or municipality.
Do I need to register at the federal level?
If you plan to obtain a federal tax ID number, secure trademark protections, attain tax exemptions, or apply for government contracts, you will need to register your business at the federal level. Visit irs.gov and follow the links above to learn more about the requirements.
You may also want to apply for a DUNS number through Dun & Bradstreet's site. The number you attain is a unique identifier that will enable you to secure deals with creditors and suppliers. Keep in mind that the process can take up to 30 days. Be sure to register for this number long before you need it.
There are lots of steps involved in starting a business. We have articles and advice that can help you with every action you need to take. Log into your owner’s portal for a free step-by-step guide to make your venture a success.