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Guide to Start your Own Business - Small Business Licenses and Regulations

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Small Business Licenses and Regulations


Government Regulations and Your Business

It may be inconceivable to you that your new small business startup would have to comply with any of the numerous local, state and federal regulations, but in all likelihood it will. Avoid the temptation to ignore regulatory details. Doing so may avert some red tape in the short term, but could be an obstacle as your business grows. Taking the time to research the applicable regulations is as important as knowing your market.

Below is a checklist of the most common requirements that affect small businesses, but it is by no means exhaustive. Bear in mind that regulations vary by industry. If you're in the food service business, for example, you will have to deal with the health department.

If you use chemical solvents, you will have environmental compliance to meet. Carefully investigate the regulations that affect your industry. Being out of compliance could leave you unprotected legally, lead to expensive penalties, and jeopardize your business.

There are many types of licenses to Start your Own Business. You need one to operate legally almost everywhere. If the business is located within an incorporated city limits, a license must be obtained from the city; if outside the city limits, then from the county. For more information contact the county or city office in your area.

Certificate of Occupancy

If you are planning on occupying a new or used building for a new business, you may have to apply for a Certificate of Occupancy from a city or county zoning department. For more information contact the county or city office in your area.

Business Organization

There are many forms of legal structure you may choose for your business. The most common structures are Sole Proprietorships, General and Limited Partnerships, C and S Corporations and Limited Liability Companies. Each legal structure offers organizational options which are appropriate for different personal situations and which affect tax and liability issues. We suggest you research each legal structure thoroughly and consult a tax accountant and/or attorney prior to making your decision.

Fictitious Business Name

Businesses that use a name other than the owner's must register the fictitious name with the county as required by the Trade Name Registration Act. This does not apply to corporations doing business under their corporate name or to those practicing any profession under a partnership name. For more information contact your state or local government.

Tax Information for New Small Business Startup

Business owners are required by law to withhold the following from the wages paid to employees: federal income taxes, state income taxes and FICA (Social Security) Insurance.

Income taxes will also be levied by the federal and state governments on earnings of any business. Therefore, each business must file an income tax return with both agencies. Businesses may be required to file estimated tax returns and pay estimated taxes on a quarterly basis.

For federal tax information, Go to this page.

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has a number of publications that are available upon request to small businesses. One of the most helpful is Your Business Tax Kit, which includes data and forms for a Federal Employer Identification Number and a tax guide for small businesses that can be ordered by calling Forms and Publications at (800) 829?3676 or through a visit to your local IRS office.

You may want to contact your local Social Security Administration Office for (FICA) Insurance information. For State tax information, call your state government.


Federal Self-Employment Tax

Everyone must pay Social Security Tax. If you are self-employed, your Social Security contribution is made through the self-employment tax. You will need to calculate how best to report earnings and pay your business taxes.

Contact the IRS at (800) 829?1040, visit your local IRS office, go to the Official IRS Web site for more information. The IRS may seem like a complicated maze, but there are publications, counselors and workshops available to help you sort it out.

Small Business Insurance

Like home insurance, business insurance protects the contents of your business against fire, theft and other losses. Contact your insurance agent or broker. It is prudent for any business to purchase a number of basic types of insurance. Some types of coverage are required by law, other simply make good business sense. The types of insurance listed below are among the most commonly used and are merely a starting point for evaluating the needs of your business.

New Small Business Startup Liability Insurance -- Businesses may incur various forms of liability in conducting their normal activities. One of the most common types is product liability, which may be incurred when a customer suffers harm from using the business product. There are many other types of liability, which are frequently related to specific industries. Liability law is constantly changing. An analysis of your liability insurance needs by a competent professional is vital in determining an adequate and appropriate level of protection for your business.

Property -- There are many different types of property insurance and levels of coverage available. It is important to determine the property you need to insure for the continuation of your business and the level of insurance you need to replace or rebuild. You must also understand the terms of the insurance, including any limitations or waivers of coverage.

Business Interruption -- While property insurance may pay enough to replace damaged or destroyed equipment or buildings, how will you pay costs such as taxes, utilities and other continuing expenses during the period between when the damage occurs and when the property is replaced? Business Interruption (or "business income") insurance can provide sufficient funds to pay your fixed expenses during a period of time when your business is not operational.

"Key Man" -- If you (and/or any other individual) are so critical to the operation of your business that it cannot continue in the event of your illness or death, you should consider "key man" insurance. This type of policy is frequently required by banks or government loan programs. It also can be used to provide continuity in operations during a period of ownership transition caused by the death or incapacitation of an owner or other "key" employee.

Automobile -- It is obvious that a vehicle owned by your business should be insured for both liability and replacement purposes. What is less obvious is that you may need special insurance (called "non-owned automobile coverage") if you use your personal vehicle on company business. This policy covers the business' liability for any damage which may result for such usage.

Office and Director -- Under some circumstances, officers and directors of a corporation may become personally liable for their actions on behalf of the company. This type of policy covers this liability.

Home Office -- If you are establishing an office in your home, it is a good idea to contact your homeowners' insurance company to update your policy to include coverage for office equipment. This coverage is not automatically included in a standard homeowner's policy.

Sales Tax Number

In your state there is a percent sales and use tax which applies to the retail purchase, retail site, rental, storage, use or consumption of tangible personal property and certain services. In other words, sales tax must be collected on just about every tangible item sold.

A sales tax number is required for each business before opening. The number, plus instructions for collection, reporting and remitting the money to the state on a monthly basis, can be obtained from your state government.

Other Considerations...

All businesses with employees are required to comply with state and federal regulations regarding the protection of employees. For information on state labor laws, work force availability, prevailing wages, unemployment insurance, unionization, benefits packages and employment services contact your state government.

Federal information may be obtained by contacting the: U.S. Department of Labor

Unemployment Insurance Tax

Businesses are required by the state to pay unemployment insurance tax if the company has one or more employees for 20 weeks in a calendar year, or it has paid gross wages of $1,500 or more in a calendar year. The taxes are payable at a rate of 2.7 percent on the first $8,500 in annual wages of an employee. Go to your state home page to check the figures for your state.

Unemployment insurance must be reported and returns made to the state.

Immigration Act

The Federal Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 requires all employers to verify the employment eligibility of new employees. The law obligates an employer to process Employment Eligibility Verification Form I-9. The Immigration and Naturalization Service Office of Business Liaison offers a selection of information bulletins and live assistance for this process through the Employer Hot-line. In addition, INS forms and the Employer Handbook can be obtained by calling the Forms Hot-line.

For Forms: (800) 870-3676

Employer Hot-line.: (800) 357-2099

Health and Safety

The Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) outlines specific health and safety standards employers must provide for the protection of employees. Many states have similar standards.

Workers' Compensation

If a business employs three or more people, workers' compensation insurance must be carried to provide protection to those injured in on?the?job accidents. The State Board of Workers' Compensation aids people who need claim assistance.

For more information contact your state government.

Minimum Wage

Virtually all business entities are subject to the federal minimum wage, overtime and child labor laws. Information on these laws and other federal laws, may be obtained from:

U.S. Department of Labor
Wage and Hour Division

Bar Coding

The Uniform Code Council, Inc., (not a government agency) assigns a manufacturer's ID code for the purposes of bar coding. Many stores require bar coding on the packaged products they sell. For additional information contact: Uniform Code Council Inc., P.O. Box 1244, Dayton, Ohio 45401, (513) 435?3870.


Other Topics in the 'Staring a Business' Section


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