Don't Get Caught under the Table: Make Your Business Legal
Operating a legitimate Home Business on a full- or part-time basis may require taking certain legal steps to protect yourself and your venture, including the following:
* Get an employer's ID number if you have employees or are incorporated or in a partnership.
* Obtain a federal license if your job is covered by federal laws, such as those who are investment advisors or firearms dealers; similarly, make sure you have any required state and local business licenses.
* Obtain the trademarks, copyrights or patents needed to protect any products or services you have created.
* Incorporate or form a limited-liability company or a partnership if you are not a sole proprietor and are working with other people.
* Find out if you are required to collect sales tax for your product or service. If so, register with the state agency responsible for collecting sales taxes.
* Register your business name if you are using a name other than your own or a variation thereof.
Consult a lawyer or the appropriate government agencies in your city and state if you're not sure how these requirements may apply to your business or locale.
Don't Be Intimidated by the IRS: Claim Your Deductions on Your Home Business Income
Whether you live and work in a house, apartment or condominium, you can deduct the cost of operating and maintaining that part of your residence used for business if you meet the basic criteria established by the IRS for a home office.
According to the IRS, the portion of your home you wish to claim as a tax write-off must be used exclusively and regularly for business.
In addition, the portion of your home you use must be either your principal place of business or a location where you meet with customers or clients in the normal course of business activities.
If you qualify for a home-office deduction, you can deduct a variety of expenses such as your mortgage payments and capital improvements, pro rated for the portion of your residence used as an office.
As a self-employed individual, you can also deduct numerous ordinary business expenses, from the cost of operating your car to dues you pay to professional and trade associations. However, be sure the IRS considers you a self-employed individual or independent contractor rather than an employee. The rules on this issue and on expense deductions can be tricky, so it's wise to consult your accountant for clarification.
Don't Take Risks: Get Needed Insurance
Many home-based firms don't realize that their home-owner's or apartment dweller's insurance may not protect them against three basic business contingencies:
* Home/apartment insurance usually doesn't cover business property. Consider purchasing business property insurance to cover your computer and other office equipment and furnishings.
* Home/apartment insurance usually doesn't cover liability for accidents or injuries to customers or business visitors. Consider purchasing a rider to your policy to cover anyone who comes to your home on business.
* Standard auto insurance usually doesn't cover damaged or stolen business property. If you use your car for business, be sure to indicate that on your policy and pay the additional amount required.
Finally, depending on the nature of your business and the level of risk you want to assume, you may also wish to purchase any of the following:
* Malpractice or errors or omissions (E&O) insurance to cover you against claims that your product or service harmed someone or caused a business loss.
* Disability insurance to cover you against loss of income should you become disabled.
* Partnership insurance to cover you against suits arising from the actions of any partners you have.
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