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How to Register a Business

Key Takeaways

  • Be sure to choose your business name, structure and location prior to registering to make the process easier.
  • Requirements for registration vary by state, so check the state’s website for the most up-to-date information.
  • If you plan on conducting business in more than one state, you may have to file for a “foreign qualification.”

Now that you’ve chosen the perfect name, location, and structure for your business, it’s time to make it legal by registering it! Registration for your business will vary by state, as well as the structure or type of business you’ve chosen, so make sure you’ve thought these things through before starting the process.

Although we outline some of the steps for business registration below, be sure to check with your legal counsel and your specific state requirements to make sure you take all required steps to confirm registration.

Federal business registration

In order to register your business with the federal government you’ll need to apply for a federal tax id number, also known as a FEIN or EIN. Additionally, if you want to trademark your business, then you’ll need to file with the United States Patent and Trademark office.

State business registration

You will likely need to register your business in the state you are conducting business. Each state has different rules and procedures. For example, Massachusetts allows you to register many aspects online; however, in Rhode Island you will need to mail or drop the forms off in person. Check your state’s website to find the specific requirements.

Multiple state registration

If you conduct business in more than one state, then you may also have to file for “foreign qualification.” While the state you register in will consider your business domestic, every other state will consider your business foreign.

In order to qualify as a foreign business you’ll need to file a Certificate of Authority with each state, as well as a Certificate of Good Standing from your domestic state. Check the state’s website to confirm their individual requirements.

Local DBA registration

If you are operating under a name other than your legally registered business, you are now considered to have a DBA (doing business as) name. For example, sole proprietor Gwen Green may choose to do business as “Gwen’s Gorgeous Gowns.”    

If you use a DBA name, then some counties and cities will require additional registration. You can find out what is required of your business by visiting the local government’s website. You can also find out if you need permits or licenses to conduct your business.

Registered agents

If all this paperwork feels overwhelming, then consider hiring a registered agent. A registered agent is required if you are forming an LLC, corporation, partnership, or nonprofit organization. The agent will be in charge of receiving official papers and legal documents on behalf of your company. The agent also must be located in your domestic state.

Get your business ready for prime time

Registering is just one piece of making your business official. It's important to make sure your finances are in line as well. Take a look at our business checking solutions or contact us to see how we can help.

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