Legally Starting a Small Business

Copyright © 2008 Elias Stassinos

Here's how to legally start your business.

First, regardless of the business you are starting, you will most likely need a business license.

The legal requirement to get a business license is valid regardless of whether you business is a home-based business, an online internet business, a contractor's business, or a professional's business, such as a doctor's medical office - you need a business license to start a business. The business license requirement is a requirement in addition to a required license you might need from the state if you are a professional such as an attorney or hairdresser. Depending on the location of your business, or the type of business, the business is filed at the state, county or municipal level of government. Here's a business license service:

Second, if you using a trade name that does not include your legal name, you need to file a Trade Name Certificate or DBA (Doing Business As).

If your trade name includes you last name but also includes a suffix such as "& CO" or "& Associates" or anything that denotes additional business owners, you need to file a DBA. You can also file a corporation or LLC instead of filing a DBA, but that may be a little more expensive. However, even if you file a Corporation or LLC, and the corporation name or LLC name is different from the trade name you will use to conduct business, you need to file a DBA.

Third, if you sell wholesale (i.e., if you sell to retailers) or buy wholesale to resell retail, in other words, if your business sells or leases taxable items or services, you will need to obtain a state sales tax id number (also called a seller's permit, wholesale license, retail license or resale permit).

You will need a reseller's number to buy wholesale, or if you are a wholesaler, you will need it to sell wholesale. For example, if you have a toy store, you will be able to buy wholesale without paying any taxes for the toys to the wholesaler and, subsequently, charging taxes to your customers when you sell the toys.

Fourth, if you are an employer, you will need to obtain a federal employer tax identification number as well as a state employer tax identification number. These numbers are required if you are an employer. Employers pay taxes both to the federal and to the state government.

The above licenses are the minimum you need to start. If you want to protect your personal assets from business creditors or againsts law suits against your business, it is a good idea to incorporate or form an llc.


You can hire an attorney to file your business documents, a less expensive legal service or you can do it alone. After obtaining the required business licenses discussed above, and opening your business accounts, you are legally able to start business operations.

Elias Stassinos, Esquire is a trademark and incorporation attorney that has assisted thousands of small business owners and entrepreneurs launch their first business enterprise. Visit his law firm Website: . Attorney Elias Stassinos, Esquire is also a corporate legal counsel for the leading online legal filing service at .