Choosing to start a small business is both exciting and challenging, but there are many legal aspects that arise when you start. Once you determine what your small business services and target market are, as well as constructive a business plan, you will want to ensure that you follow all the necessary legal steps to launch a compliant, profitable and successful small business.
Rhodes Law Firm in Augusta offers business law services to our clients in Augusta and across the CSRA. Rhodes Law Firm is devoted to the practice of planning and protecting the assets of your business. Below, Rhodes Law Firm provides helpful tips and requirements to ensure that you’re legally starting your small business the right way.
1. Do your own small business research
The first step to starting your own business is to research the process and ask yourself very important questions before jumping right in.
- What are my small businesses goals?
- Am I providing goods or services?
- Do I want to hire employees or be a solo entrepreneur?
- What financial requirements are present and what capital do I have available?
While you’re answering these questions, you’ll gather information and learn more about the legal processes of starting a small business. Each individual has different needs for their small business and there is not a specific one-size-fits-all legal solution to starting a business. For the best results and to ensure that you are starting your small business legally and on the right foot, contact the business lawyers at Rhodes Law Firm in Augusta and let us assist you in your small business legal matters.
2. Determine the structure of your small business
As an independent professional starting a small business, you need to be aware of federal tax obligations from income, self-employment, estimated, employer and excise taxes. Once you establish your specific business structure, that will determine your federal tax obligations as well as the forms you use to report these taxes. The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) provides more information regarding these taxes and forms.
When creating your small business, these are some options to consider when determining your businesses structure.
Many independents begin their small business creation journey as sole proprietors. For tax purposes, you generally operate under your personal social security number, but you can apply for a Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN) for your business by filing an IRS SS-4 and asking for an Employer Identification Number (EIN) as your TIN instead of using your personal social security number. The business is generally run under your legal name. If you want to give the business an alternate name, you’ll register a Doing Business As (DBA) to state the name you intend to give your business. This process lets your state or local government know the name you are operating your business under. Specific DBA registration rules vary from state to state. You may also apply for a Federally registered business trademark or trade name.
Limited Liability Company (LLC):
Originally designed to protect owners of a business from certain business-related liabilities, the LLC structure has since become popular for independents due to its simplicity yet strong legal protections of a corporation shielding your personal assets. LLC is the next step above a sole proprietorship.
S Corporations are also referred to as an S-Corp and this is a business structure that has received the Subchapter S designation from the IRS. According to the IRS, S-Corps are considered by law to be a unique entity, separate and apart from those who own it. With this structure, subject to similar exceptions as described above for LLCs, you have the limited legal liability (separation of personal assets from your business) of a separate legal corporate entity as well as the separate tax entity. Provided the owners are eligible to make and make a timely election with the IRS, the profit from your business is reported under a separate tax return filing for 1120s but the taxable profit passes through to your personal tax return on form 1120 K-1. Thus, there is generally just a single level of tax.
An attractive option for the savvy independent professional, C-Corps make owners shareholders. A C-Corp has the same status that Fortune 500 businesses hold—they are corporate entities separate from their owners. In the case of an individually owned C-Corp, you are not just the owner of your company, but the majority shareholder. Because the corporation is a separate legal entity, it is an individual taxpayer in the eyes of the IRS. While this structure is one of the most complex business arrangements available, it is also the most sophisticated, making it an attractive option for independents.
Making sure that you choose the right structure for your small business is very important and you want to make sure that you’re creating your business the right way from the foundation and up. To ensure the best results when starting a small business, consider contacting the business lawyers at Rhodes Law Firm in Augusta.
3. Choose and Register your small business name
If you are starting a small business and choose to file as a Sole Proprietor, then to register your business name you’ll register a “Doing Business As” (DBA) or “Fictitious Business Name” (FBN). This process lets your state or local government know the name you are operating your business under. This registration doesn’t provide trademark protection, but it does allow you to create and use the name you want for branding purposes without having to incorporate. It also does not constitute a legal entity or provide any legal protection to the Sole Proprietor.
If you don’t register a DBA as a Sole Proprietor, the name of the business will default to the name of the owner’s legal name. For those who are filing a legal entity, an application must be filed with your state for either Articles of Incorporation of Articles of Organization. Whether you choose an LLC, S-Corp or C-Corp, you will need to file a name for the company.
If you are planning on providing online services, then you may want to consider getting your business name trademarked. A DBA or incorporated business name will not offer brand protection in the 49 states where your business is not registered. While trademarking is not a requirement, it will provide stronger protection for your brand. This process involves applying for a trademark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. If you do want to pursue a trademark, start by conducting a thorough and comprehensive search to make sure the name you want to use is available.
For the safest and most legal way to ensure your small business is registered, contact Rhodes Law Firm in Augusta and allow our business law experts to register your small business with the State of Georgia.
4. Secure your required business permits and licenses
No matter your small business and the products and services you offer, more than likely you will need to obtain the required business permits and licenses. Federal business licenses are required for any business involved in any sort of activity that is supervised and regulated by a federal agency while state licenses will vary.
5. Create a compliance plan
Even as a small business owner, you could be subject to the laws and regulations that apply to large corporations. These include advertising, marketing, finance, intellectual property and privacy laws. For companies that have employees, there are additional state and federal regulations that may need to be followed situationally.
Additionally, small businesses must ensure that they are free and clear of contractor misclassification concerns. Not only is this a threat to the small business itself, but also to its clients. Make sure that you’re taking the appropriate steps when creating your small business to mitigate your risk by consulting with business law experts at Rhodes Law Firm in Augusta.
6. Protect your small business with insurance
If you have decided to start your own small business as an independent professional, then you are responsible for ensuring the legal and financial wellbeing of your consultancy. Remember that you are your business and any legal or financial problem that arises will directly affect your company and you. It’s crucial to starting a small business that you protect your business against the risk of liability losses.
There are different types of insurance that you can protect you and your small business with. Depending on the industry, the size of your business and the types of prospective clients you expect to work with will all determine what’s the best insurance for your small business.
General Liability Insurance:
General liability insurance is often necessary for independents. This insurance covers a wide range of incidents, including accidental damage to a client’s property, claims of libel or slander and the cost of defending lawsuits.
Errors and Omissions Insurance:
Errors and omissions insurance, also known as professional liability insurance, provides protection in the instance that a client incurs financial harm due to an error or omission. In other terms, it’s a failure on your behalf to perform an integral part of your responsibility on a project.
Home-based Business Insurance:
While an insurance policy for a home-based business doesn’t apply to everyone, it’s relevant for independents who choose to work out of a home office. Most homeowners’ insurance policies do not cover losses sustained out of a home office, but an insurance policy for a home-based business can provide the protection you and your clients need.
Are you ready to start your small business legally and the right way?
Starting a small business can be one of the best decisions of your life. The exciting challenge of creating a small business and watching it become successful is one of the most rewarding moments for an entrepreneur. However, ensuring that your small business continues to grow and builds a strong clientele base is a realm of uncertainty that requires a leap of faith.
If you’re ready to start your own small business, then hopefully the tips and recommendations above help steer you in the right direction. If you want to discuss business law and creating your own small business, contact the lawyers at Rhodes Law Firm in Augusta and let us help you elevate your business ideas and expectations the legal way.