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General Business - Q & A
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Biz Quick Q & A

Browse our most frequently asked questions
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Why Should I Incorporate My Business?

The bottom line? If you are sued by a client or customer - your personal assets will not be seized or accessible.

Incorporating your business protects YOU.

The main advantage of a corporation is the liability protection it provides its owners or shareholders. Liability is limited because the corporation is a legal entity that is separate from its shareholder owners. As a separate legal entity, the corporation has a perpetual life. Also, as a separate legal entity, the corporation is liable for its own debts and can only be held liable to the extent of the corporation's assets.  Most small businesses find that an LLC is the best corporate identity for them. When you are ready to incorporate, you can painlessly file here - click.

When do I need a Federal Tax ID Number [EIN]?

You do not need to get an EIN (federal tax ID or Employer Identification Number) from the IRS if you are a sole proprietor without employees. You can open your business bank account with your DBA name using your social security number (SSN). You will file Schedule C at the end of the year with your personal tax return, and if you have made a profit, Schedule SE (for self-employment tax) as well.

What's a DBA?

DBA is an acronym for "Doing Business As" (also known as a "Fictitious Name."). Most states require that sole proprietorships and partnerships that are conducting business under a name other than the owner(s) must file for a DBA certificate in the county where business is conducted. The DBA certificate is generally obtained at the Clerk of Court of the county in which business will be conducted.

Do I need a Business License and if so, where do I get one?

Depending on the type of business you are starting, you may be required to obtain local, county, State or Federal licensing. It's important to determine which of these will be required before you start conducting any business since heavy fines are usually associated with conducting a business without proper licenses and permits.

Most small and home-based businesses will only require a local business license or permit.

First call or visit your city or county Department of Revenue. If you intend to operate a business from your home, be sure to also check local zoning requirements as well as any property covenants. Zoning requirements are those laws that regulate how property can be used and in some cases, some activities may not be allowed.

Certain businesses and professions will also require a State license. Examples include attorneys, barbers, contractors, dentists, most businesses serving food, and social workers. Each State has an agency dealing with these types of businesses.

For a very few businesses, Federal licensing is required. Examples would be a business that is engaged in providing investment advice or dealing with firearms. In general, Federal licensing is required if the business is highly regulated by the government. It's best to consult an attorney in these cases.

How do I get certified as a women-owned business?

This process is usually administered through the State's Economic Development Council. Contact your local SBA office for additional information.

How can I determine if I may deduct home office expenses on my taxes?

IRS publication #587 has the whole story. Download a copy from their site at the IRS.

What's a "business plan" and do I need one?

A business plan is an essential element of any serious business startup. Click here to download our business plan template, with detailed step-by-step information about how to create your perfect business plan.

Other sites with business plans are:
SBA-Business Plan Outline
Edge Online
American Express Small Business
Industry Canada
Biz Plus

Can a husband and wife be a Sole Proprietorship?

No. Technically a husband and wife cannot jointly own a business as a sole proprietor; they cannot split a sole proprietorship and file two Schedule C and two Schedule SE. To avoid being classified as a partnership, a husband and wife team operating a business together should treat one spouse as an employee and the other spouse as the owner.

What's the difference between a copyright and trademark?

Copyrights and Trademarks are often misunderstood and confused with each other. Here is some basic information:

A copyright protects a "form of expression" such as writings, designs, and works of art. A copyright is automatic in that anything you write, design, or otherwise conceive, is protected by the copyright laws. This protection generally lasts for your lifetime plus 50 years.

A copyright may be registered with the Patent & Trademark Office. Having your copyright registered can help if and when you need to defend it use by others.

A trademark is a word or series of words, a design or graphic that relates to your product, service, or company. A trademark must be registered with the Patent and Trademark Office.

Click here to search a trademark., at the US Patent & Trademark Office web site.

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