Your location and business structure determine how you’ll need to register your business. Determine those factors first, and registration becomes very straightforward.
For most small businesses, registering your business is as simple as registering your business name with state and local governments.
In some cases, you don’t need to register at all. If you conduct business as yourself using your legal name, you won’t need to register anywhere. But remember, if you don’t register your business, you could miss out on personal liability protection, legal benefits, and tax benefits.
Register with federal agencies
Most businesses don't need to register with the federal government to become a legal entity, other than simply filing to get a federal tax ID. Small businesses sometimes register with the federal government for trademark protection or tax exempt status.
If you want to trademark your business, brand or product name, file with the United States Patent and Trademark office once you’ve formed your business.
If you want tax-exempt status for a nonprofit corporation, register your business as a tax-exempt entity with the IRS.
Register with state agencies
If your business is an LLC, corporation, partnership, or nonprofit corporation, you'll probably need to register with any state where you conduct business activities.
Typically, you’re considered to be conducting business activities in a state when:
- Your business has a physical presence in the state
- You often have in-person meetings with clients in the state
- A significant portion of your company’s revenue comes from the state
- Any of your employees work in the state
Some states allow you to register online, and some states make you file paper documents in person or through the mail.
Most states require you to register with the Secretary of State’s office, a Business Bureau, or a Business Agency.