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A guide to registering your business

After you start a company, it’s important not to forget to go through the formal process of registering your business. However, it’s not always clear where to start, as the process can vary depending on a couple of different factors, including the structure and location of your company.

Wondering how to register your business? Find out everything you need to know about how to register a business with our comprehensive guide, including where to register your business and what documents you’ll need throughout the process.

Why do you need to register your business?

It’s important to register a business for several different reasons. Most importantly, you may be legally required to do so. But there are also a couple of other major benefits associated with registering your business with state or local governments, including:

  • Getting a loan

  • Establishing a business bank account

  • Reassuring potential customers

  • Hiring employees

  • Receiving supplier discounts

It’s also incredibly important to register your business name. Why? Because otherwise, another company may be able to trade with that name. Plus, if an unregistered company trades under the name of a registered business, it could result in legal action.

Find out if you need to register your business

Some businesses will not need to be registered at all. If you conduct business as yourself, using your legal name, then there’s no requirement for you to register your business. However, it’s worth remembering that you may miss out on several benefits – including personal liability protection, tax benefits, and legal benefits – if you don’t register your business name.

Register with the federal government

In most cases, you will not need to register your business with the federal government to actually become a legal entity. However, there are a couple of situations where you’ll need to register with federal agencies. For example, if you want to trademark a business, product, or brand name, you’ll need to file with the United States Patent and Trademark office. In addition, nonprofit corporations that want tax-exempt status will need to register as a tax-exempt entity with the IRS. 

Register with the state

Trying to work out where to register your business? Corporations, nonprofit corporations, partnerships, and LLCs will probably need to register with any state where they conduct business. So, what does “conducting business” mean in this context? Essentially, you’re judged to be conducting business when:

  • Any of your employees work in the state

  • You have regular in-person meetings with clients in the state

  • You have a physical presence in the state

  • A significant amount of your revenue comes from the state

How do you register a business with state agencies? Ultimately, this depends on the state itself. Some states require you to file paper documents (either in-person or via mail), whereas others will allow you to register online. Corporations, nonprofit corporations, partnerships, and LLCs may need to get a registered agent before they file in their state. The registered agent will receive all legal documents and official papers on behalf of your company and must be based in the state where you’re planning to register your business.

Register with local (county or city) authorities

Most of the time, you will not need to register a business with local agencies to form a business. However, LLCs, nonprofit corporations, corporations, and partnerships may need to file for permits with the county or city authorities. In addition, you may need to register your DBA (“doing business as”) with your local county or city.

How much does it cost to register your business?

The total cost to register a business varies depending on the structure and location of the business, but in most cases, it will be less than $300.

What information/documents do I need to register a business?

Once again, the specific information you’ll need to register your business depends on the structure and location of the business. Typically, you’ll need the following:

  • Business name

  • Business location

  • Management structure, ownership, or directors

  • Registered agent information

  • Number and value of shares (for corporations)

The documents you need to provide to register a business also depend on the type of business you’re forming, but may include:

  • Articles of organization (for an LLC)

  • LLC operating agreement (for an LLC)

  • Certificate of limited partnership (for a limited partnership)

  • Limited partnership agreement (for a limited partnership)

  • Certificate of limited liability partnership (for a limited liability partnership)

  • Limited liability partnership agreement (for a limited liability partnership)

  • Articles of incorporation (for a corporation)

  • Bylaws or resolutions (for a corporation)

We can help

Getting your business up and running can be a challenge, so it’s important to have a healthy cash flow from the start. GoCardless offers an automated payment system designed to help you maintain a good cash flow from day one. Find out how GoCardless can help you with ad hoc payments or recurring payments.

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