Legal Checklist for Starting a Business

When starting a business, there are many things you must consider to keep you out of trouble with your local and state regulatory institutions.  This checklist is a good place to start. Note: This is a general checklist and not intended to be legal advice.  Be sure to check your local and state laws that apply to your particular business.

Business name

  • Have you said it aloud to make sure it's easily understood and pronounced?
  • Have you tested your business name out with your friends and family?  Also check spelling.
  • Have you checked the local Yellow Pages and with your local business authority to make sure the name is available?
  • Have you started your trademark search?
  • Have you filed your DBA?
  • Have you registered your trademark?

Business licensing

  • Obtain a city business permit.
  • Obtain a county permit, if necessary.
  • Determine whether you need professional licensing from your state.
  • Inquire as to any other permits you might need, including a fire inspection or sign permit.
  • Determine the proper amount of sales tax you need to collect and obtain a "seller's permit."

Other legal tasks

  • Determine if your neighborhood is zoned for home businesses, and if you need to be aware of any regulations (parking, signage, etc.),
  • Find an attorney who specializes in small businesses.
  • Decide which business structure (sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, limited liability partnership, limited liability company) you desire for your business, and contact your attorney to get the paperwork underway.
  • If you plan to hire employees, obtain an employer ID from the IRS and any forms you and your employees need to fill out. (Also inquire at your local INS office for an Employment Eligibility Verification form (Form I-9), which proves your employees have the legal right to work in the United States.)

Want your business day to run smoother?  Check out  the Daily Business Success Checklist and be more productive and profitable every day.