Checklist for Small Business Startups

You have the perfect business idea; you have a market, a location, and a budget. But before you sell that first product, or sign on that first client, read this guide and make sure you have covered all the details.

  1. Do you have a business plan? A business plan is essential for obtaining financing. It will also help you run and manage your business. The Service Corps of Retired Executives can help you create your business plan. SCORE is part of the Small Business Administration. The SBA has Small Business Development Centers in many cities which offer free resources and information for small business. Check your Yellow Pages for local contact information.
  2. Have you decided which type of business entity you will form? You can choose to set up as a sole proprietorship, a partnership, a cooperative or a corporation. You will need to research these business forms to determine which is the best for you and your business.
  3. Have you registered your business name? Contact the Secretary of State's office to find out if the name you want is available. They will also register the name for you. The fee for this service varies by state.
  4. Have you filed all the local forms and applied for all the necessary permits and licenses? Check that with your town clerk.
  5. Do you have an employer identification number? Even if you do not have employees, you still need a tax payer identification number for filing tax returns, and opening bank accounts. Call 1-800-TAX-FORMS (1-800-829-3676), and ask for Form SS-4, Application for Employer Identification Number. Also ask for a copy of Publication 536 - ‘Starting a Business and Keeping Records.'
  6. Do you have a lawyer? You should meet with an attorney to determine what type of legal liability your business will entail. Your attorney should be able to advise you on local, and state regulations relating to your form of business.
  7. Do you have an accountant? Meet with an accountant to determine what your tax liabilities will be. An accountant can also advise you in the type of accounting method that will be best for your business.
  8. Have you filed all the necessary state forms? You will need a state identification number for filing sales tax forms, and state income tax.
  9. Do you have all the insurance you need? Do you need to change your car or homeowner's insurance policy? Do you need to obtain liability or business insurance? Check with your agent.
  10. Will you hire employees? Check with the state Department of Labor to determine what your responsibilities are. You will also need to acquire copies of forms I-9 and W-4 from the IRS. I-9 certifies that the employee is a U.S. citizen or resident alien. Form W-4 determines the amount of taxes which will be withheld from the employee's pay.

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