How to Start Your Business

Incorporation Guide

Welcome! Starting a business is an exciting time. This beginner's guide promises to be your companion through the government paperwork of turning entrepreneur fever into a licensed business.

How to Start Your Business - Incorporation Guide



Overview

This guide is about the government paperwork to open your business.

open for business sign

This guide will introduce you to the process of registering your business with state and federal governments. This maze of incorporation, licensing, and taxation can be daunting to new business owners. But don't worry, this guide will help you step by step.

Is this you?

register your business guidance

You know you want to start your business. And you know that you need to:

  • File your business name
  • Form an LLC or corporation (maybe)
  • Get a federal tax ID from the IRS
  • Get state and local tax IDs
  • Get business licenses (maybe)
  • Set up your business records
  • Open a business bank account
  • ... and probably some other things too...

But what paperwork do you actually file with which agencies? And in what order?! The answer to these questions is the heart of this guide. We will tell you exactly what paperwork needs to be filed with which agencies, and the correct order of filing documents. We'll also provide the total cost and the total timeline across all agencies before you start filing.

Why this guide is different

As you'll soon see, this guide is THOROUGH. You're a long way from a blogger's one-pager. All we do at Harbor Compliance is incorporation and compliance. We live and breathe this stuff, and we're sharing our expertise with you (for free!). This guide is 200 pages and counting - but don't worry, you'll only need to read a small fraction of that.

the meeting of attorney and accountant minds

Secondly, this guide is different than similar resources because it incorporates both the traditional perspectives of an accountant or attorney. For example, when we talk about choosing a business structure, we'll talk about that decision both in regards to your legal structure and the best way to be taxed. You'll get a balanced blend of both worlds.

Finally, the #1 reason this guide is different than anything else you've read, you'll bookmark it in your browser, and you'll refer back to it time and time again is...

State-Specific Instructions

Did you know the rules to create and run a compliant LLC, corporation, or other business structure are different in every state? We have offices in all 50 states and work hard to bring you the local knowledge you won't find anywhere else.

If there was one disease we could cure in our industry, it would be national one-size-fits-all misinformation. So many laws, processes, and forms depend on in which state you're starting your business.

How much will it cost to get started?
It depends on your state. Anywhere from $0 to $1000+.

How long will it take to start doing business?
It depends on your state. Anywhere from instantly online to several months.

How many owners, directors, officers, etc. does my business need? And are there restrictions on who they are?
It depends on your state!

Do you need a business license?
It depends on your industry, state, county, and even city.

Will there be annual fees after the business is set up?
Usually yes. The amount depends on your state and business. Some states charge as much as $800 for the mere privilege of continuing to do business.

Instead of national generalizations, this guide gives you real answers to your burning business questions: "what's required", "how much", "how long", and "how to".

Consequently, the vast majority of this guide is organized into state-specific pages. That's why you'll only need to read a fraction of our 200+ pages.

Keeping up with government changes

Every year state legislatures pass changes to their business code. Government agencies update their forms, processes, and fees to enact these changes. On top of that, many agencies are in the process of migrating from paper forms to online. It's a heck of a lot to keep up with, and that's one reason our company focuses solely on incorporation and compliance - we're committed to doing it right.

You'll see a last fact-checked date on every page of this guide. We do our very best to keep our information current, and that's part of why we wrote an online guide as opposed to a downloadable pdf or physical book. This information changes all the time; this way we can update it, and you can get the most recent information without buying another book!

Hot off the Press: Everything Changed!

A little about us: We Government Forms

Some of us stay up late at night with the latest government regulations. Others can recite government fees off the top of our heads. You might think us a little nuts, but we love what we do. Incorporation and compliance is our little patch of paradise.

We do offer services to prepare and file just about any government form you'll come across in this guide. To explore our services, click the navigation bar at the top of your screen. One of our specialists will personally guide you through the process, prepare each of your forms, get them approved, and answer your questions.

All right, Time to Dive In!

Click on your state in the map below to navigate to step-by-step instructions for your state and your business structure. You'll see the paperwork, time, cost and step-by-step instructions to get set up:


Staying Compliant

If you thought the process of registering a business was a wild enough ride through government paperwork, brace yourself for the ongoing maintenance of running a compliant business entity. Check out our Business Compliance Guide next!


Incorporation Service

Your specialist works with you 1-on-1 to form your LLC, corporation, or other business structure. We prepare and file most formations in just one business day!

This page was last fact-checked June 4, 2015.