Pennsylvania Sole Proprietorship

If you’re looking to start a Pennsylvania sole proprietorship, you’re in the right place. This guide will help you secure a business name, obtain tax IDs, and apply for business licenses.

Paperwork Cost Time
  • Form DSCB:54-311-2: Application for Registration of a Fictitious Name
  • DBA Publishing
  • IRS Form SS-4: Obtain an EIN
  • PA-100: PA Enterprise Registration Form
  • DBA Name: $70
  • DBA Publishing: ~$200
  • EIN: $0
  • PA-100: $0 + fees for needed licenses
  • DBA Name: ~10-15 business days
  • EIN: Immediately online
  • PA-100: varies based on needed tax accounts/licenses

How to Start a Sole Proprietorship in Pennsylvania

1 Confirm you should start a sole proprietorship

Before you begin, take a moment to confirm your understanding of the sole proprietorship business structure.

  • A sole proprietorship is limited to a single owner or to a husband and wife operating as a joint venture.
  • You will pay taxes on business profits on your personal income tax return and at your personal income tax rate. The IRS deems a sole proprietorship a 'disregarded entity' for tax purposes.
  • The appeal of a sole proprietorship lies in that it is relatively easy to set up and maintain compared to other business structures.
  • The main drawback of a sole proprietorship is that it does not provide you with limited liability protection. Your car, home, savings, and other personal assets are at risk if your business gets in debt or is sued.
    • If you do not own assets, debts may be applied against future assets.
    • Business liability insurance is not a substitution for limited liability protection. Liability insurance protects the assets of the business in certain situations and up to certain limits. Limited liability protects your personal assets.

The other major option for a single-owner business is a Pennsylvania limited liability company (LLC). To compare all structures, please see the Business structure comparison chart.

2 Determine if you need to register your business name

By default, your business name is your legal name. Any other business name is called a "doing business as" (DBA) name.In Pennsylvania, registering your DBA is mandatory.

Registering a fictitious name will not prevent another individual or business from registering an identical name with the PA Department of State (no name exclusivity).

3 Check Name Availability

Your desired DBA may not conflict with any other registered name. Check availability of your desired name by conducting a name search.

Name Search:
Pennsylvania Bureau of Corporations record search
  • Your name must be "distinguishable" from registered corporations, LLCs, and other entities.
  • The Pennsylvania Department of State will permit you to file a name identical to any fictitious names on record; however, you risk infringing on that person or business's common law trademark.
  • For use of corporate designators (e.g. "company"), restricted words, and names requiring pre-approval, please see 54 Pa. Code §311.

Next, check availability of your desired name against trademarks registered with the Pennsylvania Secretary of State and the USPTO.

PA Trademark:
Pennsylvania Bureau of Corporations record search (same database as above)
Federal Trademark:
USPTO trademark search

Finally, use your common sense to search use of your desired business name in the public domain. Common law rights to a trademark arise from actual use, not registration. Search the internet, telephone directories, trade magazines, business or professional license records, and so on.

4 File Pennsylvania Fictitious Name Registration

File the following document to register your name.

Submit to:
Pennsylvania Department of State
Form DSCB:54-311-2: Application for Registration of a Fictitious Name
Filing Method:
~10-15 business days
  • Type and print or use black or blue ink.
  • Do not use a P.O. Box for the principal office address.
  • The requirement to file a duplicate copy with certain counties has been abolished. You no longer need to file fictitious name documents in the Office of the Clerk of the Court of Common Pleas or Prothonotary.
5 Publish your Fictitious Name

Pennsylvania imposes a publishing requirement for fictitious names.

Submit to:
Approved legal journals or newspapers
54 Pa. Code §311(g)
  • Beware of spending too little on publishing. You may not be including the required copy.
  • Obtain legal affidavits for your records.
  • It is better to wait to publish until after your filing is approved. That way you ensure your name is approved.
  • To learn more, read PA publishing requirement.
6 Get a Federal Employer Identification Number

If your sole proprietorship will hire employees, it must obtain an Employer Identification Number (EIN). This is a nine digit number issued by the IRS for tax reporting purposes. Your bank may require you to have an EIN to open a business account. In addition, obtaining an EIN avoids using your social security number on various government forms and during business transactions.

Submit to:
Internal Revenue Service
IRS Form SS-4
IRS Pub 1635: Understanding Your EIN
Filing Method:
Mail, phone, fax, or apply online with the IRS
Immediately online
The IRS website is only available during certain hours. Print your EIN before closing your session.
7 Get Pennsylvania State Tax Identification Numbers/Accounts

Pennsylvania issues multiple tax IDs - one for each tax account number (box number). For example, if your business sells candy bars and has employees, you will have separate tax account numbers for sales tax and employer withholding tax.

Submit to:
Pennsylvania Department of Revenue
PA-100: PA Enterprise Registration Form
REV-558: Starting a Business in Pennsylvania - A Beginner's Guide
$0 + fees for needed licenses
Filing Method:
Mail or using Online Business Registration Interview (OBRI)

More information and help filing PA-100

8 Obtain Business Licenses & Permits

To run your business legally, you must obtain applicable licenses and permits. The easiest way to navigate the wide range of federal, state, and local requirements is to search by your business type and locality using the Small Business Administration Business License & Permit look-up tool.

* Next Steps

To finish setting up your sole proprietorship:

  • Open a business bank account. Keep your personal finances and business finances separate.
  • Obtain general business liability insurance. Because a sole proprietorship does not have limited liability, an insurance policy may be the only protection against unforseen events.
  • Comply with employment laws as you hire help.
  • Report and pay taxes.
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