Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)Do I need to register the name of my business?
If so, how do I go about it? If you are doing business under any name but your own, you are required to register with the Secretary of State. This requirement enables people to identify who is operating a particular business. For information on how to register your name, visit the Secretary of State's website at www.sos.state.mn.us, for an index of forms. You can also call 651-296-2803. The Minnesota Secretary of State's office is located at 180 State Office Building, 100 Constitution Avenue - St. Paul, MN 55155.
For assistance with registering your name using a cost-effective, efficient, online service, visit www.BizFilings.com.
Do I need to trademark my business name?
Registering your business name is not the same as securing a trademark for your business name. A trademark is a form of intellectual property that provides you with rights about how your business name may be used. Trademarks may also be obtained for specific words, phrases, logos, symbols, designs, images or a combination of these elements. Similar to registering your business name, you may conduct a trademark search to learn if your business name has been trademarked by someone else.
The United States Patent and Trademark Office, also referred to as USPTO, offers a free screening tool within a Trademark Electronic Business Center to assist with determining if your business name has already been trademarked.
A trademark is denoted by the trademark symbol, which is TM, or alternatively by the federal registration symbol, which is , if an actual registration filing has been approved by the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
What is a Tax I.D. Number?
Do I need one? A Business tax I.D., also referred to as a Federal Employer Identification Number (EIN), is issued by the Internal Revenue Service for the purpose of identifying employers. If you have employees, you will need an EIN. EINs are not issued by the State. Many small businesses obtain a tax I.D. for use in purchasing merchandise and supplies at wholesale prices. Here is more information about obtaining an EIN, or you can refer to IRS publication: Starting a Business & Keeping Records, (page 3).
There are several methods to easily obtain an EIN, you may either apply by mail or phone using Form SS-4, or you may be eligible to apply online.
The IRS provides online access to most IRS forms, including forms and publications for small business. You may also call your local IRS office (refer to your phone book) or contact your CPA or tax preparer's office.
How do I finance my business?
There are many ways to finance both the start-up and growth of your business. For start-ups, the most common funding sources include personal credit, family and friends. The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) also offers various loan products whereby a lender provides the actual loan to the borrower and the SBA guarantees a portion of the loan (between 50%-85% depending on the program) acting much like a cosigner. This helps lenders be more comfortable with a loan that they might otherwise not approve, such as a loan for a start up, or a borrower that has less collateral than a bank requires. There are other types of business financing tools that facilitate access to capital under certain circumstances. For example, if you possess commercial real estate, you can borrow against the value of the property using a small business commercial loan.
If you have been in business two or more years and have a history of accepting credit cards as a form of customer payment, you may be eligible for raising capital against the value of those credit card revenues. This cash advance is satisfied by making payments as a percentage of future credit card sales. Visit Small Business Alternative Funding to learn more.
A further innovative approach suited to financing growth without giving up equity is to utilize a process called factoring. Factoring refers to the process of selling your accounts receivable invoices to a third party who then performs the function of collecting the invoice. Called factors, these agents can move quickly to get funds to a business for a fee as a means of providing financing for growth. Visit Small Business Financing Using Accounts Receivable to learn more.
How do I manage business credit?
Business credit involves the strategic management of business charge and credit card services. Properly managed, these services can provide convenient access to working capital, robust online business tools and purchasing discounts that help to improve your businesses purchasing power, spending flexibility and expense control.
There are various types of costs and benefits associated with utilizing business credit tools including various annual percentage rate charges and other fees, as well as various reward programs, such as travel, shopping discounts, airline incentives, dining discounts, business supplies and more.
It is important to know what your options are so that you can select the most appropriate Business Spending Tools as well as Savings and Reward Programs.
To learn more about charge cards, credit cards, loans and credit lines, visit Small Business Credit Services.
Do I need a license to operate my business?
Obtaining a license to operate a business depends on the type of business as well as the location of the business. To learn if your business requires a license, visit the local town hall to learn what the requirements are. The State also requires that certain occupations and businesses be licensed. For more information visit http://www.sos.state.mn.us/index.aspx?page=331.
Should I incorporate?
There are several forms of business organizations: sole proprietor, partnership, corporations, and limited liability companies. Legal liability, income taxes, protection of assets, and ease of transfer are some of the issues affected by the form of business organization. In order to decide upon the best solution for you, you may view the Business Entity Matrix. You can use an online business filing service for an efficient cost-effective means to implement the option you choose. Visit Small Business Registrations and Filings to learn more.
Which business expenses can I deduct for income tax purposes?
Generally, all the expenses you incur to start and operate your business are deductible. However, many are subject to various IRS rules. For example, start-up costs, vehicle expense, meals and entertainment, and use of a home office are subject to various guidelines. Start by reading IRS publications, such as the Small Business Resource Guide, CD-ROM 2007, which you can view online through the Missouri Small Business Development Center, or order online through the IRS. If you are a sole proprietor, the tax return is a Schedule C. For a complete list of IRS publications available on-line, go to https://www.irs.gov/Forms-&-Pubs.
There is also a section of the IRS web site devoted to small businesses, or you may call them at 1-800-829-3676. A local CPA (certified public accountant) office is also typically a valuable resource on this topic.
It is very important to set up a good bookkeeping system immediately upon going into business. Depending on the size of your operation, a manual bookkeeping system, such as the Dome Simplified Monthly Bookkeeping System, or the One-Write Bookkeeping System, can be a productive approach. Both of these options are available at most office supply stores. One Write is also available in a computer-based format along with other options, such as Quick Books. It is highly recommended that you become familiar and stay in tune with the bookkeeping characteristics of your operation before you consider outsourcing this function to a local or Internet-based bookkeeping service.
Do I need special insurance for my business?
It is wise for any business to possess a general business insurance policy, which includes liability and other standard coverage. Your place of business, if you own it, should be insured; and if you rent, you still should possess your own coverage. Don't rely on the landlord's insurance.
If you have one or more employees, you are required to have worker's compensation insurance. Depending on your industry -- for example, food service requires product liability insurance -- you may need additional types of insurance. If you already have insurance coverage, begin investigating coverage options and requirements with your present agent. Obtaining quotes from several agencies is also recommended, being sure to compare both coverage recommendations AND price. The State of Minnesota Department of Insurance, protects consumers by administering and enforcing the insurance laws and in the most responsive and cost effective manner to ensure the financial reliability and responsibility of all regulated entities. Contact and other agency information may be viewed at www.state.mn.us.
What is OSHA?
The U.S. Department of Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is a federal agency that oversees workplace safety. All employers are required to provide a safe and healthy workplace and are subject to safety and health inspections by OSHA without prior notice. Employers with more than ten (10) employees are required to maintain a record of injuries on the OSHA 200 form, which must be made available for inspection for a period of five years. For more information about workplace safety and OSHA requirements, contact the Minnesota Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration at 612-664-5460, 300 S. 4th Street, Suite 1205, Minneapolis, MN 55415. Go to www.doli.state.mn.us or www.osha.gov, which provides specific links to a variety of regulations and compliance information.
How does franchising work?
Franchising is a business model that involves purchasing a license to operate a specific, established venture that typically includes using well-known trademarks, signage, products, software and a pre-proven business system to support your ultimate business success. There are advantages and disadvantages between choosing to launch your own business idea and buying into an established franchise. Visit Small Business Franchise Opportunities to learn more.