When I first started thinking about beginning an online business, I didn’t think about the legalities. I knew I wanted to make some extra money. Lots of money! Sound familiar? So, I began doing some research. One day I ran across the headline of an article that I will never forget. It read, “Your Business; Get Legal Or Get Cheated”! As if that were not scary enough, there was more to come. As I began to skim the page, I was horrified to see the words, “Tax ID number.” Tax ID number? I don’t know anything about that! At that moment, I thought the dream of owning my own business was just that, a dream. I began to read more of the article and it actually sounded pretty simple. I was surprised to find how simple it really was. There are two things you must have in order to make your business legal.
The first thing you need to do is file your business name with your state. This is referred to as a Doing Business As (DBA) or Fictitious Name depending on your state of residence. It is as simple as going down to your local County Office building to register your business name. You will be charged a fee. I payed $19 in my county which is in North Carolina. You will need to find out the cost of the fees in your county. You can also file a corporation with your state. All states have a website that gives information about this. Most of the time you can even file online. A corporation will give you more protection for your business but is more expensive.
The second thing you need to do is obtain a Tax ID number. Most states require you to have one. In my state it is called a Sales Tax and Use Certificate. In other states it could be called a Seller’s Permit. What is the purpose of this number? It allows you to collect sales tax on items you sale within your own state. You will use this to file and pay taxes on the items that you sell. You can obtain a Tax ID number by visiting your local State Tax office. You should be able to complete the process and have your number within minutes for a minimal fee. Since the process was still a little scary for me, I went to see my accountant and he filed the papers for a fee of $25. I thought it was worth every penny not fill out the forms myself. If you buy products from a wholesaler, you will need to give them a copy of your Sales and Use Tax Certificate or Seller’s Permit. This proves to the IRS that they are not required to charge you tax on products that they sell to you for wholesale prices.
So, there you have it! Those are the two things you will need to make your business legal. Not too scary and painful, I hope. Easier and cheaper than you thought, right? There are a couple of other things to consider when starting your business, especially if you are serious about making money online.
Opening a business bank account is optional, but I highly recommend that you do. For a while, I didn’t have one. You will need the documents with your business name. Most banks offer business accounts and only require a deposit of $50 to $100. I opened a free business checking account. It included 175 transactions per month without being charged extra and no minimum balance was required to keep the account open. If you need more transactions there are other options available. Shop around for the best deals. One thing to take into consideration is convenience. For instance, if you spend a lot of time in other towns or states, make sure you open an account with a bank in those locations if possible.
If you are going to do business online you are going to need a merchant account to accept credit card payments from your customers. You will not be able to earn much money without one. People who shop online use credit and debit cards to get what they want as quickly as possible. A merchant account will collect payments from your customers and deposit them into your business bank account. When applying, you will need to supply all of the information I have discussed in this article. There are, of course, fees for using a merchant account. There will be a one time fee to set up an account. This amount can vary from a couple of hundred to a few thousand dollars depending on your needs and who you choose to set up your account. You will also be charged an average of 2.2% of the amount charged to your customer’s credit card plus around 30 cents for each transaction. This is what my bank would charge if I opened a merchant account with them. You will need to shop around to find the best rates and plan for you. I do not have a merchant account but am still able to accept payments online. I currently use Paypal to accept transactions. Go to their website to read about what they have to offer. It has it’s advantages and disadvantages, but I digress. That is another topic.
I hope you enjoyed reading this article and found it to be helpful in your business endeavors. I wish you the best of luck on your journey to success!