Registering a company in New York (city or state) is straightforward and quick. There are multiple steps, yes, but you need only follow those that apply to your particular business structure and industry. Even better, there are many services available (especially in NYC) that assist every step of the way (just Google it). You can go from square one to the finish line faster than you’d think. Whether you hire someone to navigate for you, or you take it on yourself (it’s really not that bad), the whole thing should be over before you know it.
Picking a Name
A rose by any other name would smell as sweet...but is the same true for a business? A name is important. Pick the right one, and it will resonate with people. Pick the wrong one, and it won’t stick with them. The definition of “right” and “wrong” is subjective, of course. That said, there are a few concrete steps you should take when deciding on your business name:
- Make sure your desired name is available. If someone has already registered it, you’ll have to pick something else. For New York state specifically, you can check the Yellow Pages and the NY Corporation and Business Entity Database. If you plan to (eventually) do business elsewhere in the United States, you should look to the United States Patent and Trademark Office to see if the name is registered anywhere in the country.
- Check to see if the name is available as a website domain. Your business web address should be the name of your business. Check beforehand to see if it’s available to you. It might not be a dealbreaker, but if you have two names you like equally, but only one domain is currently available, that’s a convenient tiebreaker. GoDaddy is a quick and easy resource to check name availability.
- Unless you are using your given name as your business name, you will need to register your “Doing Business As” (or DBA) in New York State (see below).
Determine Your Business Structure
In the US, you can register as a sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, or limited liability company. Your choice will affect your tax status and license requirements, so read up on the pros and cons before selecting one.
For tax purposes, you’ll likely be required to get an Employer Identification Number (EIN). Only certain types of sole proprietorship without any employees are exempt from this requirement. You can apply online via the Internal Revenue Services website.
If you’re a sole proprietorship or partnership using a business name (DBA) other than your own, you must file it with the County Clerk’s Office. Corporations or limited liability companies must register their name with the Department of State for New York.
If you’re starting business as a sole proprietorship, you need only file the Certificate of Conducting Business as a Sole Proprietor with the county clerk’s office at a cost of $25. Likewise for a partnership - file the Certificate of Conducting Business as Partners with the county clerk’s office and pay the $25 fee.
To register as a corporation in New York, you’ll need to apply for a Certificate of Incorporation, available at the Department of State at a cost of $125, and your name must contain corporation, incorporated, or limited. If you’re setting up a limited liability company, you’ll need to submit your Articles of Organization with the State Department for a $200 fee, and the official name must include either LLC, Limited Liability Company, or L.L.C.
Taxes and Insurance
Depending on your structure and industry, you may also need to apply and register for various tax numbers and insurance for employees and liability. Check out the New York State Tax Guide for New Businesses and Small Business Federal Tax Responsibilities for more detailed information. You may need to register for a Certificate of Authority if you’re required to collect sales tax (“Every person who sells taxable tangible personal property or taxable services (even if you make sales from your home) must register with the Tax Department before beginning business” according to the Department of Taxation and Finance).
You may also need unemployment insurance, workers’ compensation insurance, and disability benefits insurance. See Starting a Business in New York State for complete information - including how to apply - on each one.
Other Useful Links
The type, industry, and particular county all affect how and what you need to do to register in New York state, but thankfully, most of it is painless, relatively affordable, and can be done online. Don’t skip any steps - especially those involving tax issues - as they will quickly come back to haunt you (don’t mess with the IRS!). Follow the steps, make informed decisions, and get to the real business of doing business.
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