We’ve had several customers lately that have asked this very question, or ones close to it. Mostly because they’ve found places on the web that will “help them with all the paperwork” for “only a couple of hundred dollars!”
Hm. You don’t have to spend that much, and it isn’t very hard. You don’t really need help to do the paperwork, just a little time.
The hardest part is deciding what legal form your business will take. You can become a “sole proprietorship” just by declaring yourself to be one. If you and a friend are going to go into it together, you can form a partnership the same way, but partnerships are “legal entities” and have to file income tax returns. Check with an accountant or lawyer, or read some of the “business startup” websites with free information to help you decide.
Once you’ve decided what structure you’re going to have, you probably want to apply for a DBA (Doing Business As) or Assumed Name Certificate at your local county office. (http://www.kelanroycpa.com/krcpa/clerks_offices.htm has a nice list of DFW offices and info. Most county offices also have information online.) While there are plenty of home based businesses that haven’t done this, if you want to make sure someone else can’t call themselves “Amy’s Jewels” in Texas, you have to register the name. Also, if you want a bank account in your business name, the bank will want to see the certificate. And the paperwork isn’t horribly complicated, and the fees are usually pretty low. If you’re smart enough to start your own business, you’re smart enough to complete the paperwork, so don’t pay $100 for someone else to mail it in for you!
Next you’ll need a sales tax number, which is free. You can register online at http://www.window.state.tx.us/taxpermit/ or go to a local office. The state has a list of local offices and other helpful information at http://www.window.state.tx.us/taxinfo/fieldoff.html . You’ll have to have an estimate of your annual sales when you fill out the paperwork. Be honest. This determines how often you have to file and pay. And you have to pay sales tax to the state for everything you sell that isn’t legally tax exempt, or they get really huffy when they find out. Again, information on the state website free and isn’t hard to understand, and the staff in the local offices can answer any other questions you have.
But remember, once you’ve declared yourself to be in business, there are income tax and sales tax returns that have to be filed, records and paperwork to be kept up with, and an amazing amount of junk mail directed at your new venture.
Congratulations and Good Luck!!