Each business structure has its advantages and disadvantages. Following is a quick overview.
Keep in mind that you’re not stuck with the initial choice you make. Many sole proprietorships have become a partnership, LLC or corporation as the years go by and the needs of the company change. Still, you’ll want to give this some thought as the additional cost and paperwork of changing structures can be time-consuming.
Legal liability. Different structures expose you to different levels of personal and professional liability in the event you are sued or the business becomes insolvent. You will want to factor in your own circumstances when considering the best structure for your new enterprise.
Tax implications. Taxes have to be paid no matter what. The real question is how they are reported and what tax benefits are offered within a particular business structure. Corporations typically get better tax breaks than sole proprietorships or partnerships.
Administration: Corporations require more record-keeping and paperwork compared to other structures, which is why many new business owners choose the sole proprietorship, partnership or limited liability corporation for their structure.
Future needs: It’s a lot easier to purchase a home if you incorporate, as you are considered an employee of the business and as such, have verifiable income in the form of draws and salary. Some lenders are reluctant to lend to a sole proprietorship because the assets of the business and the owner are so tightly interwoven. A corporation can also simplify the transfer of the business to family members and make it easier to raise funds by selling shares of stock.
Regardless of the structure you choose, you will need to follow the same steps to register your business initially. Missing any of these steps or not doing them in the correct order can cause delays. Steps 5 & 6 are industry-specific and won’t apply to all businesses.
Here are the eight steps the state requires to set up and operate a business:
- Research and make a plan
- Register your business with the Secretary of State (SOS)
- License your business with the Department of Revenue (DOR)
- Report your new employees to the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS)
- Apply for a Reseller Permit with the Department of Revenue (DOR)
- Register as a contractor with Department of Labor & Industries (L&I)
- Contact your local health department for food handling requirements
- Check with your City and/or County for their requirements
Let’s move on to the various structures, starting with the most basic, the Sole Proprietorship.