Business & Commercial Law
Running a Business: Legal FAQ
In this article
- Do I need a license / permit to open my business?
- I want to do business online. Do I need to charge state sales tax?
- Do I need to develop terms and conditions for my business website?
- How can I collect money that is owed to me by my customers?
- Do I Need a Taxpayer Identification Number for my Business?
- What benefits must I legally provide to my employees?
- How often do I need to pay business taxes?
- Do I need business insurance?
That depends on what type of business you own. Many businesses do not need any special licenses or permits in order to operate their businesses. However, some businesses that engage in certain trades or professions may need special licenses. For example, certain professionals such as doctors, lawyers, teachers and accountants need special licenses, issued by appropriate state agencies, in order to engage in the practice of their profession. Also, some businesses that engage in certain types of commerce such as alcohol or firearms may need special licenses in order to operate.
It is can be difficult and frustrating to have money that is legally owed to you by customers and not have the customers pay on time. After sending an initial bill and not receiving payment you should follow up with an additional bill marked “Overdue.” Additionally, you should call the customer and remind them of the overdue bill. It is important that you record all of your attempts to collect money from your customers so be sure to make note of the date, time and outcome of each phone call and bill. If your actions still do not result in a paid bill then you may need to hire a collection agency or file a claim in small claims court. Prior to contacting a collection agency or filing a lawsuit, however, you must carefully read the terms of the contract or agreement between you and your customer to ensure that you are pursuing your money in the manner in which you both agreed to prior to the dispute.
A taxpayer identification number (TIN) is a number used by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to identify people and companies. Most companies need to file with the IRS to receive an Employer Identification Number (EIN). Those who do not need an EIN typically use their social security number unless they fall under a limited exception to the general rule. A business needs to obtain an EIN if the business has any employees, if it operates as any type of corporation or partnership, if it has to file special tax returns for employment, excise or alcohol, tobacco and firearms or if it is involved with certain types of organizations such as estates or non-profit organizations.
The type of benefits which an employer must provide to his or her employees depends on the number of people employed by the company and the state(s) in which the company does business. Private employers typically must pay social security taxes for employees and maintain unemployment and workers compensation insurance for employees. Some states also require employers to carry disability insurance for their employees. The Family and Medical Leave Act provides that certain employers with more than 50 employees must provide 12 weeks of unpaid leave in a 12 month period for certain employees who are caring for a new child or a sick relative. COBRA benefits which provide for temporary continuation of health care coverage when an employee is terminated must also be provided in certain situations.
If you operate a business then you will need to pay your federal and state income taxes and your self employment tax at least annually and likely more often than that. If a business expects to owe $1,000 or more in taxes at the end of the year then the business needs to file quarterly tax returns. Other types of taxes such as business entity taxes and excise taxes must also be paid according to the schedule determined by your state taxing authority.
Most businesses need some kind of insurance coverage. The type of coverage varies from business to business and many companies need more than one type of insurance policy. For example, professionals, such as doctors and lawyers, usually must have malpractice insurance. Businesses that operate vehicles must have motor vehicle insurance. Many businesses also need property insurance to protect against things such as fires or natural disasters. Since most businesses can benefit from insurance and some businesses are required to have insurance, it is important for every business owner to speak with a qualified insurance agent to review the different types of insurance available and which types make sense for a particular business.
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