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What Documents Do I Need to Start a Business in the United States?

Dec 6, 2022 | Accounting powered by Zil Money is a financial technology company, not a bank or an FDIC member. offers banking services through partnership with FDIC member banks Silicon Valley Bank and Texas National Bank.

From operating licenses to bank accounts, business documents are essential to opening a U.S. company. Depending on the type of business you’re registering, where you live, and what you intend to do with your business, different documents are required.

In this article, we’ll discuss the most common business documents you’ll need when starting your company and business bank account, the details you’ll need to gather, and how to keep up with changing requirements.

Business structure

Choose a business structure that matches your company’s goals before creating any business documents. This structure determines company startup documents.

    American business structures include:


    Sole proprietorships are the default business type for small businesses and side hustles. They don’t need formal registration papers (you still have to pay taxes, though). Low-risk business structures require little effort. Many sole proprietors start their businesses before forming LLCs or corporations. In a lawsuit, you’re personally liable for your sole proprietorship’s assets and liabilities.


    If you’re doing business with others, consider a partnership. Partners can share company investments, reducing financial burdens. Partnerships, like sole proprietorships, are low-risk because they are established when commerce begins and do not need state registration.

    Partnerships may benefit some businesses financially, depending on their stage. Pass-through taxation lets partners pay business taxes on their personal income tax, unlike corporations. This rate may be lower than corporate taxes for small businesses.

    Partners are liable for business liabilities in partnerships. General and limited partnerships exist.

    General partnerships share business operations, profits, losses, and debts. The general partner runs the business and has unlimited liability, while the other partners have limited liability. LLPs protect all business partners from liability.

      Limited Liability Company (LLC)

      Articles of organization register LLCs with state governments. LLCs often follow sole proprietorships because they’re easy to form.

      An LLC requires annual reports and fees to start and maintain a business. LLC owners can pay personal income taxes like sole proprietors and partnerships. LLC owners can also choose S-corporation taxation. S-corporations aren’t legal everywhere.

      Limited liability is created when you form an LLC. Your personal assets are partially protected if your business can’t pay a liability.

      LLCs don’t need a board or comply with regulations like corporations.

      However, if you’re planning a larger business that may need funding, an LLC’s operational flexibility may be too volatile for investors who want predictable returns. Some investors must invest in corporations by law.


      Corporations are best for larger businesses that need to raise capital. Articles of incorporation register corporations with states. Corporations are riskier than LLCs, sole proprietorships, and partnerships.

      Corporations need more startup and operating capital. They require board of directors, annual meetings, and launch and maintenance fees. Compliance checks require clear records. Corporations are harder to dissolve than other businesses.

      Corporations are the most profitable long-term. Corporations, like LLCs, offer limited liability, protecting your personal assets from business liabilities.

      Corporations can also open bank accounts and take out loans. Corporate laws protect your business.

      Companies pay taxes. Corporate tax laws offer business creation tax credits. Because hiring employees creates jobs, you can get tax credits.

      Investors prefer corporations lastly. Some investors must invest only in corporations. Investors prefer corporations regardless. Corporations are safer investments due to regulations.


      S-Corporations (S-Corps) operate like regular corporations but are limited to smaller companies. S-Corporations let entrepreneurs avoid corporate taxes and pay personal income taxes.

      What documents are needed to start a U.S. business?


      Officially, your business needs a birth certificate. Your company’s address, registered agent, and members will be listed in this document. Business type determines it.

      LLC: articles of organization

      LP: certificate of limited partnership

      LLP: certificate of limited liability partnership

      Corporation: articles of incorporation

      Operating agreements

      An operating agreement outlines how your company actually operates, including who makes decisions and who is in charge of key responsibilities. Corporations call this document bylaws or resolutions.

      Starting a business requires an operating agreement in some states. Even if your state doesn’t require them, operating agreements can formalize verbal discussions and provide a record. Your operating agreement and organizing documents are the most crucial for starting a business.

      Registered Agent

      Registered agents represent your company. The state or federal government will contact your registered agent.

      A registered agent service charges annually. Being your own registered agent means you’ll handle all business communications. You must live in your business’s state to be your own registered agent. If your registered agent can’t do their job, you could miss important government documents and risk your business.

      Federal Tax Identification Number (FTIN)

      Your business has a number like your SSN. Fill out Form SS-4 for a free Employer Identification Number (EIN) or FTIN.

      Most businesses need EINs. EINs protect your personal information from scammers, even for sole proprietorships.

      State Tax Identification Number

      To do business in your state, you need a specific number and your FTIN. Your business’s state determines this number’s name. In Washington, it’s a Unified Business Identifier (UBI); in Colorado, it’s the Colorado Account Number (CAN).


      Your business may require local, county, state, or federal permits. For instance, importing lucky bamboo plants from China for a mail-order nursery requires a USDA permit.

      To avoid missing any permits, check with each level of government.


      Your team may need licenses as well as permits. Selecting them is difficult. To get the right ones, consult the authorities. Many cities and states require business licenses before opening. Microbreweries need alcohol licenses and delivery drivers need licenses.

      Assumed Name Certificate

      Business name selection is another crucial step in document creation. Choose carefully because you’ll have to use that name in your work unless you get a Certificate of Assumed Name.

      If you want to use a name other than the one on your organizing documents, a Certificate of Assumed Name (DBA certificate) is helpful.

      Internet Paper Products, LLC may be your business name, but you may prefer Your state will need a Certificate of Assumed Name to link these two business names.


      Trademarks protect your name, logo, and other assets from copycats. The USPTO is the best place to apply for a trademark.

      What are the requirements for opening a business bank account?

      You can get paid and accept payments from customers, online merchant services, and credit card processors with the help of a business bank account.

      You can pay yourself, your employees, and customers and vendors. Business bank accounts allow debit cards and low-interest financing. They can also help you separate your business and personal finances and store money from loans, angel investors, grants, and other sources.

      Business bank account requirements vary by bank. Banks often request these documents:

      Employer Identification Number (EIN)

      Business license

      Organizing documents

      Personal information

      After forming your company, you’ll need to keep up with paperwork. Calendar your deadlines to avoid missing them. Typical deadlines:

      Report annually.

      The state where you register your business requires an annual report. It’s easy. Washington LLC owners need only check a few boxes on an online form and pay the annual filing fee.

      Keep a registered agent.

      If you have a registered agent or run a corporation or partnership that requires approval, you must check your agent’s status each year.


      The IRS requires quarterly estimated federal taxes from business owners. Save money in your business savings account for these taxes.

      State taxes vary. States without business income taxes may impose excise taxes on gross revenue. Sales, alcohol, and other taxes may apply depending on what you sell.

      Follow changes.

      The rules for business documents change frequently. New taxes and phase-outs may be voted in.

      To stay informed of business-related changes, join your state and local business authorities’ mailing lists.


      After preparing your business documents, you can open business banking accounts, pay taxes to the IRS, and get business loans at the right rates. Organizing business documents is crucial to success.

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