A good place is the Secretary of State’s website at: https://sos.iowa.gov/. Consult the business services tab for more information. It is possible to form a corporation without the assistance of an attorney, but not particularly wise. There are many different tax and legal implications to each choice and we strongly recommend you get professional assistance for these decisions. Also, because there are many other issues to consider before starting a business, think about calling your nearest SBDC center for free and confidential help.

Generally, when your business is regulated by an Iowa licensing board or authority, you will need to acquire a license to conduct business in Iowa. Most retail businesses will only need a sales tax permit. Professional services and food businesses, restaurants, grocery stores, and bars all need special permits and licenses to conduct business. Any business having employees will need an Employer Identification Number and an Iowa withholding registration. Each type of business and form of business entity have unique requirements. We would recommend a visit to your nearest Small Business Development Center to have your specific concerns answered. You can find the SBDC nearest you on this website by going to Regional Centers.

The forms (licensing, permits and registrations) that you need to file are very dependent on two issues: What type of business ownership format you choose (sole proprietorship, LLC, Corporation); and what type of business you are forming. To start a retail business in Iowa, one needs to obtain a sales tax permit. If your business will have employees and pay wages you will need an Employer Identification Number (EIN) and an Iowa Withholding Tax Registration. The EIN is also required if you will operate your business as a partnership, corporation or limited liability company (LLC). Certain types of businesses need other permits. For instance, restaurants need food licenses and alcohol beverage serving permits. In order to determine whether your business needs any permits, contact your nearest Small Business Development Center. You can find your local center in the Regional Centers section of this website.

Registration of a business name depends upon the form of business to be used and upon the ‘range’ of the business.

A sole proprietorship or partnership doing business in Iowa should stop by their county recorder’s office to file a “Registration of Trade Name” certificate. This form only takes a few minutes to complete and have notarized; total cost to you is generally under $10. If you are doing business locally and have little concern about expanding long term to become a large firm, then that could be acceptable.

Please know that this process does not copyright your business name, nor does it give you protection of the name outside the county. It is merely a registration that you are doing business under that name.

Should you form an LLC or Corporation, your attorney will help you complete the filings needed to register your company with the Iowa Secretary of State.

A retail business needs a sales tax permit if it is selling products or services that have been specified taxable by Iowa law. A business will need to complete and file an Iowa Business Tax Registration form. These forms are available at all SBDC centers as well as at accounting offices. When completed, there are three ways to file: by mail, fax, or online.  Mail the form to: Registration Services, Iowa Department of Revenue and Finance, PO Box 10465, Des Moines, IA 50306-0465, or fax it to (515) 281-3906, or go on their website at https://tax.iowa.gov/and complete an online registration.

Small Business Development Centers: If you have an SBDC center in your area, we are an excellent place to start. Most of our sevices are free and all are confidential. We offer business counseling for both start-up and existing businesses.

Lenders: Depending on the amount of the loan and what it is used for, most banks require about 20% down, along with proper collateral, to qualify for a loan. However, a good business plan may help secure a loan even if you don’t have the full 20% down payment. Banks are also the source for SBA small business loans. Not all banks make SBA loans, so you might need to visit several banks before you find one that makes them. Basically, the SBA guarantees a high percentage of a small business loan, which allows banks to make loans that they may not make without a guarantee.

Chambers of Commerce: Some chambers have loan programs that are for main street or manufacturing businesses. Chambers should know about other financing sources in their area.

Councils of Government or Regional Planning Offices: These are organized to serve city and county governments in a regional area and sometimes manage funds for business loans.

Iowa Economic Development Authority: This organization has several financing programs that can result in a direct loan or grant for businesses that meet the criteria for their programs.

Private Sources: Historically, borrowing money from private sources has been a way to finance projects.

Venture Capital: One additional source of money is venture capital. Venture capital is restricted to high growth companies in which the owner is willing to give up part of the ownership of their company in return for an injection of capital.

The Larned A. Waterman Iowa Nonprofit Resource Center, 130 Grand Ave Court, Iowa City, IA 52242  Phone: (866) 500-8980  E-mail: law-nonprofit@uiowa.edu  Website: http://inrc.law.uiowa.edu/

The U.S. Department of Labor has four sites that are of use to entrepreneurs who are starting or plan to grow their small businesses:

You can get personalized answers to your small business questions by submitting your question with the link below.

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