We recommend consulting an experienced professional if you have questions about any legal or accounting topic. Use these resources to inform yourself of the basic requirements, but be aware that the librarian is not an attorney or accountant!
The State has an excellent business planning website that can provide a customized business registration checklist.
Review Lancaster City’s business information online. Lancaster City requires businesses to register. While there are no Lancaster County business licenses, that might not be the case in other PA counties.
Naming Your Business
Fictitious names, according to the Department of State: “A fictitious name is any assumed name, style or designation other than the proper name of the entity using such name. The surname of a person, standing alone or coupled with words that describe the business, is not a fictitious business name.” For example, “Weaver’s Painting,” where Weaver is your last name, does not require fictitious name registration.
Determine if your business name is available in PA by searching the state database. If a name you select is registered as a “Fictitious Name,” it may still be available for use if you are registering as a sole proprietor and not in the same geographic area as a previous registrant. Names that are already registered as an LLC or Corporation are exclusive and will not generally be available for use in Pennsylvania.
Business name registration (including fictitious name registration for a sole proprietorship) is part of the online registration process, with the fee payable by credit card. Since name registration is exclusive for LLCs and Corporations, it is part of the registration process and does not require a separate fictitious name application. You may also register a fictitious name by mail by using the form.
Registering Your Business
Most businesses in Pennsylvania must register with the state. The only known exception is a sole proprietorship with no employees that does not use a fictitious name and does not sell any sales taxable goods or services.
Sales tax license: Online registration using Online PA-100 will include registration for your sales tax number (if applicable). During the registration process, check “Sales, Use & Hotel Tax” if you will be selling taxable goods or services directly to consumers. Pennsylvania issues both Sales Tax Licenses and Wholesaler’s Certificates. Those who make taxable sales to the ultimate consumer are required to have a Sales Tax License. Those who only sell to retailers can apply for a Wholesaler’s Certificate.
Obtain an EIN
Obtain an EIN (Employer Identification Number). This is your registration with the IRS for income tax purposes and does not register you to collect PA state sales tax or obtain tax exemption for buying goods wholesale to resell retail. Apply for an EIN online. There is no fee for an EIN.
Open a business bank account once you receive your EIN, as this is a requirement from most banks.
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