- Choose a corporate name.
This the first to do on how to start a corporation. The name of your corporation should be original and not infringe another company’s trademark. A trademark is any word, name, symbol, or design, or any combination thereof, used in commerce to identify and distinguish the goods of one manufacturer or seller from those of another.
The Secretary of State’s office for some states, such as California and Texas, can conduct a preliminary check on the availability of your requested name. You may have to make the check request via mail.
- Ensure the name complies with your state’s corporation guidelines. This may include ending with a cooperative designator such as Inc., Corp., or Ltd. In no way should a name have words that would imply it is associated with the federal government such as National, Federal, or Reserve.
- Check the availability of a web domain for the name. Since the internet is the easiest way for most people access information about your company, you’ll want to find an intuitive URL for your company’s website. If these are unavailable, you may want to consider a name change.
How to start a corporation (section 4)
- Register the name with your state government. Corporations must register their corporation name with the respective state government. The specific filing requirements will vary by state. To find out the requirements in your state, check with the U.S. Small Business Administration.
Some states allow businesses to reserve the name for a specified period. As examples, you can reserve a name in Texas for 120 days, and in California for 60 days. Some states may also require fees for name reservations
- Select a board of directors for your corporation. The board of directors is the decision-making body of a corporation. Directors make the financial decisions and determine major corporate policies and procedures. They’re the ones who choose the officers, approve the issuance of stock, and set the salaries.
- Procure any necessary permits or licenses. After completing all the necessary steps to structure your business as a corporate entity, you’ll comply with the other requirements of running a business in your state and locality. The following is a list of matters that you’ll need to address on how to start a corporation:
You’ll need to obtain a business license and an employment identification number (EIN), which is your federal tax number, before doing any business. You will also need an EIN to open a business bank account.
Other permits or licenses that may be required could include a seller’s permit or a zoning permit depending on your type of business. Check the federal, state, and local requirements to find out what your business will need.
- Complete and file your corporation’s Articles of Incorporation. A corporation’s Articles of Incorporation is a formal legal document that contains important information about the corporation, such as the corporate name, the address of the main office, and—in some states—the names of the directors and the name and address of one person who will be a contact for the public.
In some states, these incorporation articles are known as a “Charter” or “Certificate of Incorporation. You can complete and file your corporation’s Articles of Incorporation by:
Using a ready-made form. In almost every state, a pre-printed, fillable Articles of Incorporation form will be available online or at the applicable Secretary of State’s office. For instance, the California Secretary of State provides a fillable .pdf online here. In addition, some states, including California, New York, and Illinois, allow you to file online.
- Pay the filing fees. Regardless of which state you file in, you can expect to pay filing fees. Filing fees can range from $100 to $800 depending on the state where you choose to incorporate.