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Idaho Small Business Solutions - Business Wizard
Idaho Small Business Solutions - Resource Wizard
Idaho Small Business Solutions - Business Assistance
Idaho Small Business Solutions - Legal Structure and DBAs
Idaho Small Business Solutions - Taxes
Idaho Small Business Solutions - Licenses
Idaho Small Business Solutions - Insurance
Idaho Small Business Solutions - Employer Issues
Idaho Small Business Solutions - Forms
Idaho Small Business Solutions - Agencies

State of Idaho Web Site

 


Frequently Asked Questions

How do I find out what I need to do to legally operate a business in Idaho?

First, go through the Business Wizard on this site. You will be asked a few questions about your business and then provided with a checklist of agencies to contact, the reason to contact them, and a link to each agency's website. If you don't find your particular industry listed, you should still complete the Wizard and answer the questions about employees.

Also visit the Legal Structure/DBAs section of this site for help in choosing and registering a business entity form and registering your business name.

To find out if you need a business license, call your local city clerk's office. Some communities license only a few business activities; others license all businesses. You will find a list of city clerks offices at city clerks.

For assistance in establishing your business, click on the Business Assistance button to the left. Under Business Formation and Expansion you will see links to the Idaho Small Business Development Center, Women's Business Center and SCORE, all of whom work with start-ups. Click on each organization's link to find a location near you, then make an appointment for a free consulting session.

 

How do I register a trademark?

Your trademark can be registered in three ways.

State Registration: Unique business names and logos being actively used in a business can be trademarked to protect them from use by others. To register your trademark or service mark in Idaho, see  http://www.sos.idaho.gov/tmarks/tmindex.htm

National Registration: U.S. Patent & Trademark Office - http://www.uspto.gov/trademarks/index.jsp.

International Registration: Madrid System for the International Registration of Marks - http://www.wipo.int/madrid/en/

After trademarking your name or logo in Idaho, the trademark symbol ™ should be used on written materials that include the trademarked name or logo (including websites). If the trademark is registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, the Registered ® symbol is used. Using the symbol gives public notice that the logo or name is trademarked and cannot be copied without legal consequences.

 

I have heard I need to follow numerous regulations if I have employees. How do I cover all my bases?

First, click on the Employer Issues button to the left and review the information there. Then, click on the Employee or Independent Contractor button on that page and review the information. You can have legal problems if you wrongly classify a worker.

Next, go through the Business Wizard and under Question 3 select either "Employees" or "Both" (Employees and Independent Contractors). The resulting Checklist will provide contact information for the agencies that regulate employment issues. Contact them to learn what you must do to comply with their requirements.

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What kind of licenses do I need to be able to do business in Idaho?

It depends on your type of business; there are different types of licenses and not all business activities need a special license. To find out if your business needs one (or more) licenses, click on the Licenses button to the left and review the information there. Then, go through the Business Wizard, and in Section 2, check all the items that may apply to your business. After completing the Wizard you will receive a Checklist indicating which agency licenses each activity. If your business's primary activity does not appear in Section 2, then you may not need a special license. However, depending on your business, you may still be licensed at the local (city and county), and/or federal level. Your employees may also need individual occupational licenses.

Many Idaho cities require some or all businesses to obtain a city business license. To find out if you need one, call your local city clerk's office using the contact information found at  City_Clerks.htm. If your business will be located outside the city limits, contact your county clerk or recorder's office to find out about a county business license.

If you plan to sell a product or offer certain types of services, you may need a sales and Use tax permit, also called a reseller's permit. Visit the Taxes section of this site for information.

If you plan to have a home-based business, visit the FAQs question about establishing a home business to find out what additional licenses or permits you may need and other special requirements that may affect your business. Also, when you complete the Business Wizard choose "Home Business" in addition to your business activity.

 

How do I find out if another business is already using the name I want to use?

You can perform a Business Entity Search on the Idaho Secretary of State’s website at http://www.accessidaho.org/public/sos/corp/search.html?SearchFormstep=crit. After entering the name you want to use, the site will indicate if it is already in use in Idaho. Also  check for similar names spelled differently or containing a slight variation, such as Shoppe or Centre, and do an Internet search to find regional or national companies using the same or a similar name. You may want to avoid choosing a name similar to an existing business. Your business could be confused with the other business and that may not be in your best interests.

If your business will be registered as a corporation or an LLC, you must choose a unique name not currently in use in Idaho.

Once you decide on a name, print the Assumed Business Name (also called a DBA) form from the Idaho Secretary of State's website and mail it with payment. (On-line registration is not available.)

For information on protecting your business name, see the  Trademarks FAQ on this page. Also visit the Legal Structure/DBAs section of this website for more information on choosing and registering a business name and entity type.

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How do I obtain a permit to make retail sales in Idaho?

To make retail sales in Idaho, you need an Idaho sales tax permit, obtained by completing form IBR-1, Idaho Business Registration Application.  

If you plan to sell your products for only a short time, such as at a festival or trade show, a temporary sales tax permit can be printed.

Businesses offering items for rent, such as construction or yard/lawn equipment, tables, chairs, tents and similar items,  also need a sales tax permit. Sales tax is also charged on admission to special events and on certain sports activities, such as golf and bowling.

 

How do I know whether to set up a Sole Proprietorship, a Partnership, Corporation, or an LLC? How do I change from one to the other?

The Legal Structure/DBAs page on this site contains a description of each entity type recognized in Idaho. Because your entity choice will affect your tax payments, you may want to consult an accountant and/or an attorney to be certain you have selected the best entity type for your business. 

If you choose to register as anything other than a sole proprietorship, an attorney will need to prepare the required Operating Agreement, Articles of Incorporation, by-laws, or partnership agreement, all of which must comply with Idaho law.

To change from one business entity type to another, check the information found on the Legal Structure/DBAs section of this site. You may need the assistance of an attorney and an accountant to properly close your existing entity type, pay any taxes owed, change employee withholding accounts and file the paperwork for the new entity type.

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I am thinking of giving up my business. How do I make that decision? What do I need to do to close the business?

To close the business, several agencies need to be contacted to cancel permits and licenses, file a final tax return and more. Begin by clicking on the Business Assistance button to the left where you will find a list of agencies under Business Sale/Dissolution, including the Idaho Small Business Development Center, Women's Business Center and SCORE. Contact the nearest office for a free consultation. A counselor can help you make the decision to continue in business or call it quits and he/she can guide you through the process.

 

I need a grant to start my business. Who offers them and how do I apply?

Very few grants are available to start or expand a for-profit business unless you have invented a new technology. Most grants are available to non-profit and community organizations to expand their work or to fund special projects and activities.  

SBIR/STTR Grants: With few exceptions, most of the grants available to for-profit start-up businesses are SBIR and STTR grants (Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Research). If you have invented an innovative product that will serve the national interest, you may qualify for an SBIR or an STTR grant to help develop it. Grants are offered by 12 federal agencies through a competitive process. Information is available on the following websites:

Grants for Innovation: If you own an existing for-profit business (not a start-up) that is engaged in the development of new technologies or processes or your business uses natural resources in an innovative way, you may qualify for a grant to develop your technology. To find grant opportunities, see the following:

Made in America Grants: If your product is made in America and you have problems competing with foreign businesses, you may be eligible for assistance through the Northwest Trade Adjustment Assistance Center, http://www.nwtaac.org/.

Non-profits: If you are a non-profit organization, these sites will be helpful:

Other Programs: Special business assistance programs for women, minorities, veterans, the disabled, and others are available, but these are usually for low interest loans, government contracting opportunities, and other types of assistance. They are rarely for grants.

Tax Incentives: Your business may qualify for tax incentives (tax credits) for certain business activities, such as creating new jobs in an economically depressed area, hiring the long-term unemployed, or bringing broadband to rural communities. Incentives are offered at both the state and federal levels. State programs are listed on the Idaho Department of Commerce website at http://commerce.idaho.gov/incentives-and-financing. To find federal tax incentives, make a search on the Internal Revenue Service website at http://www.irs.gov/Credits-&-Deductions.

Agriculture Loans and Grants: The Idaho Department of Agriculture offers several financial programs. See http://www.agri.idaho.gov/Categories/Marketing/financialassistance.php

SCOR Finance Program: The Small Business Offering Regulations program is administered by the Idaho Department of Finance. The program enables businesses to accept investment funds from qualified Idaho investors, who receive dividends if the business is successful. For information, contact the Department of Finance at finance.idaho.gov or see http://finance.idaho.gov/securities/Forms/SCORIssuersManualIntro19990928.pdf

Energy Conservation: Loans and tax incentives for energy conservation programs are offered through the Idaho Office of Energy Resources at http://www.energy.idaho.gov/financialassistance/.

Grants for Women: Zion's Bank offers annual "Smart Women Smart Money" grants. The competitive grants are for $3,000 or less for special projects in the following areas:

  • Business
  • Community development
  • Continuing education and teacher support
  • Child and elder care
  • Health and human services
  • Arts and culture
The program is currently closed until spring 2015. For information, see www.zionsbank.com/learning-center/swsm-grant.jsp.

To find out about funding for which you may qualify, talk with a counselor at the Small Business Administration, the Idaho Small Business Development Center, or SCORE. Contact information for each organization is listed in the Business Assistance section of this site. Their services are free.

 

What is a vendor’s license and where do I get it? 

Businesses that engage in temporary retail sales or solicitation of sales for future delivery, including selling door-to-door or at festivals, events, and trade shows, may need a vendor’s permit or a temporary vendor’s permit, sometimes called a solicitor’s permit. The permit is obtained from the City Clerk’s office in the city where you will be doing business.

If you are engaged in door-to-door sales, you and each of your employees may need to obtain a permit in every city where you work. Each of you will need a background check before the permit is issued and you may have to post a bond. You and each of your employees must wear your permits in a visible location on your clothing where it can be clearly seen by the person being solicited.

In addition to a vendor's license, you will also need an Idaho sales tax permit or a temporary sales tax permit. A permanent permit can be obtained by completing form IBR-1 found at https://labor.idaho.gov/ibrs/ibr.aspx. A temporary sales tax permit for one specific event lasting less than 90 days can be printed at http://tax.idaho.gov/i-1033.cfm

 

How do I register to sell to the government or become a preferred vendor?

Federal, state and local government agencies purchase everything from computers and vehicles to cookies and coffee from small businesses. They also contract with small businesses to construct or renovate buildings, build or improve infrastructure (roads, bridges), maintain landscaping, clean buildings and more.

Selling to Federal Agencies: Businesses must register with System for Award Management (SAM) at https://www.sam.gov/portal/public/SAM/##11. Information about contracting is found at https://www.uscontractorregistration.com/government-needs.

Requests for bids on government contracts are listed in the Federal Business Opportunities database, https://www.fbo.gov/index?cck=1&au=&ck=. Once registered as a Federal contractor, you can search the database to find bid opportunities.

The GSA (Government Services Administration) is the Federal government's primary purchasing agency. Find information on needed retail products and services and Federal construction project bidding procedures at http://www.gsa.gov/portal/content/105221

Federal "Prime" contractors (major contractors) are required to purchase a percentage of the goods and services they use from small businesses. A list of prime contractors is found in the GSA Subcontracting Directory at http://www.gsa.gov/portal/content/101195. Prime contractors list goods and services they are seeking at http://web.sba.gov/subnet/search/index.cfm.

TechHelp, an Idaho manufacturing assistance organization, helps Idaho businesses qualify for government contracts by helping streamline manufacturing processes and procedures to make businesses more competitive. TechHelp partners with Idaho Procurement Technical Assistance Center and the Department of Defense TechMatch Program. For information, see http://www.techhelp.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=services.government.

Idaho Procurement Technical Assistance Center (Idaho PTAC), a division of the Idaho Department of Commerce, also assists businesses in qualifying for state and federal contracting opportunities. See http://commerce.idaho.gov/idaho-business/government-contracting-ptac.

Selling to Idaho Agencies: Before accessing bid opportunities, businesses must register at http://ipro.sicomm.net/IPRO/. Bid opportunities are found on the same site.

Not all state agencies list their contracting opportunities with SiComm, instead posting bids on their individual agency websites. Idaho Transportation Department construction and maintenance projects are posted at http://itd.idaho.gov/AdminServices/NonHwyConstructionProjects/bidding_info.htm. ITD also administers the ID Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) Supportive Services Program, http://www.itd.idaho.gov/civil/dbeforms.htm

Idaho public works construction projects are posted at http://dpw.idaho.gov. Idaho Department of Lands contracting opportunities are posted at www.idl.idaho.gov/contracting/index.html.

For information about the State purchasing process, visit http://purchasing.idaho.gov/ or download the Vendor's Guide found at http://purchasing.idaho.gov/pdf/publications/vendor_guide.pdf.

Selling to Local Agencies: Cities and counties generally list their bid opportunities in the classified section of a local newspaper.

Disadvantaged Businesses: Woman, veteran and minority-owned businesses, collectively known as disadvantaged businesses, may have preference in bidding on certain contracts through the various Federal agencies' Offices of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization (OSDBU). To find a list of all Federal OSDBU offices, see http://www.osdbu.gov/members.html

The Small Business Administration (SBA) offers several services for those desiring to contract with the federal government. See http://www.sba.gov/about-offices-content/1/2467.  

Woman-owned Businesses: For information about the SBA's Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB) Federal Contract Program, visit  http://www.sba.gov/content/contracting-opportunities-women-owned-small-businesses. 

Woman-owned businesses can be certified as eligible for government contracting by the National Women Business Owners Corporation, http://www.nwboc.org/.

Minority Owned Businesses: The National Minority Supplier Development Council, Inc. certifies minority-owned businesses; see http://www.nmsdc.org/nmsdc/#.U4Yun3JdVQD.

HUBzones: Businesses located in a federally-designated HUBzone (an economically distressed area within a city or county) have preference when bidding on federal contracting opportunities. For information on the HUBzone Empowerment Contracting Program, see http://www.sba.gov/hubzone/. A map of HUBzone areas in Idaho is found at http://www.sba.gov/content/hubzone-maps.

Federal Grant Preparation: For information on writing Federal grant proposals and preparing follow-up reports, see http://www.fedmarket.com/.

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Where can I get a DBA or Assumed Business Name?

Visit the Legal Structure/DBAs page on this website or visit the Idaho Secretary of State’s website at http://www.sos.Idaho.gov/corp/corindex.htm.

Before registering a name, you can search the Secretary of State's on-line database at http://www.accessidaho.org/public/sos/corp/search.html?ScriptForm.startstep=crit to find out if another business is already using the name you want or a similar name.

 

Can I advertise on this site or put a link on this site?

Any state or federal government agency or non-profit organization can be represented on this site if they license or regulate business activities or offer business-related services. Local agencies, such as city and county clerks' offices, are not represented individually, because there are so many and their requirements vary. There is no cost to be listed on the website. This is not a commercial site, so no advertising is accepted. 

If your organization fits the above criteria and you want to be listed on the site, send us a message via E-mail, then we will review your site for possible inclusion. Please do not place a link on your site and then expect us to provide a reciprocal link.

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What is crowdfunding?

Crowdfunding is a financing option designed to quickly raise funds by securing many small donations from many contributors. The most common type of crowdfunding involves soliciting donations to start a business or launch a new product. Donors receive a specialty gift for donating. Two popular crowdfunding donation websites are Kickstarter and IndieGoGo.

About 30 percent of businesses meet their funding goal. If they don't, the business receives no money and the funds raised are returned to the donors. Crowdfunding is most successful when a business needs to raise a modest amount of money in a short time. The median donation is $25 and the average donation is $70.

The most easily funded products are games, art, books, music, food, and fashion and design. Crowdfunding is not often successful for service businesses, websites, app development and any other business not offering a tangible product.

Equity funding and debt funding are two other types of crowdfunding. Equity funding involves selling small amounts of equity in a business to a large network of purchasers. Crowdfunder is an example of equity crowdfunding.

Debt funding involves providing microloans, usually to individuals in emerging nations. Kiva is an example of debt crowdfunding.

 

What loans are available to start a business?

Banks and numerous private organizations offer loans for everything from the purchase of a business to equipment leasing to factoring (a loan against accounts receivables). Family and friends may also be willing to lend money to help start your business. The following loan programs are available to many small businesses, though some are available only to established businesses, not start-ups.

Small Business Administration Loans - The SBA does not lend money. Rather, they guaranty loans to qualified individuals and businesses through participating banks. To qualify, an applicant must meet both the bank's and the SBA's requirements.

For information about applying for an SBA loan, talk to your bank or visit www.sba.gov/content/how-apply-sba-loan. 

Idaho Prime Loan Program - Offered by the Idaho State Treasurer in cooperation with the Small Business Administration and the banking community and available to qualified small businesses and start-ups. See http://sto.idaho.gov/Programs/IdahoPrime.aspx.

Energy Conservation Loans -  http://www.energy.idaho.gov/financialassistance/energyloans.htm.

Whole Foods Local Producer Loans - Available to businesses who sell their products to Whole Foods. See www.wholefoodsmarket.com/mission-values/caring-communities/local-producer-loan-program

Business Finance.com - Matches businesses with over 4,000 lending resources. Enter your loan criteria and your fico score and receive a list of potential lenders. See http://www.businessfinance.com.

Crowdfunding - A new method of raising funds involving either securing many small donations from a large number of people or offering a small equity share in a business to many small investors. See the FAQ about Crowdfunding.

Angel Investors/Venture Capital - See the Venture Capital/Angel Capital FAQ.

Loan Preparation Resources - SCORE publishes the 60 Second Guide to Financing Your Start-up Business found at http://www.score.org/resources/financing-your-business-0. The guide will help determine financing needs and offers tips on approaching lenders. Also see the Business Loan Checklist found at http://www.sba.gov/content/business-loan-checklist to be certain you have all the necessary documentation before approaching a lender.

To find banks and other resources in your area, make a search on the Resource Wizard.  For help, contact your banker and/or your nearest Idaho Small Business Development Center, Women's Business Center or SCORE office for information about loan programs that may fit your business.  

 

What do I need to know about tax reporting for a new business?

The State Tax Commission, http://tax.idaho.gov and the Internal Revenue Service, http://www.irs.gov, are the primary taxing authorities. If you have employees, you will need to pay Unemployment Tax (sometimes called unemployment insurance). Other taxes may also apply, depending on the nature of your business.

To find out what taxes you may need to pay, complete a search of the Business Wizard. The resulting checklist will include taxes and other required reports and the agencies to contact.

Also visit the Taxes section of this website for information on specific types of taxes that may apply to your business activity and the agencies that collect them.

 

How do I establish a retirement plan for my employees?

Retirement plans must be established in a manner that complies with Federal and state laws and Internal Revenue requirements. The U.S. Department of Labor oversees the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), which sets standards for establishing and maintaining retirement plans. For information, see http://www.dol.gov/dol/topic/retirement/consumerinfpension.htm. For information on the Pension Protection Act, see http://www.dol.gov/ebsa/pensionreform.html.

Internal Revenue requirements for establishing small business retirement plans are contained in Publication 560 and at http://www.irs.gov/Retirement-Plans/Plan-Participant,-Employee/Retirement-Topics.

 

How do I get my products certified as green or organic?

To find a list of U.S. and international organizations offering green certification for a wide variety of products, visit http://www.sba.gov/content/green-certification-and-ecolabeling.

Organic food, livestock and organic soil amendment (fertilizer) producers and handlers/processors can obtain organic certification through the Idaho Department of Agriculture. See www.agri.idaho.gov/Categories/PlantsInsects/Organic/indexOrganicHome.php and Idaho One Plan, www.oneplan.org/Crop/OrganicFarming.asp.

The U. S. Department of Agriculture administers the National Organic Program for production, handling, and labeling of agricultural products, including meat, poultry, seafood, alcoholic beverages, beer and wine. For information, see http://www.ams.usda.gov/.

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I couldn’t find my business on the Wizard, so I didn’t go through it.

That only means you don’t need a special license or permit. You should still go through the Business Wizard to find out what tax reports and other forms are required for your business and to learn about your responsibilities if you have employees or independent contractors.

 

I have an out-of-state business and plan to do business in Idaho.  How can I get information regarding Idaho regulations?

Out-of-state businesses may be subject to the same regulations as businesses located in Idaho. Click on Business Wizard on the menu to the left to obtain a customized check-list of agencies from which you may need to obtain licenses or permits. 

Also contact the Secretary of State's office to find out if you need to register your business in Idaho as a foreign corporation or LLC, the Idaho State Tax Commission to find out about taxes you may need to pay, including employee withholding tax, and the Idaho Industrial Commission if you have employees or independent contractors who will be working in Idaho.

 

My bank says I need a business tax number or a personal tax number to open a business checking account. What do they mean and how do I get one?

They probably mean the Federal EIN (Employer Identification Number) or your Social Security Number (SSN), sometimes called Tax ID Numbers. If you are a Sole Proprietor with no employees and you don't make retail sales, you may be able to use your SSN. If you are unable to use your SSN, you will need to obtain a Federal EIN.

In addition to your bank, most government agencies and corporations with whom you do business will require you to have an EIN even if you are a sole proprietor with no employees. For security reasons, they no longer accept Social Security numbers as business identification numbers.

To apply for a Federal EIN, complete IRS form SS-4 found at http://www.irs.gov/Businesses/Small-Businesses-&-Self-Employed/Apply-for-an-Employer-Identification-Number-(EIN)-Online. There is no charge and the process is quick and easy. You can apply by phone, fax, or mail.

 

Where can I find out about paying overtime?

Visit the U.S. Department of Labor's website at http://www.dol.gov/dol/topic/wages/overtimepay.htm. For other important information about having employees, click on the Employer Issues button to the left or visit the Idaho Department of Labor's website at http://labor.idaho.gov.

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What is a Health Insurance Identification Number and how do I get one?

If your business offers health insurance to employees, you will need a National Standard Employer Identification number to report claims electronically. To learn more about this topic, visit http://www.cms.gov/Regulations-and-Guidance/HIPAA-Administrative-Simplification/EmployerIdentifierStand/index.html. Your Employer Identification Number (EIN) serves as your insurance reporting number.

  

How do I obtain a UPC code for the product I plan to sell?

Visit the website of GS1 US BarCodes and eCom, formerly known as Universal Packaging Codes, at http://www.gs1us.org/.  



I want to change the name of my business. Who do I contact?

To change an assumed business name, first notify the Idaho Secretary of State's Office using the form found at http://www.sos.idaho.gov/corp/ABNform.htm. To change the name of a corporation or LLC, contact the Secretary of State's office for information.

You also need to notify the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), State Tax Commission, and Idaho Department of Labor to be certain your taxes and other reports continue to be processed correctly. You may also need to obtain a new EIN, Employer Identification Number.  For information, visit http://www.irs.gov/Individuals/Business-Name-Change.  

You will also need to notify any state or local agency from whom you have obtained a permit or license or with whom you file reports on a regular basis.



My product is made in the U.S., a rarity today. Do I need to do something to be able to advertise it as U.S. made? 

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regulates advertising that promotes products as made in the U.S.A. Information is available at http://business.ftc.gov/documents/bus03-complying-made-usa-standard.



How can I have my product certified as organic or "green?"

The Idaho Department of Agriculture certifies organic farms and food products grown in Idaho. They also certify organic soil amendments (fertilizer) made in Idaho. For information, visit www.agri.idaho.gov/Categories/PlantsInsects/Organic/indexOrganicHome.php

The U. S. Department of Agriculture administers the National Organic Program for production, handling, and labeling of agricultural products, including meat, poultry, seafood, and alcoholic beverages. For information, see http://www.ams.usda.gov/.

To certify a non-food product, contact Green Seal at http://www.greenseal.org/. Energy efficient appliances and products are certified by the U.S. Government's Energy Star Program. Also check the information about "Green Certification" found on the Hot Topics page of this site.

 

I want to sell my cookies and pies at our farmer's market but they won't let me unless I have a commercial kitchen. What is that and how do I make my home kitchen into a commercial one?

Commercial kitchens are inspected and licensed by your local health department. Unfortunately, you cannot make your home kitchen into a commercial one. A commercial kitchen must be located in a separate area away from your home kitchen with a separate entrance and locking door and it cannot be used to prepare your family's meals. It must contain specific appliances, shelving, stainless steel counter tops, and special sinks, all of which can be expensive to implement. 

Many churches and senior citizens centers have commercial kitchens and may be willing to rent space to you. Also check with caterers and with restaurants that serve only breakfast and lunch to see if you can rent space in the evening. With some searching, there is a way to make your business possible.

 

What is TERO? My company wants to bid on a project on the Ft. Hall Reservation but they say we must have a TERO permit.

TERO is an acronym for Tribal Employment Registration Office. To perform work on most reservations your company must employ Native American workers. You can obtain information and the necessary form by contacting the tribal office of any reservation where you plan to work.

 

The company I am currently working for wants me to give them a W-9. What is it and why do I need to do this?

A form W-9 is a "Request for Taxpayer Identification Number."  When a business pays $600 or more in a calendar year to another business or individual who is not an employee, the business is required to file an information tax return with the IRS. To do so, the business must obtain the correct taxpayer identification number to include on the report.

Examples of businesses that require a W-9 include those that issue 1099s (such as to independent contractors) and those that must report real estate transactions, contributions to an IRA, cancellation of debt, payments to a childcare provider and other monetary transactions. See IRS form W-9.

 

Harassment is a touchy subject. What do I need to know to protect my employees and myself?

On the job harassment takes many forms, none of which should be tolerated. One employee may harass another; a supervisor may harass an employee, group of employees or another supervisor; or a customer may harass one or more of your employees. Harassment may be related to religion, ethnicity, sex, age, disability or another issue.

Every business with employees should have a written harassment policy that is clearly communicated to employees, both as a deterrent to harassment and to inform employees of their rights if they are harassed. It is particularly important to have a written sexual harassment policy because sexual harassment on the job violates federal civil rights laws. Having a written policy your employees know about may offer some protection if you are sued.

To find training videos and additional information about preventing or investigating sexual harassment, see http://complianceandsafety.com/shop/c-sexual-harassment-118-1.html.

For more information about employer responsibilities in preventing harassment, see Employee Handbooks on the Links page of this website.

 

I plan to start my business in my home. Are there special regulations I need to know about?

Home-based businesses must conform with special regulations in addition to the regulations associated with the product or service they offer. To learn about the various requirements, go through the Business Wizard. In Section 2 select the categories that apply to your business and also select Home Business. The resulting Checklist will include a combined list of agencies to contact. Also call your local city clerk's office to find out if you need a city business license or a special license for your business activity. Click here for a list of city clerk's offices.

Your business will need to comply with your city, county, and/or homeowner's or neighborhood association regulations. If you rent your home or apartment or live in a condo, check your lease agreement or covenants to be certain a home-based business is allowed.

Legal Requirements: A home-based business must be operated by a full-time resident of the home, not an employee. The business must be a secondary use for the home; the primary use must remain that of a residence. The character of the home, interior and exterior, cannot be changed from that of a residence. In most communities, a retail store, restaurant, coffee shop or similar business where customers come and go cannot be operated from a home.

The business must comply with local health, safety, and fire codes and with city and county ordinances. If you live inside city limits, you may be required to conduct all business activities inside the home, not in a yard, garage, or outbuilding.

You must also comply with local regulations concerning signage, traffic, number of employees, parking, noise, and air, wastewater, or soil pollution. You may not be able to store supplies or materials in a yard, garage, or outbuilding or park vehicles or equipment in your yard or on the street.

  • Food Preparation - Food sold to the public must be prepared in a commercial kitchen, not in a home kitchen. If the kitchen is attached to the home, the adjoining door must be locked when the commercial kitchen is not in use. The kitchen will be regularly inspected and licensed by your regional health department. It must contain special sinks, stainless steel countertops, storage racks, refrigerator and more.

  • Child Care - If you care for seven or more children in your home and you receive payment for one or more of them, a license from your city clerk's office or from Idaho Department of Health and Welfare is needed. The home will be inspected by the health department and the fire marshal before the license is issued and regularly thereafter. (Note - many city licensing requirements are more stringent than state requirements, so be sure to check.)

  • Product/Service Restrictions - Certain products cannot be legally manufactured or grown in a home business. These include fireworks and other potentially explosive items, drugs and drug paraphernalia, poisons, noxious weeds or insects, and sanitary and medical products. Some communities restrict the production of additional items, so check with your city clerk.

    Some services, including those involving adults-only activities, nudity, gambling, loud noise, the sale of alcoholic beverages, tobacco or controlled substances or that may violate a city or county ordinance are prohibited in a home based business. Contact your city clerk's office for information.

  • Animals - Businesses involving animals are subject to numerous additional regulations and licensing requirements, depending on the type and number of animals and the service provided. A kennel or breeder's license may be needed; special waste handling and noise abatement procedures may be required, as well as other issues. You may also be required to have additional insurance.

Employees: Your city or county regulates the number of employees a home business can have and the number of vehicles they can park at the home or on a public street. State and federal employment-related posters must be displayed. You must also have workers compensation insurance, pay unemployment insurance taxes, both federal and state, and comply with OSHA safety regulations. For in-depth information on employee-related issues, visit the Employer Issues section of this website.

Signage: Most communities regulate the size and type of signage allowed, if any, in a residential area. Check with your city clerk's office for local requirements.

Tax Issues: If you are considering taking a tax deduction for your home office or shop or deducting hobby expenses as a business activity, check with an accountant first. For information, see http://www.irs.gov/Businesses/Small-Businesses-&-Self-Employed.

Small business owners pay taxes on the profit from their business. They also pay self-employment tax and may need to pay quarterly estimated taxes. For information on tax issues, visit the Taxes section of this website. 

For information on Social Security and Medicare requirements for the self-employed, including independent contractors, visit http://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10022.pdf.

Insurance: All businesses need insurance, regardless of location. Check first with your homeowner’s insurance agent or an insurance agent who writes policies for small businesses. Not all home-based businesses are covered by homeowner's insurance, particularly if the primary activity, such as house painting, does not occur at the home. If homeowner's insurance will cover your business, you may need to add additional coverage for business equipment, inventory, or a business-owned vehicle.

If clients regularly visit your home, you have a dog or another animal that might harm a client, your business involves animals, or other issues, such as falls, might occur, you may need to increase your liability coverage. Check with your insurance agent for information.

For information on other types of insurance you may need, such as workers' compensation or product liability insurance, visit the Insurance section of this website.

Security: Home-based businesses have unique security issues that include allowing strangers into the home, protecting mail, computer security, and personal safety issues, both in and out of the office.

Mail, particularly checks and financial information, can be protected by using a mailing address other than your home address, such as a post office box or a mail box at a package shipping center.

The Missouri Small Business & Technology Center offers much information on protecting your home and yourself at http://missouribusiness.net/article/home-based-security-plan/, including recommendations on how to handle potentially dangerous situations.

Business Telephone: Using your home phone number as your business number is not a good idea unless other family members, particularly children, will answer all in-coming calls in a professional manner. If a cellular phone is used for business and you change carriers and phone numbers often, your business will be negatively impacted when customers can't reach you.

Zoning: Before opening a business in a home, check with your city or county planning and zoning department to be certain you can legally do so. Most communities do not allow retail businesses, such as stores or restaurants, to be located in an area zoned for residential use, nor do they allow trucks and equipment to be parked at a home or employees to come and go. If a business is operating in violation of zoning regulations, it could be closed without notice when planning and zoning learns about it.

Also check with your homeowner's or condo association or your apartment lease to be certain the covenants allow a business in your home, particularly if employees, clients and/or delivery trucks will come and go.

Client Meetings: If zoning regulations, a homeowner's association or apartment complex do not allow client meetings at your home, if you have young children, an unruly pet, or safety is a concern, you may need to meet clients at another location, preferably the client's office. If that isn't possible, you may be able to rent temporary meeting space in an office complex or another facility or hold an informal meeting at a coffee shop or another public place.

Part-time Business Considerations: If you start a business on the side while working for an employer, the product or service offered should not compete with the employer's business, nor should company time, equipment or materials be used to pursue your personal interests.

Closing Your Home Business: When a business closes, several agencies need to be contacted. For information, visit the Business Assistance section of this website.

CAUTION - If you are starting a home business in response to an ad about earning money at home, BEWARE! Before you pay any money, check the links under the Work-at-Home Schemes and Scams & Schemes FAQ. Work-at-home scams are among the most prevalent. Meet with a counselor at the SBA or your nearest Idaho Small Business Development Center and contact the Better Business Bureau in both your community and where the business is located before sending money. All are listed under Business Assistance, Business Formation and Expansion.

 

 

I want to start a non-profit organization. How do I do that and are there special regulations?

Non-profits are regulated in much the same way as for-profit businesses. This site is designed primarily for profit-making businesses; however, non-profits may find it helpful to go through the Business Wizard, particularly if they have employees.

To be classified as a non-profit, approval must be secured from the Internal Revenue Service. The process can be expensive and time-consuming and many business activities do not qualify. Your attorney can assist with the application process. Information about establishing a charity, tax reporting and maintaining non-profit status is found on the IRS website at www.irs.gov/Charities-&-Non-Profits.

The Idaho Non-profit Center, www.idahononprofits.org, offers much information about establishing a non-profit in Idaho, including information on establishing a board of directors, writing by-laws, recruiting volunteers, financial record keeping and more.

The Idaho Law Center publishes the "Handbook for Idaho Nonprofit Corporations," which explains Idaho laws pertaining to non-profits. To obtain a copy, contact the Idaho Law Center at 208-334-4500 or see http://www.isb.idaho.gov/pdf/legal_education/pub_list.pdf. Look for booklet #05-10 under "Business & Corporate Law." There is a cost for the publication.

The Idaho Attorney General's office publishes the booklet, Service on an Idaho Non-profit Board of Directors found at http://www.ag.idaho.gov/publications/consumer/ServiceOnNonprofit.pdf. The booklet explains the responsibilities and liability associated with serving on the board of a non-profit organization.

For information about state sales and income taxes that may affect your non-profit, see the Idaho State Tax Commission's "Sales Tax Brochure #50, Nonprofit Groups & Churches," http://www.tax.idaho.gov/pubs/EBR00050_09-29-2006.pdf and page 1 of Idaho Form 41 instructions, "Who Must File a Form 41." 

If your non-profit is engaged in activities involving children, the elderly, or vulnerable adults, your employees and volunteers will need a background check and to be fingerprinted. For information, visit http://www.isp.idaho.gov/BCI/index.html.

 

I had to fire an employee who used drugs on and off the job. I don't want this to happen again. Where can I get help?

Employee use of illegal or controlled substances is an increasing problem. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, 75 percent of illegal drug users are employed, and 3.1 percent say they have used illegal drugs before or during work hours. The American Insurance Association reports that  prescription drug abuse is the fastest growing drug problem in the U.S. In addition, 79 percent of the nation’s heavy alcohol users are employed, and 7.1 percent say they have consumed alcohol during the workday. Fourteen percent of heavy drinkers (those who consume 5 or more drinks each day) are employed full or part-time. Between 10 and 20 percent of workers who die on the job test positive for alcohol or drugs.

To help combat substance abuse both on and off the job, the Substance Abuse and Mental Heath Services Administration (SAMHSA) maintains a resource center to help employers address these issues and to assist in creating employment policies on substance abuse. See http://www.workplace.samhsa.gov/. SAMHSA's website is http://www.samhsa.gov.

The U.S. Department of Labor offers additional information, How Does Substance Abuse Impact the Workplace?, found at www.dol.gov/elaws/asp/drugfree/benefits.htm

Ninety percent of large corporations have a drug-free workplace program but less than 10 percent of small and medium sized businesses have one, making them prime targets for addicted employees. DrugFree Idaho can help you establish a drug-free workplace program for your business.

 

Planning and Zoning closed my business. They said it was not allowed to be located where it was. Can they do that? What recourse do I have?

Every city or county in Idaho has zoning regulations with which businesses must comply. Before signing a lease or a purchase agreement, first check with your city or county planning and zoning commission to be certain you can legally operate your type of business in the area you have chosen. For instance, you would not be able to  establish a construction business in an area zoned as residential. 

As you discovered, If a business is opened in violation of zoning regulations,  it can be immediately shut down when a zoning inspector finds you or when someone complains. It may then be difficult to terminate a lease or purchase agreement.

Some businesses, such as churches and day care centers, may be able to secure a conditional use permit to operate in an area not specifically zoned for their business type. Be sure to find out if your business qualifies for a conditional use permit and can meet all the requirements before you open it. If you attempt to operate your business without a permit, it will be closed when the city or county finds you.  

 

I've heard about venture capital and angel investors but I am not sure how they work or if my business qualifies for their help.

Finding venture capital or an angel investor may seem like the answer to many small business funding needs, and it may be if you are in the right industry, have a solid business plan, a track record in your industry or a related one, a qualified management team, and you don’t mind giving up a piece of your business and having someone watching over your shoulder. Most venture capital firms invest several million dollars in the companies they fund and in return expect a management position within the company or a seat on the board of directors.

To find a venture capitalist, ask your banker, attorney, or accountant for a recommendation to a company that specializes in your field and then arrange an introduction. (Most VCs don't like cold calls.)  Most venture capitalists prefer companies in rapidly growing industries, such as technology or bio-technology. Even then, only a small percentage of businesses (less than 1%) qualify for funding.

Venture capital funding is a fertile field for scam artists. Before engaging in business, call the Better Business Bureau in the community where the company is located and ask about them. Contact the Attorney General’s office in the state in which the business is located and ask if complaints have been filed against them.

If your business is in the early start-up phase or you don't need enough money to qualify for venture capital financing, seeking an angel investor may be more appropriate. Angel investors are wealthy individuals or groups that provide less money than venture capital firms. Like venture capitalists, angel investors usually prefer to invest in rapidly growing small businesses that will provide a high rate of investment return in a short time. They will expect a seat on the board and may also take a management position within the business.

Your banker, attorney, or CPA may be able to arrange an introduction to an angel investor. Like venture capitalists, angel investors don't usually like cold calls, and only a small percentage of businesses qualify for funding (less than one in 500).

An online Venture/Angel Capital Resource Directory, http://www.vfinance.com, matches investors with businesses seeking venture or angel capital. To find venture capital and angel investors who invest in Idaho businesses, do a search of the Resource Wizard.

For more information on venture and angel capital funding, visit the Small Business Administration website at http://www.sba.gov/content/venture-capital.

 

 


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