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How to Start a Business

These are the essential steps required to form a business in Oklahoma. Due to the complexity of forming and operating a business, you may want to consult with financial and legal business advisors such as attorneys, accountants and bankers before making any decisions or taking action.

Business Structure

The first step in forming a business is to select a legal business structure. This decision is based on how your business will operate and who will own it, along with legal and tax considerations.

Basic Business Structures

The two most basic business structures are:

  • Sole Proprietorship – an individual or married couple in business alone.
  • General Partnership – two or more people who agree to create a business together.

These are sometimes called informal structures. You do not need to file with the state to operate as either of these two basic structures. You may choose to create an operating agreement or legal documents with an attorney to specify company ownership and responsibilities.

Complex Business Structures

There are four additional business structures in Oklahoma:

  • Limited Partnership
  • Limited Liability Partnership
  • Limited Liability Company (LLC) 
  • Corporation (including C-Corporation and S-Corporation)

These four structures are called formal structures and must be registered with the Secretary of State to be formed. Learn about these structures and how to form them at the Secretary of State’s Busines Organization page

Business Name

Choosing a name is a creative decision, but there are some steps you may need to take with the state or federal government.

Oklahoma

Filing a Trade Name with the Oklahoma Secretary of State will protect the use of your business name within Oklahoma. The filing will also check for conflicts with existing Oklahoma businesses.

Nationally

Filing for a federal trademark protects your name nation-wide. Check business, product and service name ideas to see if they are already protected and file your own trademarks with the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

Business Licenses + Permits

In Oklahoma, there is no license required just to start or own a business, but there are specific licenses and permits for different industries and business activities.

The terms license and permit are often used by different government agencies, cities and towns to mean a qualification or permission from an authority to engage in some kind of activity. 

Some of these licenses or permits apply to individuals, companies, or the types of items being sold or services being offered. 

Sales Tax Permit

One of the most common permits is the sales tax permit. It is required for retailers, resellers, or others that sell tangible property on an ongoing basis. 

Obtain a sales tax permit from the Oklahoma Tax Commission.

Other Permits

The Department of Commerce doesn’t license businesses. You will obtain required licenses or permits from the agencies or local governments that issue them. Those agencies will also provide information on regulations and other operating requirements. 

Research license and permit requirements for your type of business. We provide a list of the most common licenses. Call our Business Customer Services team at 405-815-5218 for information. You may also need to consult an attorney.

Federal Employer Identification Number

The federal EIN isn’t just for businesses with employees. Your accountant may recommend that you establish an EIN for your business and your bank may require one to set up business banking accounts and services.

All employers must obtain a Federal Employer Identification Number, so if you will have employees, you must file for an EIN. 

File for a Federal Employer Identification Number with the Internal Revenue Service

Employer Responsibilities

Income Tax Withholding

Employers must set up a withholding account for state income taxes through the Oklahoma Tax Commission

The Internal Revenue Service requires employers to have an EIN and withhold income and payroll taxes for their employees.

Unemployment

You will need to set up an account for employees’ unemployment taxes through the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission.

Workers' Compensation

Obtain a workers’ compensation insurance policy through a private insurer. 

Your Small Business + Startup Team

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Rana Steeds
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Ken Talley
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