If you’re currently self-employed in the state of New Jersey, or if you’re looking to enter the world of one-person business ownership, you’ve probably looked into becoming a sole proprietor.
The sole proprietorship is the simplest business ‘format’ in America, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t rules and regulations to follow when you operate one. In addition, there are some limits to the functionality of a sole proprietorship.
In this guide, we’ll help you determine whether or not the sole proprietorship is a good choice for your business.
What Is a New Jersey Sole Proprietor?
As opposed to a corporation or limited liability company (LLC), the sole proprietorship is not a legal business entity. The sole proprietorship is a one-person business that is not considered to be a distinct entity from the person who owns it, and it is frequently operated using the owner’s personal name.
Here are the three main things you need to know:
Because there’s no distinction between the owner and the business itself, sole proprietors don’t need to file business tax returns ― they instead simply claim any business profits or losses on their personal tax returns.
Sole proprietors are allowed to sign contracts using their personal name, and along those same lines, customers can write checks to the business by using the sole proprietor’s name.
The other big difference between sole proprietorships and more formal business structures is the fact that sole proprietors are allowed to commingle business and personal assets as much as they want to. With LLCs and corporations, ownership is required to keep their assets separate from those of the company. The downside of this aspect for sole proprietors is that if your business is sued, creditors are free to pursue your personal assets like your house, car, personal bank accounts, etc. For corporations and LLCs, creditors are limited to your business assets.
How to Become a New Jersey Sole Proprietor
When it comes to being a sole proprietor in the state of New Jersey, there is no formal setup process. There are also no fees involved with forming or maintaining this business type. If you want to operate a New Jersey sole proprietorship, all you need to do is start working.
However, just because it’s so easy to get started doesn’t mean there aren’t some additional steps you should take along the way. While these parts of the process aren’t strictly required, many sole proprietors find that they are in their best interests.
A doing business as (DBA) name is a crucial part of many sole proprietorships, as it enables you to use an assumed name for your business, rather than your own personal name. The advantages of acquiring a DBA start with image ― most customers feel that an assumed name is more professional and trustworthy than doing business with a company that uses its owner’s personal name instead.
That said, sole proprietors can sign up for a business bank account using their DBA name, which is another step that goes a long way toward making customers feel more comfortable doing business with you.
Previous to claiming your DBA (sometimes referred to as a “trade name” or similar), you must first check it’s availability using the search tool and name guidelines located here on the New Jersey state website. After confirming the intended name is available, sole proprietorships must file their new trade name with the local county clerk in the municipality where the business is located.
Determine Taxation Requirements
Sole proprietors without employees usually don’t need to acquire a federal tax ID number (EIN), because as a one-person business, you can typically just use your own social security number for most things an EIN is used for. Still, if you would rather not use your SSN for privacy purposes, it would be a good idea to get an EIN regardless.
Beyond that, the nature of your business will determine which taxes apply to you as a sole proprietor.
If your business sells goods or products within the state, you will likely be subject to the New Jersey’s use and sales tax. Thankfully, New Jersey makes it easy to determine your sole proprietorship tax obligations. You must simply register your business with the state either online here or by completing form NJ-REG in the Business Registration Packet located here. After you’ve registered, your business will be notified regarding how to comply with New Jersey state tax requirements.
Obtain Business Licenses and Permits
There isn’t a requirement in New Jersey for sole proprietors to acquire a general business license, but depending on the nature of your business you may need other licenses and/or permits to operate in a compliant fashion.
New Jersey businesses may be required to meet a distinct set of professional and industry-specific licensing regulations. These are generally dictated by what type of business you operate.
Discovering which NJ licenses your business needs doesn’t have to be complicated. To find out which licenses you need, consult the NJ License and Certification Guide and review the Licenses & Permits page of the NJ business portal.
In addition, you should check to see if your business needs any licenses or permits on the local level.
Often, municipalities will have their own location-specific permits that your sole proprietorship will be required to comply by. For example, food retailers in New Jersey are required to comply by the Local Health Department’s licensing standards. Because licenses are regulated by differing branches, it’s best to contact your county government using this municipality search page and make an inquiry regarding what local licenses might be required for your business specifically.
While the sole proprietor is such a simple business classification that New Jersey doesn’t even require a business registration process or any type of fees, depending on how you use your sole proprietorship and what industry you operate in, you still might have some important steps that need to be taken.
When it comes to issues of taxation, licenses and permits, or even the name you want to call your sole proprietorship, you do need to be vigilant to make sure you’re not overlooking anything.
We hope this guide helped you answer any questions you had for sole proprietorships in New Jersey, and we wish you success with your business!