How to Establish a Sole Proprietorship in Kentucky

To establish a sole proprietorship in Kentucky, here's everything you need to know.

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In Kentucky, you can establish a sole proprietorship without filing any legal documents with the Kentucky state government.  There are four simple steps you should take:

  1. Choose a business name.
  2. File an assumed name with the county clerk.
  3. Obtain licenses, permits, and zoning clearance.
  4. Obtain an Employer Identification Number.

To find out how to establish a sole proprietorship in any other state, see Nolo’s 50-State Guide to Establishing a Sole Proprietorship.

1. Choose a Business Name

In Kentucky, a sole proprietor may use his or her own given name or may use an assumed business name or trade name.  Your assumed name must be distinguishable from other business names filed and on record with the Kentucky Secretary of State. It is also a good idea to choose a name that is not too similar to another registered business because of common and federal law trademark protections. To make sure your business name is available, run a search in the following government databases:

 2. File an Assumed Name Certificate

If you use a business name that is different from your legal name, Kentucky requires you to file an assumed name certificate. This is a mandatory requirement in Kentucky. To file your assumed name you have to fill out the assumed name certificate available from the county clerk’s office in the county where your business is located. The filing fee is $20. You can find contact information for each county from the Kentucky Association of Counties.

 3. Obtain Licenses, Permits, and Zoning Clearance

Kentucky does not require a general business license for a sole proprietor to operate a business. However, depending on your business activities, you may need an occupational or professional license. You can obtain this information by going to the Kentucky One-Stop Business Portal. In addition, local regulations, including licenses, building permits, and zoning clearances may apply to your business. You will need to check with your city and county governments for more information. The Kentucky One-Stop Business Portal has more information on local requirements.

4. Obtain an Employer Identification Number

Sole proprietors who wish to have employees need to obtain an Employer Identification Number, or EIN.  This is a nine-digit number issued by the IRS to keep track of businesses.  All businesses with employees are required to report wages to the IRS using their EIN. Registering for an EIN can be done online at the IRS website.

Even though sole proprietors without employees are not required to have an EIN, you may want to obtain one anyway. Some banks require one to open a bank account and it can reduce the risk of identity theft.

In Kentucky, businesses are required to report taxes and employee reports. You will need to use your EIN when completing the Kentucky One-Stop Business Registration provided by the Kentucky Department of Revenue. If you have employees, you must report and pay employment taxes on a periodic basis.  Once you have established a tax account with the Kentucky Department of Revenue, you will be able to report and pay all employment related taxes by registering through the Kentucky eTax System provided by the Kentucky Department of Revenue.

Next Steps

It is important to consider doing the following once you have established your sole proprietorship:

  • Open a business bank account. Using your business trade name and EIN, you should set up a bank account to keep your business and personal finances separate.
  • Obtain general liability insurance. Because sole proprietors are personally liable for all debts and obligations of the business, a business liability insurance policy may be the only form of financial protection against unforeseen events.
  • Report and pay taxes.  Depending on your specific business activities, you may be required to report such items as sales tax and use tax. You will need to register with the Kentucky Department of Revenue.
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