Start Your Own Business in Michigan: Seven Steps You Need to Take

From licenses and permits to taxes and insurance, learn what you need to do to start a business in Michigan.



Here’s an overview of the key steps you’ll need to take to start your own business in Michigan.

Step 1. Decide on a Legal Structure

The most common legal structures for a small business are:

  • sole proprietorship
  • partnership
  • limited liability company (LLC), and
  • corporation

There also are special versions of some of these structures, such as limited partnerships and S corporations. You’ll want to consider which business entity structure offers the type of liability protection you want and the best tax, financing, and financial benefits for you and your business. Check  Choose Your Business Structure  on Nolo’s website for more information on how to choose the best ownership structure for your business.

Step 2. Choose a Name

For LLCs and corporations, you will need to check that your name is distinguishable from the names of other business entities already on file with the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA). You can check for available names by using the LARA  name availability search  webpage. You can reserve an available name for six months by filing an  Application for Reservation of Name  with LARA. There are certain name requirements for LLCs and corporations (like including a word such as “LLC” for LLCs or “Company” for corporations). See  How to Form an LLC in Michigan  and  How to Form a Corporation in Michigan  for more information.

Do you have a Michigan sole proprietorship or partnership that uses a business name that is different from the surname of the business owner (for a sole proprietorship) or individual partners (for a partnership)? If so, you must file a notarized assumed name certificate with the county clerk where you will do business. The assumed name must be renewed every five years.

If you plan on doing business online, you may want to register your business name as a domain name. See  Choose and Register a Domain Name  for more information. In addition, to avoid trademark infringement issues, you should do a federal and state trademark check to make sure the name you want to use is not the same as or too similar to a name already in use. See  How to Do a Trademark Search  for more information.

Step 3. Create Your Business Entity

  • Sole proprietorship:  To establish a sole proprietorship in Michigan, you don’t need to file any organizational documents with the state. For more information, see  How to Establish a Sole Proprietorship in Michigan.
  • Partnership:  To create a general partnership in Michigan, you must file a Certificate of Copartnership with the county clerk in all counties where your partnership will do business. In addition, while not legally required, all partnerships should have a written partnership agreement . The partnership agreement can be very helpful if there is ever a dispute among the partners. For more information, see  How to Form a Partnership in Michigan.  To form a  limited liability partnership  (often used by professionals), you must also file a Registration with the LARA. For more information, see  How to Form a Limited Liability Partnership in Michigan.
  • LLCs:  To create an LLC in Michigan, you must file  articles of organization  with LARA. You will also need to appoint a  resident agent  in Michigan for service of process. Although not required by law, you also should prepare an  operating agreement  to establish the basic rules about how your LLC will operate. The operating agreement is not filed with the state. For more information, see  How to Form an LLC in Michigan  and  How to Form a Professional LLC in Michigan  (for professionals).
  • Corporations:  To create a corporation in Michigan, you must file  articles of incorporation  with LARA. You will also need to appoint a  resident agent  in Michigan for service of process. Although not legally required, you also should prepare  bylaws  to establish your corporation’s internal operating rules. Bylaws are not filed with the state.  S Corporations  must also file IRS Form 2553,  Election by a Small Business Corporation,  with the IRS. For more information, see  How to Form a Corporation in Michigan.

Step 4. Licenses and Permits

Tax Registration.  If you will be selling goods in Michigan, you must register for a  sales tax license  with the Michigan Department of Treasury (DOT). If you will have employees in Michigan, you must register with the DOT foremployer withholding tax. For both kinds of registration, among others, you can use the online  e-Registrationwebsite.

EIN.  If your business has employees or is taxed separately from you, you must obtain a federal Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS. Even if you are not required to obtain an EIN, there are often business reasons for doing so. Banks often require an EIN to open an account in the business’s name and other companies you do business with may require an EIN to process payments. You can get an EIN by completing an online application on the IRS website. There is no filing fee.

Regulatory licenses and permits.  These cover areas such as:

  • health and safety
  • the environment
  • building and construction; and
  • specific industries or services

For regulatory licenses and permits issued by the state, the State of Michigan’s primary website, michigan.gov, has a  section devoted  to state licenses and permits. You can either do a search for a particular type of license or click on a link to view an alphabetical list. For information about local licenses and permits, check the websites for any cities or counties where you will do business.

Professional and occupational licenses.  These cover people who work in various fields. You can get information about many professional and occupational licenses from the  Bureau of Professional Licensing  (BPL), which is a division of LARA.

Step 5. Business Location and Zoning

You’ll need to pick a location for your business and check local zoning regulations. That includes if you work from home. You may be able to find zoning regulations for your town or city by checking  municode.com.

Step 6. Taxes and Reporting

Michigan taxes every kind of business. See  Michigan State Business Income Tax  for more information on state business taxes in Michigan.

Sole proprietorships.  Pay state taxes on business income as part of their personal state income tax returns (Form MI-1040).

Partnerships.  Partners pay state taxes on partnership income on personal tax returns.

LLCs.  Members pay state taxes on their share of LLC income on personal tax returns. In addition, the LLC itself must file an annual report (also known in Michigan as an annual statement) with LARA. See  Michigan LLC Annual Report and Tax Requirements  for more information.

Corporations.  Shareholders must pay states taxes on their dividends from the corporation. A shareholder-employee with a salary also must pay state income tax on his or her personal state tax return. Moreover, the corporation itself is subject to Michigan  corporation taxes. And, finally, corporations must file an  annual report  with LARA.

If you have employees, you must also deal with  employer taxes.

And, apart from Michigan taxes, there are always federal income and employer taxes. Check IRS Publications 334,Tax Guide for Small Business, and 583,  Taxpayers Starting a Business, available at irs.gov.

Step 7. Insurance

Insurance is a good idea for most kinds of business. While insurance often is regulated at the state level, the types of business insurance available are usually similar across the fifty states. Check  Obtaining Business Insurance  for more information.

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