How to Start a Business in New Hampshire

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

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Here's an overview of the key steps you'll need to take to start your own business in New Hampshire.

1. Choose a Business Idea

Take some time to explore and research ideas for your business. At this stage, take into consideration your own interests, skills, resources, availability, and the reasons why you want to form a business. You should also consider the likelihood of success based on the interests and needs of your community. Read our article for more tips on how to evaluate business ideas.

After you select an idea, consider drafting a business plan to evaluate your chances of making a profit. When you create a plan, you will have a better idea of the startup costs, your competition, and strategies for making money. Typically, investors and lenders will ask to review your business plan before providing financial assistance. To learn more about the benefits of business plans and how to create one for your enterprise see Why You Need to Write a Business Plan.

2. 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. Read our article for information on how to choose the best ownership structure for your business.

3. 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 New Hampshire Secretary of State (SOS). You can check for available names doing a business entity search on the SOS website. You can reserve an available name for up to 120 days by filing an Application for Reservation of Name with the New Hampshire SOS. There are also certain name requirements for LLCs and corporations (like including a word such as "L.L.C." for LLCs or "Corporation" for corporations). See How to Form an LLC in New Hampshire and How to Form a Corporation in New Hampshire for more information.

Sole proprietorships and partnerships in New Hampshire must file a Trade Name Registration with the New Hampshire SOS if they use a business name that is different from the name of the business owner (for a sole proprietorship) or names of the individual partners (for a partnership).

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.

4. Create Your Business Entity

5. Apply for Licenses and Permits

Tax Registration. New Hampshire does not have a state sales tax or a personal income tax on wages so you do not need to register for those types of taxes.

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. 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, check the Doing Business section of New Hampshire's official government website. 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 the state agencies that license and regulate many professions and occupations by going to the Licensed, Certified and Registered Occupations Index on the New Hampshire Employment Security (NHES) website.

6. Pick a Business Location and Check Zoning

You'll need to pick a location for your business and check local zoning regulations. Before you commit to a location, take time to calculate the costs of running your business in the desired spot, including rent and utilities. You can refer back to your business plan to evaluate whether you can afford your desired location during your company's early months.

It is important to verify that the spot is zoned for your type of business. You might find zoning regulations for your town or city by reviewing your local ordinances and contacting your town's zoning or planning department. Read our article for more tips on picking a location.

One alternative to opening your business at a new location is running your company out of your home. If you decide to run a home-based business, again check your local zoning laws. In addition, review your lease (if you rent your home) and homeowners association rules (if applicable), either of which might ban some or all home businesses.

7. File and Report Taxes

New Hampshire has a Business Enterprise Tax (BET) and Business Profits Tax (BPT). Each of these taxes can apply to any New Hampshire business that has a certain minimum amount of gross receipts, or, in the case of the BET, a certain minimum enterprise value tax base. See New Hampshire State Business Income Tax for more information on state business taxes in New Hampshire.

Sole proprietorships. Apart from the BET and BPT, sole proprietorships pay only federal taxes on business income.

Partnerships. Apart from the BET and BPT, partnerships pay only federal taxes on business income.

LLCs. Apart from the BET and BPT, LLC members pay only federal taxes on business income. In addition, the LLC itself must file an annual report with the New Hampshire SOS. See New Hampshire LLC Annual Report and Tax Requirements for more information.

Corporations. Taxation of corporations and their shareholders in New Hampshire can be complicated. Corporation dividends may figure into certain kinds of state taxation. In addition, corporations must file an annual report with the New Hampshire SOS.

Apart from New Hampshire taxes, there are always federal income and employer taxes. Check IRS Publications 334, Tax Guide for Small Business, and 583, Taxpayers Starting a Business.

8. Obtain Insurance

Business insurance can protect your company and your personal assets from the fallout of unexpected disasters, such as personal injury lawsuits or natural catastrophes. An insurance agent can help you explore the different coverage options, such as general liability insurance to protect your business against claims relating to bodily injury or property damage. To learn more, see Nolo's article, What Types of Insurances Does Your Small Business Need?

9. Open a Business Bank Account

No matter the type of business you form, you should consider opening a separate business account to make it easier to track your income and expenses. For some business types, like LLCs and corporations, a separate bank account is necessary to maintain your liability protection. To learn more, see Opening a Business Bank Account.

Find the business structure that fits your business. Take our business formation quiz for help deciding the best structure for your business.

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