Thinking about starting a business in Mississippi? You can start small and focus on your skills and passion. With that in mind, starting a small business without any investors is possible if you start as a sole proprietor. It is the simplest business structure that is the least expensive and easiest to fire up.
Different states have different laws on starting sole proprietorships. In Mississippi, you are not required to register any paperwork with the Secretary of State. However, there are some local city and county papers to file, but it is quite easy compared to forming corporations and LLCs.
We will guide you through the entire process from choosing a name to paying taxes and acquiring all the necessary permits you need to legally operate.
You don’t need to be overwhelmed when starting your dream business. This Mississippi-specific business guide will help.
What is a sole proprietorship?
The simplest and most common business entity used to start a business in the United States is called a sole proprietorship. These businesses are formed when a single owner creates an unincorporated business and runs that business as an individual.
In a sole proprietorship, there is no legal entity created, so there’s no difference between the owner and the business. This means the owner is entitled to all profits raised through the business and files them as part of their personal income taxes. However, this also means that any debts and losses are attributed to the individual, as well as them being implicated in any lawsuits brought against the business.
Who is a sole proprietorship best for?
If you are planning to start a business along with a partner or multiple partners, a sole proprietorship is not an option. The structure will be a good fit only if you plan to operate your business entirely independently, or with employees who report to you as the owner.
Many people choose a sole proprietorship if they need to quickly start their business or want to avoid filing fees and paperwork. In fact, if you are running the business in your own name, there is no paperwork to fill out at all to register your business. This allows the business to get up and running quickly with no friction.
A sole proprietorship comes with personal liability and it may be more difficult to secure a line of credit or investments.
How to set up a sole proprietorship in Mississippi
1. Choose your business name
Mississippi law allows you to operate a sole proprietorship under a name other than your own. While you can use your name, most people choose a specific business name. If you want to do this, you should first search the Mississippi Department of State’s website to see if the name you chose is taken or if something similar exists.
In Mississippi, a business name must not:
- Match any other business name in the state
- Be misleading
- Use any certain government agency terms or abbreviations like FBI or EPA
2. File a trade name
If your business is the same as your legal name, no paperwork is necessary.
If you want to operate a business under a name other than your personal name, you need to file a trade name with the state.
It is ideal for sole proprietors to have a trade name (or a fictitious name) for many reasons. Having a name for your business has an impact on how potential customers see your business. With a fictitious name, you can also open a business bank account, allowing customers to write checks to a company name as opposed to you, personally.
You can visit Mississippi’s Secretary of State’s Website to e-file your fictitious name. Make sure to check the name’s availability using the simple business search tool. Businesses in the state are not allowed to have the same or similar names.
The fee is $25, and the name will be good for five years. The name has to be renewed before December 31st in the fifth year. Otherwise, you will have to re-register and go through the process again.
3. Obtain licenses, permits, and zoning clearance if needed
Depending on the industry of your startup, you may need to obtain a variety of business licenses or permits. This is managed by the Mississippi Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR), though some areas like health care are licensed by independent areas.
You should also explore local regulations like building permits and zoning clearances where appropriate.
A Mississippi sole prop does need to obtain licenses, permits, and zoning clearances at a county or city level. The licenses you need will depend on your business’ activities and some professions require a license to sell their services, such as barbers, accountants, and hunting instructors.
For a full list of business permits and licenses you might need to run your business, you can visit the state website.
4. Obtain an Employer Identification Number (EIN)
If you’re planning a new hire, you need to obtain an EIN. This nine-digit number is issued by the IRS and used for tax purposes when you need to report wages. You can file for an EIN online through the IRS website.
If you do not have employees, you can use your Social Security Number to file taxes and are not required to have an EIN. However, some banks will require new business owners to have an EIN to open a business bank account, so you may want one anyway.
Once you have these pieces in place, your own business is ready to operate! You can begin thinking about things like marketing materials, landing your first clients, and how you want to grow over time.
How is a sole proprietorship different from an LLC or freelancing?
An LLC, or limited liability company, is another common structure used for small businesses in the United States. While an LLC can have a single owner, it can also be owned by multiple people working together. The key differentiator for an LLC is that it offers protection of the owner’s personal assets. As a separate legal entity, an LLC is liable for debts and legal obligations, but the owner cannot be personally liable for these items. If the business fails, the owner could file for a business bankruptcy without owing business creditors their own money.
If you’re wondering about the difference between freelancing and setting up a sole prop, you’d set up a sole prop if you plan to hire other writers to work with you. A freelancer, or independent contractor, can’t hire people, but a sole prop can.
What are the advantages of a sole proprietorship?
Simplified tax preparation
For the owner of a sole proprietorship, tax preparation is not much more complicated than it is for any other private citizen. In preparing personal taxes, the owner will include all profits and losses related to the business, which is calculated as a part of their income or expenses. This also means the tax rate stays at their individual rate as opposed to higher business and corporate tax rates.
Less paperwork and fees
To register most types of business, the state requires you to file your business name for inclusion in their directory and pay a fee. The sole proprietorship does not have to do this. There will be some paperwork and fees involved if you require licenses or permits, or you plan to operate under a fictitious name.
The sole proprietor of a business is responsible for everything, both good and bad. While liability is placed on that owner, they also enjoy complete control of their business. Any business decisions will be solely their responsibility, without worrying about pleasing shareholders or disagreements with a partner.
What are the cons of a sole proprietorship?
No asset separation
In a sole proprietorship, there is no legal separation between the assets of an owner and the business. While this makes things like taxes simple, it also means there is no delineation between the liabilities of an owner and their business. This means that if the business is not successful, the business’s debts fall to the sole proprietor, and if they cannot pay, it is their personal assets that will be seized. In the case of a lawsuit where money is owed, the same is true.
Single point of failure
When only one person is responsible for an entire business, it means that they are the single point of failure. If a sole proprietor passes away, becomes incapacitated, or is incarcerated, the business is usually not able to survive. While a corporation can be taken over as a legally separate entity, a sole proprietorship must be run by the owner.
Less availability of funding
With this business structure, finding startup funds could be tough. Many banks and investors do not like to offer funds to sole proprietors, as they cannot gain shares of the company or be sure that business debts will be repaid. Many government grants and business loans also exclude sole proprietorship.
How are sole proprietors taxed in Mississippi?
With this form of business, taxes are a part of the personal tax return of each owner. Business profit is calculated and reported on a Schedule C form which is for Profit or Loss from Small Business.
A Schedule C will calculate the income of the business, including all income and expenses, along with the costs of goods sold and costs for home-based businesses. The rest of the calculation is the net income, which is the amount of taxable business income.
This net income is entered on the Schedule C and included with other income and losses the owner (and their spouse) report on their income tax return.
The small business owner then pays taxes on all of the income listed on their personal return, including income from business activity at the applicable rate for the year.
Although you don’t need to register your sole proprietorship with the Secretary of State in Mississippi, you still need to register for a tax ID to remit taxes collected from sales and income tax. Most entity types, including sole props, are required to register. You can do it online for free. Just visit Mississippi’s Department of Revenue website to get your certificate, because you will definitely need one if you are selling taxable products and services.
You need to report all business income and losses under your personal income tax return, and the business is not taxed separately.
On the website, you can register for taxes, pay taxes, and more. The TAP portal is an excellent way to effortlessly manage your business’ taxes. Just like self-employed individuals, sole proprietors need to pay 15.3% taxes on the 15th of April each year. Of that, 12.4% will go into your Social Security, and the other 2.9% goes to Medicare.
As a self-employed individual, there are additional taxes necessary to pay. Based on the business’ income, the sole proprietor must pay Social Security and Medicare taxes. If the business operates at a loss, tax payments are not payable, but you will not receive benefit credits for that year.
There may be other employment taxes and business taxes that are applicable.
The taxes you need to pay will depend on the nature of your business. In Mississippi, some businesses need to pay sales and use tax, withholding tax, interstate commercial vehicles tax, petroleum tax, gaming tax, and many more. You can see the entire list of special business taxes in Mississippi here.
Aside from the costs of procuring products and buying equipment for your small business, you will need to spend money for filing fees. Not all sole proprietorships are the same when it comes to filing for permits and licenses because it depends on the nature of the business, but you can check the extensive list of all the filing fees in Mississippi.
There are no limits to the number of employees a sole prop can have in Mississippi. However, you will be responsible for all employment administration, record keeping, and taxes. You also need to file for an Employer Identification Number (EIN) to legally hire an employee in the state. Many sole props hire 1099 employees or freelancers if they don’t need consistent help.
The state does not require sole props to file an operating agreement with the state. An operating agreement, which spells out how a company is organized and how its daily operations work, is more for LLCs and corporations.