How to Start a Sole Proprietorship in Missouri

A sole proprietorship might be the simplest business structure, but many companies started as one before making it big. If you have products, ideas, or skills you want to turn into a business, you should think about starting a sole prop in Missouri. 

Unlike corporations and LLCs, a sole proprietorship is the least expensive and easiest to create. Plus, you don’t need to file or register a sole prop in Missouri. All you need is to get the required permits and licenses at your city or county office, and you are good to go. 

There are a couple of things you might want to know before starting a sole prop though, and this article will guide you through the entire process.

Before you know it, your sole prop will be up and running. First, let’s define what a sole proprietorship is. 

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 Missouri

1. Choose your business name

Missouri 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 Missouri Department of State’s website to see if the name you chose is taken or if something similar exists. 

In Missouri, 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 

Filing for a trade name or fictitious name is mandatory in the state of Missouri, if you plan to run a business under a name other than your legal name.  

To file for one, you can fill out the Registration of Fictitious Name form and submit it to the Missouri Secretary of State through mail or online. The filing fee costs $7, and it will be good for 5 years. It is very inexpensive to file for a fictitious name in Missouri compared to most states that can cost up to $100. 

A fictitious name allows you to do business under a different name, which makes your business appear more legitimate in the eyes of potential customers. Having one also enables you to open a business bank account, which makes it easier for you to separate your personal finances from your business income. 

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 Missouri 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. 

Depending on the nature of your business and its location, you might need to obtain the necessary permits and licenses to legally operate your business. Some locations are not meant for businesses, and if that is the case, you will need to obtain a zoning permit from your local county office. If you are building infrastructure for your business, your local county office should also issue you a building permit. 

As for professionals and other occupations, you also might need to obtain a license to sell your services. Accountants, acupuncturists, barbers, athletic trainers, architects, etc. need licenses to sell their services. You can check this extensive list of professions from the Missouri Division of Professional Registration website. 

Other licenses will include liquor and tobacco licenses that you need to obtain from your local county registrar if you intend to sell these products. 

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.

Next steps

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. 

Sole ownership

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 Missouri?

Income taxes

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.  

The tax rate for sole proprietors in Missouri is 15.3%, and you need to file your federal and state taxes on or before April 15th every year. You will be required to report sales tax and use tax and register with the Missouri Department of Revenue Online Business Registration to report and remit taxes.  

Other taxes

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. 

Other taxes might include Medical Marijuana tax, cigarette tax, motor fuel tax, and more. If you want to learn more about the taxes you need to remit or register, you can visit the Missouri Department of Revenue for an extensive list of possible taxes you need to report depending on the nature of your business. 

FAQs

A sole prop is easier to set up, and it is also the least expensive option if you want to start small. It is the perfect business model for small-scale and low-risk business models. However, with a sole proprietorship, you are liable for the business’ debt and don’t have the liability protection that comes with an LLC. 

Yes, sole proprietorships in Missouri can hire employees as long as you obtain an EIN or employer identification number from the IRS. This allows you to create payroll, withholding taxes, and provide worker’s comp for your employees. However, you can also resort to hiring 1099 employees or freelancers if your business doesn’t require permanent help. 

Because you are personally liable for all debts and obligations of your sole proprietorship in the state of Missouri, it is ideal to obtain general liability insurance to protect your personal assets. It might be the only form of financial protection you can obtain to protect your business against unforeseen events, making it a crucial aspect for protecting your business and personal finances. 

Yes, you can register your internet domain name as your fictitious name in Missouri. If you opt for a fictitious name, the domain name should match. However, you need to make sure that your domain name is not already taken by another business. It is best to check the availability first.

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