How to Start a Business in Massachusetts

Thinking of starting a business? Here are the nuts & bolts from a recently-published article in the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Resource Guide for Massachusetts. Learn more about startup logistics, market research, how to register your business, zoning, patents & trademarks and so much more in this informative article.

The Startup Logistics

Even if you’re running a home-based business, you will have to comply with many local, state, and federal regulations. Do not ignore regulatory details. You may avoid some red tape in the beginning, but your lack of compliance could become an obstacle as your business grows. Taking the time to research the applicable regulations is as important as knowing your market. Carefully investigate the laws affecting your industry. Being out of compliance could leave you unprotected legally, lead to expensive penalties, and jeopardize your business. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts website has a comprehensive Business Resources section to help guide you to starting a business, visit www.mass.gov. The Mass BizWorks program connects businesses to many money-saving services offered by the state at no-cost to businesses, visit mass.gov/mass-bizworks.

Market Research

Need to do research on your clients and location? View consumer and business data for your area using the Census Business Builder: Small Business Edition, https://cbb.census.gov/sbe. Filter your search by business type and location to view data on your potential customers, including consumer spending, and a summary of existing businesses, available as a map and a report.

Business License & Zoning

Licenses are typically administered by a variety of state and local departments. It is important to consider zoning regulations when choosing a site for your business. Contact the local business license office where you plan to locate your business. You may not be permitted to conduct business out of your home or engage in industrial activity in a retail district. Contact the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation at (888) 283-3757 or (617) 973-8787 or visit www.mass.gov/consumer.

Name Registration

Register your business name with the county clerk where your business is located. If you’re a corporation, also register with the state through the Secretary of the Commonwealth Corporations by calling (617) 727-9640 or visit www.sec.state.ma.us.

Taxes

As a business owner, you should know your federal tax responsibilities and make some basic business decisions to comply with certain tax requirements. The IRS Small Business and Self-Employed Tax Center offers information on a variety of topics including: obtaining an Employer Identification Number, paying and filing income tax, virtual workshops, forms, and publications. Whether you are a new or an experienced business owner, there are new tax law changes that may affect your business. As the IRS works to implement the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, signed into law December 2017, you can access the latest information on www.irs.gov/tax-reform to better understand the new tax law implications and how they affect your bottom line. Find an IRS Taxpayer Assistance Center near you by visiting https://www.irs.gov/help/contact-my-local-office-in-massachusetts.

Social Security

If you have any employees, including officers of a corporation but not the sole proprietor or partners, you must make periodic payments, and/or file quarterly reports about payroll taxes and other mandatory deductions. You can contact the IRS or the Social Security Administration for information, assistance and forms, www.socialsecurity.gov/employer or (800) 772-1213. You can file W-2s online or verify job seekers through the Social Security Number Verification Service.

Employment Eligibility Verification

The Federal Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 requires employers to verify employment eligibility of new employees. The law obligates an employer to process Employment Eligibility Verification Form I-9. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service offers information and assistance through www.uscis.gov/i-9-central. For forms, call (800) 870-3676, for the employer hotline, call (888) 464-4218 or e-mail I-9central@dhs.gov.E-Verify, operated by the Department of Homeland Security in partnership with the Social Security Administration, electronically verifies the Social Security number and employment eligibility information reported on Form I-9. It’s the quickest way for employers to determine the employment eligibility of new hires. Visit www.e-verify.gov, call (888) 464-4218 or email e-verify@dhs.gov.

Employee Insurance

Check with your state laws to see if you are required to provide unemployment or workers’ compensation insurance for your employees. For health insurance options, call the Small Business Health Options Program at (800) 706-7893 or visit healthcare.gov/small-businesses/employers.

Environmental Regulations

State assistance is available for small businesses that must comply with environmental regulations under the Clean Air Act. State Small Business Environmental Assistance programs provide free, confidential assistance to help small business owners understand and comply with complex environmental regulations and permitting requirements. These state programs can help businesses reduce emissions at the source, often reducing regulatory burden and saving you money. To learn more about these free services, visit www.nationalsbeap.org/states/list.

Disability Compliance

For assistance with the Americans with Disabilities Act call (800) 669-3362 or visit www.ada.gov.

Child Support

Employers are essential to the success of the child support program and are responsible for collecting 75 percent of support nationwide through payroll deductions. The Office of Child Support Enforcement at Health and Human Services offers employers step-by-step instructions for processing income withholding orders for child support. A guide to an employer’s role in the child support program is available at the Office of Child Support Enforcement’s website at acf.hhs.gov/programs/css > employer responsibilities. You can also find information about other employer responsibilities and tools that can make meeting those responsibilities easier, such as electronic income withholding orders and the Child Support Portal. Send questions to employerservices@acf.hhs.gov. or contact the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Child Support Enforcement Division at (800) 332-2733 or (617) 660-1234.

Intellectual Property

Patents, trademarks, and copyrights are types of intellectual property that serve to protect creations and innovations. Intellectual property may be valuable assets for small businesses and entrepreneurs, and are important to consider in the development of any business plan.

Patents and Trademarks

For information and resources about U.S. patents and federally registered trademarks: Visit www.uspto.gov or call the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Help Center at (800) 786-9199. A patent for an invention is the grant of a property right to an inventor, issued by the patent office. The right conferred by the patent grant is the right to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling the invention in the United States or importing the invention. There are three types of patents:

• Utility patents may be granted to anyone who invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement.

• Design patents may be granted to anyone who invents a new, original, and ornamental design for an article of manufacture.

• Plant patents may be granted to anyone who invents or discovers and asexually reproduces any distinct and new variety of plant, other than a tuber propagated plant or a plant found in an uncultivated state. For information visit www.uspto.gov/inventors.

A trademark or service mark includes any word, name, symbol, device, or any combination used or intended to be used to identify and distinguish the goods/services of one seller or provider from those of others, and to indicate the source of the goods/services. Trademarks and service marks may be registered at both the state and federal level with the latter at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Federally registered trademarks may conflict with and supersede those registered only at the state level. For information visit www.uspto.gov/trademarks or call State Registration of a Trademark Secretary of the Commonwealth Corporations Division (617) 727-9640 or email corpinfo@sec.state.ma.us.

Copyrights

Copyrights protect original works of authorship, including literary, dramatic, musical and artistic, and certain other intellectual works. Copyrights do not protect facts, ideas, and systems, although it may protect the way these are expressed. For general information contact: U.S. Copyright Office at (202) 707-3000 or toll free (877) 476-0778 or visit www.copyright.gov.

Your small business can receive resources to grow and expand from the Massachusetts Office of Business Development, (617) 973-8600. Call to connect with a regional director for information on these state resources or visit https://www.sba.gov/offices/district/ma/boston to find out more information.

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