Employer Identification Number (EIN)
Most businesses, even some sole proprietors, need an EIN. To apply for an EIN, you can file Form SS-4, Application for Employer Identification Number with the IRS Service Center. You can get this form by calling 1-800-TAX-FORM, or from the IRS website.
Depending on the size and type of your business, you may be subject to federal laws regulating non-discriminatory policies, minimum wages, working hours and conditions and a wide variety of other federal regulations. Be sure to consult a knowledgeable lawyer, accountant or business consultant to ensure compliance.
The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulates work-site safety. You may fall under their authority even if you operate a home-based business. OSHA has a variety of publications available, including a Handbook for Small Business (OSHA 2209).
A single free copy of many publications is available from:
U.S. Department of Labor
OSHA Publications Office
200 Constitution Ave., NW
Washington, D.C. 20210
Copyrights, Trademarks & Patents
Just about every company has information that should be copyrighted to protect it from theft or illegal use. Some things that are often copyrighted are: books, art, material, jewelry, movies, software, and articles. When you write or create work that is able to be copyrighted it is automatically protected. It's not even necessary to place the traditional copyright notice on a work to assure its protection, but it's not a bad idea to do so anyway: a little C in a circle followed by the year and your name.
Besides giving you much better legal protection, the best reason to include this notice on your works is that it's free. To acquire even more protection you may file a copyright registration form with the U.S. Copyright Office for only $30. Contact the Copyright Office.
Trademarks At some point you may also want to register a trademark to protect certain ideas or symbols that represent your business's identity and image. Some trademarks are worth more than others. It has been cited that the trademark for Coca-Cola is worth over a billion dollars! Your trademark may not have that kind of value right now, but you still need to protect yourself. Contact the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. If your business involves a device or process that you developed and is unique, you may want to consider having it patented. Requirements for obtaining a patent are:
- Only the idea, or formula for an invention can be patented
- The invention cannot have been patented anywhere else in the world
- The invention has to have a purpose
- The invention can't just replicate something already invented
- It must be new and unique to what already exists
Obtaining a patent can be very expensive and time consuming. It can take many years, and cost thousands of dollars in fees and lawyers. Generally a lawyer that specializes in patents must file the papers and help in drafting the application. For more information contact the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.