Ohio business registration is the process of establishing a legal business entity in the state. If you've written a business plan, these are the next steps to becoming a business owner.

Choosing a Business Entity

Available legal structures for your business include the limited liability company (LLC), corporation, sole proprietorship, and partnership. A sole proprietor is an individual who opens his or her own business. This is the easiest type of entity to establish but carries the downside of total personal liability for business debts and obligations.

When two or more individuals start a business together, it's known as a general partnership. Like a sole proprietorship, this entity does not need to register with the state and carries personal liability for business debts. Both a sole proprietorship and general partnership are pass-through entities, which means the owners report profits and losses on their individual tax returns.

Some vendors and banks may ask your partnership for a Statement of Partnership Authority, which can be obtained from the Ohio secretary of state for a $99 fee.

Although a corporation is more expensive to start than other types of business entities, it protects its owner from personal liability in the case of a lawsuit. Corporations can opt for various tax treatments and avoid self-employment tax. Corporations are formed by filing Articles of Incorporation and paying the $99 fee.

Naming Your Business

To register your business name in Ohio, you simply need to submit a form to the secretary of the state. The office will search to make sure the name you want to use is not already taken. If another business has a similar name registered, you can use the name anyway with consent by submitting the Consent of Use of Similar Name form.

Sole proprietors may want to register a fictitious business name. If you don't submit a "doing business as" form, your complete legal name serves as the name of your business.

Partnerships must either register a DBA name or list the last name of each partner. Limited liability companies (LLCs) and corporations use the name registered when they form.

It costs $39 to register a name, and your forms will be processed within three to seven business days. You can also reserve a name for up to 180 days in Ohio if you aren't yet ready to register your business. The cost for this service is $50.

Avoid using a federally trademarked name by searching the database of the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

Registering Your Business

The Ohio secretary of state provides downloadable online versions of the forms you need to start a business. For-profit corporations must submit Initial Articles of Incorporation (Form 532A), along with the required $125 fee. You can send a check made payable to Ohio Secretary of State. A certificate of amendment form can be used if you need to change the Articles of Incorporation.

Three levels of expedited service are available for LLC paperwork in Ohio:

  • Level 1 service provides processing within two business days for forms filed by mail or in person. This carries a $100 fee.
  • Level 2 service provides processing within one business day for $200. Forms must be filed in the Cleveland or Columbus office.
  • Level 3 (Super Expedite) service provides a four-hour turnaround for forms filed by 1 p.m. at the Cleveland or Columbus office. The cost is $300.

Obtaining Licenses and Permits

New businesses should obtain an employer identification number (EIN) for free from the IRS. You can complete the entire process online. Although sole proprietors can file taxes using their Social Security number instead of an EIN, they may want to obtain this number to open a business bank account.

Your business must also file state taxes and required reports online through the Ohio Department of Taxation. Your EIN is used to register for this service as well. State and federal employment taxes must be paid periodically. You must report information about employees using the Ohio New Hire Reporting Center. You may also need to register for an unemployment compensation tax account. This is done through the Department of Job and Family Services.

You can learn more about the required licenses and permits for your business from the Ohio Business Gateway. Your county and municipal government are also important resources for this information.

Nonprofit Organizations

If your nonprofit organization will be engaging in solicitation activities, you will need to register with the office of the Ohio attorney general. You can also register with the United States Postal Service for a nonprofit postal permit.

If you need help with Ohio business registration, you can post your legal need on UpCounsel's marketplace. UpCounsel accepts only the top 5 percent of lawyers to its site. Lawyers on UpCounsel come from law schools such as Harvard Law and Yale Law and average 14 years of legal experience, including work with or on behalf of companies like Google, Stripe, and Twilio.