Key Legal Considerations for Small Business Owners

April 13, 2024

Starting a business is an incredibly exciting venture. It can bring financial stability and independence and even a legacy for you to leave behind for your family. However, starting a business can also present unique legal challenges. Before you start operating your business, you must meet certain legal requirements. Below, our Houston business attorney outlines the checklist you need to make sure your small business is in compliance with the law.

Your Business Structure

One of the first things you must decide is the business structure you want to use. Your business structure will have a significant impact on your personal liability in the event of a business lawsuit, the manner in which you will run your business, your business taxes, and the people involved in your company. There are many different types of business structures, and they are as follows:

  • Sole proprietorship
  • General partnership
  • Corporation
  • Limited liability company
  • Limited partnership
  • Limited liability partnership

It is important to speak to a business attorney before choosing your business structure. An attorney can explain more about the different structures and help you determine which one is right for you.

Choosing Your Business Name

After determining which type of business structure you will use, you then need to think of a name for your business. The name of your business will depend on many factors, namely the type of business you are starting. For example, choosing a fun and playful name for your business may be appropriate if you are serving younger crowds or your products and services are not that serious in nature. On the other hand, if your business is more professional in nature, such as an accounting firm, you may want to choose a name that reflects that.

After deciding on a name, you will need to register and file the business name with your local county clerk’s office. You should also consider registering your business name as a trademark so you can use it exclusively.

Tax Considerations

All businesses in Texas and throughout the country have to pay taxes. You will need to obtain an Employer Identification Number (EIN) for tax purposes, as well as a sales tax permit if you are going to be selling taxable goods. For example, if you are opening a grocery store, basics such as flour, bread, and eggs are not subject to taxes. However, snack foods are taxable so you will have to obtain an EIN and a sales tax permit for the taxable goods you are selling.

Permits and Licenses

Texas law does not require you to obtain a general business license. However, depending on the type of business you are starting, you may need certain licenses and permits. These permits and licenses are issued by local councils. You may need zoning permits, health permits, building permits, occupational permits, tax permits, or signing permits. Our Houston business attorney can help you determine which permits and licenses you need so that once your business is in operation, it stays in operation.

Insurance Considerations

Texas law does not require many types of business insurance. For example, if you have employees, you can likely choose not to purchase workers’ compensation in the event that any of them become injured on the job. Purchasing workers’ compensation is not generally required of business owners in Texas. Still, there are certain types of insurance you should purchase to protect your business. If you do purchase workers’ comp, for instance, it can protect you from liability lawsuits in case one of your employees becomes hurt.

General liability insurance is also recommended for small business owners. This type of insurance can protect you from personal liability if someone becomes hurt on your business’ property. If your company uses vehicles to conduct business, you are also required to obtain commercial auto insurance.

Protect Your Intellectual Property

Your intellectual property is likely at the core of your business. It is the very thing that makes your business what it is, and what makes it stand out among your competition. Intellectual property can include trade secrets, trademarks, formulas, recipes, copyrights, and patents. Filing a patent can take as long as five years, so it is important that you start this process right away.

Making sure that your intellectual property is protected can attract investors in the future, but it also provides you with the reassurance that you will be able to keep operating your business in the same manner. For example, if you are a restaurant and do not protect the secret recipe that contributes to your success, someone else could use it in the future. In fact, they may even be able to patent it to prevent you from using it even though you were the one who created it.

Draft an Employee Handbook

It is important to draft an employee handbook that outlines your business’ policies, and the rights and responsibilities of your workers. For example, an employee handbook can outline the protocol to follow if a worker feels as though they were a victim of sexual harassment or discrimination. 

In addition to creating an employee handbook, you should also review it regularly and make the necessary revisions to ensure that your company is in compliance with federal, state, and local laws. If you do not give every worker their own individual handbook, you should keep a copy in a visible place that is easily accessible, such as a staff room.

Our Business Attorney in Houston Can Advise You of the Key Legal Considerations

Starting a business is exciting, but there are many legal considerations, as well. It is important that you know what these are so you and your company are protected. At Integrity Law Group, PLLC, our Houston business attorney can answer your questions, make recommendations, and make sure you are in compliance with all of the laws that affect your business. Call us now at (832) 280-8874 or fill out our online form to schedule a consultation with our experienced attorney and get the legal help you need.

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