Small Business Law: Things to consider

Clients Rate Lawyers on our Platform 4.9/5 Stars
based on 4,036 reviews

Jump to Section

Need help with a legal contract?

CREATE A FREE PROJECT POSTING
Post Project Now

What Is Small Business Law?

Small business law can cover a wide range of subjects and requirements. When you start a small business, you need to understand all of your legal obligations, from employment law and tax requirements to how to set up the right entity for your business.

Choosing the Right Legal Entity

A successful business starts with setting up a business entity. Small business owners must decide what type of legal entity their business should become. The type of legal entity you choose has implications for everything from the taxes you need to pay to the amount you can be held liable for your business's actions.

The most common business types include:

  • C corporations
  • S corporations
  • Limited liability companies (LLCs)
  • Partnerships
  • Sole proprietorships

Internal Requirements for Small Business Types

In addition to local, state, and federal requirements, certain types of small businesses must also meet internal requirements.

  • Corporations: Corporations typically have the strictest requirements for internal procedures. For example, corporations must:
    • Adopt and then maintain bylaws
    • Hold initial and then annual director meetings as well as shareholder meetings
    • Record minutes for these meetings
    • Issue shareholder stock
    • Record stock transfers
  • LLCs: While internal requirements for LLCs are less strict than for corporations, LLCs generally need to:
    • Hold annual meetings
    • Issue membership shares
    • Maintain updated operating agreements
    • Record membership interest transfers
  • Other business structures: Although other business structures don't have many internal requirements, most small business owners document important business decisions.

Essential Types of Small Business Laws and Procedures

Small business owners need to be aware of different components of the law.

Employment Law

If you hire anyone to work with you in your small business, you will need to understand employment law. These laws can vary by state, so it's helpful to consult with an employment lawyer to ensure that you're following important regulations.

Laws and regulations you'll need to follow when you hire employees include:

  • Anti-discrimination laws
  • OSHA regulations
  • Payroll laws
  • Tax withholding rules
  • Unemployment insurance
  • Workers' compensation

You could end up with a lawsuit if you break employment laws and regulations.

Tax Law

In addition to withholding employee taxes, you will need to know how to follow tax laws and regulations for small businesses. You need to file taxes with the IRS correctly as a small business owner. It's also essential to know the answers to any questions about sales and VAT taxes as well as when you need to file business income tax returns.

Trademark Law

One of the first tasks to take on when you're starting a business is coming up with your company's name. Though you'll likely want to start using the name you decide on right away, that can create problems. If you inadvertently choose a name, motto, or logo that's similar to another company, they can send you a cease and desist letter (or even a lawsuit) if they have already registered that information. You also want to make sure that your own information remains protected.

Take these steps to avoid running into problems with trademark law:

  1. Check if your chosen name is available by visiting your state's secretary of state website and searching for registered corporations.
  2. If your name is available, file a "Doing Business As" form, or DBA, in your state or county.

Customer Policies and Protections

You will need to have a legally binding terms and conditions policy to which your customers agree to be bound. This is especially important if you are providing some kind of service. The agreement should detail specifics for using your services or products as well as any customer obligations.

Likewise, you will need to have a clear privacy policy that specifies the customer information you do and don't share. Laws such as the GDPR in Europe and CCPA in California most likely apply to your business, no matter where you are based, if you interact with consumers in those places.

Here's some additional information about GDPR, and here's some about CCPA.

Licensing, Permit, and Recertification Procedures

You will need to familiarize yourself with all licensing and permit requirements for your business's particular field. Types of licenses and permits you may need depending on your industry include:

  • General business operation licenses
  • Health department permits
  • Health and safety certificates
  • Land use permits
  • Occupational permits
  • Sales permits for regulated items (such as alcohol, tobacco, or tires)
  • Sales tax licenses
  • State certifications with third-party boards (such as nursing or plumbing)
  • Zoning

Most localities and states publish various required licenses and permits online. You need to keep your business in compliance so that federal, state, or local authorities don't shut down your business. The documents your business needs to stay legally compliant vary based on industry and location. Renewal requirements for these documents also vary, so you should check with your local business licensing offices to stay updated.

Common federal agencies and departments small businesses may register with include:

  • Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB)
  • Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF)
  • Federal Aviation Administration
  • Federal Communications Commission
  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)
  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

State and Federal Filing Requirements

Small businesses also need to keep up with state and federal filing requirements to stay legally compliant. Many of these are ongoing processes.

State Requirements

Although annual filing requirements depend on a given business structure and the state where you do business, there are a few common requirements, including:

  • Initial reports: Some states require businesses to submit an initial report and fee shortly after the business's incorporation.
  • Franchise tax: Some states charge franchise taxes for LLCs or corporations operating within those locations.
  • Annual reports or biennial statements: Most states will require one of these documents.
  • Statement filing fees: You typically need to pay a fee along with the annual report or biennial statement.
  • Articles of amendment: You will need to report any key business changes using this document, such as changes to:
    • Name
    • Address
    • Membership
    • New shares

Federal Requirements

Many businesses will not need to keep up with federal requirements as long as they pay federal taxes and comply with the Affordable Care Act, which requires businesses that employ 50 or more people to report providing health coverage to the IRS. However, you will need to meet all federal tax obligations, which include employer and income taxes. You must also keep your federal certificates, licenses, and permits up to date.

Additionally, some federal requirements don't require ongoing filing. Small businesses must remain in compliance with:

  • Americans with Disabilities Act laws
  • Copyright laws
  • Marketing and advertising laws
  • Workplace health and safety laws
  • Workplace poster laws

Contracts With Other Parties

Small businesses often need to partner with a variety of people to perform needed services. Working with a lawyer who understands the intricacies of these contracts can help you protect your business.

If your business works with any outside vendors, you need to use appropriate and complete contracts. You should never enter into any arrangement with an outside party without first setting up a legally binding agreement. Some examples of when you need to use contracts include:

  • Having tenants on premises you own
  • Renting property from someone else
  • Purchasing raw materials
  • Using outside services

Similarly, you will want to protect proprietary information that belongs to your business by using nondisclosure or non-competition agreements. This may apply to things like:

  • Customer or client lists
  • Special recipes or formulas
  • Former employees/partners setting up competing businesses

No matter what aspect of small business law you need to understand, it's important to work with an experienced lawyer to ensure your business remains in compliance in order to operate effectively.

How ContractsCounsel Works
Hiring a lawyer on ContractsCounsel is easy, transparent and affordable.
1. Post a Free Project
Complete our 4-step process to provide info on what you need done.
2. Get Bids to Review
Receive flat-fee bids from lawyers in our marketplace to compare.
3. Start Your Project
Securely pay to start working with the lawyer you select.

Meet some of our Lawyers

Daniel R. on ContractsCounsel
View Daniel
5.0 (9)
Member Since:
January 1, 2023

Daniel R.

Business and Real Estate Atttorney
Free Consultation
Get Free Proposal
New York
27 Yrs Experience
Licensed in NY
New York Law School

NY Admitted Lawyer 20+ years of experience. Focused on Startups , Entrepreneurs, Entertainers, Producers, Athletes and SMB Companies. I have been a part of numerous startups as Founder, CEO, General Counsel and Deal Executive. I have been through the full life cycle from boot strap to seed investors to large funds-public companies to successful exit. Let me use my experiences help you as you grow your business through these various stages. We saw a market for an on-line platform dedicated to Virtual General Counsel Services to Start Ups and Private Companies.

Wendy C. on ContractsCounsel
View Wendy
5.0 (2)
Member Since:
January 17, 2023

Wendy C.

Attorney
Free Consultation
Get Free Proposal
Arizona
5 Yrs Experience
Licensed in AZ, TX
Arizona Summit Law School

Business transactions attorney who is well-verse in general corporate matters, fundraising, and negotiation in technology, blockchain, and consumer product industry

Jonathan M. on ContractsCounsel
View Jonathan
5.0 (1)
Member Since:
January 18, 2023

Jonathan M.

Attorney
Free Consultation
Get Free Proposal
Charlotte, NC
13 Yrs Experience
Licensed in NC, SC, VA
Charlotte School of Law

Owner and operator of Meek Law Firm, PC. Meek Law Firm provides comprehensive business law representation, precise and informed representation for real estate transactions in the commercial and residential markets of North and South Carolina and efficient succession and estate planning for business owners and individuals.

Adjckwc B. on ContractsCounsel
View Adjckwc
Member Since:
December 27, 2022

Adjckwc B.

Founder
Free Consultation
Get Free Proposal
New York
6 Yrs Experience
Licensed in NY
Florida A&M College of Law

A. Browne Esq. is an entertainment, intellectual property, and business lawyer. Her goal is always to provide the best legal representation for your creative endeavors, both tangible and intangible. Always know that the best way to deal with legal issues is to take measures to avoid them. Learn how to protect your creative work at a law firm that’s passionate about ensuring that creatives own their stuff.

James M. on ContractsCounsel
View James
Member Since:
January 4, 2023

James M.

Owner/Founder
Free Consultation
Get Free Proposal
Boise, Idaho
5 Yrs Experience
Licensed in CA, ID, OR
Stanford Law School

Reproductive law attorney focused on reviewing surrogacy contracts and sperm/egg/embryo donation contracts.

Christopher N. on ContractsCounsel
View Christopher
Member Since:
January 10, 2023

Christopher N.

Managing Partner
Free Consultation
Get Free Proposal
Philadelphia
25 Yrs Experience
Licensed in PA
Widener University Commonwealth School of Law

Christopher Nuneviller has practiced in the securities, venture capital, corporate and emerging business sectors, and as a contract-advisor to the federal government, a federal government senior level executive, and as Army Judge Advocate. Like you, he also he is a partner in other business ventures and faces the same pressure to succeed, be profitable, and stay sane, all while making his clients, employees, family and business partners happy. As the managing partner for Philadelphia's MNB Meridian Law, Ltd., his focus is on assisting small and mid-sized businesses grow and thrive. As a business generalist, Christopher provides advice and counsel to businesses, their owners, investors and shareholders on matters ranging from formation, organization, governance, routine and special operations, and growth toward IPO. Christopher is also a former U.S. Army Judge Advocate having served seven years in Washington, D.C. where he gained significant experience with "above the fold" matters of great import and an unhealthy insight into the internal workings of the "beltway" underbelly. Mr. Nuneviller is admitted to practice in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and before the Supreme Court of the United States, the Court of Federal Claims, and the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces.

Patrick N. on ContractsCounsel
View Patrick
Member Since:
January 18, 2023

Patrick N.

Attorney at Law
Free Consultation
Get Free Proposal
Massachusetts
6 Yrs Experience
Licensed in MA
Suffolk University Law School

Before attending law school, I had a prior career in business performance reporting. This experience differentiates me from other attorneys. I can readily read, interpret, and synthesize financial reporting. I also have a passion for legal research and writing.

Dayton M. on ContractsCounsel
View Dayton
Member Since:
January 17, 2023

Dayton M.

Attorney
Free Consultation
Get Free Proposal
Morgantown
1 Yr Experience
Licensed in WV
West Virginia University College of Law

Business Law - Criminal Defense - Immigration

David A. on ContractsCounsel
View David
Member Since:
January 23, 2023

David A.

Family Lawyer
Free Consultation
Get Free Proposal
Florida
41 Yrs Experience
Licensed in FL
University of Florida

Graduated UF Law 1977. 40 years experience in Family Law/Divorce and Prenuptial Agreements. Rated "AV Preeminent" By Martindale Hubble, the oldest lawyer rating firm in the USA. Top 5% of attorneys in Florida as reviewed by Judges and other Lawyers (not client reviews). Personal prompt service and easy to contact--available 24/7. Good negotiator and very personable. My clients are my priority.

Judi P. on ContractsCounsel
View Judi
Member Since:
January 26, 2023

Judi P.

Attorney
Free Consultation
Get Free Proposal
New Mexico
3 Yrs Experience
Licensed in NM
Arizona Summit Law School

Driven attorney with a knack for alternative dispute resolution, real estate, corporate law, immigration, and basic estate planning, with superb people skills and high emotional intelligence, and for working smart and efficiently, as well as time and financial management skills to deliver excellent legal work and solutions to legal issues. Seasoned with 20+ years of law firm and legal experience (real estate/corporate).

Find the best lawyer for your project

Browse Lawyers Now

Want to speak to someone?

Get in touch below and we will schedule a time to connect!

Request a call