Opening a business bank account for your new endeavor doesn't just serve to legitimize your business idea and make you a "real" business. It's also a vital consideration for your taxes, according to tax and business attorney Barbara Weltman. Besides making it harder to keep track of what to report as income and expenses, by not separating business and personal finances, you could be costing yourself--and your business--money by not taking advantage of items that can be designated as write-offs.
A business bank account allows you to easily keep track of expenses, manage employee pay, convey finances to investors, receive and deposit payment, and plan your budget more accurately. Creating a business bank account requires simple steps to get you working quickly.
1. Determine What Accounts You Need
One business bank account for practices including income, taxes, and payroll may be difficult to manage, especially when taxes are due. Separate accounts for separate finances may make sense depending on the depth of your business. Consult an accountant for professional recommendations before heading to the bank.
2. Choose Your Bank
While you may love your personal bank, there may be a better account servicing option out there that relates to your business and can provide valuable expertise, especially if you require a line of credit and desire a balance transfer credit card or need cash management. It may be ideal to start the comparison process with the bank you already work with, but don't count out other options that may be a better fit for the industry you're in or that offer lower business banking costs if your budget is lean.
Also, be aware credit unions may not offer a business checking account. Other business accounts may reward business owners by waiving monthly fees if the minimum monthly account balance is maintained. Create a checklist with all your business needs, and make sure the bank you select can meet them now and grow with you as your business evolves.
Some banks will let you open a business bank account online without having to visit the bank in person. Enterprises that will typically still be required to open an account in the bank include companies providing money services, telemarketing companies, and gambling businesses.
3. Obtain Your Business Name
If you choose to do business under a name that is not your personal moniker, you'll want to first check your intended business name is not already trademarked by visiting the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office's trademark search tool. Also, checking for online availability should be a naming consideration to protect your business' online presence.
Head to your county clerk office or state government office where your business is located to pay the registration fee to file for a business name, typically less than $100. To protect your new business name from trademark infringement, apply for trademark protection for typically less than $300.
4. Get Your Paperwork in Order
Before heading to the bank to set up an account, make sure you know their requirements and what paperwork they'll need from you, since different accounts have different specifications. Often, all you'll need is a tax ID number and a social security number if you're a sole proprietor, compared to corporations that need to show articles of incorporation.
Keep in mind, the tax ID you use to open the business bank account should be your Federal Employer Identification Number, not your social security number. To obtain a tax ID number, file a request from the IRS. Use the number issued to obtain a tax ID number from the state you're doing business in. Banks will also often require a business license with both the business and owner's name, or a business name filing document.
5. Get Ready to Accept Payments
Now that you've chosen your accounts and bank to do business with, secured your business name, and opened your business bank account, allow your business to accept payment by setting up a merchant account. A credit card merchant account is a necessity to accept credit card payment, along with your bank account and a way to process payments.
Online payment systems may be an attractive choice if your business anticipates a large volume of e-commerce transactions. An option like PayPal allows for instant payment through an email address. For in-store purchases, a point-of-sale application such as Square Register that works on Android and iPad tablets allows users to not only accept card payments, but also create sales reports and monitor sales trends to better influence your business.
As you conduct business, keep track of the following items:
- Taxes you owe
- Funds coming into the business
- Business expenses, from electricity and technology, to dinner meetings
- Donations made on behalf of the business
- Payroll costs
You and your accountant will be better prepared to accurately submit your taxes and avoid being audited by the IRS--one less business stress to help you successfully launch and maintain your enterprise.