Starting a Business

​​​​​​​​​Steps for Setting up Shop

When starting a new business, there are ​important decisions to make. The Start a Business Guide has a checklist and recommendations for getting started.​ The following steps align with that guide, providing direct links to online systems and additional resources.

​Reviewing the checklist in the Start a Business Guide will provide an overview of the factors involved and guide you through the process of setting up your business. Knowledge and experience from work and study in your field are crucial, but taking advantage of proven low-cost resources like the Small Business Development Center and can provide invaluable perspective for planning your startup. 

Business Express​ provides a wealth of resources and contact information that are industry-specific, as provided by relevant agencies whose guidance will help you.​

​​It helps to begin with a plan. A business plan is a blueprint of every aspect of your business. Sales, marketing, advertising, promotion and location are some aspects of creating a plan. For a guide to creating a business plan, visit the US Small Business Administration‘s Plan your business page.

It’s always wise to consider seeking professional advice from an attorney and/or an accountant, but the Start a Business Guide​ lists three categories of other business assistance programs:​
​Selecting a business structure and entity type is a very important decision with many factors to consider. Getting good advice from a business professional is wise, and consider consulting an accountant or attorney. The Corporation Division’s descriptions are helpful, and include all the possible entity types.  Here are the five most common: 
  • Sole proprietorship
  • General partnership
  • Limited liability company (LLC) 
  • Corporation 
  • Nonprofit 
Read more about choosing a legal structure at Business Xpress.

Choosing a business name is a separate but related decision, because registering your name is a commitment to your entity type. A sole proprietorship or partnership achieves name recognition by simply registering an Assumed Business Name. But when you register an LLC, corporation, or nonprofit, you are forming a distinct business entity when you register its name.  

No matter what name you register with the Secretary of State’s Corporation Division, you will protect against someone else registering that name in Oregon. But, it’s important to understand that this process is separate from obtaining an internet domain name, and the legal rights to a name are another matter. Also, setting up your name for taxes with the IRS and Oregon’s Department of Revenue are separate steps.

Before choosing a business name in Oregon, read more about it, and use the Business Name Availability Check option on the Business Registry Database Search​ page.

​The Oregon Secretary of State's Corporation Division is the place to register your assumed business name, LLC, corporation, or nonprofit corporation.  Go to Business Registration Forms​ to file a business online or download f​orms to submit.

As of January 1, 2024, most new active corporations, LLCs and other businesses are required to report “Beneficial Ownership Information” electronically to the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) via their website: New businesses have 90 days to report.  Visit our website for an overview and more information.

Registering an Oregon trademark or service mark​ is another option for protecting your intellectual property in Oregon.
Understanding tax obligations is important for any business. The Oregon Start a Business Guide , Step 5, has comprehensive information.  For business income tax, you can find help directly from the Internal Revenue Service and Oregon Department of Revenue. The Department of Revenue also explains other state and local taxes:
Most businesses apply to the IRS for a federal Employer Identification Number (EIN) as an early step necessary for setting up a bank account, whether or not employees are hired.  You can apply online​

As your business grows, a qualified tax professional is probably one of your most valuable advisors. 

​The State of Oregon does not issue a general “business license.” Your business registration serves that purpose.  But many occupations and business activities do require licenses, permits or certifications from state agencies or boards. Check the License Directory for licenses, permits and certifications that may apply to you. If an initial search brings up too many results, use the “Filter your results” tool to narrow them down.

For example, construction and landscape contractors need to register with the Construction Contractors Board or Landscape Contractors Board.

Cities and counties may also require a business license or permit. Check with your city and county to determine license, permit or zoning requirements. Their website is a good place to start; (see the Oregon Blue Book’s list of cities​).  If there is nothing specific about business licenses, call the city’s information number.
Check zoning for your location. Be sure the location you choose is properly zoned for your business activity. Other factors to consider include regulations on signs, parking, and possibly a home occupation permit. Check with your local city or county planning office. 

Check with the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). Some business activities require you to contact DEQ. 

Determine whether you comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Many businesses are subject to this federal law which prohibits discrimination against disabled persons.

Protect your idea. Learn about registering patents, copyrights, trademarks and service marks with the state of Oregon and federal government. Also, be careful about using copyrighted music or other published works in your business.

Consider Insurance for your business.  Many types of insurance are designed to cover the unique risks of operating a business. They include commercial liability insurance, business property, commercial auto, and business interruption insurance. Oregon’s Division of Financial Regulation provides a business insurance website, and the US Small Business Administration’s Get Business Insurance page has an overview and “Four steps to buy business insurance.”

Hiring employees means Workers’ Compensation and probably health insurance, as explained in Step 8 below.  

Oregon’s Unclaimed Property Law is managed by Oregon State Treasury.

Protecting Personal Information​ – A Business Guide is published by the Division of Financial Regulation, who enforces the Oregon Identity Theft Protection Act.  Protecting Consumer Information is critical, and Oregon’s laws align with federal requirements.​

Hiring your first employee is a major step for any business. Use the Oregon Employer’s Guide, including its checklist, as a roadmap to the process of hiring and supporting one of your most important assets, your employees.

Oregon laws and court decisions have clarified the difference between an employee and an independent contractor. If you are unsure whether you need to hire an employee or an independent contractor, go to​ for information and guidance. ​
​Keep your reporting and registration obligations current.

Businesses entities registered with the Secretary of State Corporation Division must file annual reports to update name and address information and pay for renewal. Assumed Business Names require renewal only every two years.  

We send a renewal notice about 45 days before your renewal date, the anniversary of your registration.​


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Before You Begin

The Start a Business Guide provides basic information about starting a business in Oregon. It has a list of recommendations to help get your business off to a good start. it's also available in Spanish.

The Oregon Employer’s Guide gives important information on laws, regulations and taxation requirements for all businesses with employees.​​

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