How to Start a Sole Proprietorship in Utah

Last updated: March 12th, 2024
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If you’re considering starting a sole Utah proprietorship, you’re taking a significant step toward realizing your entrepreneurial dreams. To begin your sole proprietorship journey, you’ll need to navigate a few essential steps, including registering your new business, obtaining necessary licenses and permits, and understanding your tax obligations.

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What is a sole proprietorship?

A sole proprietorship is an unincorporated business owned and operated by a single individual, also known as the proprietor. In this business structure, the proprietor has full control over all aspects of the business, including decision-making, business profits, and day-to-day operations. The proprietor is personally responsible for the business’s debts and legal obligations, and the business income is typically reported on the proprietor’s individual tax return.

Examples of a sole proprietorship

Sole proprietorships are prevalent in a wide range of industries and professions. Here are a few examples of sole proprietorships:

  • Sarah’s Bakery: Sarah operates a bakery where she bakes and sells cakes, pastries, and other confectionery items. She is the sole owner of the business, managing everything from ingredient sourcing to customer service.
  • John’s Freelance Graphic Design: John is a freelance graphic designer who offers his services to clients on a project basis. He operates as a sole proprietor, handling client communication, project management, and design work independently.
  • Emma’s Home Cleaning Services: Emma runs a sole proprietorship providing residential cleaning services. She manages her own schedule, client bookings, and performs the cleaning tasks herself or with the help of a small team.

What qualifies your business as a sole proprietorship?

A business is considered a sole proprietorship when it is owned and operated by one individual, without them forming a separate legal entity through incorporation or as another structure. These businesses can be formed simply when business activity is conducted by the owner under their legal name. 

Sole proprietorship vs LLC

A sole proprietorship is a business structure where an individual operates and owns a business as the sole owner, assuming complete control and responsibility for its operations, profits, and liabilities. This type of business entity does not have a separate legal existence from its owner, making the individual personally liable for all business debts and obligations.

An LLC is a business structure that offers the advantages of limited liability protection to its owners while allowing for pass-through taxation. It provides a level of separation between personal and business assets, shielding the members from personal liability for the company’s actions. Unlike corporations, a Utah LLC can be managed by its members or designated managers, providing flexibility in decision-making and operations.

Who is it best for?

A sole proprietorship is a well-suited business structure for individuals who value autonomy and want to forge their own path in the business world. It is an excellent choice for self-driven entrepreneurs who relish the freedom to make independent decisions without the need for extensive consultation or bureaucratic processes. Sole proprietors often thrive in industries where personal expertise and direct customer interaction are key, such as consulting, freelancing, or specialized services.

Furthermore, a sole proprietorship is particularly advantageous for individuals who are starting a business with limited resources or a modest budget. Its streamlined setup process and minimal financial requirements make it an attractive option for those who want to turn their passion into a viable venture without the burden of extensive startup costs.

How to set up a sole proprietorship in Utah

While the formation process for a sole proprietorship is not formalized in Utah, there are other steps to consider as a small business owner. Certain requirements may apply to your venture, and you may also choose to do things that require you to follow a process. Some of the more common options are listed below. 

Is there any formal paperwork filed to establish this type of business?

When forming many business structures, Utah’s Secretary of State requires specific paperwork to be filed as a way of establishing the business. This is not true for a sole proprietorship, which can be formed without any registration process.

Name your business

Unlike other business structures, like a general partnership or S corp, you are not required to choose and register a business name. Instead, you can choose to operate under a personal name or set up a “Doing Business As” arrangement. 

Using your own name

By default, the sole proprietor and sole proprietorship share a name because they are considered the same legal entity. The two are the same for tax purposes, share a Social Security Number as their tax ID, and are not separated at all. You can continue to conduct business activities under your personal name with no formalities required.

Setting up a DBA

A DBA, known in Utah as an assumed name, is a chosen name that businesses can use without needing another name during formation. For a sole proprietorship, it allows you to operate with a name other than your own. Once you have chosen a name that is available in the state, you can complete a Business Name Registration and pay the $22 filing fee. 

Utah licenses 

In the state of Utah, the most common business license is the seller’s permit, which allows businesses to collect and remit sales tax on taxable goods and services to the Department of Commerce. While most businesses will require this, there are no other general business license requirements in Utah. However, the Utah Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing requires certain professions and industries to have proper licensing. This is common for professional service providers like lawyers, doctors, and accountants. 

Each city and county may also have its own requirements for licenses or zoning clearances. Be sure to check with your local government to confirm what regulations apply to your own business. You can also check with the Division of Corporations and Commercial Code. 

Pros

  • Simplicity and ease of setup as there is no required business form.
  • Complete control over business decisions and operations.
  • Tax advantages through personal tax reporting.
  • Flexibility to adapt and adjust business operations.
  • Lower initial and ongoing costs compared to other business structures.

Cons

  • Unlimited personal liability for business debts and legal obligations that could jeopardize personal assets.
  • Limited funding options and difficulty attracting investors.
  • Perception of reduced credibility compared to incorporated businesses.
  • Challenges in scaling and expanding the business.
  • Lack of continuity if the owner retires or becomes incapacitated.

FAQs

Do I need to file an annual report for my sole proprietorship in Utah?

Sole proprietorships are not required to file annual reports in Utah. However, you should keep your business registration up to date with any necessary changes. This may include renewing licensing and registration and local zoning clearances, as well as any professional requirements you need to meet.

Can I operate my sole proprietorship from home in Utah?

Yes, you can operate your sole proprietorship from your residence in most cases. There may be local zoning restrictions, or HOA rules that you should be aware of before doing so. You may also be able to use tax deductions for home expenses related to your business.

Can I hire employees for my sole proprietorship in Utah?

Yes, you can hire employees for your sole proprietorship. You’ll need to comply with employment laws, including obtaining necessary permits and withholding payroll taxes. You will likely need to obtain worker’s compensation insurance and an EIN (Employment Identification Number) through the IRS before onboarding these employees.

How can I check if my chosen business name is available in Utah?

You can perform a business name search on the Utah DCC website to determine the availability of your desired name. If a name shows as being registered to another business or something extremely similar is being used, you will not be able to use the name. If the name isn’t used, it is available for your trade name.

What taxes do I need to pay as a sole proprietor in Utah?

As a sole proprietor, you’ll be responsible for reporting and paying self-employment taxes, including federal tax, state income tax, and possibly local taxes. You are also responsible for collecting and remitting any sale and use tax. Other business taxes could apply to certain businesses. 

How does a sole proprietorship pay taxes? 

As a sole proprietor, the taxation process differs from that of other business entities. Sole proprietors report their business income and expenses on their personal income tax returns using Schedule C (Form 1040).

Does a sole proprietor pay self-employment taxes?

Sole proprietors are required to pay self-employment taxes, which consist of Social Security and Medicare taxes, on their net earnings. These taxes are calculated using Schedule SE (Form 1040) and are in addition to any income tax owed.

What deductions can a sole proprietor take on taxes?

Common deductions include business expenses such as office supplies, marketing costs, and travel expenses directly related to the business. It is essential for sole proprietors to keep accurate records of their business income and expenses to ensure proper tax reporting.

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