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Frequently Asked Questions


General Site Information
Do I have to register to use this site?

No, it is not necessary to register in order to use the site. You can easily access information about business incentives, structures, forms and resources available to assist you without completing the registration form and the log in process. See the benefits of registration listed below.
Why should I register?

  • Registered users can take advantage of the functionality that guides users through a series of questions to help them select the forms and information they may need to start a business.
  • Registered users can select and store information and forms in their personal briefcase.
  • Registered users can retrieve stored information and forms. The information you select is stored until you remove it. That way, you only have to select an item once and the information is available anytime you come back to PA Open for Business.
  • Registered users can check the availability of a business name via e-mail.
How do I register to use this site?

  • From the home page, click on the "Begin Here" button. The button is located below the words "Let us help gather the forms you'll need" or the words "Just need information?" This will take you to the log in page. Click on "register me" to register.
  • Or you can select the "Briefcase" button from the home page and you will be given the chance to log in or register. You must be registered on the site to log in.
How is the registration information used?

The registration information is used to create and maintain your personal Briefcase within the site and will not be shared without your permission.
Can I change my log-in identification and password?

Yes, you can change any information entered during registration including your log-in identification, password and e-mail address by going to your Briefcase and choosing "edit your password and personal profile."
Can I cancel my registration?

Yes, you can close your account, which automatically removes your log in access and empties your Briefcase. To close your account, go to your Briefcase and select "close my account." After you close your account, you will need to register again to use the Briefcase.
Does the PA Open for Business site contain all the state permits, licenses, registrations, and forms needed to start a business?

No, currently this site does not contain all of the state permits, licenses, registrations, and forms needed to start a business. Depending on the type of business you are involved in, additional forms may be required. PA Open for Business is an evolving tool for new and existing businesses and we are working hard to provide additional resources for you as quickly as possible. You are advised to contact your local municipality and/or county government to verify the requirements to operate your business in a particular locale. For general information on these requirements, contact the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development's Small Business Resource Center at 800-280-3801.
 
Starting a Business
What do I have to do to start a business?

The PA Open for Business site is designed to help you answer that question. Many of your starting a business questions can be answered by visiting the Resource link on the PA Open for Business home page. Or you can check out the "Information Only" portion of the site after you have registered to use the site. Additionally, you will find a short quiz that may help you in your decision to start a business at this site.

General business start-up activities include but are not limited to:

  • Determine the business you want to start and assess:
    a)  Your qualifications for that business
    b)  The feasibility of making that business profitable.
  • Assess your customer base, market base and know your competitors.
  • Develop a business plan that outlines the key aspects of your business venture.
  • Seek technical assistance to develop the business plan.
  • Determine the costs associated with starting your business and project these costs for a period of at least 3 years.
  • Determine the licensing and/or registration requirements at both the local and state level based on the type of business you are considering.
What is a Business Plan?

A business plan precisely defines your business, identifies your goals and serves as your firm's resume. It describes the products and services you will sell, the customers to whom you will sell them, the production, management and marketing activities needed to produce your offerings, and the projected profit or loss that will result from your efforts.
Why do I need a Business Plan?

The business plan allows you to apply your research to your decision-making. Although a plan is time consuming, it is important to business success. Completing the plan forces you to examine all decisions of management, marketing, personnel and finance in an objective and organized way. Another important benefit of the planning process is that you will project the amount of financing needed for start-up and the early stages of your business. Therefore, the business plan becomes a useful tool in securing capital before start-up. Then the plan becomes your owner's manual guiding your daily operation and activities.

Business planning is an ongoing activity. Existing businesses, as well as start-up firms benefit from writing and updating their goals, plans and activities.

Where can I find help developing my Business Plan?

Technical assistance and training is available throughout the state of Pennsylvania to help you develop a business plan. Service providers, such as the Small Business Development Centers (university-based programs) and SCORE Chapters (Service Corps of Retired Executives), specialize in providing no-cost consulting to help you develop your business plan. They also sponsor specialized training sessions for small businesses and potential entrepreneurs. Your local Chamber of Commerce can also be a valuable resource as well as the Small Business Administration Web page.
 
Financing a Business
What public financing programs are available?

Public financing from state agencies may be available to help you with working capital, building acquisition, equipment purchase, and other financial needs. Several financing programs are available through the PA Department of Community and Economic Development. Visit the Incentives link of PA Open for Business and click on Financing to learn more about these programs.
  • The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) can also help you identify federal public loan programs. Click here to learn more about their resources.
  • Are grants available to start a business?

    The availability of grant money for business start-ups is extremely limited. For help in identifying traditional and non-traditional financing options to start a business, contact your local Small Business Development Center.
     
    Tax Incentives
    Are there any tax-incentives for starting a business in PA?

    The Ridge Administration's commitment to community revitalization was realized on October 6, 1998, when Governor Ridge signed legislation to change the face of Pennsylvania's communities. The Keystone Opportunity Zones (KOZ) initiative offers promise and hope to some of Pennsylvania's most desperate neighborhoods by using a powerful incentive - no taxes. As only the second state in the nation to enact such legislation, Pennsylvania is a leader in providing its communities with new incentives to attract new business and jobs. Visit the Incentives link of PA Open for Business and click on Keystone Opportunity Zones to learn more about this program.
     
    Business Structure
    What type of business structure is best for me?

    • Your selection of a business structure is based on a number of factors. These may include:

      • Tax considerations
      • Liability
      • Costs
      • Record keeping
      • Flexibility
      • Future activities

      You should carefully analyze the advantages and disadvantages of each type of structure, keeping in mind your particular business and personal needs. It may be advantageous to seek professional advice from an attorney and/or tax specialist.

    How can I determine if a business name is available for use?

    The PA Open for Business website provides registered users with the capability of checking the availability of up to three business names via e-mail. The results of the name search will be e-mailed back to you usually within 2 business days. This service is available to you after you log in to the site and can be accessed either in the "gathering forms" or "gathering information" sections of the site.
    Is there a difference between a corporate name and a fictitious name?

    Yes, there is a difference between a corporate name and a fictitious name. Both types of names must be registered with the Pennsylvania Department of State, Corporation Bureau; however, incorporation provides a business with exclusive use of a corporate name. A corporate name may not be the same as or confusingly similar to the name of any other corporation, limited partnership, limited liability company or limited liability partnership.

    Registration of a fictitious name does not provide the business entity with exclusive use of the name. There are no ownership rights to a fictitious name and the name is not protected against use by anyone else. The same fictitious name can be used repetitively by different business entities.

    What is a fictitious name?

    A fictitious name is any assumed name, style or designation other than the proper name of the entity using such name. These types of entities include any association, general partnership, syndicate, joint venture or similar combination of groups of persons. Entities operating under their proper name need not make a fictitious name filing.

    The surname of a person, standing alone or coupled with words that describe the business, is not a fictitious business name and need not be registered. For example, "Jones Radio Repair" would not be a fictitious name because it includes the last name of the owner. However, "Bill's Radio Repair" is considered to be a fictitious business name because the owner's last name is not listed.

    The inclusion of words that suggest additional owners, such as Company, & Company, & Sons, & Associates, makes the name an assumed or fictitious name. For partnerships, the last name of all partners must be listed or the fictitious name rule applies. For example, if "Moore, Johnson, & Smith" includes all three partners' names, it is not considered to be a fictitious business name. If all the partners' names are not included, then the name must be registered with the Pennsylvania Department of State.

    How do I register a fictitious business name?

    To register a fictitious business name, you must file an Application for Registration of Fictitious Name (form DSCB: 54-311) with the Pennsylvania Department of State, Corporation Bureau. This form can be downloaded from the PA Open for Business web site.

    The penalty for failing to register a fictitious name is that the unregistered entity may not use the courts of Pennsylvania to enforce a contract entered into using the fictitious name. The failure to register the fictitious name does not void the contract, but merely prevents such enforcement until registration. The court has the option of imposing a $500 penalty in these instances where the entity seeks to enforce the contract and subsequently registers the fictitious name in an untimely manner.

    Where do I purchase a corporate kit, stock certificates and corporate seal?

    The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania does NOT issue corporate kits, stock certificates and corporate seals. Business form suppliers and corporate service companies sell these items. You must contact them directly.
     
    Federal Employer Identification Number
    Where can I get an application to apply for a Federal Employer Identification Number?

    The Application for Employer Identification Number (Form SS-4) can be downloaded from the Internal Revenue Services web site at http://ftp.fedworld.gov/pub/irs-pdf/fss4.pdf. The form is also available at most Social Security Administration and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Offices or you can telephone the IRS at 1-800-tax-form and request that the form be mailed to you.
    How do I apply for a Federal Employer Identification number?

    There are several ways to apply for a Federal Employer Identificaton Number. You can either:

    1. Mail a completed federal form SS-4 to an Internal Revenue Service (IRS) center. The address of the closest IRS Center is listed on the instruction portion of the form SS-4, or
    2. Submit the form SS-4 via FAX. Call 1-800-829-1040 to get information on how to FAX your application, or
    3. Complete the form SS-4 and call the Tele-Tin Unit at 215-516-6999.

    • If you mail your request to the IRS you can expect to receive your EIN within 30 days.
    • If you call the Tele-TIN number, you will be able to receive the EIN immediately. Note: An authorized individual must complete the form SS-4 before calling Tele-TIN.
    • Additional information about Employer Identification Number can be found at http://www.irs.gov/tax_edu/teletax/tc755.html.
     
    Forms
    What is the Pennsylvania Enterprise Registration Form (PA-100)?

    The Pennsylvania Departments of Labor & Industry and Revenue use the Pennsylvania Enterprise Registration Form (PA-100) to register an enterprise for a variety of services and taxes. An enterprise is defined as a sole proprietor or individual, a partnership, a corporation, an association, or any other business structure.
    Do I need to file a PA-100?

    While this is a commonly asked question, the answer is lengthy because the PA-100 is used to register for a wide variety of taxes and services. The following questions are designed to help you determine if you should complete the PA-100. Answering yes to any one of the following 10 questions indicates you should complete the PA-100.

    • Are you hiring employees?

      You will need to register with both the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry, for unemployment compensation tax, and the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue, for employer withholding tax. You can review the General Guide for Withholding Pennsylvania Personal Income Tax at http://www.revenue.state.pa.us/revenue/lib/revenue/rev-415.pdf

      Certain employment relationships are excluded from unemployment compensation tax coverage, the most common are listed here.

      Corporate officers are considered employees of the corporation and a PA-100 must be filed even if the corporate officers are the only employees.

      For both unemployment compensation and employer withholding purposes, a limited liability company must file a PA-100.

    • Are you conducting taxable retail sales?

      You will need to register with the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue for a Sales Use and Hotel Occupancy Tax License. You can review the Retailer's Guideto determine whether you are selling items that are subject to collection of this tax. If you are conducting taxable retail sales in a county that has enacted a local sales tax, this License will also register you to collect the local tax. Currently Allegheny and Philadelphia are the only counties that have enacted a local sales tax.

      If you are selling taxable items in Pennsylvania but do not maintain a permanent physical business location in Pennsylvania, you will also need to register with the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue for a transient Vendor Certificate.

      If you are purchasing items outside of Pennsylvania that will be used in Pennsylvania and are subject to sales tax, you will need to register with the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue for Use Tax.

    • Are you selling cigarettes at retail?

      You will need to register with the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue for a Cigarette Dealers License and a Sales Use and Hotel Occupancy Tax License.

    • Are you a cigarette stamping agent or wholesaler?

      You will need to register with the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue for a Cigarette Stamping Agent and Wholesaler License.

    • Are you selling or delivering liquid fuels?

      You will need to register with the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue for a Liquid Fuels and Fuels Tax Permit.

    • Are you operating a motor carrier in Pennsylvania highways?

      You will need to register with the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue for an IFTA/non IFA License and/or Decals.

    • Are you promoting a show(s) selling taxable items?

      You will need to register with the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue for a Promoter License.

    • Are you imposing a fee on the sale of new tires in Pennsylvania?

      You will need to register with the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue for a Public Transportation Assistance Tax (PTA) License and a Sales Use and Hotel Occupancy Tax License.

    • Are you operating a hotel or motel?

      You will need to register with the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue for a Sales Use and Hotel Occupancy Tax License.

    • Are you initiating a motor vehicle rental contract for less than 29 days?

      You will need to register with the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue for a Sales Use and Hotel Occupancy Tax License and a PTA License.
     
    Technical Support
    How can I avoid download problems?

    All of the forms on the PA Open for Business web site are stored in either Adobe Acrobat (PDF) format or Microsoft Word format. Free viewers are available to download and view files of these types. Microsoft Word viewers are available in two formats, 16-bit and 32-bit. Download the 16-bit version if you are running Microsoft Windows 3.1 or earlier. Download the 32-bit viewer if you are running Microsoft Windows 95 or later.

    Download Adobe Acrobat 4.0 Viewer
    Download Microsoft Word 16-bit Viewer
    Download Microsoft Word 32-bit Viewer

    After you have the proper viewer installed on your system, clicking the form link will open the form in your browser window (at this point, the form is downloaded, but not saved to your hard drive). If you have found the correct form, you can either print it from this interface or select File, Save As... from the menu. Select a place on your hard drive to save the file, then complete the save. Now you can open the file from your hard drive whenever you need it.

    Downloading forms may also be affected by your browser level. Our site supports Netscape Navigator 4.0 and higher and Microsoft Internet Explorer 4.0 and higher. If you experience problems with downloading forms, ensure you have the proper browser level installed on your machine. If you do not, download the latest free version from the software vendor's site and install it on your system.

    Download Microsoft Internet Explorer
    Download Netscape Navigator
     
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