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Are You Operating Your Business in Multiple States? What You Need to Know

As a small business owner, it can sometimes feel like you’re expected to be an expert in tax and state law. One common area of confusion and misconception is conducting business in multiple states. By law, if your company plans to conduct business in any other states than your state of incorporation (or LLC formation), then you may need to register your business in those states. This process is called foreign qualification.

For example…

multiple states [1]

What is meant by “doing business?”

In today’s mobile/virtual world, it can be difficult to know just what constitutes doing business in a state. If you’re uncertain whether your particular business needs to foreign qualify, you should check with your attorney or accountant. However, here are some general questions to answer:

If you answered yes to any of these, your business may need to file a foreign qualification in the appropriate state.

What is a foreign qualification?
To register your company in another state, you will need to submit a Certificate of Authority application (sometimes it’s called a Statement & Designation by a Foreign Corporation) with the particular state’s Secretary of State office. You can download the form from the Secretary of State’s website or have your incorporating company handle the filing and requirements for you. Some states will require you to have a certificate of good standing from the state where your LLC/corporation was formed (which means you’ll need to be up to date on your state taxes, fees, etc.).

Why is a foreign qualification important?

Foreign qualifying your company in states where you conduct business is your legal obligation. Failing to properly register your company could result in:

You’ll want to foreign qualify in as few of states as possible. After all, with each foreign qualification comes filing and/or annual fees, additional laws to learn, and added paperwork. However, you simply can’t overlook your business’s legal requirement to foreign qualify; it could end up costing you much more in the long run.