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Frequently Asked Questions

Starting A Business

How do I find out what I need to do to legally operate a business in Idaho?

First, go through the Business Wizard on this site. After answering a few questions about your business, you will receive a checklist of agencies to contact with a link to their websites and the reason to contact them. Only business activities requiring special licenses or permits are listed in the Business Wizard. If your particular business activity is not listed, you should still complete the Wizard and answer the questions about employees and the business entity type you plan to register. Then visit the Legal Structure and Assumed Business Name sections of this site for help in choosing and registering a business entity form and business name.

To find out if you need a business license, call your local city clerk’s office. Some communities license only a few business activities; others license all businesses, including home-based ones. If you plan to sell a product, you will need to secure a sales tax permit from the Idaho State Tax Commission.

If you will have employees, you will need to establish a state income tax withholding account with the Idaho State Tax Commission and an unemployment insurance tax account with the Idaho Department of Labor. Both can be established by completing form IBR-1. Completing form IBR-1 also registers you for a sales and use tax account.

For help in establishing or expanding your business, see Assistance Resources. Under Business Formation and Expansion” you will see a link to SCORE, a division of the Small Business Administration that works with startups. If you are an established business, contact the Idaho Small Business Development Center in your area.

How do I find out if another business is already using the name I want to use?

Business Entity Search can be performed on the Idaho Secretary of State’s website. After entering your desired name, the site will indicate if it is already in use in Idaho. Also check for similar names spelled differently or containing a slight variation, such as Shoppe or Centre, and do an Internet search to find regional or national companies using the same or a similar name, which could create confusion. If you will register the business as a corporation or an LLC, you must choose a unique name not currently in use in Idaho.

Once you decide on a name, to create a sole proprietorship, fill out the Certificate of Assumed Business Name (also called a DBA) form on the Idaho Secretary of State’s website. If you register your business as an LLC or corporation, you will also be registering the name and do not need to file the DBA form.

For information about protecting your business name, see the Trademarks FAQ on this page. Also visit the Assumed Business Name section of this website for more information.

How do I know whether to set up a Sole Proprietorship, a Partnership, Corporation, or an LLC? How do I change from one to the other?

The Legal Structure page on this site contains a description of each entity type recognized in Idaho. The comparison chart compares the differences between entity types. Because your entity choice will affect your tax payments, you may want to consult an accountant for assistance.

If you register as anything other than a sole proprietorship, an attorney will need to prepare the required Operating Agreement, Articles of Incorporation, by-laws, or partnership agreement, all of which need to comply with Idaho law.

To change from one business entity type to another, check the information found on the Legal Structure section of this site. You may need the assistance of an attorney and an accountant to properly close your existing entity type, pay any taxes owed, change employee withholding and unemployment accounts and file the paperwork for the new entity.

What do I need to know about tax reporting for a new business?

The Idaho State Tax Commission and the Internal Revenue Service are the primary taxing authorities. If you have employees, you will need to establish both state and federal withholding accounts and Unemployment Insurance Tax accounts. Other taxes, such as sales tax or taxes on certain products (alcohol, tobacco, etc.), may also apply, depending on the nature of your business.

To learn about the taxes you may need to pay, complete a search of the Business Wizard. The resulting checklist will include taxes, licenses and other requirements and the agencies to contact. Also visit the Taxes section of this website for information on specific taxes that may apply to your business activity (such as alcohol or motor fuels taxes) and the agencies that collect them.

Some Idaho cities levy a local option sales tax in addition to state sales tax. A list of those cities is found on the Taxes section of this website. If your city requires you to collect local sales tax, contact the city clerk’s office for details.

I couldn’t find my business activity on the Wizard, so I didn’t go through it.

That means you don’t need a special license or permit. You should still go through the Business Wizard to learn about registering your business, taxes you may need to pay and the agencies to contact if you have employees or independent contractors.

I want to start a non-profit organization. How do I do that and are there special regulations?

To be classified as a non-profit, approval must be secured from the Internal Revenue Service. The process can be expensive and time-consuming and many business activities do not qualify. Your attorney can assist with the application process. Information about establishing a non-profit, tax reporting and maintaining non-profit status is found on the IRS website. After receiving IRS approval, the business can register with the Idaho Secretary of State’s office as a Domestic Non-profit Corporation.

Alternatives: Before establishing a non-profit, you may want to consider other, less expensive, ways to accomplish your goal. See Alternatives to Forming a Charitable Nonprofit for recommendations.

If you decide to move forward in creating a non-profit, you may find it helpful to go through the Business Wizard. You can search for information related to the primary activity of your non-profit and find out if you or your employees may need specific licenses or permits, such as occupational licenses.

Taxes: Non-profits are not exempt from all taxes. Your non-profit may be required to collect or pay state sales or use tax. If so, you will need to secure a sales and use tax permit from the Idaho State Tax Commission. For information and a list of exempt organizations, see the Tax Commission’s website.

Assistance: The Idaho Non-profit Center offers information about establishing a non-profit in Idaho, including establishing a board of directors, writing by-laws, recruiting volunteers, financial record keeping and more.

The Idaho Attorney General publishes the booklet, Service on an Idaho Non-profit Board of Directorswhich explains the responsibilities and liability associated with serving on a nonprofit’s board.

If your nonprofit is engaged in activities involving children, the elderly, or vulnerable adults, your employees and volunteers will need a background check and to be fingerprinted. For information, visit the Idaho State Police website.

I plan to start my business in my home. Are there special regulations I need to know about?

Home-based businesses may need to conform with additional regulations, as well as those associated with your profession or the product or service offered. First, go through the Business Wizard to find requirements related to your profession, product or service. Then, read through the information below to learn about possible additional requirements.

Local Requirements: Call your local city clerk’s office to find out if you need a city business license or another special license or permit. Your business will need to comply with your city, county, and/or homeowner’s or neighborhood association regulations. If you rent your home or apartment or live in a condo, check your lease agreement or covenants to be certain a home-based business is allowed.

Legal Requirements: All businesses, including home-based ones, must register their name and entity type with the Idaho Secretary of State’s office. To learn about the entity types recognized in Idaho, visit the Legal Structure section of this website.

The business must be operated by a full-time resident of the home, not an employee. The business must be a secondary use for the home; the primary use must remain that of a residence. The character of the home, interior and exterior, cannot be changed from that of a residence. The square footage allowed for business activities varies by community.

In most communities, a retail store, restaurant, coffee shop or similar business where customers come and go cannot be operated from a home. If you offer lessons (music, art, etc.), the number of students allowed at any one time may be limited.

The business must comply with local health, safety, and fire codes and with city and county ordinances. You may be required to conduct all business activities inside the home or an approved accessory structure (garage, shop, etc.). Equipment used in the business may be restricted in size, weight and power to that of normal household appliances.

You must also comply with local regulations concerning:

  • exterior signage
  • traffic
  • number of employees
  • parking (employee and customer)
  • noise
  • odor
  • waste disposal
  • dust and vibrations
  • air, waste water, or soil pollution

You may not be able to store supplies or materials in a yard, garage, or outbuilding or park vehicles or equipment in your yard or on the street.

  • Food Preparation – Idaho’s Cottage Food law allows certain “low risk” foods sold directly to the consumer to be prepared in a home kitchen. This includes most baked goods and other products that don’t require refrigeration. Other foods, including baked goods that will be sold at a commercial establishment, sold on-line or across state lines, or contain imported ingredients must be prepared in a commercial kitchen. The commercial kitchen will be inspected and licensed by your regional health department. Visit the Home-Based Business section of the Food and Drug Administration’s website for more information.
  • Child Care – If you care for seven or more children in your home (including your own) and you receive payment for one or more of them, a license is needed from your city clerk’s office and/or from Idaho Department of Health and Welfare. The home will be inspected by the health department and the fire marshal. (Note – some cities’ licensing requirements are more stringent than state requirements, so be sure to check.) You and your employees must secure annual training, including pediatric First Aid and CPR training.
    Federal and state regulations require everyone applying for or renewing a childcare license to check the Central Registry in every state in which the person lived in the past five years (including Idaho) and to submit proof of the check/checks. Anyone living in a home where an in-home daycare is operated must also submit proof of a check. Central Registries are databases maintained by individual states that contain records of child abuse and neglect investigations. Idaho Department of Health and Welfare maintains the Idaho database. In addition to a Central Registry check, some cities also require an FBI background check.
  • Temporary Lodging/Airbnb – Homeowners who rent a room, cabin or another space to the public must register a business name with the Idaho Secretary of State’s office. If the rental is for 30 days or less, sales tax and applicable lodging taxes must be collected and remitted to the Idaho State Tax Commission. Some marketing programs, such as Airbnb and VRBO, will collect taxes for you. If you rent through another program, you may need to personally collect and remit taxes. For details, see Short-term Rentals.
  • Product Restrictions – Certain products cannot be legally manufactured, grown or raised in a home business. These include fireworks and other combustible items, drugs and drug paraphernalia, poisons, noxious weeds or insects, and sanitary and medical products. Some communities restrict the production of additional items, so check with your city clerk.
  • Service/Sales Restrictions – Services involving risky activities, adult activities, loud noise, pollution or that create a nuisance for neighbors are restricted in home businesses. The sale of restricted items, such as alcohol, drugs or tobacco, poisonous reptiles or insects cannot occur in a home business.
  • Animals – Businesses involving animals are subject to additional regulations and licensing requirements, depending on the type and number of animals and the service provided. A kennel or breeder’s license may be needed; special waste handling and noise abatement procedures may be required, as well as other issues. Contact your city clerk’s office for information.
  • On-line Businesses – If you operate an online business, you may need to register a business name with the Idaho Secretary of State’s office. If the business involves sales, a sales tax permit secured from the Idaho State Tax Commission will be needed. The business will collect tax on sales to Idaho residents. If you sell food products online, see the “Food Preparation” information above.
  • Party Plan Businesses – if you sell Scentsy, Pampered Chef, Mary Kay or another product involving home parties or sales events, check with your city clerk’s office to find out if you can hold parties at your home. Some Idaho cities restrict the number of attendees at open houses and similar events held at the dealer’s home (not at a customer’s home).

Employees: Your city or county regulates the number of employees a home business can have and the number of vehicles that can be parked at the home or on a public street. State and federal employment-related posters must be displayed. You must also have workers compensation insurance, pay unemployment insurance taxes, establish a tax withholding account and comply with OSHA safety regulations. For more information on employee issues, visit the Employer Issues section of this website.

Signage: Most communities regulate the size and type of signage allowed, if any, in a residential area. Contact your city clerk’s office for local requirements.

Tax Issues: Small business owners, including independent contractors, pay taxes on the profit from their business. They also pay self-employment tax and may need to make quarterly estimated income tax payments. For information, visit the Taxes section of this website and the Small Business and Self-Employed section of the IRS website. For Social Security and Medicare requirements for the self-employed, including independent contractors, visit the Social Security Administration website.

Insurance: All businesses need insurance, regardless of location. Check first with your homeowner’s insurance agent or an agent who writes policies for small businesses. Not all home-based businesses are covered by homeowner’s insurance, particularly if the primary activity, such as house painting, does not occur at the home. If homeowner’s insurance will cover your business, additional coverage may be needed for business equipment, inventory, or a business-owned vehicle.

If clients regularly visit your home, you have a dog or another animal that might harm a client, your business involves animals, or other issues, such as falls, might occur, you may need to increase your liability coverage.

For information on other types of insurance you may need, such as workers’ compensation or product liability insurance, visit the Insurance section of this website.

Security: Home-based businesses have unique security issues, including allowing strangers into the home, protecting mail, computer security, and personal safety issues, both in and out of the office. Mail, particularly checks and financial information, can be protected by using a mailing address other than your home address, such as a post office box or a mail box at a package shipping center.

Disaster Preparation: Like any business, your home-based one is subject to natural disasters, including fire, floods, earthquakes, structural damage caused by excessive snow, wind or falling trees and more. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security offers Business Toolkits to prepare your business for a natural disaster.

Business Telephone: Using your home phone number as your business number is not a good idea unless all family members will answer in-coming calls in a professional manner. If a cellular phone is used for business and you change carriers and phone numbers often, your business will be negatively impacted when customers can’t reach you. Installing a landline with voice mail is the most professional way to handle incoming calls. If you have a fax machine, you may need a landline.

Zoning: Before opening a business in a home, check with your city or county planning and zoning department to be certain you can legally do so. Most communities do not allow retail businesses, such as stores, restaurants or coffee shops, to be located in an area zoned for residential use, nor do they allow trucks and equipment to be parked at a home or employees or large numbers of people to come and go. If a business is operating in violation of zoning regulations, it could be closed without notice.

Also check with your homeowner’s or condo association or your apartment lease to be certain the covenants allow a business in your home, particularly if employees, clients and/or delivery trucks will come and go.

Client Meetings: If zoning regulations, a homeowner’s association or apartment lease do not allow client meetings at your home, if you have young children, an unruly pet, or safety is a concern, you may need to meet clients at another location, preferably the client’s office. If that isn’t possible, you may be able to rent temporary meeting space in an office complex or another facility or hold an informal meeting at a coffee shop or another public place.

Closing Your Home Business: When a business closes, several agencies need to be contacted. For information, visit the Assistance Resources section of this website and look for “Business Closure.”

CAUTION – If you are starting a home business in response to an ad about earning money at home, BEWARE! Work-at-home scams are among the most prevalent. Before sending money, meet with a counselor at your nearest Idaho Small Business Development Center or SCORE office, listed under Assistance Resources, Business Formation and Expansion, and contact the Better Business Bureau in both your community and where the business is located. Also see the information found on the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) website.

​I am starting a business; how do I get a business license?

Business licenses are issued by cities and counties. Some cities require all businesses to secure a license. Others license only a few select activities, such as eating and drinking establishments, daycares and taxis. Check with your city clerk’s office to find out if you need a license. The license will be issued in the business name; therefore, before applying you will need to register your business name and entity type with the Idaho Secretary of State’s office.

Financing Your Business

I need a grant to start my business. Who offers them and how do I apply?

Very few grants are available to start or expand a for-profit business unless you have invented a new technology. Most grants are available to non-profits and community organizations to expand their work or to fund special projects and activities.

SBIR/STTR Grants: With few exceptions, most grants available to for-profit start-up businesses are SBIR and STTR grants (Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Research). If you have invented an innovative product that will serve the national interest, you may qualify for an SBIR or an STTR grant to help develop it. Grants are offered by 11 federal agencies through a competitive process. Information is available at:

If you think you may qualify for an SBIR grant, contact your nearest Small Business Development Center for assistance in applying.

Grants for Innovation: If you own an existing for-profit business (not a start-up) that is engaged in the development of new processes or technologies or uses natural resources in an innovative way, you may qualify for a research grant. To find grant opportunities, see the following:

Made in America Grants: If you are a manufacturer of a product that is made in America and you have problems competing with foreign businesses, you may be eligible for assistance through the Northwest Trade Adjustment Assistance Center. Eligible businesses must be located in Idaho, Alaska, Oregon or Washington.

U.S. Economic Development Administration: Economic development assistance and disaster recovery grants – available to communities and tribes

Agriculture Loans and Grants: The Idaho Department of Agriculture offers several financial programs.

USDA Rural Development: Rural Development Business Programs – Idaho

Idaho Regional Travel Grant Program – available to chambers, visitors centers, travel councils and other community organizations to promote tourism in their area

FedEx Small Business Grants

National Association for the Self-Employed micro grants

Wells Fargo Grants: available to community organizations and nonprofits for community development activities

Idaho Power Local Energy Efficiency Funds – grants for energy conservation projects 

Amber Grants for Women – Monthly grants of $500 are offered. At the end of the year, one of the monthly winners will receive an additional $25,000. See WomensNet for details.

Best Buy Community Grants – Available to community organizations that provide programs to develop the technology skills of teens. Application deadline varies and restrictions apply.

Chobani Community Impact Fund – available to businesses in the Magic Valley to expand economic opportunity and promote entrepreneurship

Non-profits: If you are a non-profit organization, these sites will be helpful:

Other Programs: Special business assistance programs for women, minorities, veterans, the disabled, and others are available, but they are usually for low interest loans, government contracting opportunities, and other types of assistance, not grants.

Tax Incentives: Your business may qualify for tax incentives (tax credits) for certain business activities, such as creating new jobs in an economically depressed area, hiring the long-term unemployed, or making workplace accommodations for a disabled employee. Incentives are offered at both the state and federal levels. State programs are listed on the Idaho Department of Commerce website. To find federal tax incentives, visit the Internal Revenue Service website.

SCOR/U-7 Finance ProgramThe Small Company Offering Regulations program administered by the Idaho Department of Finance enables established businesses to accept investment funds from qualified Idaho investors without registering with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Challenge.gov: Government agencies having a specific need list it on Challenge.gov. Businesses and individuals can submit a solution. The needs regularly change, as do the requirements to submit a proposal.

To learn about funding for which your business may qualify, talk with a counselor at the Boise or Spokane Small Business Administration offices, the Idaho Small Business Development Center, or a SCORE counselor. Contact information for each organization is listed in the Assistance Resources section of this site. Counseling services are free.

What is crowdfunding?

Crowdfunding is a financing option designed to quickly raise funds by securing many small donations from many contributors. The most common type of crowdfunding involves soliciting donations to start a business or launch a new product. Donors receive a specialty gift for donating. Kickstarter and IndieGoGo are two popular crowdfunding donation websites.

About 30 percent of businesses meet their funding goal. If they don’t, the business receives no money and donated funds are returned to the donors. Crowdfunding is most successful when a business needs to raise a modest amount of money in a short time. The median donation is $25 and the average donation is $70.

The most easily funded products are games, art, books, music, food, fashion and design. Crowdfunding is not often successful for service businesses, website or app development and any other activity not offering a tangible product.

Equity funding, debt funding and subscription based funding are additional types of crowdfunding. Equity funding sites, such as Crowdfunder, sell small amounts of equity in a business to a large network of purchasers. Crowdfunding equity sales are regulated by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

Debt funding sites, such as Kiva, provide micro loans, usually to individuals in emerging nations. The lender is repaid when the business makes a profit. Patreon is an example of a subscription funding site used by podcasters, musicians and other creative individuals where fans pay to listen to the artists’ work.

Crowdfunding websites may charge a percentage of the amount raised to cover their administrative costs. Credit card processing fees also apply. U.S. residents who raise money through crowdfunding must pay income tax on funds received.

What loans are available to start a business?

Banks, some credit unions and numerous private organizations offer loans for everything from the purchase of a business to equipment leasing to factoring (a loan against accounts receivables). Family and friends may also lend money to help start your business. The following loan programs are available to many small businesses, though some are available only to established businesses, not start-ups. All require the borrower to have a well researched and written business plan and collateral. To find banks and other loan resources in your area, complete a search of the Resource Wizard on this site.

Small Business Administration Loans – The SBA does not lend money. Rather, it guarantees loans offered by participating banks. To qualify, an applicant must meet both the bank’s and the SBA’s requirements.

For information about applying for an SBA loan, talk to your bank or visit SBA Loan Programs.

  • CAPLines – Helps established businesses meet short term and cyclical working capital needs
  • 7a Loan Program – The most common SBA loan
  • Microloan Program – Guarantees loans up to $50,000; restrictions apply
  • SBA 504 Loans – available only through Certified Development Companies. Provides fixed-rate, long term financing for the purchase of major fixed assets such as real estate and equipment. To find a Certified Development Company in your area, contact the Idaho SBA office or your local Small Business Development Center. CDCs are located in Hayden Lake, Boise, Twin Falls, Pocatello and Rexburg.

Idaho Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Development Loan Program

REDiFiT – Low Interest transportation loan program to expand Idaho’s freight shipping industry

Idaho Housing and Finance Association – Collateral Support Program – Contact your banker for information.

MoFi – formerly known as Montana and Idaho CDC, loans are offered to businesses in Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, eastern Oregon and eastern WA that can’t qualify for bank financing. Asset management services are available.

State Energy Loan Program 

Whole Foods Local Producer Loans – Available to businesses who sell their products to Whole Foods.

Crowdfunding – A method of raising funds via the internet by securing either many small donations from a large number of people or offering a small equity share in a business to many small investors. See the above FAQ about Crowdfunding.

Angel Investors/Venture Capital – See the Venture Capital/Angel Capital FAQ below.

Lender Match is a division of the Small Business Administration that matches businesses seeking a loan with SBA-approved lenders.

Loan Preparation – Before approaching a lender, be certain you have gathered all the necessary documents, including a well researched and written business plan and personal financial statements for owners. Your lender can tell you everything you need.

To find banks and other lending resources in your area, make a search on the Resource Wizard.  To learn about loan programs that may fit your business needs, contact your banker.

I’ve heard about venture capital and angel investors but I am not sure how they work or if my business qualifies for their help.

Finding venture capital or an angel investor may seem like the answer to many small business funding needs, and it may be if you are in the right industry, have a solid business plan, a track record in your industry or a related one, a qualified management team, and you don’t mind giving up equity in your business and having someone watching over your shoulder.

Venture Capital: Most venture capital firms invest several million dollars in the companies they fund and in return expect an ownership share in the company (stock) and a management position within the company or a seat on the board of directors. Most prefer companies in rapidly growing industries, such as technology or bio-technology. Less than 1% of applicants qualify for funding. To find a venture capitalist, ask your banker, attorney, or accountant for a recommendation to a company specializing in your field and arrange an introduction. (Most VCs don’t like cold calls.)

Venture capital funding is a fertile field for scam artists. Before engaging in business, contact the Better Business Bureau in the community where the company is located. Also contact the Attorney General’s office in the state in which the business is located and ask if complaints have been filed against them.

Angel Investors: Angel investors are wealthy individuals or groups that provide less money than venture capital firms, usually to early stage businesses. Like venture capitalists, angel investors usually prefer to invest in rapidly growing small businesses that will provide a high rate of return in a short time. They will expect a seat on the board and/or a management position within the business.

Ask your banker, attorney, or CPA to arrange an introduction to an angel investor. Like venture capitalists, angel investors don’t usually like cold calls, and only a small percentage of businesses qualify for funding (less than one in 500).

VCgate and National Venture Capital Association are online venture/angel capital resource directories where those seeking venture capital can find possible investors. To find venture capital and angel investors who specifically invest in Idaho businesses, make a search on the Resource Wizard.

For more information about venture and angel capital funding, visit the Small Business Administration’s website.

I would like to issue securities to increase my businesses’ funding. How do I do that?

The Idaho Department of Finance oversees the issuance of securities in Idaho. Their brochure, “Raising Small Business Capital Through Securities” provides much helpful information about the process.

Operating A Business

How do I register a trademark?

Your trademark can be registered in three ways:

State Registration: The Idaho Secretary of State’s office registers trademarks in Idaho. Your trademark must be unique and not similar to one already registered. Be aware that registering your trademark only in Idaho does not offer national protection from its use by a business in another state.

National RegistrationU.S. Patent & Trademark Office
National Trademark Search

International Registration: Madrid – The International Trademark System

The trademark symbol ™ can be used on written materials that include your unique name or logo (including websites) to indicate that your business claims an ownership right in the use of the symbol or word. You do not need to register your trademark to use the symbol, though it is a good idea to do so if you want to protect the name or symbol from use by others.

If the trademark is registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, the Registered ® symbol is used. Using the symbol gives public notice that the logo or name is trademarked and cannot be copied without legal consequences.

I am thinking of giving up my business. How do I make that decision? What do I need to do to close the business?

To close the business, several agencies need to be contacted to cancel permits and licenses, file a final tax return and more. Begin by visiting Assistance Resources where you will find a list of agencies under “Business Closure/Sale/Dissolution/Bankruptcy,”including the Idaho Small Business Development Center and SCORE. Contact the nearest office for a free consultation. A counselor can help you make the decision to continue in business or call it quits and he/she can guide you through the process.

How do I register to sell to the government or become a preferred vendor?

Federal, state and local government agencies purchase everything from computers and vehicles to cookies and coffee from small businesses. They also contract with small businesses to construct or renovate buildings, build or improve infrastructure (roads, bridges), maintain landscaping, clean buildings and more.

Selling to Federal Agencies: Businesses must register with System for Award Management (SAM). Once registered, you can peruse requests for bids on government contracts listed in the Federal Business Opportunities database.

The GSA (Government Services Administration) is the Federal government’s primary purchasing agency. Federal “Prime” contractors (major contractors) are required to purchase a percentage of the goods and services they use from small businesses. A list of prime contractors is found in the GSA Subcontracting Directory. Prime contractors list goods and services they are seeking on Sub-Net.

Idaho Procurement Technical Assistance Center (Idaho PTAC), a division of the Idaho Small Business Development Center, assists businesses in qualifying for state and federal contracting opportunities.

Selling to Idaho Agencies: For information about the State purchasing process, visit ID Division of Purchasing. Businesses need to register in order to gain information on current bid solicitations. The Division of Purchasing offer regular training programs to assist businesses in learning how to sell to the State.

Not all state agencies list their contracting opportunities with Idaho Purchasing, instead posting bid requests on their individual agency websites:

Selling to Local Agencies: Cities and counties list their bid opportunities in the legal section of a local newspaper and/or on their city or county website.

Disadvantaged Businesses: Woman, veteran and minority-owned businesses, collectively known as disadvantaged business enterprises (DBE), may have preference in bidding on certain contracts through the various Federal agencies’ Offices of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization. In Idaho, the Idaho Transportation Department handles such contracts. 

Woman and Veteran-owned Businesses: Woman and veteran-owned businesses can be certified as eligible for government contracting by the National Women Business Owners Corporation or by Certify.sba.gov.

Minority Owned Businesses: The National Minority Supplier Development Council, Inc. certifies minority-owned businesses.

HUBZones: Businesses located in a federally-designated HUBZone (an economically distressed area within a city or county) have preference when bidding on federal contracting opportunities. Find Idaho HUBZone areas here: HUBZone maps.  Businesses must be certified in order to access bid opportunities.

Idaho PTAC, a division of the Idaho Small Business Development Center, can assist you in registering to contract with both the state and federal governments and in finding appropriate bid opportunities.

I have an out-of-state business and plan to do business in Idaho.  How can I find out about Idaho regulations?

What you need to do depends on how long you plan to do business in Idaho. If you plan to engage in business for more than a few days or weeks, you will need to contact:

  • The Secretary of State’s office to find out if you need to register your business in Idaho as a foreign corporation or LLC.
  • The Idaho State Tax Commission to learn about taxes you may need to pay, permits you may need, and to establish an employee withholding tax account for your employees who live or work in Idaho. If an employee earns $2,000 or more from work performed in Idaho, you need to withhold state income tax.
  • The Idaho Industrial Commission to learn about workers comp insurance requirements.
  • The Idaho Department of Labor to establish a state unemployment insurance tax account.
  • The city clerk’s office of the city in which your business will be located to find out if you need a business license. If your business activities will occur outside city limits, check with the county clerk’s office to find out if you need a county business license.

Also visit the Business Wizard to obtain a customized check-list of agencies from which you may need to obtain licenses or permits, including professional licenses for your employees.

My bank says I need a business tax number or a personal tax number to open a business checking account. What do they mean and how do I get one?

They probably mean you need to provide a Federal EIN (Employer Identification Number) or your Social Security Number (SSN), sometimes called Tax ID Numbers. If you are a Sole Proprietor with no employees and you don’t make retail sales, you may be able to use your SSN. If you are unable to use your SSN, you will need to obtain a Federal EIN by completing IRS form SS-4. There is no charge and the process is quick and easy. You can apply online, by phone, fax, or mail. (You do not need to have employees to apply.) In addition to your bank, most government agencies and corporations with whom you do business will require you to have an EIN even if you are a sole proprietor with no employees. For security reasons, they no longer accept Social Security numbers as business identification numbers.

My product is made in the U.S., a rarity today. Do I need to do something to be able to advertise it as U.S. made?

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regulates “Made in the U.S.A” advertising. U.S. content must be disclosed on certain products, including textiles, wool, fur and automobiles. Manufacturers and marketers of other products who choose to claim their product is made in the U.S. also need to comply with labeling requirements.

How can I have my product certified as organic or “green?”

The Idaho Department of Agriculture certifies organic farms and food products grown in Idaho. They also certify organic soil amendments (fertilizer) made in Idaho.

The U. S. Department of Agriculture administers the National Organic Program for production, handling, and labeling of agricultural products, including meat, poultry, seafood, and alcoholic beverages. They also set policies for the import or export of organic products.

To certify a non-food product, contact Green Seal. Energy efficient appliances and products are certified by the U.S. Government’s Energy Star Program.

I want to sell my food at our farmer’s market but they won’t let me unless I prepare it in a commercial kitchen. What is that and how do I make my home kitchen into a commercial one?

Commercial kitchens are inspected and licensed by your local health department. Unfortunately, you cannot make your home kitchen into a commercial one. A commercial kitchen must be located in a separate area away from your home kitchen with a separate entrance and locking door and it cannot be used to prepare family meals. It must contain specific appliances, shelving, stainless steel countertops, and special sinks, all of which can be expensive to implement.

Many churches, community centers and senior citizens centers have commercial kitchens and may be willing to rent space to you. Also check with caterers and with restaurants that serve only breakfast and lunch to see if you can rent space in the evening. With some searching, there is a way to make your business possible. The Department of Health and Welfare’s Food Protection Program website offers additional information.Idaho’s Cottage Food law allows you to produce certain “low risk” foods, such as most baked goods, in your home kitchen if you sell them directly to the consumer. If you sell any food product, including baked goods, to a store, coffee shop or other commercial establishment or online, it must be prepared in a commercial kitchen. The Idaho Department of Agriculture publishes a booklet, Starting a Specialty Foods Business that contains much information you may find helpful.

What is TERO? My company wants to bid on a project on the Ft. Hall Reservation but they say we must have a TERO permit.

TERO is an acronym for Tribal Employment Registration Office. To perform work on most reservations your company must employ Native American workers. You can obtain information and the necessary form by contacting the tribal office of any reservation where you plan to work.

The company I am currently working for wants me to give them a W-9. What is it and why do I need to do this?

A form W-9 is a “Request for Taxpayer Identification Number.”  When a business pays $600 or more in a calendar year to another business or individual who is not an employee, the business is required to file an information tax return with the IRS. To do so, the business must obtain the correct taxpayer identification number to include on the return.

Examples of businesses that require a W-9 include those that issue 1099s to independent contractors and those that must report real estate transactions, contributions to an IRA, cancellation of debt, payments to a childcare provider and other monetary transactions. See IRS form W-9 information and instructions.

Planning and Zoning closed my business. They said it was not allowed to be located where it was. Can they do that? What recourse do I have?

All Idaho cities and counties have zoning regulations with which businesses must comply. Before signing a lease or  purchase agreement, first check with your city or county planning and zoning commission to be certain you can legally operate your type of business in the area you have chosen. For example, you would not be able to establish a construction business, including a home based one, in an area zoned as residential. As you discovered, If a business is opened in violation of zoning regulations, it can be immediately shut down when a zoning inspector finds it or when someone complains. It may then be difficult to terminate a lease or purchase agreement.

Some businesses, such as churches and day care centers, may be able to secure a conditional use permit to operate in an area not specifically zoned for businesses. Be sure to find out if your business qualifies for a conditional use permit and can meet all the requirements before you open it. If you attempt to operate your business without a permit, it will be closed when the city or county finds you.

I want to change the name of my business. Who do I contact?

To change an assumed business name, first notify the Idaho Secretary of State’s Office to obtain an “Amendment of Certificate of Assumed Business Name” form. To change the name of a corporation, partnership or LLC, see Changing Registered Information on this site. You also need to notify the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), Idaho State Tax Commission, and Idaho Department of Labor, if you have employees, to be certain your taxes and other reports continue to be processed correctly. You may also need to obtain a new EIN, Employer Identification Number.

Any state or local agency from whom you obtained a permit or license or with whom you file reports on a regular basis will also need to be notified.

I think my business may be subject to environmental regulations. How do I verify that and find out how to comply?

The  Idaho Department of Environmental Quality regulates business activities affecting air and water quality and waste management and remediation, including hazardous waste. The DEQ’s Permits and Forms page contains a comprehensive list of required permits for businesses that may generate pollution in the course of operations. For confidential assistance in understanding and complying with regulations, contact Environmental Regulations. A counselor will be happy to guide you through the process.

​Where can I find out about training programs available for both me and my employees?

Employee training is available from a wide range of sources, depending on your industry and your needs. For information about Idaho Workforce Development Training offered through Idaho Department of Labor, see Training (Workforce) and Employee Training on this site. If your employees need specialized profession-specific training to update or improve skills, such as electricians or hairstylists, contact the appropriate licensing board for recommendations.

If you are interested in developing your personal business skills, see Training (Business Skills Development). Also contact your nearest college or university to find out about classes in areas such as finance, management, HR and more.

Licenses and Permits

What kind of licenses do I need to be able to do business in Idaho?

It depends on your business activity; there are many different types of licenses and not all business activities require a special license. To find out if your business needs one (or more) licenses, click on Licenses and review the information there. Then, go through the Business Wizard, and in Section 2, check all the items that may apply to your business. After completing the Wizard you will receive a Checklist indicating the agency that licenses or regulates each activity. If your business’s primary activity does not appear in Section 2, then you may not need a special license. However, you may still be licensed at the local (city and county), and/or Federal level. Your employees may also need individual occupational or professional licenses.

Business license – Many Idaho cities require some or all businesses to obtain a city business license. To find out if you need one, call your local city clerk’s office. If your business will be located outside the city limits, contact your county clerk or recorder’s office. You must register your business with the Secretary of State’s office before applying for a business license.

Sales tax permit – If you plan to sell a product or offer certain types of services, you may need a Sales and Use tax permit, also called a reseller’s permit. See the Taxes section of this site for information. If your business will have employees, you will complete form IBR-1. By doing so, you will register for a state withholding account and an unemployment insurance tax account in addition to the sales tax permit.

Home-based business – If you plan to have a home-based business, Check the FAQ above under Starting a Business to find out what additional licenses, permits or regulations may affect your business.

How do I obtain a permit to make retail sales in Idaho?

An Idaho sales tax permit is secured from the Idaho State Tax Commission by completing form IBR-1, Idaho Business Registration Application. If you plan to sell your products for only a short time, such as at a festival or trade show, a temporary seller’s permit can be printed.

Businesses offering items for rent, such as construction or yard/lawn equipment, tables, chairs, tents and similar items also need a sales tax permit. Sales tax is also charged on admission to special events and on certain sports activities, such as golf and bowling. Contact the Idaho State Tax Commission for information.

What is a vendor’s license and where do I get it?

Businesses engaged in temporary retail sales or solicitation of sales for future delivery, including selling door-to-door or at festivals, events, and trade shows, may need a vendor’s license or a temporary vendor’s license, also called a solicitor’s license. Temporary food cart vendors may also need a license. Licenses are obtained from the City Clerk’s office in the city where you will do business.

If you are engaged in door-to-door sales, you and each of your employees may need a permit in every city or county where you work. Each of you will need a background check before the permit is issued and you may need to post a bond. Out-of-state applicants have additional requirements. You and each of your employees must wear your permit on your clothing in a clearly visible location.

In addition to a vendor’s license, you will also need an Idaho sales tax permit or a temporary sales tax permit. A permanent permit can be obtained by completing form IBR-1. A temporary sales tax permit for one specific event lasting less than 90 days can be printed from the Idaho State Tax Commission’s website.

If sales are made door-to-door or at a trade show, fair, festival or similar event, they are considered impulse purchases and the seller must conform with Federal and Idaho Consumer Protection laws. Consumers have the right to change their minds and cancel an order or return an item within three business days. Your cancellation policy and contact information must be clearly communicated in your contract or on your invoice. For details, contact the Idaho Attorney General’s office or visit the Federal Trade Commission’s website.

Employer Issues

I have heard I need to follow numerous regulations if I have employees. How do I cover all my bases?

First, visit the Employee or Independent Contractor page on this site to determine whether your workers should be classified as employees or independent contractors. You may encounter legal problems if you wrongly classify a worker.

Next, go through the Business Wizard and under Question 3 select either “Employees” or “Both” (Employees and Independent Contractors). The resulting Checklist will provide contact information for the agencies that regulate employment issues. Also visit the Employer Issues section of this website for information on a variety of topics.

How do I establish a retirement plan for my employees?

Retirement plans must comply with Federal and state laws and Internal Revenue Service requirements. The U.S. Department of Labor oversees the Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA), which sets standards for establishing and maintaining retirement plans. The DOL also administers the Pension Protection Act.

Internal Revenue requirements for establishing small business retirement plans are contained in the Small Business Retirement Plan Resources and in Publication 560.

Where can I find out about paying overtime?

The U.S. Department of Labor regulates overtime payments. For other important information about having employees, see the Employer Issues page on this site or Idaho Labor Laws on the Idaho Department of Labor’s website.

Harassment is a touchy subject. What do I need to know to protect my employees and myself?

On the job harassment takes many forms, none of which should be tolerated. One employee may harass another; a supervisor may harass an employee, group of employees or another supervisor; or a customer may harass one or more of your employees. Harassment may be related to religion, ethnicity, gender, age, disability or another issue. Bullying is a form of harassment and should not be tolerated.

Every business with employees should have a written harassment policy that is clearly communicated to employees, both as a deterrent to harassment and to inform employees of their rights if they are harassed. It is particularly important to have a written sexual harassment policy because sexual harassment on the job violates federal civil rights laws. Having a written policy your employees know about may offer some protection if you are sued.

Training videos and additional information about preventing or investigating sexual harassment can be found here.

For more information about employer responsibilities in preventing harassment, see “Employee Handbooks” on the Helpful Links page of this website.

I had to fire an employee who used drugs on and off the job. I don’t want this to happen again. Where can I get help?

Employee use of illegal or controlled substances is an increasing problem. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, 75 percent of illegal drug users are employed, and 3.1 percent say they have used illegal drugs before or during work hours. The American Insurance Association reports that  prescription drug abuse is the fastest growing drug problem in the U.S. In addition, 79 percent of the nation’s heavy alcohol users are employed, and 13 percent say they have consumed alcohol during the workday. Fourteen percent of heavy drinkers (those who consume 5 or more drinks each day) are employed full or part-time. Between 10 and 20 percent of workers who die on the job test positive for alcohol or drugs. Substance abuse on the job costs employers approximately $74 billion each year in lost productivity.

To help combat substance abuse both on and off the job, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, maintains a resource center to help employers address these issues and to assist in creating substance abuse employment policies. Additional information can be found on the National Safety Council’s website.

Ninety percent of large corporations have drug-free workplace programs but less than 10 percent of small and medium sized businesses have one, making them prime targets for addicted employees. DrugFree Idaho helps Idaho businesses establish a drug-free workplace program. Having a program may reduce workers comp insurance premiums. Today, with the legalization of medical marijuana use in some states and recreational use in others, it is important to involve your attorney when drafting a drug-free workplace policy.

Other Issues

Can I advertise on this site or put a link on this site?

Any state or federal government agency or non-profit organization may be represented on this site if they license or regulate business activities or offer business-related services. Local agencies, such as city and county clerks’ offices, are not represented individually, because there are so many and their requirements vary. There is no cost to be included. This is not a commercial site, so no advertising is accepted.

If your organization fits the above criteria and you want your agency or organization to be listed on the site, send us an contact us, then we will review your site for possible inclusion. Please do not place a link on your site and then expect us to provide a reciprocal link.

What is a Health Insurance Identification Number and how do I get one?

If your business offers health insurance to employees, and you must if you have 50 employees or more, you will need a National Standard Employer Identification number to report claims electronically. For information, see National Provider Identifier. Your Federal Employer Identification Number (EIN) serves as your insurance reporting number.

How do I obtain a UPC code for the product I plan to sell?

See GS1 US BarCodes and eCom, formerly known as Universal Packaging Codes.

​I am interested in joining a service club where I can help the community and promote my business. Can you recommend one?

Many excellent service clubs exist in even the smallest communities. Among them are RotaryKiwanisOptimistLions ClubsElks and more. Most focus on specific types of community and/or international assistance. If you have a passion for certain activities, such as those involving youth, education, the environment, recreation or international development, there may be a group for you.

If promoting your business is your primary purpose in seeking a service club, you may be better served by joining your local chamber of commerce or a leads group. Chambers are listed in the Resource Wizard on this site. To find leads groups in your area that may be accepting new members, make an internet search or secure a referral from a business associate.

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