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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

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 counter tops, 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.

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