How to Start a Business in Iowa:
Iowa offers four primary ways to form a business. Sole proprietorships and general partnerships must be registered with the local county while all other business structures must be registered with the state. Corporations and limited liability companies can be conveniently registered online. In Iowa, there is no general state business license requirement.
Form your business.
Review Iowa formation options.
Iowa offers 4 ways of forming your business. Review these closely and pick the one that fits your business best.
Name your business.
Once you have decided on a business name, you must check its availability. Visit the Iowa Secretary of State website and perform a business entity search to find out if any other business in Iowa is currently registered under your chosen name or a close variant thereof.
If your preferred business name is available, you can go ahead and file an Application for Name Reservation. This can also be done online.
Sign up to the Fast Track Filing portal.
You will receive an email requesting you to verify your account. Follow the link in the email to verify your account.
Log in to your account.
Select "Business Filings" in the menu bar.
Click "File A Document."
Select "Application for Reservation of Name."
Enter the required information and certify that the information you entered is correct.
Review the application and pay the applicable fee.
The filing fee for a name reservation is $10.00.
Get an employer identification number.
Nearly all businesses will need to register for federal taxes by applying for an employer identification number.
Register your business in Iowa.
In Iowa, sole proprietorships and general partnerships are not registered with the state but with the county in which they are based. To find out how to register in your county, contact your local county recorder.
Limited partnerships, limited liability partnerships, limited liability companies, and corporations must be registered with the Iowa Secretary of State. Only new corporations and limited liability companies can be filed online. Limited liability partnerships and limited parnterships must be registered by filing a paper application.
Log in to the Fast Track Filing portal.
Select “Business Filings” in the menu and click "File A Document.”
Select the appropriate form for the business structure you want to register.
Enter the required information and upload the applicable documents.
Corporations must upload their Articles of Incorporation and LLCs their Certificate of Organization in PDF format.
Certify that the information you provided is correct by checking the box titled “Signature(s)” at the bottom of the page and submitting an electronic signature.
Select “Review & Pay” to review your application and pay the applicable filing fee.
Obtain necessary permits and licenses.
The state of Iowa does not require businesses to have a statewide business license. You may, however, need specific business licenses and permits depending on the type of business you start in Iowa.
For example, if you are a contractor with an annual income that exceeds $2,000.00 , you will have to register with the Iowa Division of Labor by completing and submitting a Contractor Registration Application Form and paying an annual registration fee of $50.00.
You can refer to the Iowa Business License Center to see what types of licenses or permits you may need.
Register a fictitious business name.
All businesses must register their business name in Iowa. The business's legal name is registered when the business is registered with the state or county. To operate under a name that differs from the business's legal name, an application to use a trade name or fictitious business name must be registered.
To file a fictitious name resolution online, log in to your Fast Track Filing account.
Select “Business Filings” in the menu and click "File A Document.”
Under the heading "Existing Entities," click "Fictitious Name Resolution."
Enter the name of the business for which the fictitious name resolution is being filed and click "Search."
Select your business entity in the search results.
Enter the fictitious name you want to adopt and certify the application with an electronic signature.
Review the application and pay the applicable fee.
The filing fee for a fictitious name resolution is $5.00.
Applications to use fictitious business names can only be filed once the business has been registered with the state.
Register your business for taxes.
Register for Iowa sales tax.
If your business sells tangible personal property and other taxable products and services, you require a sales tax permit. You can register for sales tax with the Iowa Department of Revenue by mail, fax, or online. See a list of taxable services in Iowa.
To register by mail or fax, obtain a Iowa Business Tax Permit Registration.
Complete sections 1, 2, or 3, depending on your type of business ownership.
Complete the section titled "Business Information."
In the next section titled "Permit Type Needed," check the box for sales tax and enter the required information.
Sign and date the form.
Make a copy of the application for your own records. The copy will serve as proof of registration until you receive your permit number.
Submit the completed form by fax or mail to the Iowa Department of Revenue Registration Services.
To register online, visit idr.iowa.gov and read the instructions.
Once you click "Start," you will be prompted to enter details regarding your business information, business ownership, and the tax permit(s) you want to apply for.
Following this, you can review your application to ensure that all the information you entered is correct before signing and submitting the application.
Print a copy of the summary screen. This will serve as proof of registration until you receive your permit number.
Allow up to six weeks from the date of submission to receive your Business eFile Number (BEN) and permit number in the mail.
Register for consumer's use tax.
Iowa businesses that purchase taxable goods or services that are consumed in Iowa but do not pay sales tax when they are making the purchase must register for consumer's use tax. This can be done by mail, fax, or online, as outlined in the step above.
When completing the Iowa Business Tax Permit Registration Form to be submitted by fax or mail, complete the required sections regarding business ownership and information, then check the box for consumer's use tax, enter the date you will start making purchases, and indicate filing frequency.
Register for withholding tax.
Businesses in Iowa that have employees must register for withholding tax as they are required to withhold federal income tax on the compensation they pay their employees. This can be done by mail, fax, or online, as outlined above.
When completing the Iowa Business Tax Permit Registration Form to be submitted by fax or mail, complete the required sections regarding business ownership and information, then check the box for withholding tax and complete the required information under that section.
Report new hires and get insurance.
Report employees to the state.
Employers in Iowa are required to report new hires and rehired employees to the state within 15 days of employment. This can be done online, by mail, or by fax.
To report new hires online, visit the Department of Human Services website, create a user account, and complete an online new hire reporting form.
To report new hires by mail or fax, obtain a Centralized Employee Registry Reporting Form, complete the application, and mail or fax it to the address/number provided on the form.
Obtain mandatory insurance.
Iowa’s law requires all employers to provide workers’ compensation coverage to their employees. You can obtain more information from the Iowa Division of Workers’ Compensation website.
Display required posters.
Employers are required to display certain mandatory posters in the workplace. To find out which posters you must display, visit the Iowa Workforce Development website and download the ones that apply to your business.
Iowa Business Types:
1. Sole proprietorship.
Sole proprietorships are owned and operated by one individual. In Iowa, these are not required to register with the state but with their local county. While this is the easiest business structure to form and gives the owner full control of the business, it does not protect them from liabilities, putting their personal assets at risk.
A partnership is when two or more individuals share the ownership of a business. In Iowa, you can either form a general or a limited partnership. Like a sole proprietorship, a general partnership is not registered with the state but with the county.
Limited partnerships and limited liability partnerships must be registered with the state. Unlike a general partnership in which all partners are responsible for managing the business and assume responsibility for any liabilities, debts, and losses incurred by the business, limited partnerships can limit the partners' liability.
3. Limited liability company.
An Iowa limited liability company (LLC) is a formal legal structure that provides the limited liability of a corporation but can be taxed like a partnership (pass-through taxation). In Iowa, an LLC can be formed by filing a Certificate of Organization with the Secretary of State.
An Iowa corporation is a legal business entity that affords the owners, its shareholders, protection from any liabilities incurred by the business, except to the extent of their investments in the business. To form a corporation in Iowa, Articles of Incorporation must be filed with the Secretary of State.
Iowa Business Filing Fees:
Type of Filing
Domestic Limited Partnership — Certificate of Limited Partnership
Limited Liability Partnership — Statement of Qualification
Domestic LLC — Certificate of Organization
Domestic Profit Corporation — Articles of Incorporation
Application for Reservation of Name
Resolution to Adopt Fictitious Name
How much does it cost to register a business in Iowa?
Iowa business filing fees range from $5.00 to $100.00. Iowa Articles of Incorporation cost $50.00 for LLCs and corporations while registering a limited partnership costs $100.00.
What permits do I need to start a business in Iowa?
It depends on your business location and business type. While a general business license is not required in Iowa, you may need to obtain specific licenses and permits to operate your business. You can refer to the Iowa Business License Center to see what types of licenses or permits you may need.
Is Iowa a good place to start a business?
Iowa's low business costs, strong startup early survival rate, and business-friendly tax laws make the state an attractive place to start a new business.
How do I get an Iowa business license?
Businesses are regulated by Iowa state laws and must be registered through the Iowa Secretary of State.
How long does it take to get an LLC in Iowa?
It takes between 4 and 6 weeks to get an LLC license in Iowa.
How do I get a tax ID number in Iowa?
How do I get a DBA in Iowa?
To register a DBA in Iowa you'll have to file the applicable paperwork and pay filing fees with the Iowa Secretary of State. In addition, sole proprietorships and partnerships must file their DBA with the local county recorder in the county where their business operates.
How do I change my registered agent in Iowa?
You can change your registered agent by filing a statement of change form with the Iowa Secretary of State. There is no additional filing fee to change your registered agent.
What important posters should be at an Iowa business premises?
- Safety and Health Protection.
- Minimum Wage.
- Unemployment Insurance.
- Equal Opportunity.
- Iowa Smoke-free Air Act.
- Summary of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses.
How do I start a business in Iowa with no money?
- Use services to generate cash flow and fund a product-based business.
- Get creative to discover funding sources.
- Use your current resources in different ways to generate income.
- Get a loan or credit line to help with the early stages of your business.
- Locate an accelerator if you can hit the market swiftly.
How can I protect the name and logo of my business in Iowa?
Do I need workers' compensation for my new business in Iowa?
Yes, all employers in Iowa are compelled to provide workers’ compensation coverage to their employees.
Does my business in Iowa need to contribute to health insurance?
Health insurance isn’t a requirement for small businesses in Iowa.