Avoid costly mistakes with this checklist of things you need to consider before registering your new insurance agency.
Choosing a business structure and registering your business to make it a distinct legal entity involves many complex considerations. Ensuring that your agency is set up properly right from the start is crucial since mistakes can be expensive.
It’s always a good idea to consult a tax professional and seek expert advice when making important decisions about your business. Especially when making long-term business decisions that are irreversible.
Club Capital provides industry-specific tax services and works exclusively with insurance agents. We help agency owners create strategies to lower their tax liability while keeping them compliant with federal, state and local tax codes.
Choosing The Right Business Structure
While most insurance agency owners start out as either an LLC or a sole proprietor, determining your business structure is one of the most important decisions you will have to make.
Your business structure can affect everything from
- the taxes you pay,
- the paperwork you need to file,
- to your personal liability and tax credits.
Keep in mind that where you do business can make it difficult to change your business structure in the future.
A question we often receive from insurance agency owners is when they should incorporate the business to file taxes as an S-Corporation. With so many factors to consider, we recommend speaking with one of our Tax Experts for personal one-on-one support.
Steps to Set-Up A Business Entity
While the rules and regulations on how to form a business entity vary by state, you will generally need these items to register as a self-employed business owner.
1. Employer Identification Number
An Employer Identification Number (EIN) or a Federal Employer Identification Number (FEIN) is issued by the IRS for free to help identify your business for tax administration purposes.
2. State Withholding Account Number
If your state charges state income tax, you will need to get a state withholding account number. You must have your FEIN in order to register for state tax account numbers. The process to get a state tax account number is similar to getting a federal tax identification number (FEIN), but will vary by state.
3. State Unemployment Account Number
If you have employees you generally need a State Unemployment Account Number. Check with your state’s Department of Labor for more information.
4. Register With The Secretary Of State
If your business is a limited liability company (LLC) or corporation, you'll need to register with any state where you conduct business activities.
5. Get A DBA
A DBA or “doing business as” is most commonly used by sole proprietorships and partnerships to do business under a secondary name. Since sole proprietorships and partnerships are not separate legal entities from their owners, the name of the business will be your name unless you file a DBA.
Mistakes To Avoid When Registering For Your EIN
When you are registering for your Employer Identification Number (EIN), it’s important you select the proper payroll report you’ll be filing. If your agency has employees, you are required to report the income and payroll taxes that you withhold from their paychecks.
If you're required to file Form 944, also known as the Employer's Annual Federal Tax Return, but estimate your tax liability to be more than $1,000, you may be eligible to update your filing requirement to Form 941, Employer's Quarterly Federal Tax Return.
If you're required to file Form 941 but estimate your tax liability will be $1,000 or less for the tax year, you may be eligible to switch to Form 944.
Other Filing Requirements and Considerations
Filing requirements can vary depending on the city or county where you’re registering your business, we always recommend working with a professional when you register your business.
In addition to the items listed above, your agency may be located in a city or county that requires additional filing requirements as well as a local tax ID. You can get a tax ID number for free. A tax ID number is required if you have employees. If you’re self-employed it’s recommended that you get a separate tax ID number for your business.
If you hire someone outside of your home state where your business is registered you must get an employer tax ID in that state. This also applies if you hire a remote employee who lives and works in a different state than where the business is located.
Mistakes to Avoid for S-Corps
When a business is registered as a corporation with the IRS, it is by default formed as a C Corp. The IRS Form 2553 is filed by a business to elect to be registered as an S Corporation rather than a C Corporation. Since many agency owners opt to be an S Corp instead for various reasons, including tax benefits, this is a pricey mistake to make. If form 2553 is not filed your tax return will not be accepted and it may cause fines and late filing fees.
To file, you’ll need to fill out a blank form and fax it to the IRS prior to March 15 of the year in which you want to be treated as an S-Corp. There are instances where this form can be filed late and still be accepted but we recommend filing by March 15, if possible.
Do you have questions about Form 2553 and want to speak to an expert?
Club Capital provides monthly accounting, tax, and CFO services for insurance agency owners. With 100% of our clients in the insurance industry, we are built to help you grow your agency faster with industry-specific accounting, tax, and CFO services.