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Legal Guide for Starting and Running a Small Business

Legal Guide for Starting and Running a Small Business

by Fred S. Steingold, Steingold

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From opening day to tax day, this is the all-in-one book you need!

Small business owners are regularly confronted by a bewildering array of legal questions and problems. Ignoring them can lead to disaster -- but with lawyers typically charging $150-$250 an hour, calling one to answer routine legal questions can be a fast track to the


From opening day to tax day, this is the all-in-one book you need!

Small business owners are regularly confronted by a bewildering array of legal questions and problems. Ignoring them can lead to disaster -- but with lawyers typically charging $150-$250 an hour, calling one to answer routine legal questions can be a fast track to the poorhouse.

Fortunately, you have a better alternative. Legal Guide for Starting & Running a Small Business clearly explains the practical and legal information you need to:
  • raise start-up money
  • choose between a sole proprietorship, partnership or LLC
  • get licenses and permits
  • buy or sell a business or franchise
  • negotiate a favorable lease
  • insure your business
  • hire independent contractors safely
  • understand small business tax rules
  • pick and protect a good name
  • resolve legal disputes
  • adopt the best customer policies
  • enter into strong contracts
  • cope with financial problems

The 8th edition is completely updated and revised to provide the latest regulations, tax numbers and business realities. It also provides expanded information on preparing a business plan, a summary of the new overtime pay rules, changes to home business tax rules -- and much more.

Editorial Reviews

Inc. Magazine
An unusually helpful approach to the start-up process, covers a lot of basics, from negotiating a lease to representing yourself in small claims court.
Success Magazine
Most entrepreneurs can't afford to call their lawyer every time a legal question comes up. The Legal Guide for Starting & Running a Small Business is a cost-effective solution.
Business Life Magazine
A nuts and bolts legal guidebook that answers questions that continually come up in running a small business in todays competitive environment. Written in plain English.
A nuts-and-bolts manual first published in 1992 and here revised from the 1995 edition to April 1997. Includes recent information on raising money for a new or existing business, handling debts without bankruptcy, avoiding employment discrimination complaints, choosing between a partnership and corporation, picking and protecting a name, and other aspects. The second volume contains legal forms. Steingold writes the syndicated column "The Legal Advisor." Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.
San Francisco Examiner
You won't find better up-to-date professional counseling in a handy, easy-to-use and understand reference.
Seattle Post-Intelligencer
"Pick up a copy of Nolo's Legal Guide for Starting & Running a Small Business.... It's a great resource."
The Wall Street Journal
"Get a basic understanding of small business legal issues... [with] this excellent resource...."

Product Details

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National 1st ed

Read an Excerpt

Which Legal Form Is Best for Your Business?

When you start a business, you must decide on a legal structure for it. Usually you'll choose either a sole proprietorship, a partnership, a limited liability company (LLC) or a corporation. There's no right or wrong choice that fits everyone. Your job is to understand how each legal structure works and then pick the one that best meets your needs. The best choice isn't always obvious-after reading this chapter, you may decide to seek some guidance from a lawyer or an accountant.

For many small businesses, the best initial choice is either a sole proprietorship or-if more than one owner is involved-a partnership. Either of these structures makes especially good sense in a business where personal liability isn't a big worry-for example, a small service business in which you are unlikely to be sued and for which you won't be borrowing much money. Sole proprietorships and partnerships are relatively simple and inexpensive to establish and maintain.

Forming an LLC or a corporation is more complicated and costly, but it's worth it for some small businesses. The main feature of LLCs and corporations that attracts small businesses is the limit they provide on their owners' personal liability for business debts and court judgments against the business. Another factor might be income taxes: You can set up an LLC or a corporation in a way that lets you enjoy more favorable tax rates. In certain circumstances, your business may be able to stash away earnings at a relatively low tax rate. In addition, an LLC or corporation may be able to provide a range of fringe benefits to employees (including the owners) and deduct the cost as a business expense.

Given the choice between creating an LLC or a corporation, many small business owners will generally be better off going the LLC route. For one thing, if your business will have several owners, the LLC can be more flexible than a corporation in the way you can parcel out profits and management duties. Also, setting up and maintaining an LLC can be a bit less complicated and expensive than a corporation. But there may be times a corporation will be more beneficial. For example, because a corporation-unlike other types of business entities-issues stock certificates to its owners, a corporation can be an ideal vehicle if you want to bring in outside investors or reward loyal employees with stock options.

Keep in mind that your initial choice of a business form doesn't have to be permanent. You can start out as sole proprietorship or partnership and, later, if your business grows or the risks of personal liability increase, you can convert your business to an LLC or a corporation.

For some small business owners, a less common type of business structure may be appropriate. While most small businesses will find at least one good choice among the four basic business formats described above, a handful will have special situations in which a different format is required or at least is desirable. For example, a pair of dentists looking to limit their personal liability may need to set up a professional corporation or a professional limited liability company (PLLC). A group of real estate investors may find that a limited partnership is the best vehicle for them. These and other special types of business organizations are summarized in Section F at the end of this chapter.

You may need professional advice in choosing the best entity for your business. This chapter gives you a great deal of information to assist you in deciding how to best organize your business. Obviously, however, it's impossible to cover every nuance of tax and business law that applies to your business. This is especially so if your business has several owners with different and complex tax situations. And keep in mind that especially for businesses owned by several people who have different personal tax situations, sorting out the effects of "pass-through" taxation (where partners and most LLC members are taxed on their personal tax returns for their share of business profits and losses) is no picnic, even for seasoned tax pros. The bottom line is that unless your business will start small and have a very simple ownership structure, before you make your final decision on a business entity, you'll want to check with a tax advisor after learning about the basic attributes of each type of business structure from this chapter and Chapters 2, 3 and 4.

Meet the Author

Attorney Fred S. Steingold practices law in Ann Arbor, Michigan. An expert on small business law, he represents and advises many small businesses and frequently leads seminars on how to start and run small businesses. He is the author of Legal Guide for Starting & Running a Small Business Vols. 1 & 2 and The Employer's Legal Handbook. His monthly column, The Legal Advisor, is carried by trade publications around the country.

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