Starting Your Own Business or Non-Profit

Find out how to start your own business and avoid fraud.

Start a Business

Starting a business is an exciting opportunity, but it can be challenging. To guide you through the aspects of starting a business and finding information to help you succeed, there are various federal resources available.


A centralized platform, BusinessUSA ties together business-related information from government agencies to make it easier for businesses to access services to help them grow and hire. BusinessUSA focuses on three areas:

  • Wizards - Get resources to guide you through the steps of starting a business.
    • The Start a Business wizard walks you through the process and connects you to important information. It also provides other resources for starting a business, including help with writing a business plan, as well as registering and running a business.
    • Other wizards can help you access financing for your business and assist you in hiring employees
  • Events - Explore a variety of events related to starting a business, including seminars, trade events, and webcasts.
  • Business Assistance Centers - Locate business assistance centers and request an appointment.

U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA)

If you're starting your own business, you will need to plan, make key financial decisions, and complete a series of legal activities. Your local SBA Office can help you:

You can also get business advice from experienced executives through SCORE, a non-profit resource partner of the SBA.

Internal Revenue Service (IRS)

The IRS provides federal tax information for people starting a business, as well as information to assist in making basic business decisions. Read the IRS Checklist for Starting a Business for information on the basic steps you should follow to start a business.

Each state has additional requirements to start and operate a business. For links to information regarding state-level requirements for starting a business, refer to the IRS State Government Websites directory.

Federal Trade Commission (FTC)

The FTC's Business Center gives your business the tools to understand and comply with consumer protection laws. It covers several important areas:

  • Advertising and Marketing - Under the law, any claims in advertisements made by a business must be truthful, cannot be deceptive or unfair, and must be evidence-based.
  • Credit and Finance - Businesses that extend credit to consumers, are in the business of offering loans, or help companies that do, have compliance responsibilities.
  • Privacy and Security - Businesses must protect sensitive data and be clear about their information-sharing practices.
  • Selected Industries - Stay up to date with the rules and laws of various industries.

Resources for Military Veterans

Find resources for veterans starting a business:

  • Register your business to be eligible for special purchasing opportunities at
  • Visit the Office of Veterans Business Development. Its mission is to maximize the availability, applicability and usability of all administration small business programs for Veterans, Service-Disabled Veterans, Reserve Component Members, and their Dependents or Survivors.

Resources for Minorities

A variety of programs and services are available for minority business owners from the Minority Business Development Agency.

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Start a Nonprofit

A nonprofit organization commonly performs some type of public or community benefit, without the purpose of making a profit. The tips below will help you find important information and services for starting a nonprofit. 

Types of Nonprofits

There are various categories of nonprofits recognized by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS): 

Each category has different tax benefits yet is required to comply with different restrictions. While the majority of nonprofits are classified under 501(c)(3) of the IRS Code as charitable organizations, you should review the categories to determine the right choice for your nonprofit organization.

Incorporating a Nonprofit

This process is very similar to creating a regular corporation except that you have to take the extra steps of applying for tax-exempt status with the IRS and their state tax division. These are the steps you should take to incorporate your nonprofit:

  • Choose a business name.  Make sure to check the state-by-state information on the various laws that apply to naming a nonprofit in your state.
  • File your incorporation paperwork. You must next file formal paperwork, or articles of incorporation, and pay a small filing fee to your state. Look up your state office through the National Association of State Charity Officials (NASCO).  
  • Apply for nonprofit federal and state tax exemptions. A nonprofit organization may be eligible for exemption from federal income tax. The IRS provides guidance and instructions on applying for tax-exempt status
  • Create corporate bylaws. These are the operating rules for your nonprofit.
  • Appoint initial directors and hold your first board meeting. Some states require that you appoint directors before filing your articles of incorporation.
  • Obtain necessary licenses and permits. Does your nonprofit have all the licenses and permits needed to comply with federal, state, and local rules?

Grants, Loans, and Other Assistance

While individual donors make up the largest contributors to nonprofit organizations, federal, state and local governments offer grants, loans and programs to support funding.

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Buying a Franchise

Franchising, unlike starting a business, does not require you to start from scratch. It can be a great alternative if you want to have some guidance in the startup phase of the business. But investing in a franchise, like all investments, involves financial risk.

What Is Franchising?

A franchise is a business model that involves one business owner (franchisor) licensing trademarks and methods of operation to an independent entrepreneur (franchisee). Sometimes franchises are called chains.

There are two kinds of franchising:

  • Product/trade name franchising – A franchisor owns the right to a name or trademark and sells that right to a franchisee.
  • Business format franchising – A franchisor and franchisee work together. The franchisor often provides a full range of services, including site selection, training, product supply, marketing plans, and even help in obtaining financing. 

Under the Franchise Rule, enforced by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), a franchisor must give a potential franchisee important information in a Franchise Disclosure Document (FDD) at least 14 days before a contract is signed or any payment is made.  

Important Factors to Consider

Consider these factors to decide whether investing in a franchise is right for you:

  • Your financial situation - As buying into a franchise is a major investment, you will need to figure out how much you have to safely invest. Can you afford to lose your entire investment? Will you invest on your own or with others? Do you need financing?
  • Your abilities and goals - Think about your skills as a business manager or owner. What special skills do you have? Do you want a franchise that requires technical experience, specialized training or education? Will you run the business yourself or hire a manager?
  • Your timetable - Franchise agreements typically last several years, often 5 or 10. Once you commit to a franchise contract, you must stay with it until the term ends, even if you are not making much of a profit (or any profit at all).
  • Your comfort working under a franchisor's control - When you buy a franchise, you're a business owner, but you don't operate independently. You're part of a network and must follow rules that call for uniformity. A franchisor may give you less flexibility over sales area, training, suppliers, or the merchandise you sell.

You can find a wide range of resources and guides to help you buy into a franchise and avoid franchise scams.




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Work From Home

Home-Based Business

If you want to start your own home-based business, the Small Business Administration (SBA) offers a guide for home-based businesses. This guide includes start-up resources, tax information, and information about buying a home-based franchise.

Home Office Deduction

If you use a portion of your home for business, you may be able to take a home office tax deduction.

Work-at-Home Scams

Learn what to look for in work-at-home scams. To file a complaint about a scam, contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

Note: The federal government never charges a fee for information about, or applications for, government jobs. You can search and apply for federal government jobs for free on

Federal Government Telework Guidelines

If you are looking for information on teleworking in the federal government, visit

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Self-Employed Resources

Generally, you are a self-employed individual if any of the following apply to you:

  • You handle a trade or business as a sole proprietor or independent contractor.
  • You are a member of a partnership that carries on a trade or business.
  • You are otherwise in business for yourself (including a part-time business).

As an individual conducting your own business, there are resources that are available to guide you in the small business world.

Internal Revenue Service (IRS)

The Self-Employed Individuals Tax Center provides information on the basics of self-employment, filing requirements, and reporting responsibilities for independent contractors. It is a part of the Small Business and Self-Employed Tax Center.

Small Business Administration (SBA)

Find information on starting a business, financing a business, and tax information for the self-employed.

Social Security Administration (SSA)

To learn how to report your earnings, refer to Social Security Information for the Self-Employed.  

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