How to Start a Business in Iowa

Information about starting your own business in Iowa, including business formation and relevant licenses. Includes FAQs and a free checklist.

Updated on April 10th, 2019

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Iowa boasts the country’s sixth-lowest business costs and business survival rate while ranking as the fifth most educated state. With business-friendly tax laws and no tax contributions for personal property, the Hawkeye State provides a superb platform for those who want to start a new business there.

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How to Start a Business in Iowa:

1. Determine your business structure.

Choosing the right legal structure for your company is important. Your choice will have an impact on taxes, paperwork, personal liability, and your ability to raise funds.

You can choose from the following legal structures:

A sole proprietorship is the simplest structure and usually involves one individual who is solely responsible for the enterprise while a partnership is suitable for businesses with two or more owners. A corporation is a standalone entity with shareholders while a Limited Liability Company (LLC) is the most popular type because of minimal paperwork, flexibility, tax benefits, and simple implementation process. LLC business owners are not obligated to file a corporate tax return.

Businesses are regulated by Iowa state laws and must be registered through the Iowa Secretary of State.

2. Write a business plan.

Your business plan is the foundation of your new business and will serve as an invaluable guide for how to structure, run and grow your company. The business plan must meet your needs and can fall into one of two common categories: traditional or lean startup.

The traditional plan is very detailed, takes more time to write, and is quite comprehensive while the lean startup plan is streamlined and fast to write.

A strong business plan can help you get funding and makes opening a new business easier. You can consult with the Iowa Small Business Development Center, a free service that offers business planning and consulting for small business owners in Iowa.

3. Sign up for business banking.

Your business and personal finances must be kept separate to maintain accurate records. With a business bank account, you can easily obtain statements and access products that would not be available to you as an individual.

Best Banks For Small Business In Iowa
Best Banks for Small Business in Iowa:

4. Seek funding.

Opening a new business often requires capital. If you are unable to fund your new business, you will need to take out a loan. There are three common ways to fund your business: commercial loans, business lines of credit and small business loans.

A popular organization that can assist you with small business loans in Iowa is the Small Business Linked Investments for Tomorrow Program that is managed by the Treasurer of the State of Iowa.

5. Decide on a business name.

Make a list of the names that you like and perform a Google search to find any conflicts with other Iowa business names.

Once this is done, you will need to do a trademark search to ensure that the business name that you chose has not already been trademarked. You can perform the trademark search at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and the Trademark Electronic Search System. These databases have a comprehensive list of business names that are registered together with their classification.

After you have confirmed that your business name is not trademarked, you need to check the Iowa Secretary of State website to ensure that your business name is not the same or similar to another corporation registered in Iowa.

If you are satisfied that your business name is available, you can then register it on the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office website. You can check out our guide on How to Name a Business to assist you with naming your business.

Once you have found a suitable name, make sure to register the matching web domain and social media handles, should you wish to market your business online.

6. Request an Employer Identification Number (EIN).

Every business needs to have an Employer Identification Number (EIN). Registering for an EIN is very easy—all you need to do is go to the IRS website. You can complete the application online, and save your EIN confirmation notice once you receive a number from the IRS.

7. Acquire business licenses and permits.

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. You can refer to the Iowa Business License Center and the Iowa Department of Revenue to view the most common types of licenses and permits required.

8. Hire employees.

To start hiring you will need to register with Iowa Workforce Development. Employees need to be registered within 20 days of starting. This does not apply to independent contractors.

The Iowa Civil Rights Act protects job applicants against discrimination on the basis of age, race, creed, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, religion, or disability.

With reference to the pre-employment screening process in Iowa, an employer is entitled to view a job applicant’s criminal history and obtain the relevant records from the criminal justice system.

Important Posters At Iowa Business Premises
Important Posters at Iowa Business Premises:
  • Safety and Health Protection.
  • Minimum Wage.
  • Unemployment Insurance.
  • Equal Opportunity.
  • Iowa Smokefree Air Act.
  • Summary of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses.

9. Check employer requirements.

Employer requirements are specific to the type of business that you are starting and include various labor, safety and tax obligations that need to be met. You should consider hiring a tax or business attorney to ensure your business is fully compliant with the laws in Iowa.

If you are starting a business in Iowa, you will need to take note of the following important items:

Business Insurance

Iowa’s law requires all employers to provide workers’ compensation coverage to their employees. You can obtain more information at the Iowa Division of Workers’ Compensation website.

Health insurance isn’t a requirement for small businesses in Iowa.

Unemployment Tax

In Iowa, your small business is required to establish an unemployment insurance tax account with Iowa Workforce Development. If your business is required to contribute towards unemployment insurance, you will be required to file quarterly reports.

Iowa Sales and Use Tax

Every individual or entity selling taxable tangible personal property in the state of Iowa is required to pay sales and use tax. Services rendered are not taxable. You will need to register for a sales tax permit with the Iowa Department of Revenue.

Starting a business in Iowa FAQs:

How much does it cost to start a business in Iowa?

Iowa articles of incorporation for LLCs and for Corporations cost $50.00, while Limited partnerships cost $100.00.

Iowa Formation and Registration Fees:

Fee Type

Cost

Domestic LLC

$50.00

Domestic corporation for profit

$50.00

Domestic corporation for nonprofit

$20.00

Limited partnership

$100.00

Articles of merger

$20.00

You can view a comprehensive list of costs here.

How do I register a business in Iowa?

You can register your business with the Iowa Secretary of State.

How Do I Start A Business In Iowa With No Money
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.
  • Grind it out and look for business, even if you don't get paid for it.
  • Use your current resources in different ways to generate income.
  • Get a credit line to help with the early stages of your business.
  • Locate an accelerator if you can hit the market swiftly.
  • Crowdfund and allow the public to invest a small percentage of money in return for future buy-in.
  • Use a business incubator to provide funding designed specifically to financially assist a startup company.

How can I protect the name and logo of my business in Iowa?

The easiest way is to register your business name on the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office website. Prior to registration, remember to check on the Trademark Electronic Search System and the Iowa Secretary of State website to ensure that your business name is not already registered by another company.

Do I need workers' compensation for my new business in Iowa?

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.

Browse The SMB Guide for more helpful articles for small business owners, and be sure to download our How to Start a Small Business checklist.