Alaska is considered by some to be one of the most beautiful places in the world. Many people consider moving to the northern state for its natural beauty, but also so they can find a job or start their own company.
If you would like to begin your entrepreneurial journey by taking the first steps to start your own enterprise, you will discover that registering a business in Alaska is a rather straightforward process. This is due to the state’s focus and support for new businesses just starting their journey.
Despite being small in population, and vast in size, Alaska is an extremely community-driven state. Small businesses usually thrive within their environment due to ongoing support by the local communities and also small business development centers that are focused on helping start-up entrepreneurs and those already operating small businesses to develop, maintain, and thrive within their local community and beyond.
With access to several extremely useful development centers, a decent labor market, friendly taxation rates, and comparatively high salaries, it may come as little surprise why people are choosing Alaska to register their business.
How to Register a Business Name in Alaska – 7 Easy Steps
You can register your business name with the Alaska Division of Corporations and the Alaska Department of Commerce and there are three ways you can do this:
- 1. Do it yourself directly on their website.
- 2. Pay a document filing company that can register everything online for you – there is a modest fee for this but it saves a lot of time and ensures it is done correctly.
- 3. Hire an attorney or accountant to file and register your new company – there are higher fees associated with this.
Step 1 – Determine your registered name
Firstly, you must determine that your business name is unique and not being used by someone else. A business registration company can do this research on your behalf or alternatively, you can search directly on the Alaska Division of Corporations website.
Once you have established your name is available you can register a business name in Alaska directly on their website if you are comfortable with the process. Or, if you want a company to do this for you that specializes in this, you can use an online registration service to do it.
These document filing companies usually offer a free registered agent service for one year with most of their packages which is often a necessity for new businesses and those being registered by foreigners with no U.S. address.
Before doing any of this, you must decide on the right structure.
Step 2 – Choose the right business entity
You need to choose the right type of business to register and the most common options are a limited liability company (LLC) or an incorporated company (Inc.). If you are keeping things really small and simple (one or two people), then you may consider a sole proprietorship or a general partnership.
Even if you plan to be a solopreneur, it is usually more beneficial for you to register an Alaska LLC to make sure, as the owner, you have limited liability under this structure, and so you can benefit from the pass-through tax advantages.
Here is a quick rundown of the various options and what they might mean to you:
- Limited Liability Company: An Alaska LLC is often the best route for most entrepreneurs because the structure comes with personal asset protection, no double taxation, is fairly easy to maintain, and does not have high registration or annual renewal costs. Through LLC formation you have better tax flexibility and income can be taxed as a pass-through entity like a sole proprietor or partnership, or as a corporation.
- Incorporated Company: An Alaska Corporation offers personal asset protection and your company can own property, vehicles, incur liabilities, and is responsible for its own debts and can conduct business without the owners risking their personal assets such as their homes, cars, personal savings, retirement, etc. On the flip side, owners of sole proprietorships or partnerships face unlimited liability for both business and personal assets.
Step 3 – Make sure your name is not being used by another company
This may seem obvious, but if you check the Alaska Division of Corporations website and see that your chosen business name is available, it doesn’t mean that someone else is not using the same or similar name, particularly in another state.
Many people register an “official business entity name” and trade under a different name. This is called an Alaska dba, or “doing business as” name or assumed trading name, and needs a separate DBA certificate.
You will want to do a Google search for your official name and your desired trading name (if different) to make sure no one else is using this name. Most importantly, you will want to make sure you can get an easy-to-remember website domain name that is not being used by someone else.
Having a great name or trading name for your business can be crucial to your success, so making sure the domain name is available too, and registering it right away, is equally as important.
Finally, if you go to the Alaska Division of Corporations website and discover that someone else has registered the name you would like, you can search for variations of that name by adding a word before it or after it, or using some other variations until you find a name that is available and acceptable for you.
Step 4 – Request an Employer Identification Number (EIN)
Once you have registered your new business in Alaska you will need to get an EIN for a number of reasons. These include paying taxes for your business, opening a bank account, obtaining credit cards or lines of credit, establishing terms with vendors and suppliers, hiring employees, and more.
There are only a few instances where you likely won’t need an EIN. More often than not, many business activities are just not possible without having an EIN.
An EIN is the business equivalent of a social security number and is used to track your business dealings. Even if you do not intend to hire employees, you will almost certainly still need an EIN for your Alaska company and it protects you from having to use your social security number.
An EIN (also known as a federal tax id) is free to obtain from the IRS and you can apply online but if you are not comfortable filling in forms you can use a third-party document filing service to do this for you for a small fee. This ensures you are 100% compliant with the law and they handle everything with the IRS.
Step 5 – Obtain the Required Business Licenses and Permits
To operate your business in Alaska you must comply with federal, state, and local government regulations. Alaska requires all businesses to have a “general” license to operate, in addition, depending on the type of business you start, or the location of your business within the state, you might need certain licenses and permits in addition to this.
For example, if you open a restaurant or similar food-related business you will most likely need a health permit, sales tax permit, facilities permit, and others. If you plan to sell alcohol, you will need a liquor license.
You must find out how to obtain the necessary Alaska business licenses and permits for your business and fill out the appropriate forms. All businesses operating in Alaska need a business license from the Department of Commerce – Professional Licensing Section. On their website, you can find links, phone numbers, forms, and how to apply for the correct Alaska permits.
People often ask: How much is the fee for an Alaska Business License? The answer is $50 per year for each license you need. It doesn’t matter when you apply for the license during the year, it expires December 31st and you must pay another $50 to be licensed for the following year.
Alternatively, you could hire a professional document filing company to do this for you. It eliminates a lot of time and hassle and ensures you are correctly complying with the law.
Step 6 – Determine Your Business Employer Requirements
There are several things you need to check regarding your responsibilities as an employer in Alaska because there are requirements you must meet at the federal and state level. These could include various workforce commissions, safety, and state tax obligations, as well as labor law requirements including the Minimum Wage in Alaska and employee rights and remedies under the Alaska minimum wage act.
To learn more about Alaska employer resources take a look at the Alaska Department of Labor website.
Step 7 – Open a Business Bank Account for your Alaska Company
As a new business owner, you should seriously consider separating your personal and business bank accounts to make it easier to track and account for your income and expenses. For certain business types, such as an LLC or a Corporation, it is essential that you open a separate business bank account to maintain your liability protection.
Once you have your EIN and your company registration documents, coupled with your driver’s license, you are ready to go to the bank and open your checking account.
Don’t worry, this won’t be expensive or leave you burdened with hefty monthly fees to pay – there are many free business bank accounts out there for you to choose from. Each has its different features and benefits, so you can decide what bank and checking account best suits your needs.
Summarizing Registering a Business in Alaska
Alaska has a very good business ecosystem that is tailored for small businesses. It focuses specifically on aiding small businesses starting up, and those looking to grow in whatever industry or community they choose.
This is made possible through the development centers dotted around the state to help startups and businesses already in operation. Many of these are free to use and there is an abundance of professional advisers on hand to help you with anything you need and educate you on improving your business.
Small businesses tend to do well in Alaska due to the reasonably high salaries, no personal income tax, a stable economy, available office space, and other commercial space, extremely supportive local communities, a good education system (39.2% college-educated), highly-skilled workforce, and a solid labor market.
The state fee for registering a business in Alaska is a reasonable $100 for an LLC and the same ($100) for a corporation. The annual filing fee to maintain your company in Alaska is $100 for a corporation and $100 for an LLC which is higher than most other states but lower than some.
The Last Frontier is committed to your success and has many resources at your disposal that you can take advantage of.
Resources for Small Businesses in Alaska
Whether you are registering as an LLC, Corporation, or simply as a Sole Proprietor in Alaska you are going to need to tap into the resources available to you to drive your small business forward.
Alaska has a multitude of small business development centers that are dedicated to supporting the development and retention of small businesses. The support they provide to entrepreneurs covers everything from crafting business plans to navigating the state’s tax codes. Visit the Alaska Small Business Development Center website to find out more.
Here are some additional small business resources in Alaska:
- SCORE Alaska: Not only are there small business development centers tailored around working with small businesses and startups for growth and development, but SCORE’s volunteer business professionals and expert mentors are readily available and are free to use for those looking to begin their entrepreneurial journey.
- Alaska SBA: The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) helps small business owners and entrepreneurs pursue the American dream. The SBA is dedicated to small businesses and provides counseling, capital, and contracting expertise as the nation’s only go-to resource and voice for small businesses.
These services are very useful and cost-efficient, and it makes perfect sense to arm yourself with all the help and information you can get.