Maine is a sought-after state to live, work, and conduct business in, which is helped by its constantly improving and developing business climate. This makes doing business within the state an accessible, efficient, stable, and straightforward process.
Maine isn’t only a great place to begin or expand your entrepreneurial journey, but it is also aesthetically one of the most incredible places in North America, boasting some fantastic landscapes, awesome beaches, and interesting surrounding islands. There are several affordable places to live in Maine too.
If you are considering starting your own company, registering a business in the state of Maine is a relatively simple process and a big focus has always been on small businesses and more specifically aiding and supporting them to thrive, progress, and develop within their local communities and beyond.
There are many different development centers, administrative offices, forums, advisories, grants and loans, and more, to help your small business fulfill its potential in Maine.
With a good transportation infrastructure, a highly-skilled workforce, tax credits, readily available capital, fantastic education system, supportive local communities, and reasonable Maine Secretary of State registration fees, it will come as no surprise to see why so many people decide to register a business in Maine and start their journey to entrepreneurial success.
How to Register a Business Name in Maine – 7 Easy Steps
The Maine Secretary of State makes it reasonably easy to register your business name. 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 Maine Secretary of State website.
Once you have established your name is available you can register a business name in Maine 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 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 a Maine 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: A Maine 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: A Maine 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 Maine Secretary of State website and see that your chosen business name is available, that is all well and good, but that doesn’t mean someone else is not using that 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 a Maine 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 an awesome 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 Maine Secretary of State 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 Maine 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 Maine company and it protects you from having to use your social security number.
For more information on how to get an EIN number in Maine use our guide where you will find downloadable forms and links to the online process.
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 Maine you must comply with federal, state, and local government regulations. Maine law does not require a small business owner to have a “general” license to operate.
You will, however, need specific permits for specific businesses. 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, if you want to open an auto mechanic shop, there is a separate license for that. Essentially, it all depends on the type of products and services your business is going to offer.
The business licenses you will need to acquire after you have registered a business in Maine will also differ depending on the location of the business too.
You must find out how to obtain the necessary Maine business licenses and permits, and this link will allow you to search for your type of business and the county or city you are located in to familiarize yourself with the permits and licenses your business may require to operate in Maine. You can also access the relevant forms you will need to complete.
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 Maine law. After all, Maine has no single generic business license that will ensure compliance with all requirements.
Step 6 – Determine Your Business Employer Requirements
There are several things you need to check regarding your responsibilities as an employer in Maine 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 Maine and employee rights and remedies under the Maine minimum wage act.
To learn more about Maine employer resources take a look at the Maine Department of Labor website.
Step 7 – Open a Business Bank Account for your Maine 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 photo ID, 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, even “online-only” ones. 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 Maine
Maine is certainly becoming well-known for its strong small business ecosystem and climate, in fact, the Pine Tree State has been often referred to as the state of small business, which in return, makes it a progressive state for doing business.
This has been made a reality thanks to an increased focus on aiding and boosting small businesses over the past few years through the various small business development centers that offer free advice. This is a win-win situation for entrepreneurs.
The main reason small businesses are constantly thriving in Maine is thanks to the state’s manageable taxes (3.5%-8.93% corporate income tax rates), endlessly growing and developing state economy, affordable and readily available commercial, retail, and office space for businesses to succeed in, above-average per capita personal income, high salaries, and a brilliant college-education system (43.2% college-educated) which produces highly-skilled workers.
The state fee for registering a business in Maine is $85 for an LLC and $85 for a corporation. The annual filing fee to maintain your LLC in Maine is $85. For corporations, it is also $85.
The Pine Tree State is committed to your success and has many resources at your disposal that you can take advantage of.
Resources for Small Businesses in Maine
Whether you decided to register as an LLC, Corporation, or simply as a Sole Proprietor in Maine you are going to need to tap into the resources available to you to drive your small business forward.
The support for entrepreneurs covers everything from crafting business plans to navigating the state’s tax codes. Visit the Maine Small Business Development Center website to find out more.
Volunteer members of SCORE are business professionals and expert mentors that are readily available and are free to use for those looking to begin their entrepreneurial journey.
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.
Here are some additional small business resources in Maine:
- Maine SCORE: Connect with SCORE to begin or take your entrepreneurial journey to the next level.
- Maine 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.