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Operating A Business
I own an autobody shop. I understand environmental requirements for businesses like mine have changed.
The EPA has updated the reporting requirements for businesses that use certain paints and solvents, including autobody shops. For assistance in navigating the regulations or to apply for an exemption contact Environmental Solutions.
How Do I Establish a Temporary Lodging Business and Do I Have To Charge Tax?
Notice: A bill currently before the Idaho Legistature may change some of the information below. We will update information as required.
AirBnB, VRBO and similar websites have made it easy for homeowners to rent a room, cabin or another temporary lodging to the public. However, a homeowner cannot just open their doors without first registering as a business with the Idaho Secretary of State’s office and securing required state and local permits. See short-term rentals on the Idaho State Tax Commission’s website for information on properly establishing a temporary lodging facility. The IRS website contains Federal tax reporting information for temporary rentals. Short term rentals must collect sales tax, lodging tax and more. If a lodger remains more than 30 continuous days in the same room or space, taxes do not apply.
As of January 1, 2018 short-term rental marketplaces (AirBnB, VRBO, etc.) are required to register with the state and collect applicable taxes. If the marketplace fails to register or the property owner doesn’t use a marketplace, the property owner is responsible for collecting and remitting taxes.
Local Option Lodging Taxes - Some cities, such as Sandpoint and Kellogg, impose a local option lodging tax in addition to state lodging taxes. Contact your local city clerk's office to learn about your local requirements.
Limitations - Homeowners may not rent space in an RV, travel trailer or similar structure not designed for permanent habitation, nor can they allow someone to park and live in an RV or travel trailer on their property and collect rent for the space.
Local Requirements - Check with your local city clerk’s office to find out if you need a local business license or permit, a home occupation permit, fire inspection or something more. Some cities impose additional requirements, including such things as proof of adequate parking and proof of an emergency evacuation plan. There may be an annual license fee. Requirements vary by city, including a requirement in some cities that the homeowner be on-site during the time the space is rented.
Insurance - Be sure you have adequate insurance to cover your facility. A homeowners insurance policy may not be adequate.
Storage Space Rental - Homeowners who rent storage space at their home for items such as RVs or boats are considered business owners and must register a business name with the Idaho Secretary of State and collect any applicable taxes.
How do I register a trademark?
Your trademark, also known as a service mark, can be registered in three ways:
State Registration: The Idaho Secretary of State registers trademarks in Idaho. Your trademark must be unique and not similar to one already registered. Be aware that registering your trademark only in Idaho does not provide national protection from its use by a business in another state.
International Registration: Madrid – The International Trademark System
The trademark symbol ™ can be used on written materials that include your unique name or logo (including your website) to indicate that your business claims an ownership right in the use of the symbol or word. You do not need to register your trademark to use the symbol, though it is a good idea to do so if you want to protect the name or symbol from use by others.
If the trademark is registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, the Registered ® symbol is used. Using the symbol gives public notice that the logo or name is trademarked and cannot be copied without legal consequences.
How do I register to sell to the government or become a preferred vendor?
Federal, state and local government agencies purchase everything from computers and vehicles to cookies and coffee from small businesses. They also contract with small businesses to construct or renovate buildings, build or improve infrastructure (roads, bridges), maintain landscaping, clean buildings and more.
Contracting With Federal Agencies: Businesses must register with System for Award Management (SAM). Once registered, you can peruse requests for bids on government contracts listed in the Contract Opportunities database.
The GSA (General Services Administration) is the Federal government’s primary purchasing agency. Federal “Prime” contractors (major contractors) are required to purchase a percentage of the goods and services they use from small businesses. A list of prime contractors is found in the GSA Subcontracting Directory. Prime contractors list goods and services they are seeking on Sub-Net.
Contracting With a Regional Agency: The US Army Corps of Engineers Walla Walla District provides contracting opportunities for waterways navigation, flood risk management, design, construction, operation and maintenance at public works facilities within the District's boundaries (ID, WA, OR, WY).
Contracting With Idaho Agencies: For information about the State purchasing process, see ID Division of Purchasing. Businesses need to register in order to gain information on current bid solicitations. The Division of Purchasing offers regular training programs to assist businesses in learning how to sell to the State.
Not all state agencies list their contracting opportunities with Idaho Purchasing, instead posting bid requests on their individual agency websites:
- Idaho Transportation Department contractor bidding
- Idaho Division of Public Works construction projects
- Idaho Department of Lands contracting opportunities
- Idaho Department of Environmental Quality vendor opportunities
- Idaho and Federal Bureau of Land Management contracting
Contracting With Local Agencies: Cities and counties list their bid opportunities in the legal section of a local newspaper and/or on their city or county website.
Disadvantaged Businesses: Woman, veteran and minority-owned businesses, collectively known as disadvantaged business enterprises (DBE), may have preference in bidding on certain contracts through the various Federal agencies’ Offices of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization. In Idaho, the Idaho Transportation Department handles such contracts.
Minority Owned Businesses: The National Minority Supplier Development Council, Inc. certifies minority-owned businesses.
HUBZones: Businesses located in a federally-designated HUBZone (an economically distressed area within a city or county) have preference when bidding on federal contracting opportunities. Find Idaho HUBZone areas here: HUBZone maps. Businesses must be certified in order to access bid opportunities.
Contracting Assistance: Idaho Apex Accelerator, a division of the Idaho Small Business Development Center, assists businesses in registering to contract with state and federal agencies and in finding appropriate bid opportunities.
I have an out-of-state business and plan to do business in Idaho. How can I find out about Idaho regulations?
What you need to do depends on how long you plan to do business in Idaho and whether you will hire Idaho residents or use employees from out of state. If you plan to engage in business for more than a few days or weeks, you will need to contact:
- The Idaho Secretary of State’s office to find out if you need to register your business in Idaho as a foreign corporation or LLC.
- The Idaho State Tax Commission to learn about taxes you may need to pay, permits you may need, and to establish an employee withholding tax account for your employees who live or work in Idaho. If an employee is paid $1,000 or more for work performed in Idaho, you will need to withhold Idaho income tax. This includes out-of-state employees working in Idaho. If your business is involved in sales, you will need an Idaho sales tax permit.
- The Idaho Industrial Commission to learn about workers compensation insurance requirements.
- The Idaho Department of Labor to establish a state unemployment insurance tax account (for employees who are Idaho residents).
- The city clerk’s office in the city in which your business will be located or working to find out if you need a business license or another type of license or permit. If your business activities will occur outside city limits, check with the county clerk’s office to find out if you need a county business license.
Also visit the Business Wizard to obtain a customized check-list of agencies from which you may need to obtain licenses or permits, including professional licenses for your employees.
My product is made in the U.S., a rarity today. Do I need to do something to be able to advertise it as U.S. made?
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regulates “Made in the U.S.A” advertising. U.S. content must be disclosed on certain products, including textiles, wool, fur and automobiles. Manufacturers and marketers of other products who choose to claim their product is made in the U.S. also need to comply with labeling requirements.
How can I have my product certified as organic or “green?”
The Idaho Department of Agriculture certifies organic farms and food products grown in Idaho, as well as organic livestock production. They also certify organic soil amendments (fertilizer) made in Idaho. Those who handle or process organic products can also be certified.
The U. S. Department of Agriculture administers the National Organic Program for production, handling, and labeling of agricultural products, including meat, poultry, seafood, and alcoholic beverages. They also set policies for the import or export of organic products.
I want to sell my food at our farmer’s market but they won’t let me unless I prepare it in a commercial kitchen. What is that and how do I make my home kitchen into a commercial one?
Commercial kitchens are inspected and licensed by your local health department. To find contact information for your local health department, visit the Forms page of this site. Unfortunately, you cannot make your home kitchen into a commercial one. A commercial kitchen must be located in a separate area away from your home kitchen with a separate entrance and locking door and it cannot be used to prepare family meals. It must contain specific appliances, shelving, stainless steel countertops, and special sinks, all of which can be expensive to implement.
Many churches, community centers and senior citizens centers have commercial kitchens and may be willing to rent space to you. Also check with caterers and with restaurants that serve only breakfast and lunch to see if you can rent space in the evening. With some searching, there is a way to make your business possible.
Perhaps modifying the items you sell will enable you to prepare them without the need for a commercial kitchen. Idaho's Cottage Food law allows the production of certain “low risk” foods, such as most baked goods, in your home kitchen if you sell them directly to the consumer. If you sell any food product, including baked goods, to a commercial establishment or across state lines, it must be prepared in a commercial kitchen. Foods requiring refrigeration, such as cream pies, must also be prepared in a commercial kitchen.
The Idaho Department of Agriculture publishes a booklet, Starting a Craft Food Business in Idaho, that contains much information you may find helpful. You will also find information on the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare’s Food Protection Program website.
What is TERO? My company wants to bid on a project on the Ft. Hall Reservation but they say we must have a TERO permit.
TERO is an acronym for Tribal Employment Registration Office. To perform work on most reservations your company must employ Native American workers. You can obtain information and the necessary form by contacting the tribal office of any reservation where you plan to work.
The company I am currently working for wants me to give them a W-9. What is it and why do I need to do this?
A form W-9 is a “Request for Taxpayer Identification Number.” When a business pays $600 or more in a calendar year to another business or individual who is not an employee, the business is required to file an information tax return with the IRS. To do so, the business must obtain the correct taxpayer identification number to include on the return.
Examples of businesses that require a W-9 include those that issue 1099s to independent contractors and those that must report real estate transactions, contributions to an IRA, cancellation of debt, payments to a childcare provider and other monetary transactions. See IRS form W-9 information and instructions.
Planning and Zoning closed my business. They said it was not allowed to be located where it was. Can they do that? What recourse do I have?
Most Idaho cities and counties have zoning regulations with which businesses must comply. Before signing a lease or purchase agreement, first check with your city or county planning and zoning commission to be certain you can legally operate your type of business in the area you have chosen. For example, you would not be able to establish a construction business, including a home based one, in an area zoned as residential. As you discovered, If a business is opened in violation of zoning regulations, it can be immediately shut down when a zoning inspector finds it or when someone complains. It may then be difficult to terminate a lease or purchase agreement.
Some businesses, such as churches and day care centers, may be able to secure a conditional use permit to operate in an area not specifically zoned for businesses. Be sure to find out if your business qualifies for a conditional use permit and can meet all the requirements before you open it. If you attempt to operate your business without a permit, it will be closed when the city or county finds you.
I think my business may be subject to environmental regulations. How do I verify that and find out how to comply?
The Idaho Department of Environmental Quality regulates business activities affecting air and water quality and waste management and remediation, including hazardous waste. The DEQ’s Permits page contains a list of required permits for businesses that may generate pollution in the course of operations. For confidential assistance in understanding and complying with regulations, contact Environmental Solutions, a division of the Idaho Small Business Development Center and the DEQ. A counselor will be happy to guide you through the process.
How Can My Store Accept Food Stamps?
The U.S Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service issues permits to qualified stores, fruit and vegetable stands and other food retailers. To find out if your business qualifies to accept food stamps and to apply, see USDA SNAP Program.