Discover the three types of information you'll need to open a business bank account along with recommendations for some business bank accounts that we like....

Discover the three types of information you’ll need to open a business bank account along with recommendations for some business bank accounts that we like…. Our content partner Nav.com has the details!

 

Opening a business bank account is an important step in the timeline of any new company. Without a business bank account you could have trouble establishing commercial credit. You might also face challenges when you try to qualify for financing or keep the clear accounting records you’ll need when it’s time to file your business tax return. 

There are clear advantages to opening a business bank account as well. For example, managing company cash flow is generally a lot easier when you keep your business and personal finances separate. If your business is ready to start spending money or receiving money from customers, the best time to open a business bank account is now. 

 

What You Need to Get Started

Ready to open a business bank account for your business? Below you’ll find three types of information you need to get started. 

1) Know your business’ identity. 

Whether you visit a local bank branch or open a business checking account online, you’ll need to be prepared with some basic identifying information about your business. This may include: 

  • The Name of Your Business — You should provide the bank with the legal name of your business, as it appears on any documents filed with the state or Internal Revenue Service (IRS). 
  • Your Employer Identification Number (EIN) — If your business is an LLC or corporation, your bank will most likely request your EIN number to open a bank account for your company. Most banks require this information to make sure your business is legitimate.  
  • Your Business Address — Ideally, this should be the same addressyou used for licensing or official business filings (LLC or incorporation). 
  • Other Contact Information — A bank may also request other contact information for your business when you set up a new account, such as your company phone number, website, and/or email address.

2) Be prepared to share personal details. 

In addition to sharing information about your business, you’ll also need to let the bank know a few personal details about you, the business owner. These personal details may include: 

  • Your Social Security Number — If your business is set up as a sole proprietorship, you should be prepared to hand over your personal Social Security number (and perhaps even a copy of your Social Security card) when you open a new business bank account. 
  • A Copy of Your Driver’s License — Many banks will want to make a copy of your valid driver’s license when you open a new business bank account. 
  • Additional Proof of Identification — You might need to provide additional proof of identification, such as a passport or alternate photo ID. 

3) Have your business formation documents. 

Finally, you should be prepared to bring or upload copies of your business formation documents whenever you apply to open a new business bank account. A bank might request copies of any of the following, based on your type of business entity:

  • Partnership Agreement — Is your business legally set up as a partnership? If so, be ready to provide a copy of your partnership agreement when you apply to open a business bank account. 
  • Articles of Organization — For LLCs, you should be prepared to provide your Articles of Organization. 
  • Articles of Incorporation — If your business is set up as a corporation, the paperwork you’ll need to provide the bank when you apply to open a new account is known as your Articles of Incorporation. 
  • Business License — Depending upon the industry in which your business operates, a bank might request a copy of your business license(s) as well. 

 

Business Bank Accounts That We Like

Now that you know what type of information you’ll need to provide to open a business bank account, it’s a great time to choose the bank account that’s best for you. Your best bet is to review different options, compare features and pricing, and figure out which option sounds like it will be a good fit. 

Here’s a look at 3 business bank accounts that we like to help you get the comparison process started. 

Azlo is our favorite free online bank. 

Opening a business bank account doesn’t have to be expensive. In fact, Azlo offers a completely free online account option for small businesses that aren’t fans of the monthly service fee. 

Azlo’s business checking account boasts the following features that make it an attractive option for freelancers other small business owners alike:

  • Zero fees (including maintenance fees, transaction fees, etc.)
  • Easy online account management from your computer or device
  • No minimum deposit required to open an account
  • Easily connect to popular online tools (QuickBooks, PayPal, TransferWise, etc.)

On the negative side, Azlo doesn’t have physical branches. So, you’ll need to do all of your banking online. If you’re a face-to-face kind of person or your business needs the option to make cash deposits, traditional financial institutions might be better suited to your needs. 

Bank of America won our “best business checking account.” 

Nav’s winner for best bank for small business, Bank of America, offers companies a lot of perks. When you combine the bank’s business checking benefits with its potentially low fees (if you qualify for a waiver), it makes an excellent choice for a business checking account. 

Bank of America has two different offerings when it comes to business checking accounts — Business Fundamentals and Business Advantage. 

Here are some key features that might make one of Bank of America’s business checking accounts a good choice for your company:

  • The potential to avoid monthly fees of $12 to $29.95, based upon where you live and the type of account. (Information on how to qualify for a fee waiver is available here.)
  • Easily conduct business in-person, including cash deposits, at thousands of branches nationwide
  • Free business debit card and employee debit cards
  • Free ATM withdrawals within Bank of America’s extensive network of over 16,000 ATMs
  • Open a business savings account at no extra cost
  • Easily connect your account to with QuickBooks

There are a few potential downsides to be aware of with Bank of America business checking accounts as well. First, you’ll need to have a minimum opening deposit of $100. With Business Fundamentals accounts, wire transfers also cost extra (between $15 to $40 each). Finally, if you don’t qualify for a fee waiver, those monthly account fees of $12 to $29.95 can add up over time — potentially as high as $359.40 per year. 

Chase was our best runner-up business checking account. 

Another great option that earns the runner-up spot from Nav for best business checking account is Chase. Like Bank of America, Chase’s Total Business Checking account does come with a fee ($15 in this case). However, customers can qualify for a fee waiver in a number of ways. 

Chase Total Business Checking account holders may enjoy the following perks: 

  • A reduced monthly fee of $12 by signing up for paperless statements
  • The potential to avoid the $15 monthly fee in one of two easy ways
  • Unlimited electronic deposits
  • Free ATM withdrawals at 16,000 ATMs
  • More than 5,000 branches available for convenient in-person banking and cash deposits
  • Access to both Chase Online Banking and Chase Mobile Banking

Of course, it’s not fair to talk about the benefits of a Chase business checking account without mentioning potential drawbacks. First, if you deposit more than $5,000 in cash per month, you’ll be charged extra fees. Also, despite having more than 5,000 branches available, there are areas where Chase branches aren’t as common. You should check online to see if there’s a Chase branch conveniently located near you if you’re considering the bank as an option. 

 

FAQ

What do I need to open a bank account for an LLC? 

If you’re interested in opening a new business bank account for an LLC, you’ll need the following two pieces of information. First, you will need your EIN number. Second, you’ll need to bring (or upload) a copy of your Articles of Organization. 

Can I use my personal bank account for my small business?

Technically, yes, you can use your personal bank account to operate your small business. However, if you choose to do so, you could open yourself up to some unnecessary risks and potential complications. 

When you use your personal bank account for business purposes, it’s difficult to separate personal and business expenses. This can be a difficult mess to try to untangle, especially when tax filing season approaches. Combining personal and business finances can sometimes lead to cash flow challenges as well.

Additionally, there may come a day when you want to establish credit for your business or apply for financing. If you run your business transactions through a personal checking account, your financing options can be very limited. According to Nav’s Annual Business Banking Survey, 70% of business owners who did not have a business bank account were turned down for a loan in the previous two years. 

Do I need a business bank account for a sole proprietorship? 

Technically, no. You do not have to have a separate business bank account if you are a sole proprietor. Yet just because it isn’t required doesn’t mean sole proprietorships wouldn’t be wise to open a dedicated business bank account anyway. 

As mentioned above, using your personal bank account for business purposes can be messy and cause problems. Plus, there are free business bank account options available, like Azio. We highly recommend opening a business bank account that’s completely separate from your personal funds. 

 

This article originally appeared on Nav.com and was re-purposed with their permission.

 

For information about Opportunity Fund’s small business loans, please contact us at 866-299-8173 or loans@opportunityfund.org.  For questions about your existing loan or other customer service questions, please contact us at 866-299-8173 or sbhelp@opportunityfund.org.

Loans are subject to credit review. Additional documentation may be required for credit approval. Loans will be made or arranged pursuant to California Department of Corporations Finance Lenders License #6050609.

 

Opportunity Fund, the nation’s leading nonprofit small business lender, believes small dollar loans help hard-working entrepreneurs make lasting change in their own lives and build stronger communities by growing businesses and creating jobs. Opportunity Fund’s community of donors and investors is creating an inclusive financial system that empowers women, immigrant, and minority small business owners. Our strategy combines microloans for small business owners and New Markets Tax Credit investments in high-impact community infrastructure projects. Since 1994, Opportunity Fund has deployed more than $750 million and helped thousands of entrepreneurs invest in their families’ futures. The organization has committed to lending an additional $1.2 billion to small business owners across the country and investing $174 million in community real estate projects by 2023.

Visit us online at http://opportunityfundloan.org and follow us on Facebook and Twitter

When entrepreneurs need cash fast, Merchant Cash Advances (MCAs) might seem like a good solution. But they’re often too good to be true. Read about how MCAs can drag your small business into dangerous debt cycles.

When entrepreneurs need cash fast, Merchant Cash Advances (MCAs) might seem like a good solution. But they’re often too good to be true. Read about how MCAs can drag your small business into dangerous debt cycles.

 

What is a Merchant Cash Advance?

Since the recession, small businesses have had trouble getting loans from traditional banks. Businesses need working capital to survive, and smaller businesses can really struggle if they can’t get financing when they need it.

Like many American households, when entrepreneurs are tight on cash things can get desperate. Alternative lenders know this, and some take advantage of this desperation. This is where Merchant Cash Advances (MCAs) show up: for-profit companies who promise lightning fast approval and super easy qualifications, even with bad credit. These advances are not classified as loans because the MCA company offers a cash amount upright that is repaid through a percentage of future debit/credit card transactions. Think of an MCA as a payday loan for businesses.

 

Why Merchant Cash Advances Are Deadly For Small Businesses

The problem with MCAs is that they often aren’t transparent about how much this money will cost you. We’ve conducted industry research on these harmful practices, which you can read about here. Not only will you be stuck with high interest rates and hidden fees, leading to painful APR levels, but some MCA businesses may ask you to sign a Confession of Judgement (CoJ). 

A CoJ is one way that MCA companies trick you. If a lender requires you to sign a CoJ before they will give you money, that is a giant red flag. Not every lender who asks you to sign will call you with threats and drain your bank accounts overnight, but by signing a CoJ, you are giving them the freedom to seize your financial assets without warning. 

Although MCAs may seem like a good solution for an immediate financial need, the cost of hidden fees and tricky wording simply isn’t worth it.

Take a look at this simple video that illustrates how MCAs can lead to dangerous debt cycles.

 

 

Opportunity Fund, the nation’s leading nonprofit small business lender, believes small dollar loans help hard-working entrepreneurs make lasting change in their own lives and build stronger communities by growing businesses and creating jobs. Opportunity Fund’s community of donors and investors is creating an inclusive financial system that empowers women, immigrant, and minority small business owners. Our strategy combines microloans for small business owners and New Markets Tax Credit investments in high-impact community infrastructure projects. Since 1994, Opportunity Fund has deployed more than $750 million and helped thousands of entrepreneurs invest in their families’ futures. The organization has committed to lending an additional $1.2 billion to small business owners across the country and investing $174 million in community real estate projects by 2023.

Visit us online at http://opportunityfundloan.org and follow us on Facebook and Twitter

A lot of words get thrown around talking about small businesses. Cash flow and profit may seem similar, but they're different. Here's more info....

A lot of words get thrown around talking about small businesses. Cash flow and profit may seem similar, but they’re different. Our content partner Nav.com has answers!

 

 

According to a Quickbooks report from earlier this year, “61% of small businesses regularly struggle with cash flow”. 

Even if your business is profitable, you can be at risk of falling into financial demise. How? Because if you don’t have enough liquid cash on hand to meet the myriad of current and near-term expenses that come with owning a small business, it can nearly impossible to keep your operation afloat. 

 

What is cash flow?

Cash flow is essentially the cycle of funds going in and out of your business from operations, investing, and financing activities. It’s the amount of liquid cash that you have at your disposal at a given time. Your business can either be cash flow positive, or cash flow negative.  

Positive cash flow is when cash inflows are greater than your cash outflows. 

Negative cash flow is when your cash outflows are greater than your cash inflows. 

Examples of cash inflows are money coming in from accounts receivable, the sales of services and products, and borrowed capital like lines of credit or term loans

Examples of cash outflows are money going out for accounts payable, payroll, taxes, rent, loan payments, and other expenses.

If you decided to borrow $75,000 to cover  equipment financing, the lump sum of capital you receive upfront would be considered cash inflows, and your payments on the loan would be considered cash outflows. 

 

What is profit?

Profit (also known as “net profit” or “net income”) is the amount of money that remains after all expenses — including costs of goods sold (COGS), as well as operating costs, interest payments, loan payments, and taxes — are deducted from your revenue. 

To figure out your total profitability, you need to understand both gross profit and net profit.

Let’s say you own a flower shop. You bring in $25,000 of revenue in April, but your COGS (i.e. wholesale flowers) amount to $10,000. Your gross profit would be $15,000. 

Revenue – Cost of Goods Sold (COGS) = Gross Profit 

$25,000 – $10,000 = $15,000

Your gross profit is what you make from selling flowers, but it does not account for all the other operating expenses that are involved in running your flower shop, such as the cost of rent, electricity, payroll and advertising. Factoring in your operating expenses, your net profit for April would be $10,000. 

Gross Profit – Operating Expenses = Net Income 

$15,000 – $5,000 = $10,000

While profitability provides you with a snapshot of your financial situation during a specific accounting period, it fails to account for the day-to-day stability of your operation. 

 

What’s the difference?

While being cash flow positive and profitable may seem pretty much the same at first glance, there’s a significant difference that is important to understand.

To operate, you need cash on hand to meet payroll, make rent and insurance payments, and handle the laundry list of other day-to-day expenses to keep business running as usual. 

Many businesses use the accrual method of accounting, which records income and expenses when you earn or incur them — regardless of whether the cash has actually been exchanged. 

If you’re sending out invoices to clients that may not be paid for 30, 60, 90 or even 120 days, your real-time cash flow situation will look very different than your profitability — and you may find yourself without enough liquidity to keep your business running. 

Let’s use a single invoice to illustrate this point. You land a huge opportunity with a wedding planner, who needs $15,000 worth of arrangements for an upcoming wedding. You invoice the customer on May 1 with a deadline of 60 days. You also have to pay your vendor $8,000 for the supplies (flowers) within the next 30 days.

Without factoring in your operating expenses for this transaction, your next income for May would look like $7,000 — not bad at all!

But this fails to give you a clear picture of your cash flow. That’s where the cash basis of accounting comes in. While used less commonly, it is important for gauging how much cash you actually have on hand, as revenue and expenses aren’t actually recorded until the money is exchanged. With terms of NET60, you wouldn’t actually receive the money until July 1. See below: 

This is a simplified example with a single invoice. If you’re sending out multiple invoices with different payment terms and managing the day-to-day operational expenses, you can see how staying out of the red could get tricky. 

That’s why it’s so crucial to not only understand the difference between cash flow and profit, but figure out better ways to increase your cash flow.  

 

This article originally appeared on Nav.com and was re-purposed with their permission.

 

For information about Opportunity Fund’s small business loans, please contact us at 866-299-8173 or loans@opportunityfund.org.  For questions about your existing loan or other customer service questions, please contact us at 866-299-8173 or sbhelp@opportunityfund.org.

Loans are subject to credit review. Additional documentation may be required for credit approval. Loans will be made or arranged pursuant to California Department of Corporations Finance Lenders License #6050609.

Opportunity Fund, the nation’s leading nonprofit small business lender, believes small dollar loans help hard-working entrepreneurs make lasting change in their own lives and build stronger communities by growing businesses and creating jobs. Opportunity Fund’s community of donors and investors is creating an inclusive financial system that empowers women, immigrant, and minority small business owners. Our strategy combines microloans for small business owners and New Markets Tax Credit investments in high-impact community infrastructure projects. Since 1994, Opportunity Fund has deployed more than $750 million and helped thousands of entrepreneurs invest in their families’ futures. The organization has committed to lending an additional $1.2 billion to small business owners across the country and investing $174 million in community real estate projects by 2023.

Visit us online at http://opportunityfundloan.org and follow us on Facebook and Twitter

Small business owners are a busy bunch. Some things may fall through the cracks, including payments. Here's how to handle past due debt....

Small business owners are a busy bunch. Some things may fall through the cracks, including payments. If you’re looking for guidance on how to handle past due debt, our content partner Nav.com has answers!

 

It goes without saying that small business owners are experts at multitasking. If you own a small business, chances are you’re juggling a million different things on a daily basis — shift schedules, inventory management, and likely, a multitude of different expenses, from electricity bills to insurance payments.

With so much to do and manage, it’s possible that you may have forgotten about a credit card bill, missed a loan payment, or let an invoice slip through the cracks. While this may not seem like a big deal, and it certainly isn’t the end of the world if your payments are  a few days behind, a past due debt can come back to haunt you when you’re applying for business funding.

If you find yourself falling behind on payments, don’t fret just yet. Here’s what you need to know about past due debts, plus some steps you can take to resolve them so you can get back to what’s most important — growing your small business.

 

What is past due debt?  

A debt becomes “past due” if you fail to make a payment as of the due date. The “past due” amount is the balance that was owed on the original due date.

For example, let’s say you have a small business credit card that you use to purchase inventory. The holidays are right around the corner so you  decide to stock up on additional supply to meet the surge in demand. You owe a balance of $10,000 with a minimum payment of $300 due on the 15th. You’re planning on paying it off in full once you’ve sold all of your holiday inventory and you have more cash on hand. But with things so busy, you completely forget to pay the minimum, which means during the next payment period, your minimum payment will include:

  • Past due minimum payment of of $300
  • Any late fees or penalties

While this may seem like a small number, it can quickly balloon out of control with the addition of late fees, penalties, and in some cases, an increase in interest rate. And if you’ve missed a loan payment or fail to make good on an invoice, you’re likely looking at an even more daunting number.

 

How does a past due debt affect your credit score (and your chances of getting a loan)?

Most of the time, it comes down to how far behind you are on a payment and the type of debt. If you’re a few days late on paying your credit card bill, you’ll most likely just face a late fee; however, once your bill becomes 30 days past due, your creditor will likely report you to the credit bureaus. And once you’re 60 days past due on your debt, your creditor may even increase the interest rate, which can make paying off what you owe even more overwhelming.

This is where your credit score is at risk, and potentially, your chances of being approved for a small business loan.

Credit bureaus collect information about customer credit data, both personal and business, and lenders use these numbers to evaluate how risky you are as a borrower. While each credit bureau  has its own criteria and method of scoring, a combination of the amount of available credit you use, the length of your credit history, the types of credit you use, and your payment history, among other factors, all play a role.

In fact, when it comes to your FICO (Fair Isaac Corporation) score, which is arguably the most popular scoring system in the United States for personal credit, your payment history is the biggest factor — accounting for approximately 35% of the formula. And for many types of small business financing, your personal credit score can make or break your chances of getting approved — especially for younger businesses without an established business credit score.

 

How to resolve past due debts

Have a lingering past due debt? Here’s a few ways you can go about handling them:

  • Make the past due payment: This may be an obvious option, but it’s also the most straightforward approach to get rid of a past due debt that is looming over your head.
  • Negotiate a payment plan with your creditor: Due to late fees and interest charges, you might find yourself in a situation with an ever-increasing balance that you just can’t seem to shake off. In some cases, your creditor may be willing to set up a payment plan so you can gradually pay off what you owe.
  • Consolidate your business debts: With business debt consolidation, you can combine multiple business debts, including those that may be carrying a past due balance, into one single, streamlined payment. By paying off your past due debt, you can avoid continuing to pay penalties or increased interest charges.

 

 

This article originally appeared on Nav.com and was re-purposed with their permission.

 

For information about Opportunity Fund’s small business loans, please contact us at 866-299-8173 or loans@opportunityfund.org.  For questions about your existing loan or other customer service questions, please contact us at 866-299-8173 or sbhelp@opportunityfund.org.

Loans are subject to credit review. Additional documentation may be required for credit approval. Loans will be made or arranged pursuant to California Department of Corporations Finance Lenders License #6050609.

Opportunity Fund, the nation’s leading nonprofit small business lender, believes small dollar loans help hard-working entrepreneurs make lasting change in their own lives and build stronger communities by growing businesses and creating jobs. Opportunity Fund’s community of donors and investors is creating an inclusive financial system that empowers women, immigrant, and minority small business owners. Our strategy combines microloans for small business owners and New Markets Tax Credit investments in high-impact community infrastructure projects. Since 1994, Opportunity Fund has deployed more than $750 million and helped thousands of entrepreneurs invest in their families’ futures. The organization has committed to lending an additional $1.2 billion to small business owners across the country and investing $174 million in community real estate projects by 2023.

Visit us online at http://opportunityfundloan.org and follow us on Facebook and Twitter

Small businesses have a lot of accounting needs. You may feel qualified to handle them on your own, but you might need some help....

Small businesses have a lot of accounting needs. You may feel qualified to handle them on your own, but you might need some help….Our content partner Nav.com has answers!

 

As a small business owner, you’re probably looking for ways to save money on operating costs whenever possible. You might even have a bit of financial knowledge, so why not handle the books yourself? After all, you know the basics of bookkeeping and pay attention to details. But at what point should you hand over this crucial responsibility to a professional?  

The reality is that bookkeeping is not the same thing as accounting. Bookkeeping involves the recording of a business’ finances, and accounting encompasses much more. Accountants analyze, interpret, plan and summarize an organization’s finances to help leaders make informed decisions when running the business. It’s possible to automate most or all of your business’ simple bookkeeping tasks with software.

When Do I Need an Accountant?

Chances are, if you’re asking that question, you already know that you want help. It’s important to not get in over your head with your business’ finances, as you can end up making errors that lead to massively expensive problems down the road.

In reality, you can benefit from an accountant’s help in nearly every step of operating a small business, from acquiring licensing to selling your organization. Starting off with an accountant can help you learn more about bookkeeping basics, establishing payment structures, meeting regulatory demands, developing your financial strategy and much more.

If you already know a great deal about the fundamentals of bookkeeping and have a solid financial strategy when you’re just starting out, you may be able to hold off on hiring an accountant in the initial stages of your business. On the other hand, if you need help preparing taxes, restructuring your books, acquiring licensing, securing small business funding or planning, the cost of hiring an accountant can easily pay for itself when you consider the mistakes and headaches you end up avoiding in the long run.  

What Are My Options?

Some accountants will work on a retainer, while others require an hourly rate for time spent on your business. If you need help but still feel that you can’t afford hiring a professional, you can look for an accountant consultant who will meet with you to establish your own process, interpret financial data and answer questions as they arise.

When you take away the stress and burden of small business accounting, you’ll have more time and energy to run your organization. Accountants specialize in navigating an already confusing maze, so you’ll benefit your bottom line with the help of a professional.

 

This article originally appeared on Nav.com and was re-purposed with their permission.

 

For information about Opportunity Fund’s small business loans, please contact us at 866-299-8173 or loans@opportunityfund.org.  For questions about your existing loan or other customer service questions, please contact us at 866-299-8173 or sbhelp@opportunityfund.org.

Loans are subject to credit review. Additional documentation may be required for credit approval. Loans will be made or arranged pursuant to California Department of Corporations Finance Lenders License #6050609.

Opportunity Fund, the nation’s leading nonprofit small business lender, believes small dollar loans help hard-working entrepreneurs make lasting change in their own lives and build stronger communities by growing businesses and creating jobs. Opportunity Fund’s community of donors and investors is creating an inclusive financial system that empowers women, immigrant, and minority small business owners. Our strategy combines microloans for small business owners and New Markets Tax Credit investments in high-impact community infrastructure projects. Since 1994, Opportunity Fund has deployed more than $750 million and helped thousands of entrepreneurs invest in their families’ futures. The organization has committed to lending an additional $1.2 billion to small business owners across the country and investing $174 million in community real estate projects by 2023.

Visit us online at http://opportunityfundloan.org and follow us on Facebook and Twitter

Immigrants are more likely to start a business than native-born Americans, but they have more hoops to jump through. You don’t need a green card to start a business - just your home country ID. Keep reading to find out how.

Immigrants are more likely to start a business than native-born Americans, but they have more hoops to jump through. You don’t need a green card to start a business – just your home country ID. Keep reading to find out how.

 

Establishing your business

So you want to start a business in the United States, but you aren’t a citizen or don’t have a green card? There are a few different visas available to entrepreneurs, investors, and business owners: E-2 visa, EB-5 visa, H1-B visa, and L-visa. For example, with the E-2 Treaty Investor visa or the EB-5 foreign investor visa, you can “invest” a substantial amount into a new U.S.-based business as long as you meet certain criteria. This allows you to create your business if you already have a business plan and funds readily available.

What is tricky about opening a business as a nonresident is that you need to legally be able to work in the U.S. in order to pay yourself. For this, you might need the H1-B visa, which can be difficult when you are sponsoring yourself as both the business owner and the visa applicant. Contact your lawyer or an immigration support center to decide what is the best route for you.

Paying Taxes

Businesses are required to obtain an Employer Identification Number (EIN) for tax purposes. You may also need an EIN to do any of the following:

  • Pay federal and state taxes
  • Pay your employees
  • Open a business bank account
  • Apply for business licenses, permits, and loans
  • Build your business’ credit

There is a misconception that non-residents who aren’t able to get a Social Security Number (SSN) aren’t able to get an EIN. However, there is an alternative for certain non-residents and resident aliens who don’t have an SSN: Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN). For more information about eligibility and application, visit the IRS’s website. There is another way to make the process of obtaining an EIN easier: the IRS allows for a Third Party Designee (such as your attorney or a business partner who is a citizen) to work with the IRS to obtain an EIN on your behalf.

Leasing property, getting a driver’s license, and opening a bank account

Leasing property as a non-citizen can be painstakingly difficult or just a little bit of extra work – it all depends on the landlord or property manager. If they aren’t able to perform a standard credit check, there are alternative ways for a landlord or property manager to vet prospective renters, especially if you are in a city where international business is common. Collecting bank statements from your home country can help establish your ability to pay if you don’t have established U.S. credit. Past landlord references, proof of employment/business eligibility, and background checks using your home country ID remain largely unchanged. Voice your concerns and keep open communication with your potential landlord or property manager to best collect the documentation they need.

Getting a driver’s license is possible with your home country ID. If your business requires you to drive a vehicle (or if you drive at all in the U.S.), you’ll need to make sure you are compliant with your state’s driving license rules. Some states require that you get an International Driving Permit (IDP) in addition to your home country driver’s license. For example, California’s AB 60 program enables any qualified applicant to obtain a California driver’s license even if they are unable to provide legal proof of presence in the United States. You just need to otherwise meet all driving qualifications, proof of California residency, and proof of identity – meaning your home country ID!

Opening a bank account is possible, but you’ll need to provide a lot more documentation than an American citizen. In addition to the standard documents proving name, date of birth, and physical address (such as a utility bill), as a foreign national you will need to provide an original home country ID. You can also use your ITIN instead of an SSN in most cases. Each bank’s application process is different. It may be less stressful to open an account in your home country at a U.S.-based bank with international branches. This may help by building financial history and rapport before you want to open a business account in the U.S.

 

Opportunity Fund does not presume to give legal advice. Always consult your attorney and tax professional.

 

For information about Opportunity Fund’s small business loans, please contact us at 866-299-8173 or loans@opportunityfund.org.  For questions about your existing loan or other customer service questions, please contact us at 866-299-8173 or sbhelp@opportunityfund.org.

Loans are subject to credit review. Additional documentation may be required for credit approval. Loans will be made or arranged pursuant to California Department of Corporations Finance Lenders License #6050609.

Opportunity Fund, the nation’s leading nonprofit small business lender, believes small dollar loans help hard-working entrepreneurs make lasting change in their own lives and build stronger communities by growing businesses and creating jobs. Opportunity Fund’s community of donors and investors is creating an inclusive financial system that empowers women, immigrant, and minority small business owners. Our strategy combines microloans for small business owners and New Markets Tax Credit investments in high-impact community infrastructure projects. Since 1994, Opportunity Fund has deployed more than $750 million and helped thousands of entrepreneurs invest in their families’ futures. The organization has committed to lending an additional $1.2 billion to small business owners across the country and investing $174 million in community real estate projects by 2023.

Visit us online at http://opportunityfundloan.org and follow us on Facebook and Twitter

Tracking mileage and expenses is one of the more tedious tasks for small business owners. Looking for a way to make it easier? Look no further....

Tracking mileage and expenses is one of the more tedious tasks for small business owners. Looking for a way to make it easier? Our content partner Nav.com has answers…

 

Tracking expenses can feel like a full-time job, especially if your business requires daily purchases or frequent travel expenditures. But failing to track or inaccurately track expenses can lead to a host of problems.

Without a clear view of costs, it becomes impossible to efficiently manage cash flow and prepare for the future. Further, valuable tax deductions are lost if you don’t accurately track expenses over the year.

Fortunately, the right tracking system can make a world of difference, and implementing one may be far simpler than it seems.

Whether you’re a sole proprietor or a business owner overseeing numerous employees, these tips can help you stay on top of mileage and other business expenses.

1. Separate your business and personal spending

The first step in accurate expense tracking is to limit your business spending to a specific business account. This means opening a business checking account and using it as the exclusive funding source for business purchases.

The same logic should be used when making purchases with a credit card — apply for and use a business card, not your personal credit card.

2. Use a designated checking account or credit card

In the past, business owners and consumers alike were often forced to keep meticulous logs in order to track spending. And while those logs are still an important piece of the puzzle, today’s online banking platforms often take away much of the manual labor.

In most cases, your online banking platform will provide you with all the pertinent info regarding transactions, including the amount, date, and the payee. Further, many banks and credit card companies allow online users to download an activity report, which can be used to further filter and record your expenses.

3. Log info regularly

Whatever method you choose to implement, regularity is the key to success. For some, particularly those who rely on manual entry methods, a daily log will prove to be the most efficient way to keep track of expenses.

Others, however, may find that a weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly schedule is just as efficient. However, don’t wait too long. The longer the gap between spending and logging, the more likely you are to forget, lose, or omit vital information.

In your log, make sure to note the date, total amount, and nature of the purchase. Though these logs certainly don’t need to be super detailed, providing basic information will help you segment your expenses when it’s time to budget and provide documentation in the case of an audit.

4. Use an expense tracking app

While the good ol’ pen and paper combo, or even the note feature on a smartphone, can serve as an easy expense recording tool, there is certainly room for error. There are numerous apps that can help streamline and add integrity to the process, some of which even integrate with your accounting software.

As you review your app options, it’s a good idea to take note of what type of expenses you can track. For example, Expensify and TripLog both allow you to track mileage and business expenses in one place, but that’s not always the case.

In addition, it’s also important to take note of any limits that may be in place. Some apps are free for a single user but require payment for more than one user. Similarly, other apps limit the total amount of expenses, employees, or vehicles you can track.

5. Have a clear expense tracking and submission policy

If you’re responsible for reimbursing employees for their expenses, it’s essential that you create a clearly defined expense submission policy. This should include things like mileage rates, an outline of acceptable expenses, and submission deadlines (e.g., within 5 business days of the purchase).

Further, it’s important that you specify what documents should be included. At the very least, you’ll want employees to save receipts and record mileage, where applicable.

6. Set limits

In reality, limits fall into the expense policy, but the notion is important enough to merit its own section.

If you’re reimbursing employees, it’s important to explicitly state any limits or spending criteria that will dictate reimbursement. By doing so, you can set behavioral expectations (e.g., no elaborate lunches) and maintain control of your operating budget.

For instance, you may want to set limits on how much an employee can spend on meals, what type of airfare you’ll reimburse (e.g., first class vs business class), or maximum hotel stay expenses.

7. Know what’s deductible

Since taxes represent a primary reason to practice regular expense tracking, it’s helpful to know what type of expenses you can and can’t deduct.

In general, the IRS states that business owners can deduct any expense that is “both ordinary and necessary.” Of course, it can be hard to determine exactly what that means. If you’re unsure if a business expense is considered ordinary and necessary, your best bet is to consult the IRS small business deductions page as well as your accountant.  

As a business owner, tracking expenses can be a challenge, but doing so can make it easier to run your business and manage your finances. The tips above can help you create a strong process that can alleviate some of the pain points often associated with expense tracking.

 

This article originally appeared on Nav.com and was re-purposed with their permission.

 

For information about Opportunity Fund’s small business loans, please contact us at 866-299-8173 or loans@opportunityfund.org.  For questions about your existing loan or other customer service questions, please contact us at 866-299-8173 or sbhelp@opportunityfund.org.

Loans are subject to credit review. Additional documentation may be required for credit approval. Loans will be made or arranged pursuant to California Department of Corporations Finance Lenders License #6050609.

Opportunity Fund, the nation’s leading nonprofit small business lender, believes small dollar loans help hard-working entrepreneurs make lasting change in their own lives and build stronger communities by growing businesses and creating jobs. Opportunity Fund’s community of donors and investors is creating an inclusive financial system that empowers women, immigrant, and minority small business owners. Our strategy combines microloans for small business owners and New Markets Tax Credit investments in high-impact community infrastructure projects. Since 1994, Opportunity Fund has deployed more than $750 million and helped thousands of entrepreneurs invest in their families’ futures. The organization has committed to lending an additional $1.2 billion to small business owners across the country and investing $174 million in community real estate projects by 2023.

Visit us online at http://opportunityfundloan.org and follow us on Facebook and Twitter

It's time for spring cleaning, and your business credit report needs some help. Our content partner Nav has some tips to help tidy things up...

It’s time for spring cleaning, and your business credit report needs some help. Our content partner Nav.com has some tips to help tidy things up…

 

Spring means longer days and better weather, which often gives us the energy to tackle projects around the home we’ve been neglecting. Why not channel some of that positive energy into tackling business tasks you’ve been putting off—including working on your business credit?

Here are 7 ways to clean up your business credit.

First, Clean Up

When it comes to cleaning up your business credit, you can start by carefully reviewing your business credit reports to make sure all the information is accurate and complete. (You can get your free business credit report summaries from business credit agencies Dun & Bradstreet, Equifax and Experian through Nav.)

Here’s what to look for:

1. Check your business name and address.

If your business is a legally incorporated entity, or you have filed a fictitious name (DBA) with your state, you’ll want to make sure the full legal business name is listed correctly on your business credit reports.

2. Review your business SIC/NAICS code.

Your business credit report will list one of these codes, which is a government code designed to categorize businesses by type of business. You want yours to be accurate for a couple of reasons. First, business credit scores can compare businesses within the same industry and if your business is not categorized correctly it may not be properly evaluated. Secondly, lenders may finance certain types of businesses and not others; you don’t want yours excluded from financing opportunities due to a mistake.

3. Scrutinize payment history.

Whether your business pays its bills on time is the single most important factor in your business credit scores. But Business credit reports list payment history on individual accounts differently than consumer credit reports.

On personal credit reports you’ll see month-by-month payment history for the most recent 24-months along with a summary for the entire reported account history. With business credit, you’ll see a summary of the entire account payment history listed as the percentage of time the account has been paid on time, or has been late. So it may be confusing to try to figure out when any late payments occurred. But if you believe the payment history listed on your credit report is wrong, you can dispute it and ask the credit reporting agency for a correction or try to contact your creditor for clarification.

4. Check public record information.

If your credit report lists items such as UCC filings, tax liens or even judgments, you’ll want to check to make sure that information is accurate and complete. One thing to look for is whether the current status is reported. For example, if you have paid off a tax lien, it should indicate there is no balance. If you’ve satisfied a debt underlying a UCC filing, you’ll want to make sure that it is no longer reported as open. If any public record information is wrong, you can dispute it with the credit reporting agency. (Note: there is no time limit that negative information may be reported; instead commercial credit reporting agencies make their own determinations.)

Then, Spruce Up

After you’ve cleaned up, it’s time to spruce up. This is the business credit version of creating curb appeal: you’ll want to make your credit report look attractive to lenders, insurance companies and other companies that review business credit reports and scores. Here are several steps you can take to do that:

5. Add vendor accounts.

If you don’t have many accounts listed on your business credit report— many small businesses don’t— adding a couple of accounts can help build a stronger credit rating. Vendor accounts offer one of the simplest ways to build business credit. When you’re approved with one of these companies you’ll be able to purchase products and pay for them later, often on net-30 terms. (Here are 3 vendor accounts that don’t require personal credit checks or personal guarantees.) Pay them on time to build out your business credit.

6. Get a business credit card.

A small business credit card can help build business credit as well. It also helps to separate business and personal credit and makes it easier to keep track of business expenses.

7. Get credit for your payments.

Most small businesses find that some of the bills they pay don’t appear on their business credit reports. You may be able to get some of them added to your credit history by using a service like eCredable to verify and report those accounts. You may be able to get up to two year’s worth of payment history reported for certain accounts, such as internet, power and cell phone accounts that you use for your business.

None of these tasks should take more than an hour, tops. Many can be completed faster than that. Invest a little time now cleaning up your business credit and watch it pay off.

 

This article originally appeared on Nav.com and was re-purposed with their permission.

For information about Opportunity Fund’s small business loans, please contact us at 866-299-8173 or loans@opportunityfund.org.  For questions about your existing loan or other customer service questions, please contact us at 866-299-8173 or sbhelp@opportunityfund.org.

Loans are subject to credit review. Additional documentation may be required for credit approval. We are an Equal Opportunity Lender. Loans will be made or arranged pursuant to California Department of Corporations Finance Lenders License #6050609.

Opportunity Fund is tackling economic inequality so that hard work and perseverance means a shot at getting ahead, not just struggling to get by. Our programs are supported by a community of donors and investors whose contributions help to fund small businesses, support college students, and build stronger families and vibrant neighborhoods. Since 1994, the team has deployed $600 million and helped 20,000 families earn, save and invest in their own futures. Opportunity Fund has earned a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator, America’s largest independent charity evaluator, for our commitment to accountability and transparency.

Visit us online at http://opportunityfundloan.org and follow us on Facebook and Twitter

You’re looking for the right location for your business. Or you’re getting ready to move in. Or you’ve been there for a while and the costs are starting to add up. Here’s a list of things related to your business location that can drain your cash flow, and how to get back on track.

You’re looking for the right location for your business. Or you’re getting ready to move in. Or you’ve been there for a while and the costs are starting to add up. Here’s a list of things related to your business location that can drain your cash flow, and how to get back on track.

 

Here are 6 things to consider when selecting your business location

Your business’ physical  location can affect your rent, utilities, and insurance. Your business’ proximity to a creek or fault line can mean paying extra for disaster insurance. If your store’s floor-to-ceiling front windows face direct sunlight during the summer, you will need to pay more for air conditioning. Commercial property values can change dramatically depending on what neighborhood you set up shop.

Is street traffic or easy parking a necessity to gain customers? If you run a staffing agency or an HVAC installation service, paying expensive rent for a busy, pedestrian-oriented street might not be the best use of your money. Likewise, if you’re a small fashion boutique, it might be worth the cost to find somewhere better for your foot traffic than a suburban shopping center where people just want to go to the grocery store or gas station.

If you are located in a business park or shopping center, keep Common Area Maintenance (CAM) costs in mind. You could also be pressured into signing unsavory Tenant Improvement (TI) packages that pass on expensive maintenance, renovation, and damage costs onto you. Always check with your landlord or real estate agent before you sign for your new location.

Your business address can affect the minimum wage you have to pay employees and other localized employment rules. Taxes, minimum wages, and more can vary depending on in which city or county your business address is located.

Local zoning ordinances and historical designations can add costs to your start-up or renovation costs. Some neighborhoods have expensive permits and strict restrictions on what type of businesses can operate and where. You might also have restrictions on what your business can look like (or have to pay for regular restoration efforts) for historically designated neighborhoods and buildings.

Your could qualify for federal incentives if you are located in a Historically Underutilized Business Zone (HUBZone). The government prioritizes awarding contracts to businesses that operate in a HUBZone. If your industry fits and you have some flexibility in choosing where to locate your primary office, you could have preferential access to government contracts.

 

For information about Opportunity Fund’s small business loans, please contact us at 866-299-8173 or loans@opportunityfund.org.  For questions about your existing loan or other customer service questions, please contact us at 866-299-8173 or sbhelp@opportunityfund.org.

Loans are subject to credit review. Additional documentation may be required for credit approval. We are an Equal Opportunity Lender. Loans will be made or arranged pursuant to California Department of Corporations Finance Lenders License #6050609.


Opportunity Fund is tackling economic inequality so that hard work and perseverance means a shot at getting ahead, not just struggling to get by. Our programs are supported by a community of donors and investors whose contributions help to fund small businesses, support college students, and build stronger families and vibrant neighborhoods. Since 1994, the team has deployed $700 million and helped thousands of families earn, save and invest in their own futures. Opportunity Fund has earned a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator, America’s largest independent charity evaluator, for our commitment to accountability and transparency.

Visit us online at http://opportunityfundloan.org and follow us on Facebook and Twitter

Opportunity Fund. Working Capital for Working People. opportunityfund.org