Once you've made the decision to start your journey as a small business owner, one of the first things you might decide to do is open a business bank account.
Keeping your business and personal accounts separate with a business checking account can help you organize your taxes and protect your personal assets, when dealing with business loans or a line of credit.
Most banks will ask you for an EIN in order to start your application. Keep in mind that in general, you won’t be able to open a business bank account with only your EIN.
While not all banks have the same requirements, you will have to present other documents to prove that your business was formed legally and operates in line with state and federal laws.
Let’s break down what an EIN is, the purpose of it for a new bank account and other documents you’ll need beforehand to open a new account.
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An Employer Identification Number (EIN) also known as Federal Tax ID Number, is a nine-digit number issued by the IRS (Internal Revenue Service) to identify businesses for tax reporting.
Not all businesses are legally required to have an Employer Identification Number. Here's when you will be required to get one:
- If your business has employees
- If your business is a partnership or a corporation
- If you file employment or excise taxes
- If you withhold taxes for payments made to non-resident aliens
If you registered your business as a sole proprietorship or a single-member LLC you are not required by the IRS to get an EIN (as long as you don't have employees). However, it's still recommended to get one eventually as it can bring many benefits to your business.
Aside from easing the process of opening a business account, obtaining a business EIN can help you prevent identity theft, increase your business credit score and expedite business loan applications.
You can apply for an EIN completely for free either online, by telephone, via fax or by mail. Keep in mind, you can only apply for one EIN per day and you must form your business ahead of time because you'll be asked for the date of business formation and its legal name.
An EIN serves as proof that your business is legitimate. Without an EIN for a business account, the IRS considers you a private, individual tax payer. This is a way for banks to protect themselves from any potential legal issues by verifying your business’ identity and making sure you are authorized to open a business account.
But, is having an Employer Identification Number enough for a bank to let you have a business checking account?
Unfortunately, the short answer is no.
An Employer Identification Number is necessary to open a business bank account, unless your business is registered as a sole proprietorship or a single-member LLC. In this case, you may open a business account using your Social Security Number if you have not obtained an EIN yet.
However, this is not the only document you will need to provide when opening a business checking account. Generally, most banks will ask you for the following documents.
To open a business bank account, you will need to present proof of your identity. Personal identification documents include any government-issued picture ID, such as a passport or driver's license. This is used to validate the business owner is in fact the person who owns and/or runs the given business.
If there are multiple business owners, a government-issued identification will be required for every person who will have access to the bank account.
A DBA (Doing Business As) certificate, also known as Assumed Name or Fictitious Name certificate is an official filing you make with your local or state government to register the name under which you'll be conducting business.
This is only necessary if you registered your business under a different name other than your "legal name". For example, in the case of sole proprietorships, the business' legal name is the name of the business owner (sole owner). In the case of any other business entity, the legal name is provided on the formation documents.
So, if you are not running your business under that legal name, you will need to provide the DBA certificate to open a business bank account.
In addition to your personal identification, banks may request a business operating license, which serves as a proof of identification for your business. This is to ensure your business is registered with the government for tax purposes, you follow industry regulations, and you have permission to operate in your state or locality.
While a business license is not always required to open a business bank account, some banks may ask for it regardless of the entity type you are registered under.
Let's review some other documents that you may have to present depending on your business type.
Most of the time, the exact legal documents required to open a business bank account will be different depending on your business entity type. Also, keep in mind, not all banks have the same requirements, and this is just a list of possible documents you might need to present.
Always make sure to verify the requirements with your bank and have all documents ready before you start the process if you want to avoid delays in the approval of your application.
Generally, applying for business bank accounts as sole proprietors is not too much hassle. Other than providing your ID, Social Security Number (or EIN) and DBA in case you have one, you might also need to provide proof of address.
This can be a utility bill, credit card statement, cell phone bill, property tax receipt, lease agreement, mortgage statement, among others.
To open a business bank account as a Limited Liability Company, you might be required additional documents to prove that you have registered your LLC with the state. Some banks may ask for an Operating agreement (or corporate resolution), which serves to outline your business' functional and financial decisions including regulations, provisions and rules.
You may also need to provide Articles or Organization (or articles of incorporation) which establish the existence of your corporation in the United States. Usually, the document includes your company's name, purpose of business, number and value of shares offered, as well as information about directors and officers.
Generally, banks can find these documents by accessing your state's Secretary of State website, however, always make sure you have a way to provide the documents in case they are unable to find them.
If your business is a General Partnership (GP) or a Limited Partnership (LP) you will likely have to provide Partnership Agreement documentation. This document usually includes the following information.
- Names of all partners
- Partnership rights
- Ownership interests and profit shares
- Information about the partnership's management structure
- Valid signatures from all partners
Keep in mind, some states may require LLPs to file partnership agreements through the Secretary of State. Make sure all your paperwork is valid before applying for your business bank account.
In the case of a Corporation business entity, you may also be required to provide your Certificate (or Articles) of Incorporation, to establish the existence of your corporation. Additionally, some banks may also ask for your Company Bylaws, which are a specific set of rules adopted by your corporation's board of directors, once your company has been incorporated.
Company Bylaws basically provide a road map for your business, including how many people will be on your board, how to handle conflicts of interest as well as the function of each of your officers.
Depending on your business structure, some of these documents may not be legally required for you. However, if you want to open a business bank account, some financial institutions may ask you for these corporate governing documents especially if your business has more than one owner. But why is it important to provide these documents?
Well, corporate governing documents cover topics like economic rights, voting rights and transfer restrictions. They basically establish financial and functional decision making for your business entity. Therefore, they serve as a way to show that you have the power to open a business bank account, and make financial decisions on behalf of the small business or startup.
Keeping your business and personal finances separate can help make sure you treat your business as an independent entity, and not just as a side project or hobby. It may be tempting to just run your business using your personal finances, after all, you are the boss right?, but check out some of the reasons why it's best to take that extra step and open a business bank account.
Most business bank accounts give you additional perks that don't come with a personal bank account. These benefits include introductory offers like a cash bonus and interest rates for checking and savings accounts as well as the possibility of applying for business loans.
If you use a separate business banking account makes it much easier to keep track of your business expenses for tax purposes. You can easily connect your business account to an expense tracker that will help you monitor the usage of your business income, so you can easily estimate quarterly taxes.
This is also a great way to keep all of your paperwork at hand so you can make the most out of your tax deductions.
Business banking keeps your business funds separate from your personal funds, offering great protection of your personal assets. You want to avoid using your personal finances to back any entrepreneurial project, especially when it comes to guarantees for leases, lines of credit and loans.
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A verbal contract (formally called an oral contract) refers to an agreement between two parties that's made —you guessed it— verbally.
Formal contracts, like those between an employee and an employer, are typically written down. However, some professional transactions take place based on verbally agreed terms.
Freelancers are a good example of this. Often, freelancers will take on projects having agreed on the terms and payment via the phone, or an email. Unfortunately, sometimes clients don't pull through on their agreements, and hardworking freelancers can find themselves out of pocket and wondering whether a legal battle is worth all the hassle.
The main differences between written and oral contracts are that the former is signed and documented, whereas the latter is solely attributed to verbal communication.
Verbal contracts are a bit of a gray area for most people unfamiliar with contract law —which is most of us, right?— due to the fact that there's no physical evidence to support the claims made by the implemented parties.
For any contract (written or verbal) to be binding, there are four major elements which need to be in place. The crucial elements of a contract are as follows:
Therefore, an oral agreement has legal validity if all of these elements are present. However, verbal contracts can be difficult to enforce in a court of law. In the next section, we take a look at how oral agreements hold up in court.
Most business professionals are wary of entering into contracts orally because they can difficult to enforce in the face of the law.
If an oral contract is brought in front of a court of law, there is increased risk of one party (or both!) lying about the initial terms of the agreement. This is problematic for the court, as there's no unbiased way to conclude the case; often, this will result in the case being disregarded. Moreover, it can be difficult to outline contract defects if it's not in writing.
That being said, there are plenty of situations where enforceable contracts do not need to be written or spoken, they're simply implied. For instance, when you buy milk from a store, you give something in exchange for something else and enter into an implied contract, in this case - money is exchanged for goods.
There are some types of contracts which must be in writing.
The Statute of Frauds is a legal statute which states that certain kinds of contracts must be executed in writing and signed by the parties involved. The Statute of Frauds has been adopted in almost all U.S states, and requires a written contract for the following purposes:
Typically, a court of law won't enforce an oral agreement in any of these circumstances under the statute. Instead, a written document is required to make the contract enforceable.
Contract law is generally doesn't favor contracts agreed upon verbally. A verbal agreement is difficult to prove, and can be used by those intent on committing fraud. For that reason, it's always best to put any agreements in writing and ensure all parties have fully understood and consented to signing.
Verbal agreements can be proven with actions in the absence of physical documentation. Any oral promise to provide the sale of goods or perform a service that you agreed to counts as a valid contract. So, when facing a court of law, what evidence can you provide to enforce a verbal agreement?
Unfortunately, without solid proof, it may be difficult to convince a court of the legality of an oral contract. Without witnesses to testify to the oral agreement taking place or other forms of evidence, oral contracts won't stand up in court. Instead, it becomes a matter of "he-said-she-said" - which legal professionals definitely don't have time for!
If you were to enter into a verbal contract, it's recommended to follow up with an email or a letter confirming the offer, the terms of the agreement , and payment conditions. The more you can document the elements of a contract, the better your chances of legally enforcing a oral contract.
Another option is to make a recording of the conversation where the agreement is verbalized. This can be used to support your claims in the absence of a written agreement. However, it's always best to gain the permission of the other involved parties before hitting record.
Fundamentally, most verbal agreements are legally valid as long as they meet all the requirements for a contract. However, if you were to go to court over one party not fulfilling the terms of the contract, proving that the interaction took place can be extremely taxing.
So, ultimately, the question is: written or verbal agreements?
Any good lawyer, contract law firm, or legal professional would advise you to make sure you formalize any professional agreement with a written agreement. Written contracts provide a secure testament to the conditions that were agreed and signed by the two parties involved. If it comes to it, a physical contract is much easier to eviden in legal circumstances.
Freelancers, in particular, should be aware of the extra security that digital contracts may provide. Many people choose to stick to executing contracts verbally because they're not sure how to write a contract, or they think writing out the contract terms is too complicated or requires expensive legal advice. However, this is no longer the case.
Today, we have a world of resources available at our fingertips. The internet is a treasure trove of invaluable information, platforms, and software that simplifies our lives. Creating, signing, and sending contracts has never been easier. What's more, you don't have to rely on a hiring a lawyer to explain all that legal jargon anymore.
There are plenty of tools available online for freelancers to use for guidance when drafting digital contracts. Tools like Bonsai provide a range of customizable, vetted contract templates for all kinds of freelance professionals. No matter what industry you're operating in, Bonsai has a professional template to offer.
A written contract makes the agreement much easier to prove the terms of the agreement in case something were to go awry. The two parties involved can rest assured that they're legal rights are protected, and the terms of the contract are sufficiently documented. Plus, it provides both parties with peace of mind to focus on the tasks at hand.
Bonsai's product suite for freelancers allows users to make contracts from scratch, or using professional templates, and sign them using an online signature maker.
With Bonsai, you can streamline and automate all of the boring back-office tasks that come with being a freelancer. From creating proposals that clients can't say no to, to sealing the deal with a professional contract - Bonsai will revolutionize the way you do business as a freelancer.
Why not secure your business today and sign up for a free trial?