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How to Start (and Keep) a General Partnership: 

Formation and Other Required Formalities: 9 steps

1. Name:
Select a unique business name.  Do a general online search, search your local fictitious or assumed name database, search state and federal trademark databases, and search your state’s limited partnership, corporation, and limited liability company databases.  A domain name search may also be helpful.

If you wish to use a business name other than the names of individual partners, you must generally register that name with the local, state, or county agency handling assumed/fictitious business name registrations.  Fictitious business name registrations must be renewed, so keep track of and comply with requirements.

If desired, you may also register your business name as a state or federal trademark.  This is a good idea, but not a requirement.

2. Partnership Agreement:
Generally, no partnership agreement is required for a general partnership.  Nonetheless, it is always a good idea to execute one.  In fact, if you are considering partnering with someone who is not comfortable addressing the many issues that may arise in connection with your business you may want to pause before entering such a relationship.  In the absence of an agreement, your state’s partnership act governs.

3. State Formation Filings:
States generally do not require general partnerships to file formation documents.  Confirm this with your Secretary of State.

4. Licenses:
Determine whether your business requires any local or industry related licenses.  You can generally search this information online or at your local library, or seek help from a local attorney.  Follow all rules and procedures.

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5. Other Regulatory Requirements:
Determine whether you have other compliance obligations.  Search state and federal business databases for this information, and comply with applicable rules, regulations, and procedures.  For example, your business may be subject to environmental laws, federal import or export laws, state labor laws and workers’ compensation laws, or laws specific to your industry or endeavors.

6. Federal Tax Registration:
Apply for your EIN. [1]

7. State Tax Registration:
Register your business with your state revenue department.  In some states, the partnership must pay an income or replacement tax.  Your state may require additional registration actions upon the hiring of any employees.  Consult your state rules.

Post-Formation Requirements

8. Annual State Business Filings:
States generally do not require annual general partnership reports or filings, or entity fees.  Consult your Secretary of State.

9. Required Internal Formalities
You must maintain partnership books and records, and provide partners access to partnership information.  Follow all state general partnership rules.


[1] http://www.irs.gov/Businesses/Small-Businesses-&-Self-Employed/Apply-for-an-Employer-Identification-Number-(EIN)-Online.