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How To Start A Sole Proprietorship In Illinois

Starting a business in Illinois? It can be quite overwhelming, especially when considering the legal aspects. One popular and straightforward option for small businesses is setting up as a sole proprietorship.

In this article, we guide you step-by-step on how to start your sole proprietorship in Illinois, navigating the important considerations such as choosing a business name, obtaining permits and licenses, and understanding tax obligations.

Ready? Let’s get down to business!

Key Takeaways

  • Choose a unique business name that is different from other registered businesses and file an assumed name with your county.
  • Apply for the necessary licenses, permits, and zoning clearance based on your industry and location in Illinois.
  • Obtain an Employer Identification Number (EIN) for your sole proprietorship.
  • Starting a sole proprietorship in Illinois offers ease of setup and maintenance, tax benefits, and complete control over your business.

How to Establish a Sole Proprietorship in Illinois

To establish a sole proprietorship in Illinois, you must choose a business name, file an assumed name with your county, apply for licenses and permits, obtain an Employer Identification Number (EIN), and register with the Illinois Department of Revenue.

Choose a Business Name

Choosing a unique and appealing business name marks the first step toward establishing your sole proprietorship in Illinois. It’s essential to ensure that your chosen business name differs from other registered businesses in Illinois, and more importantly, it should not be the same as the owner’s legal name.

Scanning through state and local databases can help you check for potential conflicts while picking out a suitable moniker for your enterprise. In cases where the business name aligns with the owner’s full legal name, no further registration might be needed, thus simplifying your startup process considerably.

However, if you opt for a different brand identity or trade name, filing it with relevant county authorities secures its uniqueness within Illinois’s commercial landscape. Keep in mind that this process may involve certain fees depending on specific regulations around registering sole proprietorship names within your preferred location inside Illinois.

File an Assumed Name With Your County

Filing an assumed name with your county is a crucial step for establishing a sole proprietorship in Illinois. This process involves registering your business name at the local county clerk’s office.

This requirement comes from the Illinois Assumed Name Act, which stipulates that any sole proprietor owning a business under any other name than their full legal one needs to register it.

It’s also necessary if you’re using what’s known as a DBA (Doing Business As) or an assumed name. Once you’ve filed, you have the right to use this chosen moniker for all your operations immediately.

This means your filing with the Secretary of State’s office becomes effective on that date and confirms you are complying fully with the Assumed Name Act in Illinois. The same regulations apply whether you are based anywhere from Chicago to Carbondale!

Apply for Licenses, Permits, and Zoning Clearance

Acquiring licenses, permits, and zoning clearance is a crucial step in setting up a sole proprietorship in Illinois.

  1. Start by identifying the specific licenses and permits your business will need. These may vary depending on the nature of your industry, but could include health department permits, building permits or sales tax licenses.
  2. Visit the Registration, Licenses, & Permits page of the Illinois government’s website for comprehensive guidance on what’s required for your business.
  3. Apply for necessary business licenses through local or state agencies as indicated.
  4. Check if your intended business location complies with local zoning laws to avoid future problems.
  5. Remember that registering with the Illinois Department of Revenue is essential if you’ll be doing business in Illinois or with Illinois customers.
  6. Track all applications and ensure you receive correct documentation after approval.

Obtain an Employer Identification Number (EIN)

To establish a sole proprietorship in Illinois, obtaining an Employer Identification Number (EIN) is necessary. Sole proprietors in Illinois have the option to obtain an EIN, even if they don’t have employees or file certain tax returns.

The process of applying for an EIN can be done online, by fax, mail, or phone for international applicants. It’s important to note that if there are any changes in ownership or structure for businesses in Illinois, a new EIN may be needed.

Advantages of a Sole Proprietorship

Starting a sole proprietorship in Illinois comes with several advantages. Ease of setup and maintenance, tax benefits, and complete control over your business are just a few reasons why you should consider this business structure.

Read on to learn more about the advantages of a sole proprietorship in Illinois!

Ease of setup and maintenance

Starting and maintaining a sole proprietorship in Illinois is incredibly easy. Unlike registered businesses, there are no complex legal requirements or ongoing state obligations to worry about.

You can simply start your business without formal registration or high costs. With minimal paperwork and no need for a separate tax identification number (EIN), the setup process is streamlined.

Additionally, you’ll enjoy lower business fees, convenient banking options, and straightforward record-keeping. While registering your sole proprietorship is optional in Illinois, keep in mind that certain industries or activities may still require specific licenses and permits.

Tax benefits

Sole proprietorship offers several tax benefits that can help you save money and maximize your profits. As a sole proprietor, you can deduct the cost of health insurance for yourself and your spouse, reducing your taxable income.

Additionally, you can take advantage of various business expenses that are eligible for tax write-offs, such as office supplies, mileage, and advertising costs. The pass-through taxation feature allows you to report your business income and losses on your personal tax return, simplifying the filing process.

With these tax advantages, starting a sole proprietorship in Illinois can provide financial flexibility and potential savings for your business.

Complete control over your business

A sole proprietorship in Illinois gives you the power to have complete control over your business. As the sole owner, you have full authority to make all the decisions and manage every aspect of your company.

This means that you have unrestricted decision-making capabilities, undivided management responsibilities, and absolute ownership of your business. With this level of autonomy, you can steer your business in any direction you choose and take full responsibility for its success or failure.

Disadvantages of a Sole Proprietorship

Sole proprietors face personal liability for business debts and legal issues.

Personal liability

Personal liability is a significant drawback of establishing a sole proprietorship. As the owner, you are personally responsible for any debts or financial obligations incurred by your business.

This means that if your business fails to meet its financial commitments, your personal assets could be at risk. Unlike a limited liability company (LLC), where the owners’ liability is limited to their investment in the company, as a sole proprietor, you have unlimited liability.

This means that legal actions taken against your business can directly impact your personal assets and potentially place them in jeopardy. It’s crucial to carefully consider the potential risks before deciding on a sole proprietorship structure for your business.

Difficulty with funding

Sole proprietorships may face challenges when it comes to securing funding for their business. One of the main difficulties is a lack of financial support and limited access to capital.

Unlike larger corporations, sole proprietors cannot sell stock in their business or attract investors easily. This limited investment potential can make it harder to obtain loans from banks and other lenders.

Additionally, sole proprietors often have less credibility when it comes to financial matters, which can further hinder their ability to secure funding. As a result, sole proprietorships must explore alternative options and creative financing solutions to overcome these obstacles and fund their business operations effectively.

Risks of hiring employees

Hiring employees as a sole proprietor can come with its fair share of risks. Firstly, there are employee liabilities to consider. As the owner, you become responsible for any actions or mistakes made by your employees while they are working for you.

This means that if an employee causes harm or damage to someone else or their property, you could be held personally liable. Additionally, there is the risk of legal compliance. As an employer, you must ensure that you comply with all relevant employment laws and regulations such as payroll taxes and workers’ compensation insurance.

Failing to do so can result in penalties and legal consequences. Finally, there are tax considerations to think about. Sole proprietors may face higher tax rates compared to other business structures due to self-employment taxes and lack of certain deductions available to larger businesses.

Converting from a Sole Proprietorship to an LLC

To convert a sole proprietorship to an LLC in Illinois, you will need to complete several steps and fulfill certain legal requirements.

Sole Proprietorship vs LLC

Starting a business often involves choosing between a sole proprietorship and an LLC, each with its own implications in terms of tax structuring, legal protections, and liabilities. It is essential to compare these two business structures to make a well-informed decision.

Sole Proprietorship LLC
A sole proprietorship is the simplest and most common structure chosen for starting a business. It is an unincorporated business owned and run by one individual, with no distinction between the business and the owner. An LLC, or Limited Liability Company, is a business structure that combines the pass-through taxation of a partnership or sole proprietorship with the limited liability of a corporation. An LLC can have one or multiple owners, known as members.
In a sole proprietorship, the owner is personally liable for the debts of the business. This implies that personal assets can be seized to settle business debts or liabilities. In an LLC, members are not personally liable for the debts of the business, offering a layer of protection for their personal assets.
Tax for a sole proprietorship is simple as income and losses are reported on the owner’s personal income tax return at the end of the tax year. The owner is also required to pay self-employment taxes. LLCs have a more flexible tax structure. By default, single-member LLCs are taxed as sole proprietorships, but can opt to be taxed as corporations. Similarly, multi-member LLCs are taxed as partnerships but can choose to be taxed as corporations.
Establishing a sole proprietorship in Illinois incurs fewer costs compared to an LLC. Forming an LLC in Illinois costs more, with a $150 filing fee. The high cost is offset by the benefit of limited liability protection for members.


Steps to convert a sole proprietorship to an LLC.

Converting a sole proprietorship to an LLC in Illinois involves several important steps:

  1. Confirm the business name: Ensure that the desired name for your LLC is available and meets the requirements set by the state.
  2. File articles of organization: Prepare and submit the necessary paperwork, known as articles of organization, to formally establish your LLC with the Illinois Secretary of State.
  3. Draft and execute an LLC operating agreement: Create a legally binding agreement that outlines how your LLC will be managed, including provisions related to membership rights, decision-making processes, and profit distribution.
  4. Transfer assets from sole proprietorship to LLC: Transfer all business assets, such as contracts, leases, intellectual property rights, equipment, or inventory, from your sole proprietorship to the newly formed LLC.
  5. Notify stakeholders of business changes: Inform clients, vendors, suppliers, and other relevant parties about the conversion from a sole proprietorship to an LLC. Update any contracts or agreements accordingly.
  6. File articles of amendment for LLC changes (if applicable): If you need to make additional changes beyond converting from a sole proprietorship to an LLC (e.g., changing the business address), file articles of amendment with the Illinois Secretary of State.


Starting a sole proprietorship in Illinois is a relatively simple process. By registering your business name, obtaining the necessary licenses and permits, and getting an EIN, you’ll be well on your way to running your own business.

Remember to consult with professionals and stay compliant with laws and regulations to ensure a smooth operation. Start off right and enjoy the benefits of being a sole proprietor in Illinois.