The state of Colorado does not issue or require a generic general business license. Licenses are issued by various sate agencies for specific types of business, activities and professions.
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Corporations, limited partnerships and limited liability companies file organizational paperwork with the Colorado Secretary of State, (303) 894-2251. Sole proprietors, general partnerships and all other organizations should register trade names with the Department of Revenue, (303) 232-2434.
To verify if a name is already being used in Colorado, a business must contact BOTH offices. Once a name has been filed with the Secretary of State, no other business may register with the same name or a "deceptively similar" name with the Secretary of State.
Trade name registration with the Department of Revenue does NOT establish exclusive rights, however, it is required when doing business under any name other then the first and last names of the owner(s)/organizer(s). To check on names filed with the Department of Revenue call (303) 232-2434 or visit a local taxpayer service office in Denver, Fort Collins, Colorado Springs, Pueblo or Grand Junction.
To check on names filed with the Secretary of State send a request by mail to 1560 Broadway Suite 200 include a check for three dollars to cover the cost of the search. You may also fax your request to (303) 892-2242 include your full name and mailing address so that you can be billed for the search. The response time on mail requests is two or three weeks; the turn around on faxed request is three or four business days. You may also conduct your own search in person at the Broadway address in Denver or you can access the Secretary of State database online at www.sos.state.co.us/. There is no charge when you conduct your own search.
The state of Colorado does not issue a single state tax id in the same manner as the federal government. Businesses selling tangible products should get a state sales tax license for the Department of Revenue. Businesses with employees should open state wages withholding tax and unemployment insurance tax accounts. The Colorado Business Registration Form, CR100 may be used to establish all three.
You can obtain form CR100 by calling the Department of Revenue (303) 232-2434 or you can download the CR100 by accessing the Colorado Business Start Up Kit through the SBDC web site at www.state.co.us/oed/mbo/faq.html by scrolling down to Business Start Up and click on Small Business Development Centers.
The state sales tax rate in Colorado is 2.9%. However, sales tax is also collected for the counties, cities and special districts. Sales tax rates for this specific area are as follows: Fort Collins is 3.0%, Greeley is 3.3%, Longmont is 2.95%, Loveland is 3.0% and Windsor is 3.2%. The exact sales tax rate is determined by adding the various rates for where a sales transaction is completed. The state collects the majority of all sales taxed.
However, there are 43 "home rule" cities that require separate licensing and collect the cities portion of the sales tax when making sales within their jurisdiction. For example, the total sales tax rate collected by a retail business in Lakewood, Colorado is 6.3%, 2.9% for the state, 0.8% for the Regional Transportation District, 0.5% for Jefferson County, and 2.0% for the city of Lakewood. All the taxes are collected by the state except for the "Home Rule Cities" which collect their own local taxed and frequently have separate sales tax licensing also.
Workers' compensation insurance is purchased through private insurance companies in Colorado. There is not a state fund. The Colorado Legislature created Pinnacol Assurance, Colorado Worker's Compensation Insurance, (303) 782-4000 or 1-800-873-7242, a non-profit insurance carrier, to sell workers' comp. It is not, however, a state agency. Many new business frequently obtain their workers' comp through CCI; however, it is not required that new business use CCI. Businesses are encouraged to shop for the best rates and service as they would for any other form of insurance. Consult the yellow pages and speak with other business owners for references.
New businesses pay a state unemployment insurance tax rate of 1.92% on the first $10,000 in wages for each employee per year. An additional federal unemployment insurance tax of 0.8% is paid on the first $7,000. After a business has been in operation for three years, its claims history will be evaluated to determine if the state tax rate should change. The state rate for business with zero claims is normally changed to 0.1%. When an existing business changes ownership, the state tax rate will transfer to the new owners.
Unfortunately, there are few (really none) government grants, state or federal, available for starting a business. There are very specific targeted government grants but they rarely apply to start-ups. These grants - Small Business Innovative Research Grants (SBIR) - are usually issued for a very short period by a federal agency that is seeking research and development in specific areas including military weapons development, biotechnology and other high-tech fields. The Lakewood and Colorado Springs SBDCs assist entrepreneurs access information regarding SBIR opportunities.
The SBA does not provide direct financing to small businesses. The agency accomplishes its mission by providing loan guarantees to commercial lenders. To apply for a guaranteed loan, a business owner should contact a commercial lender first. HOWEVER, before speaking to a lender, business owners should realize that a complete and well-written business plan is critical to obtaining any type of financing. The counselors of the Colorado SBDC Network or SCORE will assist business owners prepare a business plan through free one-on-one counseling and low cost training programs.
The Demography Section, of the Division of Local Government in the Department of Local Affairs, (303) 866-4147 has population and income statistics. The Labor Market Information in the Department of Labor and Employment, has information on employment statistics. The Business Statistics section of the Department of Revenue, has information on tax collections and retail sales. Each of these agencies can be accessed through the state of Colorado web site at http://www.state.co.us.
In addition, over 50 local economic development offices and more than 150 Colorado chambers of commerce are valuable resources for local community information. Check your local phone book for these agencies or follow the links through the Colorado web site.
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