Legal Matters for Your Dog Photography Business - dummies

Legal Matters for Your Dog Photography Business

By Kim Rodgers, Sarah Sypniewski

In order to be a legal and legit business, you need to file all kinds of paperwork and go through a few other steps. This isn’t necessarily the most fun part of starting the biz, but it’s the most necessary part. Don’t worry, though — it’s totally manageable, and nothing feels cooler than getting a government document that lists your company name, proving that your business really exists!

Decide on a business entity for your dog photography business

For tax purposes, every business must identify itself as one of five types (boiled down to extremely simple terms in this list):

  • Sole proprietorship: You’re in business by yourself, for yourself. Most dog photographers fall into this category.

  • Partnership: Two or more people agree to take on the losses and gains of the business together.

  • Corporation: Many shareholders exchange goods for capital stock. Profits are double-taxed — once to the corporation and once to the shareholders.

  • S corporation: All profits and losses are passed onto all shareholders.

  • Limited liability company (LLC): Depending on the state, this is set up like a corporation but run like a partnership.

More likely than not, you’ll file as a sole proprietor, but if you’re unsure or just want to find out more information, contact your local chamber of commerce or visit the IRS’s website.

EIN/Federal Tax ID Number for your dog photography business

Every business needs to be registered with the IRS for tax purposes. Because most photographers file as a sole proprietor, they use their own Social Security number when receiving payments, reporting income, and filling out forms.

If you don’t want to use your Social Security number, you can get an Employer Identification Number (EIN), also known as a Federal Tax ID Number, for free by visiting the IRS’s website. After you get that number, you use it in all your business dealings, including registering for a DBA.

Fictitious names and DBAs for your dog photography business

Depending on the state in which you operate your business, if you want to name your dog photography company something other than your own name (like Bark Pet Photography), you have to register it. This name is referred to as a fictitious name, trade name, or DBA, which stands for “doing business as” and tells the world who owns the business.

Registering a DBA takes a while (up to a month or longer), so keep that in mind. The steps for registering (and whether you have to register at all) vary per state. Again, you can check the U.S. Small Business Administration’s website to find out about your specific state.

Banking for your dog photography business

After you have an EIN and DBA (if applicable), you can march into your local bank and open an account, where you can store all your hard-earned money. Don’t use your personal bank account; set up a separate account just for your business. Separating the two keeps things clean, transparent, and professional.

Sales tax for your dog photography business

Usually, states collect sales tax only on tangible goods, which means your photography sessions (usually considered a service) are not taxed. But you do need to charge sales tax on any products you sell outside of your sessions, like prints, canvases, and so on.

Sales tax laws vary per state and can be quite nuanced, so you really have to do your research. In the end, the business owner is always liable to the state for the taxes the business owes, so make sure you do your homework.