How to Start a Sole Proprietorship in Kentucky

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by How to Start an LLC Team
Last updated: June 19th, 2024
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Starting a sole proprietorship in Kentucky is a straightforward process that allows individuals to manage their businesses and keep all business profits independently. This comprehensive guide will walk you through the steps to start a sole proprietorship in Kentucky, including choosing a business name, obtaining necessary licenses and permits, registering for taxes, and more.

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What is a sole proprietorship?

A sole proprietorship is the most straightforward type of business you can establish. The business and the owner are considered the same legal entity in a sole proprietorship. This means that you have complete control over your business, but you hold personal liability for any debts or obligations of the business.

A step-by-step guide to starting your Kentucky sole proprietorship


Choose a business name

Choosing a business name is the first step in establishing your sole proprietorship in Kentucky. While you have the option to use your own legal name, many individuals prefer to use a trade name or “doing business as” (DBA) name for their business.

Here are the steps to filing your DBA:

  1. Choose a business name: Crafting a memorable company name that conveys your business can bring in new clients. Brainstorming catchy, descriptive options makes your name a marketing tool that sticks in customers’ minds.
  2. Check availability: Once you have chosen your name, you have to confirm your proposed name is not already taken by another business.

To confirm your business name is not taken, search these government databases:

  1. Check online availability: Check that your business name is open as a .com domain and on key social media sites. Claiming aligned domains and handles connects your name to your online presence. This strengthens brand recognition and makes your company easy to find online.
  2. Register the business name: To register your new DBA name, you must file a certificate of assumed name with the county clerk’s office where you do business. Use the county clerk directory to find the county where you must file. Filing fees vary depending on your clerk.

Obtain an (Employer Identification Number) EIN

As a sole proprietor, you may not be required to obtain an EIN, especially if you have no employees. In such cases, you can use your Social Security Number (SSN) as your tax id. However, obtaining an EIN can provide privacy benefits and help streamline certain business operations.

  • Opens up business banking opportunities: Obtaining an EIN enables the opening of dedicated business bank accounts, credit cards, and financing.
  • Helps establish business credit: An EIN allows building business credit rather than relying solely on personal credit history.
  • Eases the hiring process: Getting an EIN distinguishes the business finances and tax documentation from the owner’s finances.
  • Enhances business privacy: Using an EIN instead of an SSN on business documents enhances privacy protections.
  • Prepares for business growth: An established EIN can simplify future transitions to more structured business entities.

You can apply for your EIN here.


Obtain Kentucky business licenses, permits, and zoning clearances

  • There isn’t a requirement in Kentucky for sole proprietors to acquire a general business license
  • Kentucky has many industry-specific and professional licensing requirements, so use the permit and license finder on the Kentucky One Stop Business Portal to see which ones you may need
  • Kentucky has a wide range of state-level licenses and permits for different professions and industries. You can find information and resources on state licensing requirements through the Kentucky Secretary of State’s business filings information webpage.
  • In addition to state licenses, some cities and counties in Kentucky may have their own licensing requirements.

Register for taxes

Sole proprietors report business income/losses on their personal tax returns, filing Schedule C with Form 1040 from the Internal Revenue Services (IRS) website. This schedule details your company’s financials.

As a self-employed sole proprietor, you owe self-employment tax contributions for Social Security and Medicare, which you can calculate and report using Schedule SE.

Access the most current versions of Form 1040Schedule C, and Schedule SE on the IRS website.

Additional state and local taxes

  • Kentucky simplifies identifying your business tax obligations through their One Stop Registration with the Kentucky Department of Revenue. When starting a business, this automated process registers you for all required state taxes.
  • If your business involves selling goods or products, you will likely need to register for sales tax and use tax. The Kentucky Department of Revenue can provide guidance on the registration process.

Additional steps

After you’ve secured your EIN, registered for federal taxes, and received the necessary licenses, you’ve completed the essential steps to establish your sole proprietorship.

We suggest a few more tasks to help your small business stay aligned with rules and well-organized.


Open business bank accounts

Drawing a line between your personal and business finances is crucial for maintaining accurate financial records and preserving your personal assets. To set up business accounts, consider the following:

  • Business bank account: Establishing a separate account can simplify the tracking of income and costs, make tax filing easier, and lend credibility to your operation.
  • Business credit card: Having a business credit card not only helps segregate personal and business expenses but also aids in monitoring business-related costs and building your business’s credit, which can prove beneficial in the future.

Get liability insurance

As a sole proprietor, you bear the full brunt of any business liabilities, making insurance a crucial aspect of your business plan. This can protect you from unforeseen claims or incidents. We recommend looking into the following:

  • General liability insurance: This policy covers accusations of property damage, bodily harm, or personal injury linked to your business activities.
  • Professional liability insurance: If you offer services, this insurance is critical as it shields you from claims of supposed negligence, mistakes, or oversights in your service provision.

Maintain business records

Keeping records is important for tax filing and managing your sole proprietorship’s financial affairs. You should make an effort to precisely track the following:

  • Income
  • Expenses
  • Assets and liabilities
  • Inventory
  • Billing documents

Using bookkeeping software and spreadsheets or setting up a systematic method can help handle documents. Being as organized as possible will prove helpful when it’s time to file taxes, and it promotes the overall financial health of your business.

Sole proprietorship vs. LLC

While a sole proprietorship might seem appealing due to its simplicity and few legal needs, it’s vital to consider possible downsides and look into other types of business structures, like a Limited Liability Company (LLC).

Here are some things to think about when choosing between a sole proprietorship and an LLC:

  • Protection from debt: One big plus of starting an LLC is its protection from debt. As a sole proprietor, you are responsible for any money owed or legal claims against your business, which could put your own assets at risk. On the other hand, an LLC gives a clear divide between your personal and business assets, keeping your personal belongings safe from business debts.
  • Looking professional: An LLC could make you look more professional in customers’ eyes. Starting an LLC shows more dedication to your business.
  • Potential to grow: If you plan to make your business bigger or attract outside funding, an LLC gives you more room to grow than a sole proprietorship.
  • Flexibility with taxes: One plus of a sole proprietorship is how simple it is when it comes to taxes. You usually report money made and money spent by your business on your personal tax return with a Schedule C. An LLC also offers flexibility with taxes, as it can be treated like a sole proprietorship, a general partnership, or a corporation for tax reasons.

It’s important to remember that starting an LLC involves more steps and legal needs, like filing Articles of Organization and paying filing fees.

Useful resources to help start your sole proprietorship in Kentucky


Do I need to register my sole proprietorship in Kentucky?

Registering your sole proprietorship is not required as long as you operate under your own name. If you choose to use a trade name or DBA, you must register it with the county clerk where your business is located.

Can I hire employees as a sole proprietor in Kentucky?

Yes, as a sole proprietor, you can hire employees. If you have employees, you must obtain an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS and register for tax purposes.

What taxes do sole proprietors in the state of Kentucky need to pay?

Sole proprietors in Kentucky must pay federal income tax, self-employment tax, and state and local taxes. Sales and use tax may also apply if your business sells goods or products.

Can I convert my sole proprietorship to an LLC in the future?

Yes, it is possible to convert your sole proprietorship to an LLC in the future if you decide to have limited liability protection and other benefits provided by an LLC.

Do I need a registered agent for my sole proprietorship?

No sole proprietors do not need a registered agent, however, all Kentucky LLCs are mandated by state law to have a registered agent.

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