How to Become an Ohio Sole Proprietor

Starting a sole proprietorship in Ohio is straightforward. There’s no formal setup process or fees involved. To operate one, simply start working.

However, even though it’s easy to start, there are some extra steps you might want to consider. While not strictly necessary, many sole proprietors find them beneficial.

DBA Acquisition

doing business as (DBA) name is a crucial part of many sole proprietorships, as it enables you to use an assumed name for your business, rather than your own personal name. The advantages of acquiring a DBA start with image ― most customers feel that an assumed name is more professional and trustworthy than doing business with a company that uses its owner’s personal name instead.

That said, sole proprietors can sign up for a business bank account using their DBA name, which is another step that goes a long way toward making customers feel more comfortable doing business with you.

Unlike many states, Ohio does not recognize DBAs. Sole proprietorships in the state wishing to operate under a different name may either file a trade name registration or report the use of a fictitious name. The major difference between these two measures is that a trade name must be distinguishable from all other names on the record, and a fictitious name is not required to. Both the Trade Name Registration form and the Fictitious Name Registration form can be found and completed on the forms page of the Ohio Secretary of State.

Determine Taxation Requirements

Sole proprietors without employees usually don’t need to acquire a federal tax ID number (EIN), because as a one-person business, you can typically just use your own social security number for most things an EIN is used for. Still, if you would rather not use your SSN for privacy purposes, it would be a good idea to get an EIN regardless.

Beyond that, the nature of your business will determine which taxes apply to you as a sole proprietor.

To determine which taxes your sole proprietorship is required to pay, you’ll first need to register with the Ohio Department of Taxation either by phone or online through the Ohio Business Gateway. The Business Gateway will help you establish which sales tax, employer withholding, unemployment compensation, workers’ compensation, and municipal income taxes your business will owe. More information on Ohio Business taxes can be found on the state’s Business Taxes page.

Obtain Business Licenses and Permits

There isn’t a requirement in Ohio for sole proprietors to acquire a general business license, but depending on the nature of your business you may need other licenses and/or permits to operate in a compliant fashion.

Every business in Ohio is required to register with the state and obtain any necessary licenses or permits. This might include regulatory licenses, occupational licenses, and other miscellaneous permits. Occupational licenses pertain to specific regulate professions. They’re commonly needed for attorneys, dentists, accountants, nurses, architects, and other specialized occupations. Regulatory licenses, on the other hand, are generally industry-specific and depend on the goods or services your sole proprietorship provides.

For more information on your state licensing needs, you’ll want to reach out to the Ohio State government.

In addition, you should check to see if your business needs any licenses or permits on the local level.

Cities such as Columbus, Cleveland and Cincinnati all have their own licensing and local permit requirements; the municipality in which your sole proprietorship operates may as well.

What Is an Ohio Sole Proprietor?

As opposed to a corporation or Ohio limited liability company (LLC), the sole proprietorship is not a legal business entity. The sole proprietorship is a one-person business that is not considered to be a distinct entity from the person who owns it, and it is frequently operated using the owner’s personal name.

Here are the three main things you need to know:

Tax Responsibilities

Because there’s no distinction between the owner and the business itself, sole proprietors don’t need to file business tax returns ― they instead simply claim any business profits or losses on their personal tax returns.


Sole proprietors are allowed to sign contracts using their personal name, and along those same lines, customers can write checks to the business by using the sole proprietor’s name.

More Flexible

The other big difference between sole proprietorships and more formal business structures is the fact that sole proprietors are allowed to commingle business and personal assets as much as they want to. With LLCs and corporations, ownership is required to keep their assets separate from those of the company. The downside of this aspect for sole proprietors is that if your business is sued, creditors are free to pursue your personal assets like your house, car, personal bank accounts, etc. For corporations and LLCs, creditors are limited to your business assets.


While the sole proprietor is such a simple business classification that Ohio doesn’t even require a business registration process or any type of fees, depending on how you use your sole proprietorship and what industry you operate in, you still might have some important steps that need to be taken.

When it comes to issues of taxation, licenses and permits, or even the name you want to call your sole proprietorship, you do need to be vigilant to make sure you’re not overlooking anything.

We hope this guide helped you answer any questions you had for sole proprietorships in Ohio, and we wish you success with your business!

Disclaimer: The content on this page is for information purposes only and does not constitute legal, tax, or accounting advice. If you have specific questions about any of these topics, seek the counsel of a licensed professional.

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Written by Team ZenBusiness

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