Do you need an LLC for a hair salon?

If you’re considering opening a hair salon, you might be wondering whether forming a limited liability company (LLC) is necessary or beneficial for your business. In this guide, we’ll explore the key considerations and advantages of forming an LLC for your hair salon.

Forming an LLC for your hair salon can offer several benefits that provide protection and structure to your business operations. One of the primary advantages of forming an LLC is the limited liability protection it provides. Another benefit is some additional credibility in the eyes of your clients, suppliers, and partners. Last but not least, it’s important to note that becoming an LLC gives you tax flexibility, allowing you to pick the tax structure that works best for your business.

Operating your hair salon as an LLC can also enhance your professionalism and credibility in the eyes of clients, suppliers, and potential partners. Additionally, forming an LLC offers flexibility in how your business pays income tax, allowing you to choose between pass-through taxation or electing to be taxed as a corporation, depending on your business needs and financial goals.

Throughout this guide, we’ll provide you with step-by-step instructions and valuable insights on how to form an LLC for your hair salon. Whether you’re a seasoned stylist looking to open your own salon or considering entering the industry for the first time, forming an LLC can be a crucial step toward building a successful and sustainable hair salon business.

Why Starting an LLC for a Hair and Beauty Salon is Important

Personal Asset Protection

The top reason to form an LLC for a beauty salon is to gain access to the personal asset protection provided by this business structure. Whether your salon is a one-person show or a larger operation with several stylists and a wide variety of services, you need the limited liability protections that an LLC can provide.

As an example, let’s say that a customer slips on a wet spot on your floor, falls over, and injures themselves. If you operate your salon as a sole proprietorship or general partnership, your personal assets — like your house, car, or personal bank accounts — would be at risk if that customer decides to sue your business.

On the other hand, if you form an LLC for your salon, and you operate and maintain that LLC in a compliant fashion, the scope of your customer’s lawsuit will be limited to your business assets. In other words, your personal assets will be protected by the business structure you’ve chosen.

Taxation

However, this is just one of the advantages an LLC poses for a beauty salon. Another important aspect is taxation. The LLC actually provides its owners with a selection of options regarding how they want the business to be taxed, which could save you a considerable amount of money compared to simply operating as an informal business entity.

Sole Proprietorship/General Partnership

Your salon LLC can be taxed as a sole proprietorship (for single-member LLCs) or general partnership (for multi-member LLCs), which is the default option. With this tax structure, your hair and beauty salon itself does not pay taxes, but rather the profits are passed through the business and your owners pay taxes on that money when they file their own personal taxes.

C Corporation

You can also choose for your salon to be taxed as a C corporation, although corporation taxation isn’t very popular because it subjects your business to what’s known as double taxation — meaning that your profits are taxed first on the corporate level and again on the personal level when they’re distributed to your owners.

S Corporation

The other option is S corporation taxation. There are quite a few limitations to electing S corp taxation, but most beauty salon businesses have no trouble meeting these requirements — your business cannot have more than 100 owners, they all must be either residents or citizens of the United States, and so on.

S corp taxation can help your salon save money by reducing your self-employment tax burden. Instead of paying self-employment taxes (a 15.3% tax that includes the employer and employee portions of Medicare and Social Security) on all of your business income, you can pay yourself and your co-owners a reasonable salary for your roles and only pay self-employment tax on that portion of your income, while you can reinvest the rest of it into your business without paying this tax.

Compared to operating a sole proprietorship or general partnership salon business, the S corporation taxation model can save you quite a bit of cash, which you can use to buy expensive equipment and make other improvements to your salon rather than writing a big check to Uncle Sam.

Enhanced Credibility and Name Uniqueness

Finally, an LLC structure can enhance the credibility of your salon business venture. Informal business entities don’t have exclusive assumed business names and typically operate under the personal name(s) of their owner(s). For instance, if your name is Johnny Smith and you operate a salon sole proprietorship, your company’s name is also “Johnny Smith,” which obviously isn’t a great name for a hair and beauty salon.

In this scenario, you could register a DBA (doing business as) name to give your business the ability to operate under an assumed business name, but DBAs have no exclusivity regarding their naming rights in many states. This means that if another salon wants to use your DBA name as their own, they’re not only allowed to do so, but they can actually register a formal business entity with that name, preventing you from continuing to use your own assumed name.

With an LLC, you not only have the rights to exclusive use of a business name, but you will also have either the phrase “limited liability company” or the letters “LLC” in that business name. This provides your business with a jolt of respectability because customers respect the professionalism displayed by an LLC. Also, they typically feel more comfortable writing checks to a business entity rather than to an individual.

What is an LLC?

LLCs are formal legal entities that are typically taxed similarly to sole proprietorships and general partnerships in that the owners include any company profits or losses into their personal returns — the LLC itself does not owe income taxes. An LLC may also elect to be taxed like a corporation, although this is not a very common option.

There are similarities to corporations, too, especially when it comes to financial responsibilities. In an LLC, the owners or members are not usually personally accountable for the financial status of the business. This means that if someone sues your LLC, your personal assets are not at risk in most cases.

How to Start a Salon LLC

The formation process for LLCs varies depending on which state you’re forming one in, but in general, the process has some universal steps that need to be taken no matter what state your business is located in. If you want a thorough overview of all the steps required to form an LLC, check out our complete LLC guide on the topic. The basic steps in the LLC formation process in any state are as follows:

1. Choose an LLC name

Coming up with the perfect name for your new LLC is an important step. You’ll need to choose a name that represents your company and describes what you do, and you’ll also have to make sure it isn’t already in use by checking your state’s business database.

2. Designate a registered agent

Your LLC’s registered agent (which can be an individual or a professional service) is responsible for receiving important document deliveries from the state — like service of process or annual report reminders — and forwarding them to you. The registered agent ensures that the state always has a reliable point of contact for your business.

3. File your formation documents with the state

The form used to create an LLC is usually called the Articles of Organization, although the name can vary (some states call it the Certificate of Formation or something similar). You’ll need to provide the state with some basic information about your business and its owners. In exchange, the state will formally create your LLC.

4. Acquire an EIN

The Employer Identification Number (EIN) is a federal tax ID number that essentially functions as a Social Security number for a business. The EIN allows your business to hire employees, pay taxes, apply for bank loans, and more. You can obtain an EIN from the Internal Revenue Service free of charge.

5. File a BOI report

New in 2024, all LLCs are required to file a beneficial ownership information report, or BOI report. You’ll file this report directly with the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), detailing information about your beneficial owners. A beneficial owner, according to FinCEN, is anyone who exerts control over the LLC or gets significant financial gain from it. Filing is free, and you can complete it online. 

Be sure to file this information on time; failing to file can have severe civil and criminal penalties because you’d technically be operating your hair salon illegally. 

6. Create an LLC operating agreement

Most states don’t require operating agreements but every LLC should have one regardless. This is an internal document that outlines several key operational aspects of your LLC. The value of the operating agreement is how it can help prevent ownership disputes down the line by clearly explaining how the LLC will be run.

7. Create a financial infrastructure

You will need a business bank account for your LLC, and you’ll probably want a business credit card for work-related expenses, as well. It’s also a good idea to use accounting software like QuickBooks or even hire an accountant to handle your bookkeeping for you.

8. Handle taxes, licenses, and permits

Depending on your state, you may need a general business license to operate your LLC in compliance with state requirements. You and your fellow stylists, cosmetologists, or beauticians will all need licenses from your state. Don’t forget to check with your state to see if there are franchise or privilege taxes assessed on LLCs, and also see if your municipal or county government entities have any further licensing requirements.

9. Understand maintenance requirements (annual reports, franchise taxes, etc.)

Again, these requirements can vary by state, but most states require some sort of regular report to ensure that your LLC’s info is up-to-date in the state’s business database. Some states require reports each year, while others only require them biennially or not at all. No matter what your state requires, you’ll need to stay on top of it to keep your LLC in good standing.

Additional Resources for Starting a Hair and Beauty Salon

1. Associated Hair Professionals

Associated Hair Professionals offers impressive benefits for its members, including a free promotional website, a marketing toolkit, professional webinars, and more. Its industry links page has a nice collection of links to trade publications, training and career resources, business tools and advice, and much more.

2. FyleStyle

FyleStyle is one of the most useful apps available for hairstylists. This app allows stylists to keep track of their customers’ personal info, including how often they visit, which styles they like, pricing, coloring, and more. Even better, FyleStyle is 100% free for up to 10 customers, and even the full-price version only costs about $5 per month.

3. Salon Today

Salon Today is a fantastic resource for any hair and beauty salon owner. It includes information about topics like salon management, marketing and advertising, technology, design, and wellness. Their resource center can help you streamline your operations, as well as improve your communications with both your staff and your clients.

4. American Salon

American Salon’s tips and tricks get more into beauty-related topics than the more hair-focused resources we’ve discussed thus far. While they do have plenty of information about hair styling as well, they also have lots of info about nails, skincare, and a wide variety of beauty products. Also, check out their business and careers page for some great info about the financial side of things.

5. Hype Hair

Let’s face it — many of the resources available for hairstyling focus mostly on taking care of white people’s hair. Hype Hair’s marketing slogan says that they are “the number-one hair and beauty source for women of color,” and they really back that up. Their website has a wealth of information about hair care and styling for people of color, and they also have some tips and tricks for makeup and nails.

Try ZenBusiness for Forming Your Hair Salon LLC

Forming an LLC for your hair salon can feel like an overwhelming task, but it doesn’t have to be a solo task. Here at ZenBusiness, we specialize in the red tape side of business. Whether you need help starting your LLC, managing your finances with a Money app, staying compliant with state laws, or anything in between, we’ve got your back. Let us handle the paperwork so you can focus on what you love: crafting the perfect style for each client you serve.

Hair Salon LLC FAQs

  • There are quite a few potential liability issues for salons. You will need to closely follow your state’s health and safety regulations, and slip-and-fall accidents are always a risk for hair salons, as well. There are also professional liability risks for these businesses.

    For instance, if you’re applying a chemical to a customer and get some in their eyes, they could sue you for the damages. In short, you shouldn’t operate your hair and beauty salon as an informal business entity; you need personal liability protection.

  • Everyone’s situation is different, and we’re not here to provide legal advice. That said, the limited liability company has some concrete advantages over the corporation that make it the preferred option for most small businesses.

    Corporations tend to have more complex formation and maintenance requirements, and they don’t have the taxation advantages of an LLC. The corporation has some advantages of its own (for example, it’s easier to attract investors to a corporation) that make it worth a look, but the LLC is a simpler and more flexible business structure.

  • Yes. Every state allows entrepreneurs to serve as their own registered agents. However, while the role of the registered agent can seem like that of an unnecessary middleman, there is more complexity to this position than some people realize. For instance, you would need to be present and available at your business location during all standard business hours.

  • The do-it-yourself route is always an option for LLC formation. However, LLC services are so affordable that there’s really no good reason not to use one these days. In addition, some of these companies often throw in free bonus features that make them an even better bargain.

  • Some people like to form their LLCs in states with favorable legal settings. For instance, Delaware is often seen as the most business-friendly state, as it has an entire court system that’s dedicated solely to business matters. As for Wyoming, this state has some of the most generous anonymity laws for LLC ownership.

    However, for most people, your best option is to simply form your business in your home state. Forming in a different state can be a tremendous hassle, and it can add some unnecessary complexity to tax issues, as well.

  • The costs of LLC formation can vary quite a bit depending on which state you’re forming one in. For in-depth information about LLC formation costs in your specific state, take a look at our LLC cost guide.

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.

zenbusiness logo

Written by Team ZenBusiness

Start your Salon LLC