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How to Register a Business in Hawaii – Ultimate Guide for 2024

How to Register a Business in Hawaii
(Last Updated On: January 3, 2024)

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Eager to dive into entrepreneurship in the Aloha State? Establishing a business in Hawaii can be an exciting and fulfilling journey, but navigating the registration process may seem like venturing into unknown territory. Given the numerous steps and critical decisions involved, it’s natural for many entrepreneurs to feel overwhelmed. However, fear not; registering your business in Hawaii is not as challenging as it may initially seem.

In this blog post, we’ll guide you through the process step by step, providing tips and resources to ensure a smooth journey. Whether you’re launching a new business or registering an existing one, this guidebook will assist you in conquering Hawaii’s business landscape in seven simple steps with confidence and ease.

Feeling a bit overwhelmed? No need to worry! We’ve compiled a list of top-notch business registration services, such as ZenBusiness, ready to navigate the tide and simplify the process for you.

Get Started With ZenBusiness

How to Register Your Business in Hawaii in 7 Simple Steps

Follow these 7 steps to register your Hawaii-based business and get it off the ground as quickly as possible:

Step 1: Choose Your Business Structure in Hawaii

The ideal business structure for your venture depends on your business’s nature and growth plans. Hawaii offers a variety of incorporated and unincorporated business structures to choose from. Let’s explore each of these options and how they function in Aloha State.

Remember that you’ll need to register your business with the Hawaii Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs if you opt for a structure that requires incorporation, such as the following:

Sole Proprietorship

In Hawaii, a sole proprietorship is the simplest business structure, where the owner and the business are legally considered the same entity. This means the owner is personally responsible for the business’s debts and liabilities. It’s easy to set up and has minimal legal and administrative requirements. In Hawaii, you don’t need to register your sole proprietorship with the state, but you may need to obtain local permits or licenses.

General Partnership

A general partnership is a business owned by two or more people who share in the profits and losses. Each partner is personally liable for the business’s debts and legal obligations. In Hawaii, you don’t need to register a general partnership with the state, but you may need to file a “Statement of Trade Name” (DBA) in the county where your business is located.

Limited Partnership (LP)

A limited partnership in Hawaii consists of one or more general partners who manage the business and have unlimited personal liability and one or more limited partners who provide capital but have limited liability. To create an LP in Hawaii, you must file a “Certificate of Limited Partnership” with the Hawaii Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs.

Limited Liability Company (LLC)

An LLC is a flexible business structure that combines the liability protection of a corporation with the tax benefits and simplicity of a partnership. In Hawaii, you need to file “Articles of Organization” with the Hawaii Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs and create an Operating Agreement to outline the company’s management and ownership structure.

Read more: What is an LLC & How to Start an LLC

Corporation

A corporation is a legal entity separate from its owners (shareholders) that offers limited liability protection. There are two types of corporations in Hawaii:

  • C-corporations
  • S-corporations

To create a corporation in Hawaii, you must file “Articles of Incorporation” with the Hawaii Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs. Corporations require more formalities, such as creating bylaws, issuing stock, and holding regular board and shareholder meetings.

Choose the business structure in Hawaii that best suits your needs based on liability protection, taxation, and management requirements. Consult with a legal or business professional if you need assistance in making this decision.

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Step 2: Select a Unique Business Name

When selecting a unique business name for a company in Hawaii, there are a few things to keep in mind. Here are some tips to help you choose a memorable and distinctive name that meets the state’s requirements:

Check Name Availability 

Make sure your desired business name is available and not already in use by another company in Hawaii. You can search for available business names using the Hawaii Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs Business Registration Division website.

Reflect Your Business’s Nature 

Your business name should reflect what your company does or what you offer. Consider incorporating unique aspects of Hawaii, such as its culture or natural beauty, into your name.

Follow Naming Restrictions 

Hawaii has naming restrictions that prohibit certain words and phrases from being used in business names. Avoid using words that suggest your business is affiliated with a government agency or imply that it provides legal or medical services unless appropriately licensed.

In Hawaii, businesses must register a legal entity name that’s unique and reflective of the type of business being registered. Hawaii naming laws have guidelines relating to company suffixes (e.g., LLC, LP, or Corp).

Consider Trademark Protection 

Obtaining a trademark in Hawaii can protect your business name and logo at the national level. Conduct a trademark search to ensure your desired name or logo isn’t already registered.

By following these guidelines and considering the unique aspects of your business, you can successfully register your business name in Hawaii and protect your brand identity.

Start Using ZenBusiness

Step 3: Consider Taxes and Other Costs in Hawaii

Hawaii LLCs are subject to a variety of taxes, including corporate income tax, general excise tax (GET), and use tax. In addition, Hawaii LLCs may also be subject to local taxes, such as county surcharges and business license fees. The specific taxes that an LLC is subject to will depend on the location of the business and the type of activities that it conducts.

Here are some additional details about the taxes that Hawaii LLCs are subject to:

  • Corporate Income Tax: Hawaii LLCs that are classified as corporations are subject to the state’s corporate income tax. The tax rate is 4.4% to 6.4%, depending on the amount of income earned
  • General Excise Tax (GET): The GET is a tax on all business activities in Hawaii. The tax rate is 0.15% for insurance companies, 0.5% for wholesalers, manufacturers, producers, and wholesale services, and 4% for all others
  • Use Tax: The use tax is a tax on the purchase of goods from out-of-state vendors. The tax rate is the same as the GET rate
  • Local Taxes: In addition to the state taxes listed above, Hawaii LLCs may also be subject to local taxes, such as county surcharges and business license fees. The specific taxes that an LLC is subject to will depend on the location of the business and the type of activities that it conducts
  • Annual Report: LLCs in Hawaii are required to file annual reports with the state. The annual report fee is $50
  • Franchise Tax: LLCs in Hawaii are required to pay a franchise tax of $250. The franchise tax is due on the anniversary date of the LLC’s formation

For the business registration process in Hawaii, entrepreneurs can utilize online platforms like ZenBusiness to simplify the task. ZenBusiness provides a range of services designed to aid business owners in setting up their ventures, including liaising with the Secretary of State for filing, procuring an Employer Identification Number (EIN), and establishing an operational agreement. 

Furthermore, ZenBusiness delivers continuous compliance support to assist businesses in maintaining their good standing within the Hawaiian state parameters. 

Step 4: Register and Acquire Licenses and Permits in Hawaii

To operate your business in Hawaii, it’s important to obtain the necessary licenses and permits. Here are the key requirements:

Tax Registration: If your business operations involve the sale of goods within the state of Hawaii, it’s crucial to register with the Department of Taxation (DOT) to collect the General Excise Tax (GET), known as sales tax in other regions. A one-time registration fee applies. Additionally, should your business structure include employees, registration with DOT is required for employer withholding taxes. 

Both the GET and withholding tax registrations can be completed either online through Hawaii Business Express (HBE) or manually via Form BB-1, the Basic Business Application.

Federal Employer Identification Number (EIN): If your business includes employees or if it’s taxed separately from your personal income, obtaining an EIN from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is mandatory. 

Some businesses may opt to secure an EIN even if not legally required due to business considerations, such as some banks’ requirements for an EIN to open a business account, or other companies requiring an EIN for payment processes. The EIN can be obtained by completing an online application, free of charge.

Regulatory Licenses and Permits: Unlike several other states, Hawaii does not mandate a universal business license for all businesses. However, certain business operations may necessitate obtaining permits from relevant state agencies. 

For instance, environmental or health and safety permits may be required from the Department of Health. Also, some licenses are dispensed locally, so it’s advisable to check the respective websites of cities or counties where your business will operate for further information.

Professional and Occupational Licenses: These licenses apply to individuals working in various professions and trades. The responsibility for issuing these licenses rests with the Professional and Vocational Licensing Division (PVL) of the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs (DCCA). They provide licensing for 49 different professions and vocations. Comprehensive information for each profession and vocation can be found on the PVL website.

Get Your Business Licenses with Bizee

Step 5: Open a Bank Account For Your Business in Hawaii

As soon as you obtain your EIN, you can proceed to open a business bank account in Hawaii.

For LLPs, LLCs, and corporations, Hawaiian laws mandate the opening of a business bank account. Conversely, sole proprietors and unincorporated partnerships are not legally required to maintain separate accounts for personal and business finances.

To open a business account in Hawaii, visit a local bank and complete the necessary documentation. It’s prudent to evaluate the rates and benefits offered by various banks before committing to a specific institution.

Even if you’re a sole proprietor or an unincorporated partnership in Hawaii, maintaining a separate company bank account is advisable for effective financial management. Should you decide to incorporate your business in the future, this foresight will prove beneficial.

Get Your Business with ZenBusiness

Step 6: Safeguard Your Intellectual Property in Hawaii

In Hawaii, the protection of intellectual property (IP) is essential for businesses, depending on the nature of the company you’re establishing.

For instance, businesses must secure their name and logo from being replicated and exploited by other entities. Whether your company offers a service or sells products, safeguarding the design of your goods or the creative works (e.g., music, writing, or designs) you produce is vital.

There are various methods to protect your IP in Hawaii, and it’s beneficial to initiate these applications promptly to prevent unauthorized usage.

File a Trademark with Bizee

Trademark

A trademark in Hawaii is a distinctive design, symbol, word, or phrase that sets apart a product or service from similar ones in the market.

To obtain legal protection, trademarks must be registered through the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). The registration process usually takes between four and six months. Once registered, the trademark is protected throughout the United States, allowing legal action against unauthorized users.

In Hawaii, businesses can defend their trademarks by registering them with the USPTO. This practice not only protects their brand and reputation but also offers legal recourse against unauthorized trademark usage.

Hawaii’s copyright law protects original works of authorship such as literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and certain other intellectual works. This includes software, written content, web content, films, sound recordings, images, and other forms of creative expression.

In Hawaii, copyright protection is automatically granted to you as the creator of a new work. As the owner of the exclusive rights to distribute, reproduce, create derivative works, and sell intellectual property, you have the legal authority to control your work’s usage.

However, you may choose to register your copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office for added legal protection and evidence of ownership. Registering your copyright in Hawaii helps safeguard your work against infringement and provides a means to enforce your rights in court if necessary.

Patent

If you invent a new product or piece of machinery in Hawaii, it’s essential to patent it. A patent grants the holder exclusive rights over an item and stops others from making, selling, or importing the patented item for a specified period.

The patent process is intricate and may take up to five years to complete, so it’s advisable to begin early if you have a unique invention to protect. Patent applications are submitted to the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).

By protecting your intellectual property in Hawaii, you can secure your brand, products, and creations, ensuring your business retains a competitive advantage and continues to expand.

File a Trademark with Bizee

Step 7: Establish Your Payment Infrastructure in Hawaii

To prepare your Hawaii-based business for seamless transactions with customers upon registration, it’s essential to create a smooth, user-friendly payment system.

Various payment processing services are available, offering easy integration with your website or point-of-sale (POS) system, such as Square, Stripe, and PayPal. These systems are not only adaptable but also easy to set up and tailor to your business requirements.

These payment processors enable the acceptance of numerous payment methods, including credit and debit cards, ACH transfers, and digital wallets like Apple Pay and Google Pay. By selecting a dependable payment processing service, you provide your customers with a secure platform that supports their preferred payment methods, ensuring a seamless transaction experience for both parties.

Additionally, it’s crucial to establish sales tax compliance in Hawaii. This process entails obtaining a Hawaii General Excise Tax License from the Hawaii Department of Taxation, which authorizes you to collect taxes on applicable goods and services.

Once your payment infrastructure is in place, your Hawaii-based business will be well-equipped to serve customers and generate revenue effectively and securely.

By adhering to these guidelines, you’ll be on track to form a legally compliant business in Hawaii.

Visit ZenBusiness Now

Top 5 Business Registration Services for Hawaii Entrepreneurs

When starting a business in Hawaii, entrepreneurs and small business owners have various business registration services at their disposal. These services offer diverse solutions that facilitate business establishment and ensure compliance with state and federal regulations. 

The following are some of the most reliable business registration services available to Hawaii entrepreneurs:

ZenBusiness

Zenbusiness logo

ZenBusiness is one of the best LLC formation services specializing in business formation, registered agent services, annual report filing, and more. They offer cost-effective packages, personalized support, and resources to assist businesses in maintaining compliance and growth. The user-friendly website and streamlined process simplify the registration process for entrepreneurs in Hawaii.

Try Out ZenBusiness

Swyft Filings

Swyft Filings logo

Swyft Filings is a highly regarded business registration service offering rapid and straightforward business formation, encompassing LLC formation, incorporation, and compliance. They deliver personalized support and resources to help businesses navigate the formation process and adhere to state and federal regulations. Swyft Filings boasts a user-friendly website and affordable pricing that simplifies registration for entrepreneurs.

Start Using Swyft Filings

Tailor Brands

Tailor Brands is an online branding and design service that assists businesses in developing a polished and cohesive brand identity. They offer various branding packages, including logo design, business card design, and social media branding. Additionally, Tailor Brands provides a suite of design tools and resources for businesses to create and customize their branded assets. Although not a conventional business registration service, Tailor Brands can help establish a professional brand image to attract customers.

Try Tailor Brands Now

Northwest Registered Agent

Northwest Registered Agent is a reputable online business registration service focusing on registered agent services, compliance management, and document filing. With a solid reputation for quality and exceptional customer service, they offer personalized support to help businesses remain compliant with state and federal regulations. Northwest Registered Agent provides an array of business formation services for LLCs, corporations, and nonprofits.

Get Started With Northwest Registered Agent

Bizee (Previously Incfile)

Bizee is an online business registration service known for its quick and affordable business formation services. They offer various packages encompassing registered agent services, compliance management, and document filing. bizee user-friendly and streamlined platform simplifies the business registration process, and they provide ongoing support and resources to assist businesses in maintaining compliance and growth.

Visit Bizee Now

By researching and comparing these business registration services, entrepreneurs in Hawaii can identify the best option for their unique needs, ensuring an efficient and effortless registration process.

Business Registration Laws in Hawaii

In Hawaii, the process of registering a business involves several steps and requirements. The specific laws and regulations governing business registration in Hawaii are administered by the State of Hawaii Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs (DCCA). Here are some key points to consider:

  • Business Name: Choose a unique and distinguishable name for your business. You can search the Hawaii Business Express website to ensure the name you want is available and not already in use.
  • Business Structure: Determine the legal structure for your business, such as a sole proprietorship, partnership, Limited Liability Company (LLC), or corporation. Each structure has its own requirements and implications for taxation and liability.
  • Registering a Trade Name: If you plan to operate under a name other than your legal name, you must register a trade name, also known as a “doing business as” (DBA) name. This can be done through the DCCA.
  • Obtain an Employer Identification Number (EIN): Most businesses need an EIN, which is issued by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). You can apply for an EIN online through the IRS website.
  • Business Licenses and Permits: Depending on the nature of your business, you may need to obtain specific licenses and permits from the state, county, or local government. The Hawaii Business Express website provides a comprehensive list of licenses and permits required for various business activities.
  • Register with the State of Hawaii: To formally register your business in Hawaii, you will need to file the appropriate registration documents with the DCCA. This can be done online through the Hawaii Business Express website or by submitting paper forms.
  • Business Taxes: Familiarize yourself with the tax obligations for your business, including state taxes, federal taxes, and any applicable local taxes. The Hawaii Department of Taxation provides information on tax requirements and filing procedures.

It’s advisable to consult with a business attorney or a professional business consultant to ensure compliance with all relevant laws and regulations when registering a business in Hawaii.

Alternative Business Registration Methods in Hawaii

Here are some alternative business registration methods that may be applicable in Hawaii:

Online Registration through Hawaii Business Express (HBE)

The HBE is a comprehensive online portal provided by the state of Hawaii for business registration. It allows businesses to apply for a general excise tax (GET) license, file annual reports, and more.

Paper Registration via Form BB-1 

For those who prefer traditional methods, the state provides the Basic Business Application form, BB-1. This paper form can be mailed or delivered to the Department of Taxation. It allows businesses to register for a GET license, employer withholding taxes, and other relevant business taxes.

One Stop Shop Business Registration Program 

This program is offered by the Business Action Center in the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs. The program is designed to simplify the process of starting a business by providing personalized guidance and streamlined application processes.

Local County Registrations

In addition to state registration, businesses may need to register with local county offices. Each county has its own specific requirements and procedures for business registration, so be sure to check with the appropriate county office where your business will be operating.

Remember, it’s crucial to consider your specific business needs, operations, and preferences when deciding on the appropriate registration method. Consulting with a business advisor or attorney may provide valuable insight into the optimal registration process for your particular business venture.

Try out ZenBusiness

Benefits of Registering Your Business in Hawaii

Registering your business in Hawaii can offer several benefits. Here are some advantages of registering your business in the state:

  • Legal Entity: Registering your business in Hawaii establishes it as a legal entity separate from yourself, providing personal liability protection. This means that your personal assets are safeguarded in case of business-related liabilities or debts.
  • Credibility: Registering your business in Hawaii adds credibility and professionalism to your operations. Customers, clients, and partners often prefer to work with registered businesses, as it signifies legitimacy and compliance with state laws.
  • Access to Government Contracts: Registering your business in Hawaii opens up opportunities to bid on government contracts at the state and local levels. Many government agencies and organizations require businesses to be registered to participate in procurement processes.
  • Tax Benefits: Hawaii offers several tax benefits for businesses. It has a relatively low corporate tax rate compared to other states, with a maximum rate of 4.4%. Additionally, Hawaii provides tax incentives for specific industries, such as renewable energy, film production, and high-technology businesses.
  • Business Assistance Programs: Registering your business in Hawaii makes you eligible for various business assistance programs and resources offered by the state government and local organizations. These programs can provide valuable support in areas like financing, mentorship, training, and networking opportunities.
  • Protection of Business Name: Registering your business in Hawaii ensures that your chosen business name is protected and cannot be used by another entity in the state. This helps establish your brand identity and prevents potential confusion or infringement.
  • Ease of Doing Business: Hawaii has taken steps to streamline its business registration processes and reduce administrative burdens. The state provides online registration options, making it convenient and efficient for entrepreneurs to register and maintain their businesses.
  • Tourism and Market Opportunities: Hawaii is a popular tourist destination, attracting millions of visitors each year. Registering your business in Hawaii can open doors to the tourism industry and provide access to a large customer base. The state’s diverse economy also offers opportunities in sectors like agriculture, healthcare, technology, and more.

Consulting with an attorney or a business advisor can provide personalized guidance tailored to your unique situation.

Is Business Registration Required in Hawaii? Find Out Here

To conduct business activities within the state of Hawaii, it’s generally mandatory for most business entities to register with the appropriate state agencies. Depending on the type and scope of the business operations, the registration process may vary. For example, obtaining a general excise tax license, registering a Limited Liability Company (LLC), or acquiring professional licenses and permits may be necessary. Complying with these registration obligations is crucial for avoiding legal and financial penalties.

How to Register Your Business in Hawaii – Frequently Asked Questions

What Do I Need to Register a Business in Hawaii?

To establish a business in Hawaii, you must select an appropriate business name, determine the legal structure that suits your business, and file the essential documentation with the Hawaii Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs. The specific requirements may vary depending on the type of business you intend to establish, but typically, you’re required to file Articles of Organization, designate a registered agent, and acquire the necessary licenses or permits.

How Much Does It Cost to Register a Company in Hawaii?

The cost of registering a company in Hawaii varies depending on the type of business structure and the specific filings being submitted. For a Limited Liability Company (LLC), the filing fee for Articles of Organization is $50, while for a corporation, the fee for Articles of Incorporation is $50. Additional fees may apply for any necessary permits or licenses.

Can a Foreigner Start a Business in Hawaii?

Foreign entrepreneurs interested in starting a business in Hawaii are allowed to do so, provided they comply with the applicable legal and regulatory requirements. As an initial step, foreign business owners may need to secure the necessary visas or work permits and obtain relevant licenses and permits from state and federal agencies.

Do I Need to Register My Online Business in Hawaii?

If you’re conducting an online business in Hawaii, it’s essential to understand the state’s registration requirements. Depending on the type of business and online activities, registration may be mandatory. While sole proprietors and partnerships may not need to register, corporations and LLCs likely will. It may also be necessary to obtain specific permits and licenses, including a tax ID number from the Hawaii Department of Taxation.

Navigating the regulatory landscape can be challenging, and it’s recommended to consult with a qualified attorney or accountant to ensure compliance with all relevant laws and regulations.

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Bottom Line on How to Register Your Business in Hawaii

Ensuring compliance with Hawaii’s state laws and regulations necessitates the essential step of registering your business. By following the prescribed processes and meeting the necessary prerequisites, you establish a robust foundation for your enterprise.

It is imperative to carefully choose a business name and legal structure that aligns with the requirements of the Hawaii Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs. Additionally, filing the pertinent documentation and obtaining any required licenses and permits tailored to your industry and location is crucial. Consider utilizing a business registration service such as ZenBusiness to streamline the process and ensure comprehensive fulfillment of all requirements.

Dedicating time to the proper registration of your business in Hawaii will prove instrumental in avoiding potential legal and financial complications in the future, setting the stage for a successful venture.

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Read about how to register a business in any US state:

About the author

Dr. Alexander Sterling, Esq, a distinguished legal scholar with a business law degree and a Doctor of Juridical Science, is a leading expert in business registration and diverse business departments. Renowned for his academic excellence and practical insights, Dr. Sterling guides businesses through legal complexities, offering invaluable expertise in compliance, corporate governance, and registration processes.

As an accomplished author, his forthcoming book is anticipated to be a comprehensive guide for navigating the dynamic intersection of law and business, providing clarity and practical wisdom for entrepreneurs and legal professionals alike. With a commitment to legal excellence, Dr. Alexander Sterling, Esq, is a trusted authority dedicated to empowering businesses within the ever-evolving legal landscape.