Want to sell my paintings - what to do?
November 22, 2012 7:38 AM   Subscribe

I would like to begin to sell my paintings at local art fairs and online sites such as Etsy, $25-100.00 price range. Do I really need to set up an LLC or sole proprietorship, get a tax number and whatever else just to sell a painting or two (if I'm lucky?) Thanks. P.S. I live in Illinois.
posted by Tullyogallaghan to Law & Government (8 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Setting up LLCs and so on is my day job, and whenever anyone asks me this, I tell them that the best course of action is to show their business plan to a CPA, who will then tell them what the best sort of entity (sole proprietorship, LLC, etc.) would be for them. Do you intend on selling a painting a two a week? A month? A year?

Also, getting a federal tax ID is free and takes about five minutes.
posted by griphus at 7:51 AM on November 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

Also, your city/county should have a small business resource center. Check with them as well.
posted by griphus at 7:54 AM on November 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Maybe I might sell one or two a month? Who knows??
posted by Tullyogallaghan at 8:44 AM on November 22, 2012

griphus sounds like a much better source of info on this than me, but I can give you my personal experience with contracting income a good bit higher than what you describe...

"No". Although your town/city may have various unintelligible rules about who needs their blessing to conduct business - For a few hundred bucks a year, consider it a non-issue.

Claim the income on your federal taxes (schedules C and SE, both really simple to fill out and which lets you deduct the cost of your expenses like raw materials and shipping), but aside from that, sleep well knowing that they won't bust down your door for want of a permit that might cost more than your gross receipts. :)
posted by pla at 8:52 AM on November 22, 2012

I'm not a lawyer or anything, but you don't need to do an LLC setup just to test the waters. You can try selling a couple, and if it goes well and looks like it will be an active part of your ongoing income, then go ahead and set up an LLC or whatever at that time.
posted by agentmitten at 8:54 AM on November 22, 2012

Yeah an LLC, specifically, is something that you create when your business has significant enough assets/income/debt that you want to protect yourself as a person from the liability (i.e. debt) your business takes on. I can't imagine it would be of any point for $1200 of yearly income.

Basically, what pla said: you should be more concerned about who you need to clear it with to sell things than about creating a business entity.
posted by griphus at 9:27 AM on November 22, 2012

You don't need anything to sell online.

To sell at conventions/fairs/etc, you will typically need either nothing (for small ones) or a temporary seller's permit. That's if you're sitting behind a table or in a booth selling your stuff. If you're just hanging your stuff in an art show and dropping some prints at the prints table, you don't need anything.

Source: I'm an artist who does sf/comics conventions.
posted by egypturnash at 10:51 AM on November 23, 2012

Your question is somewhat similar to this one, about teaching music lessons and how to pay taxes.

As well as income, you may also have to deal with sales tax; however, most states don't enforce it on that level. I know nothing about the laws, only that when my husband travelled all over the country selling things at conventions, Illinois was not one of the states that involved lots of paperwork.
posted by aimedwander at 12:21 PM on November 26, 2012

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