My understanding is that you would need a certificate of authority to do business in NY state and to collect sales tax under NY law. Your best bet for general purposes of limiting your own personal liability in connection with the business is to incorporate somewhere in NY (make your PPOB/HQ in a county where publishing costs are low, i.e., NOT New York County), and you will be assigned a EIN/State Tax ID #. It is the corporate entity, not you individually, who should purchase the domain name, in the company's name, limiting your liability from jump. Unfortunately, however, while there are many DIY sites available through/at www.nyc.gov, or www.nyc.gov/finance, my understanding is that because you will need a registered agent or address for service of process (the catch/tradeoff you swear to when you incorporate - NYS says you can do business and make money in this state, but (1) you must pay all applicable state and city taxes (such as NYS Sales tax of 8.875%), and (2) you must be amenable to service. It is the 2nd requirement that makes your post office box-based business impossible (or not plausible or legitimate), at least not in New York State. Look up SERVICO - they are an amazing vendor based in Albany and can walk you through each and every step of incorporating (among many other services they provide), and at a very affordable rate at that.
Hope this helps!
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In NY, permits and licenses can be broken down into State and Municipal categories. State licenses usually are related to either professional fields like: medicine, gambling, law, accounting etc. Additionally special state filings need to be made to create businesses like Partnerships, Limited Liability Companies, Limited Liability Partnerships, C-type Corporations or S-type Corporations. Each of these business has unique requirements for formation, need special registration with the IRS, and vary in cost of formation. However they are beneficial because they provide protection for business owners by immunizing the business owner's personal property from lawsuits brought against the business. It is highly advisable that these business entities be considered when forming a business.
Local or municipal filings can differ between cities and towns. Many concern taxes, zoning and general community ordinances. It is difficult to say what the local administrators will require. However you should contact the local town hall or executive body and they will answer the majority of your questions. Alternatively, ask the local Chamber of Commerce for information on the subject. Usually the members are small business owners and they are very helpful to prospective business owners.
If you are talking about a Sales Tax Certificate of Authority, then this usually applies for the sale of goods. Talk to a tax attorney or a accountant.
If you are talking about a NY Department of Education Certificate of Authority, then this usually applies for businesses that are practicing a professional service. Please check here: http://www.op.nysed.gov/prof/
If you are talking about a NY Department of State Certificate of Authority, then this usually applies to out of state businesses that are trying to conduct business within New York.
In forming a business, consulting an attorney is almost always a smart decision. Many business lawyers, including myself, offer free consultations and are usually reasonably priced. A lawyer will be able to tell you where filing forms can be found and to whom you need to submit the filings. Additionally they can help you get business insurance and attend to your real estate needs. You can always do it yourself, but if (and usually when) a legal issue arises, carefully and correctly prepared paperwork becomes priceless.
Good luck and please let me know if I can be of any assistance.
This answer is general information only. No legal advice is given in this answer. No attorney-client relationship is established based on this answer. To receive accurate legal advice, please follow up with an attorney.
Probably not if you are remain a sole proprietorship and you do not sell tarot cards, crystal balls, or other goods. Speak to a business attorney at length regarding becoming an official business entity.