How to Start a Small Business in the Philippines

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To start a small business, register your business name at the DTI.
To start a small business, register your business name at the DTI. (Image: philippines flag button image by Andrey Zyk from Fotolia.com)

Starting a small business in the Philippines takes at least one month of going through the many steps involved in registering the business. A sole proprietorship is considerably the easiest to register. However, it still entails much time and effort as you go to various government offices to fulfill all registration requirements.

While working on the business legal requirements, make sure you also prepare the rest of your business needs for its opening. This includes the financial investments, office supplies, preparing the location, rental agreement and lining up suppliers.

Make a shortlist of at least three options for your business name. To make sure you get an available business name, use the search feature at the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) website. (See Resources.)

Prepare the required documents prior to going to the DTI office where your business will be located. Get a community certificate and barangay clearance. The barangay is the smallest administrative division in the Philippine local government. Go to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) office and get an NBI clearance. Some prefer getting a Philippine National Police (PNP) clearance instead of the NBI clearance. Request an original or certified copy of your birth certificate proving your Philippine citizenship. Have your photo (2-inches by 2-inches) taken according to the requirements of the DTI. Sign the back of each photo.

Bring all the documents to the appropriate Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) office which manages the jurisdiction of your business location. Fill up the required forms and pay the registration fees. Wait for the result of the application for registration. Turnaround time is within one to three weeks. You may call the DTI office to check the availability of your registration certificate. Once available, pick up the document at the DTI office.

Make several photocopies of the DTI registration certificate as these copies are required by the other applications to be done. Bring the original certificate and photocopy of it, along with the other requirements you presented during the DTI application, to the city hall or municipal hall where your intended business shall be located. In addition to these documents, bring the land title or rental agreement form, tax forms and other documents for the business license application at the city or municipal hall.

Go directly to the city or municipal hall’s licensing office, fill out the forms and pay the fees. The fees depend on the kind of business you intend to open. The licensing office bases this on your DTI registration certificate.

Wait for the approval and release of the business permit and business license plate. This may take anywhere between one and three weeks.

Bring your DTI registration certificate and business permit, along with the other basic documents, to the local Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) office for the tax registration. For a sole proprietorship, you just need to use your existing personal tax identification number (TIN), if you already have one. Otherwise, you will be given a new TIN and this shall be a permanent number you must use when paying your personal income tax and sole proprietorship business tax. Only registrations for partnerships or corporations need a separate, non-personal TIN. Pay the registration fees.

Your tax registration certificate should be ready for pick up at the BIR office within a few weeks.

Prepare your business for opening and post all your business permits, registration certificates and license in visible areas within your business location, as required by Philippine law.

Tips & Warnings

  • If you are registering a partnership business, you don't register the business at the DTI. As with corporations, you must register the business at the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). There are additional requirements for SEC registrations for partnerships and corporations. More information is available at the SEC website.

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