Key takeaways

  • Business loans require significant documentation
  • Both personal and business finances are reviewed
  • Lenders may take a few days to months to process your information

Every business loan requires you to submit a long list of documents to prove your business can handle the debt. These frequently include your personal financial information alongside your business’s revenue, income and tax information.

Findings from the 2022 Small Business Credit Survey by the Federal Reserve Banks show that 40 percent of firms applied for financing last year, but only 53 percent of those businesses were fully approved for funding.

To increase your chances of being fully or partially approved for funding, you will need to provide accurate documents and meet lender requirements when you apply.

Documents required for a business loan

You’ll generally find that traditional banks and credit unions require the most documentation. But even online lenders like Upstart, Credibly and Fundbox have documentation requirements that you must meet to get approved for funding

You’ll also need to specify the loan’s purpose, how much you need to borrow and how you’ll repay it. Here’s what you’ll typically need to apply for a business loan.

Personal and financial information 

Lenders want to confirm your identity and learn more about your financial health. The common personal information a lender requires is: 

  • Name
  • Address
  • Phone number
  • Date of birth
  • Social Security number

It’s also helpful to have your personal bank statements from the past year and income documentation handy if the lender requests them during the application process. 

Small business lenders typically weigh your personal finances alongside your business finances. The lender will use your personal information to get a copy of your credit reports and scores. These factors affect your approval odds and the loan interest rate you receive. 

If you’re requesting funding for a new venture, you may also be asked to provide a resume that reflects industry experience. 

Business licenses and registration

Gather any business formation and licensure documents you received from the state or local government when starting your business. These documents prove that you’re a legitimate business and include the following: 

  • Articles of incorporation 
  • Franchise agreement (if applicable) 
  • Business licenses and permits (if applicable) 

Also, prepare to enter your Employer Identification Number (EIN) on the loan application.

Bankrate insight
To find your EIN, check your IRS notice, most recent tax return (if your company has filed before) or other business documents to retrieve your EIN. If you cannot locate it, call the IRS directly for assistance.

Legal documents 

The lender may want a copy of the commercial lease agreement if your company operates outside your home. You should also have any contracts between your company and third parties handy if the lender requests them. 

Business plan

It’s not uncommon for lenders to request a written business plan before making a lending decision. You can create a lean or traditional business plan, but both should communicate your strategy to grow a profitable business. 

Key elements to include are your:

  • Executive summary
  • Company description
  • Market research
  • Detailed descriptions of your products or services
  • Marketing strategy
  • Funding request

You can use the guidance provided in Bankrate’s guide to writing a business plan to help you get started or hire a professional business writer to create a business plan for your company. 

Financial documents

Lenders want to know if your company’s income is sufficient for timely monthly loan payments. They will also confirm if your company is in good financial health and can afford to take on more debt by examining these financial documents: 

Bank statements can generally be retrieved from your online banking dashboard or by visiting a local branch. Ask your accountant for copies of your financial statements if you don’t have them on file. Some lenders may also ask for your business credit report if they don’t pull it themselves. You can order a copy from Dun & Bradstreet, Experian or Equifax. 

Bankrate insight
If you’re applying for a secured loan requiring collateral, the lender will likely request a document that includes the collateral’s market value. You can have the property professionally appraised if you don’t have this information in written form.

Documents needed for SBA loan

Beyond the documentation requirements already listed, here’s what you’ll need to apply for an SBA 7(a) loan

  • SBA Form 1919 (Borrower Information Form)
  • SBA Form 413 (Personal Finance Statement)
  • Current profit and loss statement, along with schedules from the prior three fiscal years
  • One year of projected financial statements and a detailed explanation of how your business will meet these projections 
  • List of affiliates and subsidiaries and their names and addresses 
  • Written document detailing your company’s history, challenges and why you’re requesting funding 
  • List of business loans you’ve applied for
  • Proof of equity, if you’re purchasing an existing business

If you’re seeking another type of SBA loan, consult the SBA-approved lender you’re considering to learn more about what you’ll need to prepare the application package. 

How to submit your application 

Once you’ve gathered your documents, the final step is formally applying with your chosen lender. Most allow you to apply online and upload the required documents, though some may require an in-person visit and physical copies.

The lender will review your application and contact you with any questions or additional documentation requests they may have. 

You’ll receive a lending decision once the lender reviews your application and supporting documents. It could take a few days or weeks to hear back from the lender. If you apply for an SBA loan, the decision timeline may be longer. 

The bottom line

Each lender has its own lending criteria, and you’ll need to provide personal and financial documents to be considered for a loan. 

Before applying, gather the required documents to help streamline the application process. It’s also best to contact the lender to confirm the documents needed to process your application. And if the lender requests additional information during their review, provide it promptly to get a loan decision sooner.

Frequently asked questions

  • Banks typically require more information than an alternative or online lender. Because of this, you will likely need to gather all the documents listed above to complete an application for a business loan.
  • At a minimum, you will need to provide documentation proving your small business’s revenue and outlining how you will repay the loan.
  • For your application, you must show strong personal finances and at least two years of business tax returns. Other documents may be required, though lenders that work with startups are generally more lenient.