Starting a new business is an exciting prospect that involves a great deal of planning and research. Knowing which government agencies to contact regarding licensing, permits and questions can be tricky, but most of the time all the necessary certifications can be obtained with a few applications and a little processing time. Be sure to check federal, state and local guidelines to make sure your new company is in compliance with every branch of government. Use the following frequently asked questions to ensure you have all the necessary paperwork and licenses on opening day.
1. Which Agency Should I Contact for a Business License?
You will likely need multiple licenses from different levels of government. States require nearly all businesses to register and obtain a state business license for record keeping and tax purposes, even if they do not sell taxable goods. Registering with the state is also an imperative step when checking availability of the name of your new venture.
Cities and localities have even more regulations for businesses, and most require their own license in addition to the state certificate. The city offices will have information regarding sales tax, the licensing process and any other permits your municipality requires.
There are some industries, such as aviation, agriculture, alcohol and broadcasting (both radio and television) that are regulated on a federal level. You will need special national permits to legally do business in any such trades.
2. What Are the State Licensing Requirements?
State licensing requirements vary, and most states have a specific department that is responsible for processing licensing applications and answering questions regarding certifications. Contact the state’s Department of Commerce if you have inquiries about specific regulations in your area.
If you plan to do business under a name that is different from your legally registered title, you may also be required to apply for a “doing business as” (DBA) permit, which is obtained in addition to the traditional business license.
For occupations that require a professional license, you will need to register with the state licensing department. Certificates must be kept current and often require continuing education courses or credits to be renewed. There are many occupations that require this type of licensing:
- Doctors and nurses
- Real estate agents
- Insurance agents
- Cosmetologists and barbers
- Bill Collectors
3. Which Local Agencies Should I Contact Regarding Permits?
You may need to contact several agencies to obtain all the necessary certifications. Plan to check with the following agencies prior to opening up shop:
- City government: A business license can usually be obtained by contacting your local city government office, which can direct you to the correct department and provide the necessary forms and fee schedule.
- Building inspector: If you will be renovating a retail or office space or constructing a new building to house your company, you will likely need a building permit, which can be obtained through the city’s building inspection department.
- Fire marshal: You may also need a permit or a certificate from the fire department, verifying the occupancy limit and emergency exits.
- Health department: Contact the county health department if your business will be serving or selling food or drinks, and be prepared to pass an inspection before you receive your permit.
- Planning and zoning: Some cities require zoning permits for certain types of businesses or following a zoning change.
4. Do I Need a Business License for My Home-Based Company?
While many home-based businesses have fewer permit requirements, it is essential to check with both local and state agencies and apply for the appropriate licenses. Many cities require all home businesses to obtain a license, and some even expect independent consultants who work from home to apply as well. Also be sure to check your subdivision covenants and restrictions (CCRs) for rules regulating home businesses.
Checking with state, local and sometimes federal agencies will ensure you have all the necessary paperwork ready when it’s time to begin helping customers.
The content on our website is only meant to provide general information and is not legal advice. We make our best efforts to make sure the information is accurate, but we cannot guarantee it. Do not rely on the content as legal advice. For assistance with legal problems or for a legal inquiry please contact you attorney.