Numerous permits and licenses must often be obtained from local, state and federal authorities when you start a business. Consult this checklist to help guide you through the sometimes convoluted process involved in making sure your fledgling company is in full compliance with applicable rules and regulations. Bear in mind that this list does not cover all situations. Each business is different and the laws in your locality or state may vary greatly from the generalized guidelines described here. It’s recommended that you consult with an attorney experienced in business law in your area to understand precisely how the law may affect you and your enterprise.
Business License and Permit Checklist
- Obtain a license to operate a business from the city in which your business will be located. You may also require a license from the county in which the business will reside.
- If required, obtain additional licenses from cities and/or counties in which your business will operate.
- Contact the IRS to obtain a federal employer identification number (EIN), which is sometimes known as a tax identification number. Most businesses will be required to obtain an EIN.
- If required, obtain a tax ID number from your state tax authority.
- Register your business name with your state and secure a permit to operate under that name. Most businesses will need to complete this step, which is often termed a “doing business as” or DBA permit.
- Obtain land-use and zoning permits, especially if you operate certain home-based enterprises or engage in new manufacturing. Depending on the situation, you may also need to request a variance.
- Secure any required health department permits. This is particularly important if your business will prepare and/or sell food products.
- Secure a sales tax license.
- Obtain fire department permits if needed. This is of special importance for businesses that attract large numbers of people, such as bars and nightclubs.
- If your business will entail the sale of any of the following, you may also be required to obtain special permits or licenses from your state(s) of operation:
- Lottery tickets
- Secure any special occupational and professional licenses from your state(s) of operation if your business will be providing specific services subject to state regulation, such as:
- Legal representation
- Automotive repair
- Medical services
- Tax consulting and/or preparation
- Insurance products
- Real estate services
- If your company will involve any of the following, you may be required to secure special business permits or licenses from the federal government (the agencies to be contacted are in parentheses):
- Investment advice (Securities & Exchange Commission)
- Drug manufacturing (Food and Drug Administration)
- Preparation of meat and/or poultry products (Food and Drug Administration)
- Radio and/or television broadcasting (Federal Communications Commission)
- Ground transportation (Department of Transportation)
- Manufacture of alcohol, tobacco or firearms (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms)
- Sale of firearms (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms)
Online businesses are generally treated the same as any business with a store front or real-world facilities. You will usually be required to comply with all the permitting and licensing rules that apply to a physical company. However, online businesses don’t have to follow the state licensing rules of states in which the purchasers of their products and/or services are located. They are only required to abide by the license and permit regulations of their home states. In other words, if you run an online company located in Florida, you only have to abide by Florida’s permitting and licensing rules. You can ignore those of other states.
Enterprises run from within your home must also comply with the rules for licenses and permits that standalone businesses are bound by. This is particularly true if your home-based company involves customers frequently coming into your abode to conduct business.
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.