Did you know that, in addition to state and federal certifications, there are a variety of local regulations and licensing requirements for businesses? If you are thinking of starting a new company, it’s a good idea to look into the local laws and apply for licenses well in advance. Cities have a variety of rules and guidelines you must follow in order to be in compliance with the law, and acquiring the correct permits may involve contacting several different agencies and filling out multiple applications.
Although you probably will need to register your business with the state and obtain a business license and sales tax permit through their departments, you must also contact local agencies to determine city licensing requirements. Many municipalities require their own business license, and employees at the city office should be able to direct you to the department that is responsible for such permits. Obtaining the license is traditionally a simple process that requires an application and a small fee.
You will need to have the business name in order to register and confirm that the title isn’t already in use by another company. If you plan to do business under another name, you will likely need to apply for a “doing business as,” or DBA, permit through the city or county.
Some municipalities also charge sales tax on purchases or services, and you will be required to register for a permit if your company plans to sell taxable goods. During this process, you will be given instructions on how to collect and submit sales tax and which department to contact if you have questions.
There are many other permits that may be required to get started with your new company, including the following:
- Zoning and land use permit: Zoning and land use permits are often necessary for large companies that will require generous parking and also for home-based businesses. Businesses wanting to install signage may also be required to obtain a permit and verify that their sign will be in compliance with local rules and regulations regarding height, lighting and visibility.
- Building permit: Many times retail or office space needs some renovating to prepare it for your new venture. Remodeling almost always requires a building permit, as does new construction or any changes to electrical wiring. Occasionally a permit may also be required from the fire department to certify emergency exit access and occupancy limits.
- Health permit: Businesses that plan to serve food or drinks need to obtain a permit from the county health department and pass an inspection before opening day.
- Environmental permit: Municipalities may have environmental guidelines in addition to those imposed at the state and federal level and sometimes require a permit for companies that may impact air or water quality. Waste disposal permits also fall under this category and may be required for manufacturing and other companies.
Other specific situations require specialized permits. Professionals such as doctors, lawyers and accountants must obtain professional licenses and may be required to show proof of certification in order to acquire a local business license.
Home-based businesses are not exempt from zoning or licensing laws, and those considering headquartering their company in their home should research city ordinances as well as covenants, conditions and restrictions, or CC&Rs, for their specific neighborhood. Many subdivisions limit the types of home-based companies that are allowed and implement parameters regarding the number of vehicles that can be parked at a residence for business purposes.
Contacting local agencies in advance gives you plenty of time to fill out licensing applications and make arrangements for any necessary inspections. Be sure to check with federal and state governments as well to ensure your company is in compliance with all aspects of the law.
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.