When you start a new business, do you need to register your business? How do you determine what licenses and permits you will need for your new start-up business?

Business licensing requirements vary from city to city, county to county, and state to state. Some require all businesses to register, and they collect annual business licensing fees. Others don't require licenses or registration for unincorporated businesses unless you are doing business under a fictitious name (also known as a DBA or "doing business as").

This means that if you are operating as Alice Jones, caterer, you may not be required to register, but if you do business as Gourmet Delights Catering you will have to register.

Begin the process by calling the city licensing bureau, the county recorders office, or the county registrars office to find out their licensing requirements and the application procedure. This way, you will have all the necessary materials ready when you go to fill out your application.

Applications are usually processed through your city or county clerks office, located at city hall or the county administrative building (the same bureau that processes documents like marriage licenses). Look in the government blue pages of your local phone directory for the location.

When you visit your city/county government, be sure to describe your business in detail and ask a lot of questions.

This way, you will be sure to find out about all the permits and licenses you will need. Remember, it is your responsibility as the business owner to adhere to any and all regulations that apply to your business -- even if it is only a part-time venture.

Here are some other business regulations you may need to be concerned with:

Sellers permit

Mostly for retailers in states with a sales tax, this is also known as a resale permit; it allows you to avoid paying sales tax on merchandise when you purchase it from wholesalers; this permit is issued through the state entity that is responsible for taxes.

Food permit

For businesses that make or sell food; may require inspection by your local health department.

Liquor license

Necessary if you intend to sell alcohol; regulated at the state level and sometimes the local level.

Building permits, fire certificates, zoning permits

These are regulated by your local planning department.

Police permit

Some businesses require police clearance or permit.

State occupational licenses

Some occupations such as doctors, lawyers, day care facilities, general contractors, etc. require special state or local licenses; your state consumer affairs office should be able to help you.


Small Business Guide


Starting Up Your Business - Business Registration, Licenses & Permits

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