A licensed commercial painter working.
ComplianceJuly 25, 2023

What licenses do commercial painters need?

Do you need a license to start a painting business? Commercial painting licensing laws vary from state to state, as do specialty classifications for commercial painters and application requirements. Before you start operating in a state, it’s important to be aware of what licenses are required in your jurisdiction.

In addition to licenses specific to commercial painting, you may also need to apply for general business licenses and payroll registrations.

If you’re starting a painting business, here are answers to common FAQs about licensing requirements.

What specialty license does a commercial painter need?

Most states require commercial painters to obtain a general contractors license with a specialty classification in painting.

A contractor is broadly defined as anyone who undertakes to construct, alter, repair, improve, or demolish any building, road, or makes any other improvement.

Specialty licenses protect the public from incompetence and dishonesty in those who provide construction services. They also provide some assurance that a contractor has the required skill and character, understands local laws and codes, and knows the basics of a contracting business.

What are the requirements for a commercial painter’s license?

Requirements for a painting license vary by state, but a general contractor license typically involves the following:

  • Examination by the qualifying party
  • Surety bond
  • Proof of insurance
  • Financial statements
  • Letters of reference
  • Proof of experience

In Arizona, commercial painters must obtain a general contractor license with the C-34 Painting and Wall Covering specialty. Painters must first pass a general business law exam and a trade exam tailored to this specialty.

In Florida, commercial paint contractors may register with each individual county or obtain a state-wide contractor license (after completion of an exam and demonstrating relevant experience).

Some states don’t require a license but may require you to register with the Secretary of State and/or obtain licenses from a local jurisdiction.

Do commercial painter licenses require renewal?

Typically, a painter’s license must be renewed every few years, and it is critical to stay compliant.

What happens if I don’t have a commercial painter’s license?

Many states have ramped up efforts to prevent unlicensed painting contractors from operating via state-run task forces and campaigns to increase public awareness.

If you are required to have a painter’s license and you don’t follow the proper application process, you may face harsh civil and criminal penalties. For example, in California, an unlicensed contractor may not recover any compensation for their work, and a party may recover all compensation paid to the unlicensed contractor. The contractor may also face a misdemeanor charge, up to six months in jail, and a potential administrative fee of up to $15,000. California requires a C-33 license for all painting contractors that want to bid on residential and commercial painting projects where the cost of labor and materials exceeds $500.

Easily manage complex requirements
There are over 75,000 federal, state, and local jurisdictions.  As their compliance requirements become more complex, we’re the partner that can help you manage them all.

What other licenses and registrations must commercial painters obtain?

In addition to specialty licensing, there are many licensing, permit, and tax registrations that may be imposed on a commercial painting business. Here are common licensing-related requirements for any business:

  • Basic business operation license. This is a license from the city in which your business will operate, or from the local county (if the business will be operated outside of the city's legal boundaries).
  • Federal tax ID (EIN) number. Issued by the IRS, the EIN is also called a tax identification number or employer identification number and is required for almost all types of businesses.
  • State tax ID number. Issued by your state’s department of revenue or taxation, the state tax ID number is also called a tax registration number.
  • DBA/fictitious business name registration. The doing business as (DBA) or fictitious business name registration happens with the appropriate state or local jurisdiction.
  • Zoning and land use permits. Local governments’ zoning laws may prohibit certain business activity in designated areas.
  • Building permit. If you plan on remodeling or building a commercial space, you'll need to get a building permit.
  • Sales tax license/sellers permit/resellers permit. This license/permit has many names, and those names vary by state, but it is required for the selling of almost all products and services.
  • Workers Comp Insurance. In most states, workers’ compensation coverage is mandatory if you have at least one employee.


Operating a painting business is rewarding but can also be time-consuming – especially keeping up with laws and regulations.

CT Corporation can help you stay up to date with changing requirements and forms so you can focus on your clients and the job at hand. We complete license applications efficiently and correctly, so you don’t have to spend time chasing down the proper painting licenses. Once your commercial painters license has been issued, we ensure that you remain compliant will all licensing laws.

To learn more about how CT Corporation can help you manage your business license needs, contact a CT Corporation Service Representative or call (844) 878-1800.

The CT Corporation staff is comprised of experts, offering global, regional, and local expertise on registered agent, incorporation, and legal entity compliance.

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