Just about every business, from a small retail business to a large corporation operating in multiple states, has to keep up with business license, permit and registration requirements for public safety, tax, or other reasons. Sometimes, even a home-based business needs a local home occupation permit. So too may a business with employees working from home.
Do I need a business license or permit?
State and local governments (like counties, cities, or towns) usually impose these business obligations, but sometimes the federal government does too.
CT Note: In today’s highly regulated environment, keeping up with your business licensing helps maintain good public relations and your good reputation.
How much does a small business license cost?
The cost of a small business license varies depending on the type of business activity you are engaged in and where your business is located.
Business license, permit, and registration requirements vary by location and by type of business. Businesses that have to collect sales and use tax have to comply with registration, license, or permit requirements from the state tax authorities. Other common business licensing requirements include:
- Basic business license
- Tax ID number (aka EIN or FEIN and State Tax Numbers)
- Home occupation permit
- Zoning permit or land use permit
- Health department permit
- Building permit
- Alarm permit
- Fire and police department permit
Consequences for doing business without a business license
Usually, a business that fails to comply with its licensing obligations has to pay a fine or penalty. In some cases, however, authorities could shut down your business operations – costing both money and goodwill. And in recent years some authorities have increased enforcement against businesses that haven’t been complying.
What type of business licenses, permits, and registrations do I need?
Given the large number of local, state, and federal agencies, a business may need any variety of specific licenses. And, these requirements can change over time.
CT note: Many business licenses have to be renewed periodically.
Because there are so many different types of regulated business activities, a change in operational activities or the addition of a new product or service may require a new license.
CT note: Opening a new location may also require a new license, permit or registration.
Am I staying in compliance?
Over time, to stay in compliance, it helps to remember that requirements are not the only thing that changes—your business changes, too.
CT note: Have you moved to a new location? Have you moved your headquarters?
These kinds of changes could mean updating any registration, license, employer obligation filings, or permit requirements.
A company with structural changes—such as converting a corporation to an LLC or vice versa or merging with another company—could also require changes to be made in order to stay in compliance.
Another thing to consider is that if the officer or other responsible party listed on your registration, license, employer obligation filings, or permit changes, then you would likely be required to inform the appropriate jurisdictions of the change.
Some products, services, and industries require more licenses
If your business involves the sale of certain types of products (like lottery tickets, liquor, or gasoline) or certain types of services (like medical care, auto repair, real estate or insurance), you might need a special permit or occupational license.
Some industries, like daycare or aviation, are more highly regulated than others. These kinds of industries include the following:
- Agriculture (pesticides and fertilizers)
- Debt Management and Collection
- Financial services
- Firearms and Explosives
- Hazardous materials
- Healthcare and Social Services
- Mining and Oil/Gas
Regardless of what your business does, it’s vital to keep up with your business licensing requirements. It avoids unnecessary fines, helps maintain your good reputation, and helps keep the wheels turning.