How-To

Licenses & Permits: Must Haves

It is easy to forget all of the licenses and permits businesses need to get before they can actually start running. It isn’t the most pleasant experience, but once taken care of, you will feel a lot better. Don’t make the mistake of not taking care of this in the beginning - and it is a common mistake. The following list of licenses and permits are for home-based and small business owners.

Business License

To find out about getting a business license, you would need to contact your city’s business license department. This license, after you pay the fee, gives you the right to operate your business in that particular city. Once you file your license application, the zoning department or city planning department will have to check to see if your area is zoned for the purpose of your business.

You cannot operate in an area that is not zoned for your particular type of business, that is unless you get a variance or conditional-use permit. If you need to obtain this, you will need to present your case before the city’s planning commission. If you can show that your business will not disrupt the neighborhood, it is quite easy to get a variance.

If you plan on starting the business in your home, you should yourself find out what the zoning ordinances are for your area. Residential neighborhoods are quite strict with their zoning regulations.

Since the process of filling out the paperwork and filing them can be a hassle, there are many services that can do this for you, or you can file all online. Visit www.businesslicense.com for three ways to get your licenses/permits: online, professional advice, or form preparation service. Their costs vary from $19.99 to $174.99. Or another option would be to go to www.businessnamesusa.com, who also have more information, advice, and guidelines for start up businesses.

Fire Department Permit

If your business uses any type of flammable materials, or if your premises will be open to the public, you will need to get a fire department permit. It is very common that you will have to get this permit before you even open. And in some areas, you may not have to get a permit, but you may be subject to inspections. Areas where many people congregate are especially susceptible to fire department scrutiny.

Sign Permit

Some cities have size restrictions for signs, location, and even the lighting and type of sign that you are allowed to display outside of your business. Before you go through the cost and hassle of designing and installing a sign, check to make sure if there are any regulations.

Air and Water Pollution Control Permit

Now more than ever, this is a big issue. Many cities have special departments that deal with just this area. If you burn anything, discharge anything into the sewer system, or use products that produce gas, this is the special permit that you may have to get within your city or county. You may also have to get approval before doing any construction or beginning operation. Check with the EPA (www.epa.gov) in your area regarding any state and federal regulations.

County Permits

As with cities, county governments often require the same type of permits to start a business. If your business happens to lay outside any city or town’s jurisdiction, you are subject to county permits. But there is good news: County regulations usually aren’t as strict as others.

Sales Tax License

Before you open your doors for business, you need to register to collect sales tax. You do this by applying for each separate place of business that you have in the state. Don’t forget about this one because in many states, it is a crime to undertake sales without a license.

This type of license is also referred to as a “seller’s permit” or a “certificate of authority.” There are two reasons as to why you need this type of license, whatever you may call it. A sales tax license is needed for any home-based business that sells taxable goods and services, therefore the business must pay sales taxes on what it sells. It varies from state to state what the actual definition of a taxable item is. And depending on the individual state rulings, the parts and portions of labor of your bill may all be taxable. It is important to know the rules that are in your state regarding this.

Health Department Permits: Food with Fashion?

This you will need if you plan to sell any type of food, either directly or indirectly to consumers. Directly would be as in a restaurant and indirectly would refer to wholesale. The cost for the permit varies according to each state, but average cost is about $25. It also depends on the size of your business and the type and amount of equipment you have. And don’t forget, you will most likely be inspected by the health department before you can get your permit. You should contact the health department for whichever state you are in.

You can find a list of requirements by state at SBA.gov here!

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