If you are about to launch a start-up, you have no doubt asked yourself, “Do I need a business license?”
No matter what type of business you own—whether it’s in a physical storefront or based online—and regardless if it’s a small or large company, you are going to need to obtain and maintain a business license (possibly more than one).
Business licenses can be complicated, so we have put together a blog that addresses the often-confusing topic of business licenses.
What is a business license?
A business license is a mandatory approval or permit issued by a government agency that authorizes a business to operate within a specific jurisdiction. This license is often an additional requirement beyond the registration of a business at the state level. Whether a business is required to have a specific license depends on such factors as the nature of the business, the types of products it sells and the location of the business.
What is the point of a business license?
Business licenses hold businesses accountable for their actions and behavior as well as protect the health and safety of the public.
Professional licenses indicate the level of expertise a particular professional possesses.
Sales tax licenses are required for the sale of taxable goods.
The government uses licenses to track revenue for tax purposes.
Who needs a business license?
Almost every company with an income stream will be required to have some type of business license, permit or registration in order to operate legally, in full compliance with government regulations.
Where can I get a business license?
Business licenses are issued by all levels of government and, depending on what type of goods you plan to sell, you may need to obtain a business license on federal, state and/or local levels.
Certain businesses are required to obtain a federal business license, such as the sale of alcohol or firearms.
State business licenses differ from state to state, so be sure to find out what your state requirements may be.
How do I get a business license?
First, determine where your business will be operating—which state, county and city.
You can find your state and city regulations on the SBA website.
Make sure you have your company’s Federal Tax ID Number (EIN).
Every type of business has a specific business code, so know your code when you apply for your license.
Check to see if, in addition to a business license, you may need a permit, as certain types of businesses need both.
Be sure to pay the filing fee, which can range from $50 to $400 or more.
You may need to get fingerprinted, depending on the type of business and the state.
What happens if I do not obtain a business license?
Your business could be liable for significant damages and/or penalties.
Neither you nor your company will be protected by local, state or federal ordinances.
You will likely have to pay a fine.
Your business may be temporarily or permanently shut down.
Your company’s reputation may be tarnished.
You could be held personally liable.
What happens after I have my business license?
Many business licenses require annual or biannual renewal.
Businesses should rely on their own internal compliance personnel in order to stay on top of business license renewals. Although most licensing jurisdictions do send renewal notices, companies should not rely on these reminders.
Our partnership with LicenseLogix makes it easy for new and existing businesses to obtain all the licenses and permits your business may need. Their Client License Information Center, or CLiC, makes it easy for you to manage the business license renewal process, thus avoiding late charges and fines.
Keep in mind that it is not just new businesses that have to think about business licenses. Existing businesses must be mindful as well. Many situations could cause your company to fall out of compliance. The following are circumstances in which the requirements of your existing business license could change, and your company could need to update its business license:
Your company began transacting business in another city, county of state
Your company hired a new employee
Your company began selling a new product or service
You opened an additional business location
You closed a business location
Business license compliance is an important aspect of owning a company, but it doesn’t have to be stressful or tedious, however, some governmental agencies are easier to deal with and more efficient than others.
To form an LLC or corporation, you can call us at 1-800-345-2677 9-5 EST Mon-Fri. This blog outlines some of the possible licenses you may need, and our partners at LicenseLogix can further guide you in regard to your specific type of business.
Disclaimer: Harvard Business Services, Inc. is a document filing service that provides general information. We cannot render legal or financial advice and your use of this site is subject to additional terms and conditions. HBS is not affiliated with Harvard University nor the state of Delaware.
Disclaimer: Harvard Business Services, Inc. is a document filing service that provides general information. We cannot render legal or financial advice and your use of this site is subject to additional terms and conditions. HBS is not affiliated with Harvard University.