Apply for Business
Licenses and Permits
Get Legal Permission to do Business
Eager to start your local business? Before you do, you will most likely need to obtain one or several business licenses and permits from different levels of government, including state, county, and city. Having the proper licenses and permits will ensure your business is legally compliant with local and state laws. Start your online research!
This guide does not cover professional licenses that require education, training, or examination. It also does not cover federal licenses and permits since these apply to a few federally regulated industries. For more information about federal licenses and permits, visit U.S. Small Business Administration's website.
Types of Licenses and Permits
Know about the different business licenses and permits your business may need.
As you research your state, county, and city for business licenses and permits, you will find different types of licenses and permits, such as:
a general business license (applies to any business)
a special business license (for specific businesses)
a permit to collect sales tax (also known as a seller's permit)
safety, health, and environmental permits (for specific business activities)
a permit to sell/store/transport/use certain regulated products/items
a permit to provide a regulated service
building, zoning, and planning permits
home occupation permit (for home-based businesses)
Depending on your business industry and business activities, your business may need just one or several of these types of licenses and permits.
Cost of Licenses and Permits
Calculate the costs for all applicable business licenses and permits.
The cost to obtain a business license or permit varies by state, county, and city. However, there are two costs to consider, the cost to get a new license or permit and the cost to renew it.
Most state and local governments will price their business license and permits as a general flat fee or a custom fee based on one or more of these common business factors:
the number of employees
expected business revenue/income
the number of business locations
the number of company vehicles
the time of year you applied
Most business licenses and permits will require renewal, usually yearly or longer. The cost to renew a license or permit can be more, less, or the same as the initial cost.
It's essential to keep track of renewal dates, especially if you have multiple licenses and permits across different levels of government, to avoid paying late pentiles for not renewing your license or permit on time.
Licenses and Permits Research
Search for business licenses and permits at each level of government.
Not sure where to start your online research? Start with your state government since many cities and counties require you to obtain all necessary state business licenses and permits before applying for a local license or permit. Afterward, visit your county's website and, lastly, your city's website.
Finding a License and Permit
The ease of finding a license or permit by state, county, and city will vary. Some government websites make it simple to find all licenses and permits in one place. In contrast, others require you to visit separate government websites to find a license or permit, which will require more careful and extensive research.
Doing Business in an Unincorporated Area
When doing your local online research, you may not find an official local government website for an area where your business will be located or where you will do business. An area that doesn't have an official local government is classified as unincorporated--this is most common in small towns and rural areas.
If you find yourself in this situation, visit the county's website for more information regarding licenses and permits in unincorporated areas.
Doing Business in Multiple Areas
If you will be doing business in more than one city, town, or county, it's vital that you check for required licenses and permits for each city, town, and county.
Want an easier way to find the licenses and permits your business needs?
Use a professional online service that can do the research for you and provide you with a detailed report of the licenses and permits your business will need. Consider the following top-rated companies and compare prices and features: