License needed? | Switch Idea Forum | Switch Idea Blog
Jul 5, 2017

License needed?

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What all license and permits do I need before I start my new venture?

Jul 5, 2017


Following are some of the most common licenses and permits homebased small-business owners may need and where to go for more information.

Business License Contact your city's business license department to find out about getting a business license, which essentially grants you the right (after you pay a fee, of course) to operate a business in that city.

Fire Department Permit You may need to get a permit from your fire department if your business uses any flammable materials or if your premises will be open to the public.

Air and Water Pollution Control Permit Many cities now have departments that work to control air and water pollution. If you burn any materials, discharge anything into the sewers or waterways, or use products that produce gas (such as paint sprayers), you may have to get a special permit from this department in your city or county.

Sign Permit Some cities and suburbs have sign ordinances that restrict the size, location and sometimes the lighting and type of sign you can use outside your business. To avoid costly mistakes, check regulations and secure the written approval of your landlord (if you rent a house or apartment) before you go to the expense of having a sign designed and installed.

County Permits County governments often require essentially the same types of permits and licenses as cities. If your business is outside any city or town's jurisdiction, these permits apply to you.

State Licenses In many states, people in certain occupations must have licenses or occupational permits. Often, they have to pass state examinations before they can get these permits and conduct business.

Federal Licenses In most cases, you won't have to worry about this. However, a few types of businesses do require federal licensing, including meat processors, radio and TV stations, and investment advisory services. The Federal Trade Commission can tell you if your business requires a federal license.

Sales Tax License There are two reasons you need a certificate of resale (in other states, this may be called a "seller's permit" or a "certificate of authority"). First, any homebased business selling taxable goods and services must pay sales taxes on what it sells. The definition of a taxable service varies from state to state. Depending on individual state rulings, both the parts and labor portions of your bill may be taxable.

Sales taxes vary by state and are imposed at the retail level. It's important to know the rules in the states and localities where you operate your business because if you're a retailer, you must collect state sales tax on each sale you make.

Before you open your doors, be sure to register to collect sales tax by applying for each separate place of business you have in the state. A license or permit is important because in some states it's a criminal offense to undertake sales without one.

Health Department Permits If you plan to sell food, either directly to customers as in a restaurant or as a wholesaler to other retailers, you'll need a county health department permit.

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