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Finding Information about Licenses and Permits for Your Business

You can find a business license or permit for most any occasion. Which licenses and permits does your business need? The kind of licenses and permits you need really depends on in which city, county, and state your business is located.

Ask questions, starting with your city and/or county government. Describe the kind of business you have in mind, and a friendly worker will likely direct you to the appropriate forms and requirements. They may even have a special booklet or package of forms specifically for new small businesses. After you check with your local government, contact the state and federal agencies that apply to your business.

Some of the most common licenses and permits include the following:

  • Business license: This is the standard permit to operate a business locally, and it is required of most every business, no matter how large or small.

  • Miscellaneous local permits: Contact your local business agency to see if any other business permits are required.

  • Police permit: Some businesses require police clearance or permit. You may also need a police permit if your business has an alarm that generates a police response when it goes off.

  • Food permit: For businesses that make or sell food.

  • Seller’s permit: Required for businesses that sell taxable products in states with sales tax.

    The definition of taxable products varies from state to state. Graphic design services, for example, may be considered a nontaxable service in one state but a taxable service in another.

  • Building permits, fire certificates, and zoning permits: Check with your local planning department for restrictions on the kinds of business activities that can be conducted in the building you intend to use.

  • State occupational licenses: Certain occupations require a special license.

  • Federal export licenses: If you want to export goods to another country, your business will be subject to all kinds of federal regulation. Get more information on this from the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Contact your local Small Business Development Center, chamber of commerce, or other economic development organization for guidance on local, state, and federal license and permit issues.

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