Federal Business Licenses
Created by FindLaw's team of legal writers and editors | Last reviewed September 21, 2022
You made it. The business of your dreams has become a reality. In running your business, you have many things to think about on a daily basis: overhead costs, profits, employee satisfaction. However, one of the most important topics to be aware of is whether or not you will need a federal business license to legally to operating your company.
Follow along as FindLaw takes you through the different types of federal business licenses you should be familiar with. For more information, see FindLaw's Starting a Business section.
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Employer Identification Number (EIN)
With the exception of Sole Proprietors, most business types must apply for an Employer Identification Number (EIN) regardless of whether they have employees. Visit the IRS site to find out if you need an EIN, and if so, whether you are eligible to apply through the IRS's online application.
Licenses and Permits
Most businesses do not require a federal license or permit. However, if you are engaged in one of the following activities, you should contact the responsible federal agency to determine the requirements for doing business:
- Investment Advising - Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC);
- Drug Manufacturing - Food and Drug Administration (FDA);
- Preparation of meat products - Food and Drug Administration (FDA);
- Broadcasting - Federal Communications Commission (FCC);
- Ground transportation - Department of Transportation (DOT);
- Selling alcohol, tobacco or firearms - Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (AFT).
Registering Intellectual Property
Federal registration of intellectual property, including patents, trademarks, trade names and copyright, provide business owners with exclusive use of intellectual property in the U.S. as well as in a large number of foreign countries.
If you are in the business of manufacturing, wholesaling, importing, or selling alcoholic beverage such as beer, wine or hard liquor, you will need a federal permit. This list includes distilleries, breweries, or wineries. The Alcohol, Tobacco, and Trade Bureau (TTB) has strict rules regarding when, where, and how alcohol can be handled, so be sure to know the laws and get the correct permits or you could face hefty fines or even risk having your business shut down altogether.
Radio, Television, and Broadcast
These days it isn't terribly difficult to broadcast a creative podcast or film a television series from the comfort of your own home.You can reach hundreds, if not thousands, of audience members with just a few components. If you engage in these activities, you may be required to obtain a permit from the FCC. Particularly if you are broadcasting a radio show, you will be required to pass an examination even if you are an amateur.
Firearms, Ammunition, and Explosives
Anytime your business is involved with manufacturing, dealing and importing firearms, ammunitions and explosives, you will have to meet strict requirements under the law. ATF also regulates these activities in an effort make sure the general public's welfare is put first. Be sure that your business follows all the licensing requirements or consult an attorney for assistance.
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