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State Business Licenses

You and your business partners finally took the plunge. You are throwing your hat into the restaurant owner arena and are starting a business. You've located a small space in downtown, hired a few employees, including a coveted chef, and are ready to roll. But don't forget you'll also need to adhere to your state's business licensing requirements. While business licensing requirements vary from state to state, some of the more common types are listed below.

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Business Licenses

A state business license is the main document required for tax purposes and conducting other basic business functions. Many states have established small business assistance agencies to help small businesses comply with state requirements.

Why do you need a business license? Simply put, if your goal is to generate revenue by selling goods or services to the public, it is important to follow the rules your state put into place to guard the public and collect tax revenue

Occupations and Professions

State licenses are frequently required for occupations as varied as building contractors, physicians, appraisers, accountants, barbers, real estate agents, auctioneers, private investigators, private security guards, funeral directors, bill collectors, and cosmetologists. Since you can't always guess which occupations and professions are licensed by your state, you should always check with your state licensing authorities. For instance, if you are an attorney you'll need to obtain a license from your state bar.

Licenses Based on Type of Product Sold

Some state licensing requirements are based on the type of product the business sells. For example, most states require special licenses before a business may sell liquor, lottery tickets, gasoline or firearms. Contact your state licensing authorities to determine the licensing requirements of your business.

Tax Registration

If the state in which you operate has a state income tax, you'll have to register and obtain an employer identification number from your state Department of Revenue or Treasury Department. If you're engaging in retail sales, you will need to obtain a sales tax license.

Trade Name Registration

Having a strong business name is vital to your organization. Make sure to follow all state laws in order to protect your trade name. If your business will only be operated in your local community, registering your company name with the state may be sufficient.

Employer Registrations

If you have any employees, you'll probably be required to make unemployment insurance contributions. Unemployment insurance is meant for workers who become unemployed through no fault of their own. There are some exceptions to this rule. For more information, contact your state Department of Revenue or Department of Labor.

Weight and Measurement Registration Requirement

If you weigh items for sale, such as landscaping goods, coal, or firewood, your state may require that you have this type of permit.

Finding a Lawyer

Make your life simpler. Don't spend precious hours trying to figure out your state's business license requirements. Contact an experienced business law attorney now to help your small business.

If you want to get more specific information for your state, along with links to application information, check out FindLaw's Starting a Business section or see

Looking to start your own business? Use FindLaw's DIY forms to get a legal business entity set up in minutes.

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