State Guide: Obtaining Licenses & Permits
Created by FindLaw's team of legal writers and editors | Last reviewed September 23, 2022
There are several tasks involved in starting a small business. Some of the most important tasks include selecting a business structure and a business name, and developing a business plan. It's also important to obtain all of the permits and licenses that are required for your business. Business licenses and permits are issued at the local, state, and federal levels. Some businesses are required to have multiple licenses, from various levels of governments. Other businesses may only need one or two licenses. Generally, the licensing and permit requirements for a particular business vary according to industry and location.
The following chart provides links to information on how to obtain licenses and permits for your new business in each of the 50 states and Washington, D.C. For more information related to this topic you can visit FindLaw's Business Licenses and Permits section.
Please be aware that there may also be federal licenses and permits that your business is required to obtain. Also, please feel free to contact us, to suggest any additional resources for this section.
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Types of Licenses and Permits
As previously stated, the permits and licenses that your business will need will depend largely on the industry your business will be in. It's helpful, however, to know some of the common types of permit and licensing requirements. Common licenses and permits include business licenses, property use permits, certificates of occupancy, professional/occupational licenses, health department permits, and sales tax licenses and numbers. Most businesses are also required to obtain an employer identification number.
Business licenses can range from general to specific, depending on the laws of your state. Professional or occupational licenses, on the other hand, are only required for specific professions or services. For example, medical care, real estate sales, legal representation, and accountants are required to have professional licensure. Many states also require specific licenses when a business plans to sell certain products, such as alcohol or guns. Finally, most businesses must obtain a federal identification number (also referred to EIN or FEIN) from the Internal Revenue Service. States may also require businesses to obtain a similar identification number from the state's department of revenue.
Getting Legal Help
When starting a business, it's important to be in compliance with all of the applicable laws and regulations, which includes having all of the necessary licenses and permits. Failure to have the required licenses and permits can leave you legally unprotected and subject to expensive fines or even lawsuits. If you have questions or concerns about starting a business, you may want to contact a local business organizations attorney for assistance.
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