Starting your business is an exciting and busy time. You need to get everything in order before you launch, and one of the most important legal requirements is business licensing. Business licenses and permits are typically issued by the state or federal government and are necessary for certain types of business.
Ensuring you're compliant with business license regulations helps your business run smoothly and avoids any issues with government agencies. In this post, we’ll explain some of the most common licenses, why you need them and where to get them.
Please note that none of the information we provide here should be considered legal advice and is only intended for general guidance. For more specific information on what licenses your business might need, we offer a complete Business License Research Package.
Here are 14 of the most common business licenses and all their details.
1. Local Business License
Some states, counties and cities require you to have a local business license to operate there. These vary between cities, regions and states.
2. Peddler's License
A peddler’s license, also known as a “solicitor” or “transient merchant” license or permit, authorizes you to travel and sell products and services door-to-door. These licenses may also be needed if you sell at public events or carry samples with you. Peddler’s licenses are required to operate in certain states and cities.
3. Occupational Licenses, Permits and Certificates
Certain states and the federal government require people who carry out professional services to be licensed and certified by a state or national board. The types of careers that need to be licensed do vary, but they often include: accountants, attorneys, doctors, nurses, counselors, social workers, dentists, teachers, pharmacists, architects, psychologists, engineers and other professions. Review the requirements for your state to learn what certifications and permits you will need to practice.
4. Cleaning or Janitorial License
Some states require cleaning and janitorial businesses to have a formal business license, while in others you may only need a service contractor’s license. In any case, you might want your cleaning company to be licensed and bonded, as government and corporate clients will expect this. You should also have comprehensive business insurance.
5. Vendor or Sales Privilege License
A vendor or sales privilege license is often needed if you want to sell products or services to consumers, whether face-to-face or online. These vendor licenses are often linked with charging sales tax on your goods and services. Many states require a vendor license, although registration requirements do vary. Some regional and city governments may also require you to have a separate vendor’s license.
6. Gardening and Landscaping Business License
If you perform gardening for clients or carry out landscaping, some states do require you to have a permit or license to do so. These type of licenses vary, depending on the type of work you do; for example, installing shrubs and grass may require a license, whereas laying mulch may not. Many states will also require you to be bonded and to hold liability and worker’s compensation insurance.
7. Food Business, Restaurant and Food Truck Licenses
Food businesses are some of the most tightly regulated organizations. You may need different types of food licenses depending on the type of business you operate. Here are some of the more common permits and certificates. Check with your state to see what’s required for your food business to be compliant.
Food handling license or food and safety certificate: This demonstrates that you know how food should be prepared, handled and stored.
Catering license: If you deliver food or provide it to functions, you may need a catering license.
Health and safety inspection and food service license: Expect your cooking area and restaurant to be inspected to ensure you meet the necessary sanitation and handling guidelines.
8. Liquor Licenses
If you plan to sell or provide alcohol for consumption on or off your premises, it’s very likely you will need a liquor license. These are generally provided by your state’s ABC agency or other board.
9. Tobacco Licenses
If you sell cigarettes or other tobacco products, you will need to be licensed.
10. Health Permits and Licenses
Many types of businesses need health permits to ensure they’re taking the right precautions to keep the public and their employees safe. In addition to food businesses, organizations like tattoo parlors, waste haulers, breweries and similar will also need health permits.
11. Contractor and Tradesman Permits
If you’re operating as a contractor or tradesman (builder, plumber, carpenter, electrician, general contractor, etc.), then you may need a license to provide services. Requirements do vary from state to state.
12. Fire Inspections and Permits
In many cases, especially if your business is open to the public, your premises must be inspected to ensure you meet fire prevention regulations.
13. Beauty Salon and Cosmetologist Licenses
If you operate or work in a beauty salon, you must be licensed by your state. There are separate licensing requirements depending on your type of work, such as barber, manicurist and cosmetologist. Many states require you to have a minimum number of hours of training or schooling to obtain a license.
14. Planning and Zoning Permits
If you want to operate a business in a particular area, or you want to develop or alter property, you will typically need the relevant planning or zoning permit. These vary between regions and cities, so contact your local government office to find out more.
Other Federal Laws and Requirements
Of course, you’ll need to stay up to date with your taxes. According to the Small Business Administration, you must also be compliant with the following laws: marketing and advertising laws, copyright laws, workplace poster laws, workplace health and safety laws and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) laws.
Save Time and Effort with Our Business License Research Service
We know that learning about all of these licenses, and where you need to get them from, can be inconvenient and time-consuming. That’s why Incfile is delighted to provide a Business License Research Package service.
We’ll ask you for details of your business, then provide a comprehensive list of the licenses and permits you’ll require, along with application instructions and forms for the licenses you’ll need.
It’s a great way to save yourself from visiting dozens of websites or spending time on hold.
Paul is a freelance writer, small business owner, and British expat exploring the U.S. When he’s not politely apologizing, he enjoys hats, hockey, Earl Grey Tea, mountains, and dogs.