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The steps in the process to obtain a business license are fairly straightforward, but people should be aware that certain types of businesses are subject to special regulations which may require additional licenses and permits. Operating without the appropriate licenses or permits can subject a business owner to serious fines, making it advisable to consult government officials to confirm that all of the paperwork is in order. The information in this article applies specifically to people who wish to obtain a business license in the United States, but much of it can be generalized to other regions of the world.
For people who live in cities, the first step involves going to City Hall and getting the paperwork to file for a business license from the City Clerk. People who live outside a city will need to file their license applications with the County, and in some cases both a City and County license are required. In both cases, the Clerk can provide information about additional permits which may be needed to obtain a business license.
To obtain a business license, along with the completed paperwork, the applicant will need to submit a fee and some additional supporting documents. For people who are doing business under a name other than their own, a fictitious business name statement, obtained from the County, will be required. Additionally, applicants will need an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the Internal Revenue Service. Once the application is approved and a business license is issued, the business owner will need to file periodic renewals and fees, usually once a year.
Some additional permits may be required for different types of business. People who want to collect sales tax, such as retailers, will need a sales tax permit. Seller's permits are required for wholesalers. When picking up the paperwork to obtain a business license, applicants should explain the kind of business they are starting, and ask about additional permits which may be required before they can open for business.
In some circumstances, it may also be necessary to get a permit or license from the State. Doctors, lawyers, contractors, hairdressers, and many other professionals must be licensed by the State in order to practice, in addition to obtaining business licenses at the City and County level. The Secretary of State can provide information to people who work in trades regulated by the State; as a general rule, information about licensing is included in the education for people who plan to work in these trades.