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How to Get a Local Business License and Special Permits

Local Start-Up Requirements for Small Businesses

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People cutting ribbon at grand opening of store
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In addition to federal and state business registration, individual counties, towns, and cities often have their own unique requirements for legally establishing your business. For example, in some places, you may not need to file a fictitious business statement, but in many local areas, you do.

Common requirements of local jurisdictions, which usually have a fee attached, include:

  • Local Business License (or Tax Registration Certificate)
  • Franchise License Fee
  • Filing a Fictitious Name Statement
  • Special Use Permits
  • Health, Safety, or Other Special Certificates or Permits

Many local jurisdictions also place restrictions on the type of business you can operate from home, and whether or not you will be permitted to have clients of customers come to your home (in most cases, this is either very restricted, or not permitted at all).

How to Find Out Your Local Business Start-Up Requirements

Start by contacting your city hall, or your city or county clerk. If your location does not have a centralized local government office, the next place to call is your county tax assessor or local treasurer. Other places you may need to call to ask about permits and licenses include:

  • Planning or Zoning Department: If you are establishing a business outside your home you may need special permission to open certain types of businesses in a particular area. If you are planning to convert a house into a business, you will need to contact the zoning department.
  • Building and Safety Department: If you are opening a business outside your home, or, if you are running a business from home where customers or clients will be on your premises, i.e. a daycare facility, you may need a special permit.
  • Construction, Remodeling or Renovation Permits: Whether or not you are remodeling an existing business store front or office, or a space in your home to accommodate your business, you will need to have building permits. This may be handled by either your planning or zoning department, or your building and safety department, or both.
  • Health Department: For all businesses that will serve any type of food or beverage, and any type of in-home care service or day care center. Fitness centers may also require health inspections. The health department also tests water quality.
  • Fire and Police Department: You may need to pass a fire or other safety inspection if you run a home-based business where you will have employees or clients in your home. Most in-home daycare centers require a fire, safety, and health inspection that is renewed annually.

    Police and fire departments often are the agencies that handle occupancy permits (now many patrons or clients you can have in your business at one time), crowd control issues, and other permits that affect how people enter and exit a building.

  • CPR Certification: You may also need to have CPR certification if you run any type of care-based in-home business. Most fire departments offer CPR training and certification. You can also call a local hospital to find out where you can take a CPR class.
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