Business Licenses and Registration

Do I Need to Register My Business?

This is part of our general Guide to Laws for Business Owners and Entrepreneurs.

“Registering” a business can mean several different things. If you operate a business, there may be various licenses, permits, registrations, and certifications you need, including:

  • Local business license (aka business tax registration certificate): most cities and counties in the United States require all local businesses to get a “business license” also sometimes known as a “business tax registration certificate.” See our guides to business licenses in the Los Angeles area and San Francisco area. Or check with your city and/or county for more.
  • “Incorporating” or registering your entity: If you want to form a business entity such as an LLC or corporation, you will need to register with your state’s Secretary of State. See our Guide to Business Entities.
  • Seller’s permit: if you are selling any goods, you may need a seller’s permit and collect sales tax. See our Guide to Business Taxes
  • Brick and mortar permits: for businesses with a physical location, you may need to get a “zoning” permit to perform your business activities at that location. Again check with your city and county.
  • DBA or “Fictitious Business Name Statement“: if you are doing business as other than your own name or your registered entity’s name, you will generally need to file with the county or state for a DBA, also known as a trade name or fictitious business name.
  • Registering as an employer: If you have employees, you may need to register with the state.
  • Tax ID/EIN or Employer Identification Numberthis is separate from registering as an employer with the state. You would get an EIN from the IRS, regardless of whether you have employees or not. It is the Tax ID of the business.
  • Registering your professional or business activities: you may also need to register or get a license or certification for your professional or business activities. Examples are practicing architecture or medicine, working as a building contractor, etc.
  • Optional certifications: There may also be various optional certifications you can obtain. For example, some jurisdictions allow interior designers to get a certification but do not require it; or you can obtain a certification as a Green Business.

Further Resources

See our full Guide to Laws for Business Owners and Entrepreneurs

If you have additional questions or need help with your business, discuss with a lawyer and tax professional.

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