How do I obtain a business license?

QUESTION:

How do I obtain a business license for my startup?

ANSWER:

Francine Miltenberger

Francine Miltenberger

by Francine Miltenberger, Managing Director and Partner in Onyx Asssociates

I assume your question is not so much about a specific professional license, like a realtor license, etc. as it is about establishing a business entity. There are a number of legal structures for a business entity, LLC, Partnership, S-corp, C-corp, Sole partnership. Conduct on-line reseach to understand the implications of each structure. Once you decide the appropriate structure, you need to register with your state. A simple on-line search will provide tons of information on the different structures and should give you access to the relevant forms. In most states, the Controllers Office oversees business filings. The process usually takes 6-8 weeks and entails the following steps: reserving a name, applying for a certificate, then filing required documents relevant to your chosen entity structure. In addition to the state filings, you will need to get an EIN from the IRS. You can get an EIN on-line, it takes less than 5 minutes.

Comments & Advice:
  1. I assume your question is not so much about a specific professional license, like a realtor license, etc. as it is about establishing a business entity. There are a number of legal structures for a business entity, LLC, Partnership, S-corp, C-corp, Sole partnership. Conduct on-line reseach to understand the implications of each structure. Once you decide the appropriate structure, you need to register with your state. A simple on-line search will provide tons of information on the different structures and should give you access to the relevant forms. In most states, the Controllers Office oversees business filings. The process usually takes 6-8 weeks and entails the following steps: reserving a name, applying for a certificate, then filing required documents relevant to your chosen entity structure. In addition to the state filings, you will need to get an EIN from the IRS. You can get an EIN on-line, it takes less than 5 minutes.

  2. RJ Johnston says:

    Great information, additionally, you may want to check with low-cost registration companies like mycorporation or legalzoom who can help expedite the process with canned legal forms and basic information, that way you can spend a little more time focusing on your business!

  3. Ross Hall says:

    From a UK perspective it will depend on the type of business you are going to start. If you're going to be a sole trader then HMRC – http://www.hmrc.gov.uk – need to be notified (even if you stick with the day job!) Forming a limited company is more involved and best done with the assistance of an accountant.

    If you're collecting personal data (which can include contacts at businesses if you're going B2B) you'll need to register with the Information Commissioner's Office – http://www.ico.gov.uk

    There may also be business specific authorisations that you require, such as a Consumer Credit Licence if you're offering credit (obtained via the Office of Fair Trading – http://www.oft.gov.uk ), or approval from the Financial Services Authority – http://www.oft.gov.uk – if you're offering financial services or insurance.

    And don't forget the little things like making sure your car insurance has sufficient cover if you're using it for work, that you've told your home contents insurers what you're up to and you may need to check your lease to ensure you can run your business from home (if that's what you're doing).

  4. JoseB says:

    How can I go about checking with my city or county offices? For example, I live in NYC, where can I find my city or country offices? On Google/Bing.com? Should I call them, or show up in person?

  5. RJ Johnston says:

    JoseB:
    Check the Official New York City government website for information. Don't hesitate to call with questions.
    http://www.nyc.gov/portal/site/nycgov/menuitem….

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