Licenses and Permits
Most businesses do not require a federal license or permit. However, if you are engaged in one of the following activities, you should contact the responsible federal agency to determine the requirements for doing business:
- Drug Manufacturing
- Investment Advising
- Broadcasting span
- Ground Transportation
- Selling Alcohol, Tobacco, or Firearms
- Preparation of Food
The most common business activities are serving, handling, and preparing food, such as opening a restaurant or selling homemade spaghetti sauce. If your business falls into one of these categories, you should reference ServSafe at www.servsafe.com. You should also reference the Department of Agriculture at www.USDA.gov, or Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture at www.agriculture.state.pa.us.
Business licenses are issued (if required) by the local municipal government. You need to contact the local municipal office for the city, town, borough or township where your business will be located. Each municipal office has varying rules which affect businesses. Ask for specific information on business licenses, zoning requirements, occupational privilege taxes and local income tax rules.
While business licensing requirements vary from state to state, some of the more common types are listed below.
A state business license is the main document required for tax purposes and conducting other basic business functions. Many states have established small business assistance agencies to help small businesses comply with state requirements.
Occupations and Professions
State licenses are frequently required for occupations as varied as building contractors, physicians, appraisers, accountants, barbers, real estate agents, auctioneers, private investigators, private security guards, funeral directors, bill collectors, and cosmetologists. Since you can't always guess which occupations and professions are licensed by your state, you should always check with your state licensing authorities.
Licenses Based on Products Sold
Some state licensing requirements are based on the product sold. For example, most states require special licenses to sell liquor, lottery tickets, gasoline, or firearms. Contact your state licensing authorities to determine the licensing requirements of your business.
Ta x Registration
If the state in which you operate has a state income tax, you'll have to register and obtain an employer identification number from your state Department of Revenue at www.revenue.state.pa.us or Treasury Department. If you're engaging in retail sales, you will need to obtain a sales tax license.
Trade Name Registration
If your business will only be operated in your local community, registering your company name with the state may be sufficient.
If you have any employees, you'll probably be required to make unemployment insurance contributions. For more information, contact your state Department of Revenue or Department of Labor.
According to the type of business, one or more of the licenses/permits listed through this link could be necessary for legal operation. Violation of requirements can lead to penalties, financial setbacks, or even business closing.
Applying for the Proper Licenses
Federal Form SS-4-This form must be completed unless you are a sole proprietorship business with no employees. This form will allow you to apply for a Tax Identification Number and an Employer Identification Number. You can find this form at www.irs.gov or by calling 1-800-tax-1040.
PA Enterprise Registration Form and Instructions-This form will allow you to register your business in PA and allow you to apply for a state sales tax license.
Fictitious Name Application -If you plan to use a trade name that does not include your last name you will need to complete this form and register with the Department of State. This form will allow you to register your fictitious business name in the State of Pennsylvania. Not sure if your name is still available? Call the Corporation Bureau at 717-787-1057 or 888-659-9962 to find out. Their address is 206 North off Building Harrisburg, Pa 17120. (If you need to amend your fictitious name that is already in use, you may use the Application for Amendment, Cancellation or Withdrawal Fictitious Name below). There is a $70.00 fee for the registration of a fictitious name.
The Wilkes University Small Business Development Center is a great place to reference when it comes to such information including licenses and permits. They have many experienced individuals who can help with your questions and problems, not only on this topic, but any other topics or concerns you have.