Licensing Your Small Business: Quick Tools at Your Fingertips

How do I get a business license?” is among the most commonly requested topics on the Small Business Administration (SBA) Web site. However, many entrepreneurs ignore this part of the business start up process and find out too late that they are operating an unlicensed business that could be subject to fines.

Whether you are in the early exciting stages of starting your own business or are already well established, you are required to meet both general and business-specific government licensing and permit regulations.

The process can seem daunting, but with tools and resources from the U.S. government, you can quickly and efficiently determine what licenses are appropriate for your business.

Here is a quick checklist of common licenses as well as information about an easy-to-use Web tool – Permit Me – that matches your business to the correct licenses.

Starting a Business: Common Licenses

Some of the most basic licenses that small and home-based businesses need to obtain include:

* Business Operating License – This needs to be obtained from the city or county where your business will operate.

* Federal Employer Identification Number (EIN) – Also known as a tax Identification number, requirements vary by state, but typically most incorporated businesses with employees need one of these. Find out more here.

* Fictitious Business Name Permit – This is a very easy one to miss. If you operate a business using a name other than your own, you need a “Doing Business As” or DBA permit from your local government.

* Health Department Permits – If you plan to sell or prepare food you’ll need a county health permit.

* Fire Department Permits – If your business premises will be open to the public or you are involved with flammable materials, get this permit before you even open your business.

More information on other very specific licenses can be found here.

How to Get Licenses and Permits

Navigating the world of small business licensing laws and regulations got a whole lot easier with the launch of the U.S. government’s Permit Me interactive search tool.

Developed by the government’s Business Gateway initiative, Permit Me provides a single place for business owners to seek out the licenses, permits and registrations needed to run their businesses. Searches can be customized to meet your specific business type and location and the tool will generate links and instructions to get you started.

Maintain Your License

Licenses aren’t indefinite, so keep track of renewal dates and be sure to display any appropriate license and permit paperwork at your premise. More tips here.