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Running a business comes with a long list of responsibilities – including ensuring you have all the right licenses and permits from local, state or federal agencies.

Failure to know what is legally required can lead to tax problems and costly penalties, putting your business at risk. Experts suggest consulting an attorney to help determine the requirements of your business or profession.

It usually all starts with an EIN - an Employer ID Number - which can be obtained through the IRS at IRS.gov. You’ll need this number to apply for business permits and licenses, to hire employees, pay federal taxes, and to open a business bank account.

It’s quite likely that you’ll need to apply for a variety of licenses and permits, depending on the industry you’re in and where you live. While usually not expensive, the fees will vary, and you’ll need to keep track of when permits and licenses need to be renewed. You’ll also need to know how to display them so customers can see them.

The most common licenses and permits include:

  • General business license.
  • Sales tax permit.
  • Professional/occupational licenses based on your industry.
  • Federal licenses if the business is overseen by a federal agency.
  • Sign permit. 
  • Health department permits.
  • Fire department permit.
  • Air and water pollution control permit.
  • Zoning permit.

Besides consulting an attorney for guidance, it is recommended that you use the Internet to research local and state business license and permit requirements. You can also find guidance from the Small Business Administration at SBA.gov and then searching for ‘licenses and permits.’

You’ll likely have the option to apply for anything you need online, over the phone or in person.

Knowing exactly what permits and licenses you need will help protect both you and your customers.