What is a business license?
A business license is any type of license or permit that a government entity requires you to have to conduct business. There are several types of licenses and permits required with different business licenses. They can be issued by federal, state, or local governments.
Do I need a business license?
Whether you need a business license to run your business depends on what state your company is located in. Below are some common reasons you need to apply for a business license.
- If you are a brick-and-mortar business, you may need a permit to operate and allow commercial activity on your business property. A brick-and-mortar business is a physical location where owners may showcase their products utilizing a physical storefront. Customers can then visit the property to peruse the store, speak with sales representatives, try on products, and purchase any goods. The municipality you’re in might also need permits for certain things, such as signage and fire safety. Examples include specialty stores, convenience stores, grocery stores, and drugstores.
- Most states, including New Jersey, require you to obtain a seller’s permit if you sell products. This permit enables you to collect sales tax from your customers.
- You will need to obtain industry-specific licenses if you provide any services where you need a license, such as a stylist, lawyer, medical care provider, or accountant.
Who issues business licenses?
Three main jurisdictions issue licenses. These include state, local, and federal.
State Business Licensing
As mentioned above, you may need to apply for a seller’s permit if you sell any products. Seller’s permits are issued by the state and allow your business to sell products within the given state you have the permit. Other state licensing and permits can include the following:
- General business licenses
- Doing business as (DBA)
- Liquor licenses
- Medical Licenses
- Electrical permits
- Fundraising licenses
- Farming licenses
- Health Permits
- Real estate licenses
In New Jersey, many businesses are required to have a state business license. If you meet any of the following, you must obtain a business license with New Jersey’s Division of Revenue. Before you can get the business license, you must first file a certificate of formation to formally register your company with New Jersey. Then you must complete the tax/employer registration form (Form NJ-REG). Finally, you must have an employer identification number (EIN) from the IRS. The state-level permit in New Jersey is referred to as the Business Registration Certificate (BRC). Essentially, it registers your company for New Jersey sales taxes and other taxes you may be eligible for.
- You need to withhold payroll taxes for employees
- If you plan to contract with public agencies in New Jersey. These include state agencies, colleges/ universities, local governments, and local school boards.
- If you are seeking casino licenses
- You want to apply for a State grant or tax credit.
To obtain a business license in New Jersey, you can visit the Division of Revenue site. Furthermore, depending on your industry and profession, you may need additional licenses or permits. You can check New Jersey’s Licensing and Certification site to see whether you need to apply for more licenses or permits.
Local Business Licensing
Local refers to the county or city you are operating in. The licenses and permits you need will vary depending on the location and business structure. Also, you may need to apply for multiple local business licenses or permits if you operate in various cities or counties.
Some example permits you may need to apply for locally are similar to those listed above for state permits and licenses. See the list below for some examples.
- General business licenses
- Zoning and construction permits
- Health permits
- Professional Licenses
For additional information, you can check with the local New Jersey government offices where your business is located.
Federal Business Licenses and Permits
Certain activities are regulated by the federal government and require you to apply with them to obtain the appropriate business license or permit. Below are a list of some business activities that require you to apply for licenses with the federal government. The links for applying to the respective licenses are also included below.
- Agricultural: https://www.aphis.usda.gov/aphis/resources/permits
- Alcoholic beverages: https://www.ttb.gov/ponl/customer-support
- Firearms, ammunition, and explosives: https://www.atf.gov/about/mission-areas
- Wildlife and fishing: https://fwsepermits.servicenowservices.com/fws
- Nuclear Energy: https://www.nrc.gov/about-nrc/regulatory/licensing/fees.html
- Broadcasting (Radio and Television): https://www.fcc.gov/general/consumer-information-obtaining-licenses
- Transportation: https://ops.fhwa.dot.gov/freight/sw/permit_report/index.htm#obt
- Aviation: https://www.faa.gov/licenses_certificates
How do I obtain a business license?
How do I check whether I already have a business registration certificate?
To determine whether you already have a certificate on file and avoid additional steps, you can enter the first four letters of your trade name and your EIN from the IRS here.
How do I renew my license?
In New Jersey, the Business Registration Certificate for the state sales and use tax renews automatically. Check with the local or relevant state government office to determine what other registrations or licenses you may need to renew.
Do I need a business attorney to apply?
No. Although not technically required, it can be helpful to consult a professional so that you know all the licensing requirements for your company. It can be challenging to navigate the different requirements of state, local, and federal agencies, so it may be a good idea to speak to a professional to ensure that your business is compliant.