Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Feb 20, 2013

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Business licensing is determined by specific states and cities. This means that every city will have different licensing requirements and exceptions. For example, Arizona requires that each location have a separate license regardless of location for tax purposes.

A business license is a license issued by a city giving you permission to run your business. The license ensures proper tracking for tax purposes and verifiability should there be a complaint filed against the business establishment.

Other Required Licenses

In addition to a business license, each business location may be required to post inspection licenses, and if a specialty industry, such as a law office, bar licenses for the attorneys.

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Where Can I Find Information on License Requirements?

The best place to start is your state’s department of revenue. This office will have knowledge of the most updated laws and regulations for businesses as well as some exceptions.

If your new location is in a different state, contact the federal business licensing department. The reason for this is that any interstate (more than one state) business is regulated under federal and state laws. You will also need to contact that particular state to obtain sales tax privileges.

If you do not feel comfortable handling your licensing requirements yourself, contact a business attorney. Their entire job is to help small business owners establish and run their businesses in accordance with the law. Most business attorneys can even provide you with the necessary forms for each license and explain the inspection and tax processes.

Some department of revenues offer free advice and guidance to small business owners. For example, in Arizona, the Department of Commerce offers everything from seminars to individual counseling for new business owners, while in California the Governor’s Office of Economic Development offers counseling and information to small businesses.