The examples and perspective in this article deal primarily with the United States and do not represent a worldwide view of the subject. (January 2017) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
Business licenses are permits issued by government agencies that allow individuals or companies to conduct business within the government's geographical jurisdiction. It is the authorization to start a business issued by the local government. A single jurisdiction often requires multiple licenses that are issued by multiple government departments and agencies. Business licenses vary between countries, states, and local municipalities. There are often many licenses, registrations and certifications required to conduct a business in a single location.
Typically, a company's business activity and physical location (address) determines which licenses are required to operate lawfully. Other determining factors may include the number of employees and the form of business ownership, such as sole proprietor or corporation. Government agencies can fine or close a business operating without the required business licenses.
In the United States, the Small Business Administration has a list of links to State websites for State licensing requirements. Each State has its own business registration and licensing requirements. Business.usa.gov is an official business link to the U.S. Government. Business.gov, managed by the U.S. Small Business Administration.
Most individuals and companies doing business in the District of Columbia must obtain a Basic Business License from the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs. Separately, organizations (including non-profits and cooperatives, but not including sole-proprietorships and general partnerships) must register their business. Many types of businesses require additional certification or permits beyond the Basic Business License and registration. D.C. requires a "Clean Hands Self-Certification" from most applicants, which is an affidavit stating that the applicant does not owe more than $100 to the District. Tour Guides must submit a Physician's Certificate. Fees for businesses licenses vary. The fee for a Special Event license such as a marathon is $209. The license for a movie theater costs $1,079 per year, for a grocery store $289 per year, for a beauty shop $78 per year. (2003 schedule of fees, current as of March 2007) A Project Management Firm does not require a Basic Business License, nor does a Handyman. Residential House Painters must submit a Home Improvement Contract signed by the homeowner.
Physicians and other health care professionals require licenses from the Professional Licensing Administration in the Department of Health.
Pennsylvania allows online registration of small business start-ups, but does not provide licensing guidance.
Certain actions are required by all businesses in Pennsylvania in order for them to continue in business in Pennsylvania. This includes New Hire Reporting (including reporting oneself as a new hire when starting a business).
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