What Business Licenses and Permits Do You Need?

Types Of Licenses And Permits:

Basic Business Operation License – Essentially, business licenses are permits issued by government agencies which allows companies to conduct business within a specific region. This will be obtained from the city in which your business will operate (or a local county if the business will be operated outside of city limits).

Fictitious Business Name Permit – Also known as a ‘doing business as,’ a ‘DBA permit,’ or a ‘trade name,’ a fictitious business name permit grants companies the rights to operate the business under a name that differs than the registered, legal name of the business. For example, The Coca-Cola Company has a DBA for Coke, which its more commonly reffered to.

Zoning and Land Use Permit/Code  - Zoning permits are specifically for manufacturing businesses and certain home-based business operations. They regulate everything from parking requirements, to design, to maximum height of your business. Most cities separate the land into different zoning districts, each with its own regulations and enforcement. For example, a city may declare one section of the city to be a family residential district, and another as a commercial district.

Building Permit/Code – Building permits differ than zoning permits in that building permits refer to and regulate solely the structures that you are operating out of. This includes appropriate standards of safety, as well as other structural-based restrictions.

Health Permits – Health permits are required for any business that involves the preparation or sale of food or beverages. Typically distributed by your county’s health department, businesses that need health permits include: restaurants, bars, vending machines, breweries, food trucks, wholesale food distributors, and even tattoo parlors.

State Sales Tax License/Number – The Sales Tax Number makes it easy for states to tax your company. If your planning on selling almost any products, goods, or services, you will probably need to obtain one of these.

Fire Permits – Fire permits are obtained from your local firehouse. These types of permits are needed for any business that will be attracting large number of people/crowds (i.e. nightclubs, bars, restaurants).


Special State-issued Business Licenses:

Along with all of the permits mentioned above, there are dozens of other state-level licenses that must be obtained for various fields. Some areas where you would need special state-issued business licenses include:

-Lottery Tickets
-Air and Water Pollution Control Permit
-Sign Permit


Special State-issued Occupational/Professional License: 

There are also some special state-issued licenses that many professions require. Some include:

-Medical Care
-Auto Repair
-Real Estate Sales
-Tax Services
-Insurance Sales
-Legal Representation
- CO - https://www.colorado.gov/dora/boards_programs 


Special Federal Business License or Permit:

-Investment Advising (SEC)
-Drug Manufacturing (FDA)
-Preparation of Meat Products (FDA)
-Broadcasting (FCC)
-Ground Transportation (DoT)
-Manufacturing Tobacco, Alcohol, or Firearms; or Selling Firearms (ATF)


My Company Is Online, Do I Need Permits or Licenses?

The answer to this depends on what your company is offering. If your company sells products within a regulated industry (i.e. food, beverage, or medical equipment), then it will be subject to the licensing and permitting of that industry. If you’re selling digital information, clothing, handcrafted material, or software, then you will not be required to obtain a special business license. Instead, your company will most likely have to incorporate as a business and follow similar guidelines as a storefront business.


I Operate My Company Out Of My Home, Do I Need Permits Or Licenses?

The permit requirements differ depending on where you live, but many city and county zoning and planning agencies require at-home businesses to obtain a Home Occupation Permit before they start operating their business. Even if a permit is not required where you live, it is always a good idea to contact the zoning office to make sure that your neighborhood is zoned for home business activity. If your neighborhood isn’t zoned for this type of business, then you may have to file for a conditional-use permit. Many restrictions may apply to your business in this case including: prohibiting exterior changes to your home for the purpose of conduction business (aka putting up a sign), prohibiting your business to be conducted outsize, capping the number of visitors your can have to your home-based business, or prohibiting the number of employees your business can have.


Okay, So I Need A Permit or License, Where Do I Get It?

If you’re in Colorado, you can obtain most permits and licenses online here.

If you live in another state, you can find out more information about permits and licenses for your state here.

Need advice?
Revised: March 25, 2016, 7:13 p.m.
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