Can I open a business on a military base?

(Last Updated On: April 18, 2018)
Lots of military spouses want to supplement their husband’s income by starting their own business, but if they live on the military base there are certain restrictions that must be followed.  Most military spouses start a home-based business so they can stay mobile should their military spouse gets restationed. Some of the types of jobs that are allowed to operate while you are living in military housing include:
  • Childcare
  • Bookkeeping
  • Craft business
  • Sewing and tailoring
  • Graphics
  • Sales such as toys, Tupperware, Pampered Chef, etc.
  • Food such as cakes, catering or specialty foods
  • Writing & resume services
  • Blogging
  • Teaching (i.e. art, music, dance, etc. lessons)
  • E-commerce

Contacting the Military About Your Business

After you have determined the type of business that you want to run, you must then contact the base commanding officer or the housing officer so that you can follow your installation’s rules and regulations regarding your business. You can also get some advice in advance from the base legal assistance office concerning things such as liability or taxes. There may also be separate rules or regulations for your state or local community, so be sure to check those things out before you begin to run your business. Look under the listings to find contact information for things such as business licenses, zoning or tax requirements. Another place that can help family members who wish to start a business in military housing is the Army Community Services, Navy Family Services Center or Air Force Family Support Center. These places are geared towards providing all sorts of information to help military families in many different situations.

Common Questions Asked by Potential Business Owners

Family members who wish to start a business usually have several questions that they need answers. One of the common ones is, “Do I need a business license?” The facts are that it depends on where you live and the type of business you have. Every state has different rules and regulations governing businesses and licensing needs. Be sure to check out what is required in your area, as just because you are living on a military base, that doesn’t mean you don’t have to follow local rules and regulations.  In addition to a business license, you will need to choose a business entity.  For more information about the various legal structures such as sole proprietorships, partnerships, corporations and LLCs.  Check out our state guides to starting a business for specific information.

Using the Military Postal System

For those families that live overseas and live on a military base, a common question is whether or not they can use the military postal system for shipping out products they may be selling from their business. The answer is that it is prohibited to use the military postal system and ship from an APO or FPO address for commercial purposes.

Home Office Tax Deductions?

If you are the owner of a home business and live on a military base, you may also wonder if it is allowable to take a home office deduction on your income taxes. The answer is that part of it might be allowable depending on the circumstances. For example, if you live in privatized housing and all of your housing costs are paid for by the military, then you can’t count things like rent or utilities on your taxes. But if you live in a military housing unit that bills you for utilities then you can count that towards your taxes, or if you pay separately for things like phone and Internet service, you may be allowed to count those as well.

Overseas Status of Forces Agreement Rules

Another challenge is for those family members that live on overseas bases because they must follow the Status of Forces Agreement or SOFA rules between the US and the foreign country they are in. If a family member wants to have an overseas business on base, they will have to sign an agreement stating that they will not violate any of the existing SOFA regulation for that area, so you must first fill out paperwork to show what kind of business it is and how it will operate or you could be in violation of foreign law.

Limitations of Businesses on Military Bases

Like any other place you want to run a business, there are limitations to running a home business on a military base. For instance, if you want to do work that you already have a license for such as being a beautician, a manicurist, etc., then you will have to show your state license number and have the right kind of liability insurance. Plus, you can’t compete with the facilities on the base like the military exchange, commissary, etc. And if the services are related to medical, or foods you may have to get special approval. In addition, when it comes to selling products, certain items such as sex toys may actually be illegal, so check first before starting any home business on base. All in all, it is possible to have a business on base if you do some advance research and be sure to follow all the associated rules and regulations.
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