What Business Licenses & Permits are Needed in North Carolina?
Starting a business in North Carolina will mean potentially registering with a number of federal, state and local agencies. Let’s take a look at common licenses and permits a business will register for in North Carolina.
Before applying for any licenses, the business structure will first need to be established. Learn more about the differences between the sole proprietorship, general partnership, corporation, and Limited Liability Company (LLC).
Related: Comparison of Business Entities
General Business License
There is no general state of North Carolina business license, however many cities require businesses to be licensed in order to operate. Rules for business registration vary depending on location and what the business does. Below are a few cities that have licensing requirements.
Charlotte – Certain businesses operating in the City of Charlotte are required to register with the Mecklenburg County Office of the Tax Collector. These businesses include; prepared food & beverage, room occupancy, vehicle rental and heavy equipment.
Before starting a business in Charlotte, the Zoning Department will need to be contacted to ensure the business meets the city zoning requirements. This includes both commercial businesses as well as home-based businesses.
Raleigh – Businesses such as pushcart vendors, massage businesses, pawn brokers, those selling alcohol and home-based businesses operating in Raleigh City limits will register their business with the City of Raleigh.
Greensboro – Businesses operating a taxicab or is selling alcohol within the city limits of Greensboro needs to obtain a Business Privilege License from the City Collections Division.
A City of Greensboro Business License is required for peddlers, itinerant merchants, mobile food vendors, commercial solicitors or massage businesses. There is no cost for the city Business License.
Winston-Salem – A few types of businesses operating in Winston-Salem will need to apply for a Privilege License such as those selling alcohol, door-to-door solicitors, taxis, pawnshops, fortune tellers and tattoo artists. The license filing fee varies by business but is less than $40.
Building & Zoning Permits
Zoning – Depending on the location of the business, it’s important to verify whether the business needs an occupancy permit, or has specific zoning regulations to follow. Depending on city requirements, home-based businesses may need to apply for a home occupation permit.
Building Permit – A building permit may be needed from the city or county building and planning department if there is any construction or renovations to a facility.
Signage Permit – Some municipalities require a permit before adding signage.
Sales & Use Tax Number
Businesses selling physical products, some digital products, providing certain services and renting property need to register for a Sales & Use Tax Number (also called a Seller’s Permit). Generally speaking, physical and digital products sold at retail are taxable within North Carolina (Form NC-BR), while services are generally not taxable. For more information about the Sales & Use Tax and to register, visit the North Carolina Department of Revenue.
There is no fee for the Sales & Use Tax registration.
Sales Tax Certificate of Exemption
Businesses purchasing merchandise to resell will usually want to obtain a North Carolina Sales Tax Certificate of Exemption in order to not pay sales tax for merchandise that is being resold to customers.
A variety of professions in the state are regulated and need to be registered before offering certain services. A few common occupations that require licensing in North Carolina include; commercial fisherman, firearms trainer, fur dealers, barbers and many more. Additional information, fees and licensing requirements for professions are available from the North Carolina Department of Commerce.
Employer Identification Number (EIN)
Many businesses will register with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for an EIN (also referred to as a FEIN, Federal Employer Identification Number, or Federal Tax ID Number). The EIN is the business equivalent of a Social Security Number for an individual. Corporations, Limited Liability Companies, Partnerships, and Sole Proprietorships with employees will all need to register for one. Sole Proprietorships without employees can use the owner’s Social Security Number.
There is no cost for an EIN, and it only takes a few minutes to get.
Assumed Business Name Registration
While not a business license, it’s common for Sole Proprietorships and Partnerships operating under a name that is different from the full name of the owner(s) to register for a Certificate of Assumed Name (also known as a Doing Business As or DBA) with the Register of Deeds Office in the county where the business is located.
These are just some of the most common business licenses a new business will need to register before starting. Before starting your business, be sure to check with Business Link North Carolina (BLNC), City Hall, County Clerk, Chamber of Commerce, and/or Economic Developer in your area to get more information regarding business licensing.