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What Business Licenses & Permits are Needed in North Carolina?

What Business Licenses & Permits are Needed in North Carolina?

What Business Licenses & Permits are Needed in North Carolina?

What Business Licenses & Permits are Needed in North Carolina?

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

Learn more about forming an LLC in North Carolina

Also see: Steps to starting a business in North Carolina

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.


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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 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.

Professional License

A variety of professions in the state are regulated and need to be registered before offering certain services. A few common occupations requiring licensing in North Carolina include; commercial fishermen, firearms trainers, fur dealers, barbers, and many more. Additional information, fees, and licensing requirements for professions are available from the North Carolina Department of Commerce.

In addition to professional licenses, businesses in a variety of industries such as food establishmentsdaycaressalvage dealers, and many others require licensing.

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.

Learn how to apply for an EIN

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.

What Business Licenses & Permits are Needed in North Carolina?

What Business Licenses & Permits are Needed in North Carolina?

Greg Bouhl

Greg Bouhl

Welcome! My name is Greg Bouhl, and I have over 21 years as an entrepreneur, educator, and business advisor, where I worked with over 1,600 entrepreneurs to help them start and grow their businesses.

As a small business advisor, I got fed up with clients finding inaccurate and outdated information when they were researching how to start a business online, so I launched StartingYourBusiness.com to be a trusted resource.

I'm constantly adding and revising this site, but if there is a question you have about starting a business or need help finding something, please ask!

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