What Business Licenses and Permits are Needed in South Carolina?
Starting a business in South 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 South Carolina.
Before applying for any licenses, the legal structure of the business will 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 South Carolina
General Business License
There is no general state of South Carolina business license, however, most cities and some counties require businesses to be licensed to operate. The rules and cost of a business license will vary depending on the city and what the business does. Below are a few cities that have licensing requirements.
Columbia – The City of Columbia Business License Division issues business licenses to every person engaged or intending to engage in a business, occupation, or profession within city limits.
Charleston – All businesses operating within city limits are required to obtain a business license for each location from the Revenue Collections Division. In addition, a zoning permit may be needed for commercial or home-based businesses.
Mount Pleasant – The Mount Pleasant Business License Division requires all businesses to register.
Rock Hill – All businesses operating within the city limits of Rock Hill will need to register for a business license with the Rock Hill Planning & Development Department. Home-based businesses are also required to register and will need zoning approval.
Every municipality and county (referred to as a taxing jurisdiction) can assess a business license tax based on the gross income or gross receipts of the business entities and individuals doing business within the borders of the taxing jurisdiction.
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Building & Zoning Permits
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.
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.
Businesses selling physical products and certain services in South Carolina will need to register for a South Carolina Retail License from the South Carolina Department of Revenue. The filing fee for this license is $50.
Artists and crafters selling products at arts and craft shows and festivals are also required to get a special retail license from the Department of Revenue. This license is referred to as an Artists and Craftsmen license and is offered at a reduced cost versus the retail license for $20.
Businesses purchasing merchandise to resell will usually want to obtain a South Carolina Resale Certificate 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 South Carolina include; barbers, massage therapists, landscapers, and many more. Additional information, fees, and licensing requirements for professions are available from the South Carolina Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation.
In addition to professional licenses from the Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation, businesses in a variety of industries such as food establishments, daycares, salvage yards, and many others also require licensing.
Assumed Name Registration
While not a business license, it’s common for Sole Proprietorships and Partnerships operating under a business name that is different from the full name of the owner(s) to register for an Assumed Name (also known as a Doing Business As or DBA) with the County Clerk’s 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 City Hall, County Clerk, Chamber of Commerce, and/or Economic Developer in your area to get more information regarding business licensing.