Starting a successful art gallery takes more than knowing about art. One important aspect of successfully starting a business is researching and applying for the licenses and permits that are needed to legally operate.
The question, “what business license do I need to start my business” is a common one, but in reality, a business will often need multiple licenses, permits, and registrations from federal, state, and local agencies.
Related: Guide to starting an art gallery
To not miss any important licenses and permits, we recommend also checking with your local Chamber of Commerce, economic development agency, or use a business license service like Incfile or Corpnet.
What Licenses Do You Need to Start an art gallery?
While there isn’t licensing specific to an art gallery; there will likely be general licensing requirements to start a business. Here are a few of the common licenses and permits that an art gallery may need:
General Business License or Permit
Depending on where the business is located, a general business license or permit may be required. A few states require a business license; however, they are more commonly found at the city level.
Learn more: Business license requirements by state
Federal Employer Identification Number
The Federal Employer Identification Number (also referred to as a FEIN, Employer Identification Number, EIN, or Federal Tax ID Number) is a unique nine-digit number that identifies a business with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
Any business with employees or those that form as a partnership, Corporation, and in many cases an LLC, the business will need to get an EIN.
Sole proprietors and single-owner LLCs without employees can instead use the owner’s social security number.
Learn: How to get an EIN
Sales Tax Permit or Number
In order to sell art, a state sales tax permit (or tax ID number) may be needed. This permit creates an account number with the state’s Department of Revenue or a similarly named state taxing agency.
Additionally, hiring employees will also likely require a state tax number.
A majority of the sales in an art gallery are from the commissions generated from the sale of art. If the gallery purchases art or supplies to resell to customers, the gallery can purchase these items tax-free. A resale certificate (sometimes referred to as a seller’s permit) allows a business to purchase inventory, and instead of paying the sales tax to their vendor, they charge the sales tax to the end-user of the product.
A resale certificate only allows a business to not pay sales tax for items being resold, and sales tax will still need to be paid for supplies or equipment.
Certificate of Occupancy
In most communities, a retail business will need to secure a Certificate of Occupancy (CO) before opening. This certificate is typically obtained from the city, but sometimes from the county, and allows a business to occupy and operate from a building provided the building complies with zoning regulations, building codes, and any other local requirements.
Before starting your art gallery business, be sure to check with the local zoning department to ensure the business can legally operate out of the chosen location.
Alcohol Licenses and Permits
If the gallery will also provide alcohol at events and showings, an alcohol permit will be needed. Licensing is typically through at the town through either the town, city, or county, where the gallery operates.
Business Name Registration or DBA
While not necessarily a business license, it’s worth noting that in order to use a name for a business, many states require the registration of that name. Making matters more complicated, the process of name registration is different by state and the type of business entity.
For instance, sole proprietorships and partnerships generally need to register a business name (also referred to as a Doing Business As, DBA, fictitious name, or assumed name).
Learn: How to register a DBA
Corporations and LLCs register are a little easier in that their name is registered when forming the entity.