Keeping Up With Business Licensing Requirements
Business licenses, permits, and registrations are a fact of life for every business, regardless of industry and location. You face license and permit requirements not only when starting out, but also when growing or expanding, and even when deciding to close or sell your business.
While obtaining and maintaining the necessary licenses is not an option, how you accomplish this depends upon your business needs—and your available time and patience. If you need only one or two licenses in only one location, and you are willing to put in the "sweat equity" to track down the appropriate agencies and forms, then you may opt to do this yourself. If many licenses are required or are needed in multiple locations, then outsourcing the process may be a good strategy. Outsourcing options include full outsourcing, preparation-and-filing services, and research-services-only. Business licensing software helps automate the process.
Keeping your compliance up-to-date helps to maintain your good reputation, goodwill, and positive public relations in today’s increased focus on compliance and transparency. It also heads off “paperwork” delays in opening a new location or expanding into new products or services.
License, permit and registration requirements vary by the type of business or activity, and may be imposed by authorities at the local, state, or federal levels. For a discussion of the types of licenses typically required, and tips on handling these obligations, see our related article, “Neglecting Business License Requirements Can Be Costly.”
In recent years, some local authorities have increased enforcement efforts against unlicensed businesses. Also, financial and budgetary constraints have prompted some authorities to consider higher fees, new types of licenses, or both. You can find out what is needed for your business by consulting the BizFilings Business License Wizard.
Staying Compliant with License, Permit, and Registration Requirements
Staying compliant requires keeping up with renewals plus complying with any other regulations or requirements levied by agencies.
Events that typically trigger new licensing requirements include adding new products or services, changing your entity name or structure, and changing operational activities. Expanding geographically also calls for examining any new requirements, which may or may not be the same as those in your current locale.
If you decide to do this yourself with internal resources, it’s a good idea to track all renewal dates in your calendar system and set up early reminders that provide you advance notice of due dates. Also, your business records should include copies of applications and licenses.
Each authority has its own procedures for completing forms and paying associated fees and taxes. Business license management software typically accounts for this and associates entities with locations.
For many businesses, outsourcing some or all of the business license management may be a more viable and cost-effective alternative to a company such as BizFilings.
If you want to do your own preparation and filing, research services could perform a gap analysis to identify whether you are compliant or require any necessary actions. Another option is to use a provider for preparation and filing, along with the research and gap analysis. These services are typically provided on a one-time, as-needed basis (e.g., when opening a new location or launching a new line).
If you want ongoing licensing management, a provider of full outsourcing services would manage compliance throughout the business lifecycle. The service provider analyzes and applies for all necessary licenses, permits and registrations on behalf of the business.
Regardless of the option you choose, it’s good to stay on top of your licensing requirements. Having your compliance in place avoids unnecessary headaches and helps you focus on keeping the business running smoothly.