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How to get a business license in North Carolina?

When you form a new business, or if you are planning to start one, there are several federal, state, and local documents required to keep the business operational. One of the most important business documents in North Carolina is the North Carolina business license. This license is not required for all types of businesses. Only those businesses that are engaged in certain activities or transactions are based in certain cities or are a part of specific industries will require this license. This guide will provide you with information concerning the NC business licenses and permits, the types of licenses or permits required, and the process to obtain them.

Business License in North Carolina

The registration of a company transforms the business into a legal entity but it doesn’t provide the permission to transact. Every business in any state in the USA is required to obtain some form of license or permit that will allow them to transact in a specific state, location, or area. So, if you start a company in North Carolina, you will need to obtain a North Carolina business license.

A business license is also classified as a government document, which certifies that a specific entity is safe for the public. Some businesses will not require any formal license, while other companies may require multiple licenses. Different states have different criteria and licensing regulations. When you obtain a NC business license, it will be governed by the state’s licensing laws and regulations. The licensing laws would be the same for both domestic and foreign entities.

Who needs a North Carolina business license?

There is a reason why business licenses exist, they happen to play an important role. Licenses ensure the compliance of a business with all requirements related to operations such as the cleanliness of restaurants, the safety of new drugs, and environmental safety among others. A North Carolina business license is required by most businesses operating in the state including home-based companies and small startups. Legal entities such as limited liability companies or corporations will also need to obtain a NC business license or permit.

What business license do I need in North Carolina?

North Carolina is a favorite destination among entrepreneurs due to its pro-business climate. The state has a robust infrastructure and a skilled workforce to meet the needs of a wide variety of industries. You can start a company in this state with ease, but to make it operational you will need proper licenses and permits. A North Carolina business license search will help you to identify the right type of license.

The state of North Carolina does not have a general state business license. Whether you need to obtain a NC business license or not will depend on the location of the business, the business activity, regulated industries, and occupations. If a company is selling goods or products within the state then such a company will also require necessary sales licenses or permits. There are certain services and industries where you may need multiple licenses like the hospitality industry or catering services.

North Carolina Business Licenses for Specific Occupations and Professions

One of the most important types of North Carolina business licenses are those associated with specific professions and occupations. An occupation is any activity undertaken by an individual to earn their livelihood such as teaching, advertising, or lawyers. An occupation can be a profession or a business. Profession refers to an activity that requires qualification, training, and skills like a Certified Paralegal or a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). If you have started a business in a specific industry or occupation then you will need to obtain a NC business license and permits for that occupation as well as a professional license connected to the said occupation. Let’s look at an example to understand this.

Example: If you start a tax accounting firm then you will need to apply for a CPA firm registration, which has to be renewed each year. This is a type of license to operate the firm and the registration is done with the Licensing Section, NC State Board of CPA Examiners. In order to operate this firm, you need to hire Certified Public Accountants (CPAs) or should possess a North Carolina CPA Certificate also known as the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) license. You will have to obtain a NC business license for a CPA from NC Board of Certified Public Accountant Examiners (CPA). The license fee will be $100 and the renewal fee is $60.

It is important to note that the license fee and issuing authority will vary according to the type of North Carolina business license for professionals or occupations that is required.

Other North Carolina Business Licenses

Apart from the occupation or professional licenses, the state of North Carolina has classified licenses based on the specific business activities and the location of the company. You can conduct a North Carolina business license search using your business activity such as selling products or services. Let’s look at the various other applicable licenses and permits in the state.

Seller’s permit (Certificate of Registration)

The seller’s permit is a type of North Carolina business license that is required by businesses or individuals involved in different sales activities within the state. The activities that determine the need for a sellers permit include:

  • If you sell tangible personal property through retail
  • Selling specific digital property like digital audiovisual work or a magazine
  • Providing taxable services
  • Operating a business that involves apparel and linen rental, dry cleaning, and other similar businesses
  • Leasing or renting any taxable tangible personal property
  • If you provide the ability to rent an accommodation as it generates gross receipts
  • Retailers of service contracts
  • Imposing admission charges to entertainment activities

The North Carolina Department of Revenue is responsible for issuing a seller’s permit also known as the Certificate of Registration. You can obtain an NC business license by registering online or submitting the completed Business Registration Application (Form NC-BR) by mail. If you are submitting online then the seller permit containing the sales and use tax number will be issued instantly. If you are submitting by mail then the Certificate of Registration will be issued anywhere between ten business days and four weeks. There is no fee for applying.

Local North Carolina business licensing and permits

One of the important licensing requirements for businesses planning to transact in North Carolina is obtaining proper NC business licenses and permits in the necessary counties and cities. The type of license, applicable fees, and local ordinances will vary according to the city or county the company is based in. You will need to conduct a North Carolina business license search to identify the right permits in your county. Let’s look at an example to understand how this works.

Example: You are planning to start a food establishment or food related business in North Carolina. The physical address of your company is in Carteret County, NC. A retail food service in the county also classified as food service establishments include restaurants, food stands, drink stands, meat markets, and commissaries among others. In order to operate in the county, you will need to complete and submit the Food Service Establishment Application. This detailed application has to be submitted with the Carteret County Health Department, Environmental Health Division. You will also be required to submit a non-refundable plan review fee along with the application. The food service facility should be compliant with the design standards as listed in 15A NCAC 18A.2600.

North Carolina home-based business license

Home-based businesses are becoming quite popular due to many reasons such as low startup costs and lower operational costs. If you are planning to start a work-from-home then it may be subject to some of the North Carolina business laws, as well as state licensing regulations. Most home-based businesses are typically partnership or sole proprietorship firms. The question is what type of NC business license and permits application process will be required for the same. One of the important aspects is that home businesses are categorized under occupational licenses and therefore will depend on the area of expertise. There are certain areas to focus on such as:

  • Conduct a North Carolina business license search for occupational and professional licenses
  • You should be aware of local zoning regulations and obtain the necessary clearances
  • You may require local licenses from the city or county where you are based
  • The license required may also vary according to the business activity

When you are running a home-based business, the local licensing regulations will be different for different counties or cities.

Example: If you start a home-based business in Durham County or City of Durham, NC then you will be required to apply for a Home Occupation Permit. Your home-based business should be compliant with the requirements as mentioned in the Home Occupation Summary Regulations, Unified Development Ordinance Section 5.4.4. Similarly, if you start a home-based business in the City of Raleigh then according to the City’s Unified Development Ordinance (UDO) Section 6.7.3.D or Section 6.7.3.E, there are two types of home-based businesses. These are Home Occupation (located within a residential dwelling) and Live-Work (commercial use contained within a residential structure). You will have to apply for a NC business license and permits based on the type of home-based business.

Alternatively, you can opt for our IncParadise “Business License Research Report” service. This is a research report, which contains a list of filing instructions, supporting document requirements, and fees for all business licenses and permits in NC.

Need any Assistance in Obtaining Your North Carolina Business License?

If you are planning to start a new business in the state of North Carolina then it is important to obtain the necessary licenses and permits in the state and the cities or counties. The type of NC business license and permits you need will vary according to the location of your company, the type of occupation, and the primary activity. The North Carolina business license search, license or permit application, fees, and renewal processes will also vary according to the type of license and city.

We, at IncParadise can guide you towards obtaining the necessary business licenses and permits. We also provide additional services to new and existing North Carolina businesses such as EIN Tax ID and Foreign Qualification among others.

Do you need help with a North Carolina Business License?