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Pennsylvania Business License

One of the important aspects of doing business in Pennsylvania is ensuring that you obtain a proper license or permit to transact business in the state. At the same time, it is important to understand that all businesses in the state don’t require a Pennsylvania company license. There are some businesses that may even require:

  • One or more licenses
  • A business permit
  • A license and a permit

These business permits and licenses are regulatory and cover matters like sales tax, health and safety, and the environment. How do you obtain the licenses or permits?

There are different types of regulatory permits and licenses applicable and are issued by different state agencies. In the state of Pennsylvania, you can apply for most permits or for a particular business license by filing Form PA-100, also known as the Pennsylvania Enterprise Registration form. This form is primarily for registration of new businesses or start-ups in the state but it also contains a section (Section 18 – Sales Use and Hotel Occupancy Tax License, Public Transportation Assistance Tax License, Vehicle Rental Tax, Transient Vendor Certificate, Promoter License, or Wholesaler Certificate) on business licenses. You can file the form online or submit it through mail with the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue.

Step-by-Step Guide to a Business License in Pennsylvania

Here is a step-by-step approach towards acquiring a business license in the state of Pennsylvania:

Step#1: The Industry or Business Type

How would you know what type of business or professional license is required to operate in Pennsylvania? The type of industry or the activities of a business entity helps in identifying the type of business license required.

The form PA-100 is for specific business types and helps in issuing of licenses for Transient Vendor, Promoter License, Cigarette Dealer’s License, Cigarette Wholesaler, Cigarette Stamping Agent, and Small Games of Chance License.

If you have a business that doesn’t fall in the above category then how do you obtain your business license in Pennsylvania?

It can be obtained from various state agencies directly depending on the type of business you have. Let’s take a look at some examples to understand this better:

Retail Food Facilities & Restaurants

The business license issued under this category includes Restaurants, Clubs, Bars, Grocery Stores, Food Auctions, Beer Distributors, Convenient Store, Caterers, Schools, and any public food facility where food is served or sold directly to a consumer.

A business entity falling in the above category is required to obtain a Retail Food Facility License prior to beginning operations of the Retail Food Facility.

  • Issued by: Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture
  • Apply: You have to download and submit Application Packet – Retail Food Facilities and Restaurants with the appropriate Regional Office via mail or fax
  • Processing time: 4-6 weeks
  • Fees: Fees for a ‘New’ retail food facility is $241. The annual renewal fee is $82. The inspection fee can vary from $150 to $600 depending on the number of inspections.
  • Renewal of Business License: You can renew your license annually and the due date is approximately 45 days prior to your current expiration date.


Liquor Licensing

  • License Issued by: Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board

Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB) issues a business license in Pennsylvania for serving wine and liquor. The different license types include:

  • Restaurant (R)
  • Eating Place (E)
  • Hotel (H)
  • Distributor (D) & Importing Distributor (ID)

The fee is dependent of the type of business activity like:

  • License fee for a Brewery is $700 (Application Fee) + $30 (Filing Fee).
  • The expiration date of the business license is December 31 and the renewal fee is $1,425.00 (Prorated Quarterly)

Schedule of Wholesale License Fees

Step#2: Licenses issued by City/County

If your business or industry type doesn’t fall under a statewide license then you will have to check with the local city or county office. A Pennsylvania company license can also be issued by local counties or cities in which the business entity is located. Let’s look at an example to understand how this works.

If you are planning to transact your business in the City of Philadelphia, PA then you will require a business license for specific types of services or activities. Firstly, you will need to apply for an activity license. There are three types of activity licenses issued in Philadelphia and they are:

  • Commercial Business Entity
  • Non-Profit Business Entity
  • 2-4 Unit Owner-Occupied Housing

You have to apply to Department of Licenses and Inspections, License Issuance Unit – PSC for the issuance of the business license.


Step#3: Issuance of a Business License

How is a business license in Pennsylvania issued? You have to identify the following to complete the process:

  1. The type of business or industry
  2. Do you need a license or a permit?
  3. Will it be issued by the state or the city or county?

Once you have identified the above, all you need to do is either download the application online or contact the concerned state department or city of clerk office.

It is important to note that a business license or permit will have to be renewed annually unless specific dates have been mentioned, to keep the business operational.

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