Permits

Definition: A legal document giving official permission to do something

Along with business licenses, you may need to obtain some of the following permits, depending on your business, to show compliance with local and state laws regulating structural appearances and safety as well as the sale of products:

The Seller's Permit

If you'll be buying merchandise for resale in a state that collects sales tax, you'll need a resale tax number, also called a seller's permit. Suppliers you buy from will want your number for their files; if you sell to dealers, get their numbers for your files. That way you have a record on why you haven't collected tax on a sale, which is only collected on sales to the final user in your state. If you sell to someone in another state, you're not required to collect taxes for that state--only the ones in which you maintain offices or stores. If you sell to dealers who don't have a tax number, you'll have to charge them sales tax on their purchases.

Where and how do you get such a permit? Agencies issuing permits vary from state to state; generally the Equalization Board, the State Sales Tax Commission, or the Franchise Tax Board has this responsibility. Contact the entity that governs taxes in your state and apply for your resale tax or wholesale permit. You'll have to provide documentation that proves you're a retailer--make sure to ask what's acceptable.

Health Department Permit

If you sell food, you'll need a county health department permit. The health department will want to inspect your facilities before issuing the permit. The fee for such a permit depends on the size of your operation and how much equipment you have.

Fire Department Permits

Many fire departments require businesses to obtain a permit if they use any flammable materials or if customers or the public occupy the premises at large. In some cities, you must secure a permit before you open for business. Other jurisdictions do not require a permit; instead, they conduct periodic inspections of the premises for compliance. If you are not in compliance, the fire department will issue a citation. Theaters, restaurants, clubs, bars, retirement homes, day-care centers, and schools are businesses subject to especially close and frequent scrutiny by the fire department.

Air and Water Pollution Control Permits

Many cities now have departments that supervise the control of air and water pollution. If you burn any material, discharge anything into the sewers or waterways, or use gas-producing products (such as paint sprayers), you may be required to obtain a special permit from this department of your city or county.

Environmental-protection regulations may require you to obtain approval before construction or operation. Check with your state agency regarding federal or state regulations that may apply to your business.

Sign Permits

Many cities and suburbs have sign ordinances that restrict the size, location, and sometimes the lighting and type of sign used. Landlords may also impose their own restrictions; these are likely to be most stringent in a mall. To avoid costly mistakes, be sure to check regulations and secure the written approval of your landlord before you invest in a sign.

See also "Business License."

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