Licenses and Permits

Every business owner must identify which licenses and permits are needed to operate the business legally. Many states in the U.S. require all enterprises to be licensed in order to legally operate a business, profession or occupation within the specific jurisdiction (county and/or city) where the business resides. Some specific professions must also obtain additional licenses or specific permits. Below are examples of licenses and permits required in the State of Florida. Similar requirements apply in other states.

Business Tax Receipt or Occupational License

Before commencing operations, every Florida business must obtain a license called Business Tax Receipt. In some jurisdictions, this license is also known as Occupational License. To obtain this license, the business owner must contact the Office of Business Tax or the Department of Finance of the city or the county where the business resides. Typically, if the business resides within the city limits, the business must obtain two licenses: a license for the city and a license for the county. If the business resides outside of city limits, then a county license is sufficient.

Zoning Permit

When the business owner is trying to secure a physical location for the entity, the business owner must ensure the business can be permitted to operate in the selected location. During the process of obtaining the Business Tax Receipt or Occupational License, the owner should verify if the business could reside in the zone where the business will be located. There may be zoning restrictions that may not allow or may restrict the operation of certain businesses in selected locations. In specific areas, environmental laws may prohibit the establishment of, for example, a dry cleaning business, a pet boarding facility, or a nightclub.

Licenses for Regulated Professions

In Florida, certain professions are regulated by the state and require a special license. This license is different and separate from the Business Tax Receipt and Zoning Permit. Specifically, the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation provides a list of the professions that are regulated and require additional licensing. For more information, visit the Website

Additional Licensing and Permitting

Some businesses need additional permits before they are legally allowed to operate. For example, all restaurants need a special license and also an inspection by the Department of Health. If the business will be selling alcoholic beverages, then it must also obtain an alcohol license. There are different licenses for wine, beer or hard liquor.

In Florida, businesses may obtain additional information regarding licenses and permits at the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation Website

Construction Permits

Any person or business planning to construct a commercial building, residence or development must obtain a construction permit. The municipality where the building or facility will reside provides this permit. There are two types of permits for specific jobs, like structures and roofs, mechanical work, or installations related to basic services, like gas, electricity and plumbing.

For example, in Orange County, Florida, the Plans Review and Plans Coordination Office provides all the commercial permits for remodeling work in the county. All construction drawings and plans must be submitted to this office in order to obtain a construction permit.

The Residential Permitting office in the county processes all the construction permits for residences and commercial signs. All residential permits or commercial signage must be obtained from the Zoning Division where the residence or business is located.

Impact Fees and Utilities for New Construction

When a business constructs a new building or development, the government has to provide additional services to sustain these new structures. Consequently, the government requires an Impact Fee from the business to assist the government in paying for these new services. For example, in Orange County, Florida, there are five types of impact fees: roads, schools firefighters, and parks and recreation. In addition to the above, the government establishes costs for the provision of basic services, like water and sewer.

Costs of License and Permits

The costs of licenses and permits vary, depending on the type of license and place where the business will reside. Costs may be based on the number of employees, as well as the type of business. Generally, taxes are paid annually, except the Impact Fees related to construction, which are paid once. For more information about the cost of licenses and permits contact the corresponding office in the municipality where the business is located.


* This article is based on material from the book “Does Your Compass Work? Practical Legal Guide for Florida Businesses,” Copyright © 2008-2015 Yasmin Tirado-Chiodini. All Rights Reserved. This article is provided under a Creative Commons License.


About tiradochiodini

I am a attorney, entrepreneur and author blogging about business, law, entrepreneurship, writing, books and other subjects.
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