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Does Your Small Business Need Licenses or Permits to Operate?

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Before your business starts selling its products and services, you may need to have certain licenses or permits to legally operate. Licenses and permits are often for the protection of customers. Some are to identify you and your business for the collection of sales, local, income and other taxes. Federal, state, or local licensing and/or permit requirements might apply, depending on the type of business and where you’re located.

You definitely don’t want to find yourself not in compliance with the regulations. If you fail to maintain the required licenses or permits, you could face some hefty fines and penalties, or you might be forced to stopped doing business.

 

Where do you start your research to figure out if your business needs to have licenses or permits?

You can start by visiting the Small Business Administration’s website. On the site, you’ll find information about the federal licenses and permits required of businesses operating in certain industries, including transportation, agriculture and alcoholic beverages.

The SBA website also provides an online list of links to where you can find specific information about business licenses required in your state. On that list, you’ll find Maine.gov’s website, which walks you through how to get a business license in the state of Maine.

Individual towns, cities, townships and counties have their own requirements. Generally, the best way to find what applies to you is to contact the offices directly or review the information on their websites (be sure to confirm with them that the information is up to date). Throughout Maine, general licenses to operate businesses are handled at the local town or city level. For information for the city of Portland, click here.

As you research and complete the paperwork to obtain the licenses and permits you need, make sure you give yourself some time—and expect to exercise some patience. The registration process could take days or months or longer, depending on the nature of what you’ll need. For example, to gain zoning clearances, it might take up to a year if you meet resistance and hearings are required.

Although figuring out what requirements will apply to your business may seem daunting, remember professionals and resources are available to help. Consider consulting with an attorney to make sure you know what you need to do to be compliant. SCORE mentors are here to help you cut through the confusion. Contact us today to schedule an appointment with a mentor who is knowledgeable about your industry and can help you move your business forward.

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