Arizona business license

How to Apply for Business Licenses and Permits in Arizona

Most businesses need some kind of permit or license to conduct business in Arizona. Our business license report can help you stay compliant.

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Forming a business is just the first step of your business adventure. Once you’ve filled out the paperwork to form your business with the state, it’s critical that you meet all administrative prerequisites. A major portion of these administrative requirements is getting the right Arizona business licenses. Most businesses need to obtain quite a few licenses, and the process of finding which ones are needed can take quite a bit of time and hard work. That said, we are here to help. This guide and our Business License Report service can help you get it done easily. 

What is a business license?

Every state offers business licenses and permits as a way to ensure that businesses are complying with state regulations. Arizona is no exception to this rule. Businesses will need different licenses and permits based on where they’re located and the activities that they’re engaged in. Business owners also need to know that federal, state, and local governments each have their own licensure requirements. To be compliant, business owners need to fulfill all these requirements. 

Business owners must understand the Arizona state business licenses that are applicable to their company according to its industry and location. Those searching for a centralized database discussing all permit requirements will be disappointed. Rather, business owners must go out and discover this information themselves. This process can take quite a while to complete.  

Step 1: Search for any Arizona general business licenses

Unlike many states in the country, Arizona doesn’t mandate that all businesses carry a general business license or state privilege license. 

That said, the various cities and counties in Arizona each have their own business licensure requirements. Therefore, business owners must understand exactly what business licensing requirements exist in their jurisdiction. 

Arizona Business Licenses vs. Arizona Business Registration

It’s critical to understand that getting a business license isn’t the same as registering a business in Arizona. People often use the two terms interchangeably. Yet the truth is that obtaining a business license and registering your business are both important but completely different steps. 

Small business owners register their businesses by filling out and sending in certain formation documents, like Articles of Incorporation, to the Arizona Corporation Commission. Different formation documents are required based on the type of business you’re forming. Applying for business licenses is a different process. Before business owners can apply for business licenses and permits, they have to complete the business registration process. 

Step 2: Obtain applicable federal licenses for your Arizona business

There are federal permit and license requirements for certain industries. These federal license requirements exist separately from Arizona’s business license requirements. Failing to comply with federal requirements can result in monetary penalties. In extreme cases, the government can opt to dissolve a non-compliant business entirely. 

Below is a list of the most prominent industries that the federal government regulates. Keep in mind that this list isn’t exhaustive.

  • The United States Department of Agriculture requires that agricultural businesses that transport animals, animal products, and biological organisms across state lines obtain appropriate licensing from them.
  • Business manufacture, import, or sell (wholesale or retail) alcoholic beverages need to meet the licensure requirements established by The Alcohol Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, and the Local Alcohol Beverage Control Board.
  • Businesses that fly or maintain aircraft, as well as those that transport goods and people using aircraft, must obtain the appropriate licensing from The Federal Aviation Administration.
  • The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives has a variety of licensing requirements for businesses that sell, maintain, or transfer firearms, ammunition, and explosives.
  • The United States Fish and Wildlife Service requires that businesses that engage in wildlife-related activities or deal in wildlife-related products meet their license and permitting requirements. 
  • Although they’re probably not common in Arizona, any business operating as a commercial fishery must obtain licensing from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries Service.
  • Oceanic transporting and shipping businesses, as well as intermediate trade operators, must acquire licenses and/or permits from the Federal Maritime Commission.
  • The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) requires that businesses that mine and drill natural gas, oil, or mineral resources on federal lands obtain licenses from them. 
  • Most businesses that engage in the production of commercial nuclear energy and the storage or removal of radioactive materials need licenses from the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
  • The Federal Communications Commission regulates businesses that conduct broadcasts via radio, television, satellite, wire, or cable. Businesses must acquire different licenses based on the power and type of broadcasting equipment that they use. 
  • All businesses engaged in the operation of oversized and overweight vehicles can consult the United States Department of Transportation for guidance on state permit and licensure requirements.

Although not all businesses require federal licenses, it’s important to review licensing requirements so you can keep your business compliant.

Step 3:  Check for Arizona permits and licenses

Although Arizona doesn’t mandate that a business obtain a general business license, it does require that businesses obtain licenses for certain industries. The Arizona Commerce Authority has a small business checklist that covers some of Arizona’s licensing requirements. However, it’s not an exhaustive resource. 

Step 4:  Check your city or county for local licensing in Arizona

Business owners must remember that counties and cities have their own license and permit requirements. For obvious reasons, local requirements can be even harder to find than federal and state licensing requirements. Therefore, business owners must search carefully for their county or municipality business licensing requirements. 

Local license requirements can commonly be found on the county or city websites. Business owners can also search for local license requirements on the website of the local county clerk’s office. 

Step 5:  Search for applicable Arizona professional licenses

Arizona has separate licensure requirements for practitioners of a variety of professions. In Arizona, about two dozen separate boards and agencies control professional licensing. The following professions have licensing requirements in Arizona:

  • Acupuncturists
  • Accountants
  • Athletic trainers
  • Chiropractors
  • Physical therapists
  • Real estate professionals
  • Insurance agents
  • Opticians
  • Geologists

Business owners can visit Arizona’s professional licensing board directory to see the professional licensing requirements for their industry. 

Step 6:  Obtain any other necessary Arizona business licenses and permits

In Arizona, businesses must obtain permits for issues that aren’t related directly to professions or industries. Possible additional permits include:

  • Alarm permits
  • Architectural permits
  • Zoning permits
  • Health-related permits
  • Signage permits 

Localities issue the majority of these licenses, so business owners may want to check the website of their business’s locality to learn more.  

Step 7:  Apply for Arizona home-based business licenses

Home-based business owners are exempt from many of the business license requirements of traditional commercial businesses.  However, home-based businesses aren’t completely exempt from permit requirements. These license and permit requirements vary by city or county. However, small business owners can expect to obtain permits relating to things like fire exits, business hours, parking, and occupancy limits. 

Step 8:  Maintain your Arizona licenses and permits

Very few Arizona state business licenses last indefinitely. Most expire after a few years. At that point, business owners must act promptly to renew them. To learn more about a permit’s expiration period and how to renew it, contact the applicable licensing board or authority.

Let us help you keep your business compliant with Arizona law

It isn’t easy researching and complying with all business licenses and permit requirements. We also understand you might not have the time to scour the internet to find every license requirement for your enterprise. 

There’s a silver lining though. We offer a Business License Report so that you can glide through the license requirement process. With this service, we can help you determine what licenses and permits you need to operate legally. Our partner uses your business’s location, industry, and activities to identify the applicable local, state, and federal licensing requirements. After that, we’ll send you a brief summary report showing you the applicable license and permit requirements for your business. 

In addition, we offer a Worry-Free Compliance Service to keep business owners informed of any upcoming filing deadlines and compliance events. This service can help you keep your business in compliance. Let us help you today!

Disclaimer: The content on this page is for information purposes only, and does not constitute legal, tax, or accounting advice. If you have specific questions about any of these topics, seek the counsel of a licensed professional.

FAQs

  • Do all Arizona businesses need a license?

    Most likely. As you can see from this article, almost every business will need some kind of Arizona business license. Although a business may be engaged in an activity that doesn’t require industry-specific federal or state licenses, it will still face more generic licenses and permits requirements from its locality.

  • Can you sell things without a license in Arizona?

    It’s doubtful. Arizona has a transaction privilege tax (TPT), which is essentially a state sales tax. As a result, anyone selling a product in Arizona or engaging in certain services has to obtain a license from the Arizona Department of Revenue (ADOR). However, there are a few exemptions from the sales and use tax permit requirement. Business owners can learn more about the required license and exemptions by visiting azdor.gov. Some businesses may also have to pay the state’s use tax.

  • Is it legal to run a business from home in Arizona?

    Generally, yes. Yet counties and cities throughout may regulate (and even prohibit) home businesses. Home business owners can expect to comply with zoning regulations relating to issues like building occupancy requirements, operating hours, and signage limitations. Home business owners can contact their local city or county to learn more about what requirements apply to their business.

  • What kind of license do I need for an online business in Arizona?

    Almost all online businesses need to obtain a license from the Arizona Department of Revenue to pay the TPT and use tax. Online businesses may also need to obtain licenses based on their industry.

  • Do I need a license to collect sales tax in Arizona?

    Most Arizona businesses need to obtain a TPT license from the Arizona Department of Revenue (ADOR). Business owners can visit www.azdor.gov or call the ADOR at 800-352-4090 to learn more.

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