Steps to Apply for Business Licenses and Permits in Colorado
- Obtain a Colorado privilege license
- Search for any necessary Colorado general business licenses
- Obtain applicable federal licenses for your Colorado business
- Check for Colorado permits and licenses
- Check with the city or county for local licensing in Colorado
- Search for applicable Colorado professional licenses
- Obtain any other necessary Colorado business licenses and permits
- Apply for Colorado home-based business licenses
- Maintain your Colorado licensing
You might be experiencing a mix of emotions as you set out to start a new Colorado business. There’s the excitement of starting a new venture, the anxiety of wanting to get it right, and the dread of doing a lot of paperwork. And after you start your new business, you’ll likely need to fill out paperwork to obtain multiple business licenses and permits. Not sure what licenses and permits your business needs? This guide and our Business License Report service can help you get it done easily.
What is a business license?
A business license grants a business permission to operate. Most businesses need one or multiple licenses to run. Some states and local governments require all businesses to have a general business license for any kind of commercial activity. Your need for a business license can depend on different factors such as the characteristics of your business, the industry you’re in, and where your business is located.
You might also have to obtain licenses not only at the state level, but at the federal and local levels as well. Your business could require numerous licenses from numerous sources, but there isn’t a central place to look to determine what all of your licensing requirements are. To make sure you fulfill all of your licensing and permit obligations you need to do plenty of research. But we can help.
Step 1: Obtain a Colorado privilege license
Some people looking to do business in certain states have to apply for a privilege license. This is normally a general license they need to get to create any kind of business. Colorado doesn’t require this kind of license statewide, but, depending on what Colorado city or county you’re in, you might have to obtain one at the local level.
Step 2: Search for any necessary Colorado general business licenses
Like a privilege license, a general business license is needed in some states to do business of any kind. The state of Colorado doesn’t require businesses to have a general business license, but there are many local governments that require them. If you plan to open storefronts for your business in multiple counties and cities, you need to check the business license requirements of each one to stay in line with the law.
If you have already registered your business with the state, remember that it’s not the same thing as getting a Colorado business license. Many people confuse these two actions, but they are different. Registering your business with the state officially forms your business, but getting a business license gives you the authority to run your business after it’s formed. Also, you might need authority to run your business from federal, state, and local government agencies.
If you need to register your limited liability company (LLC) or corporation with the state and you have questions about how to do it, you can ask us. Our Colorado LLC formation and Colorado corporation formation services can help you get registered quickly!
Step 3: Obtain applicable federal licenses for your Colorado business
You might think your new business is a humble, local enterprise, but sometimes you still need a license or permit from the federal government to operate. Your need for a federal license to do business boils down to the industry you’re in. If you’re involved in the following business activities, you might need a license or permit from the following federal agencies:
- U.S. Department of Agriculture — for interstate importing or transporting of plants, biologics, biotechnology, animals, or animal products
- Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (and Local Beverage Control Board) — for selling (wholesale or retail), importing, or manufacturing alcoholic beverages
- Federal Aviation Administration — for transporting people by air, transporting goods by air, maintaining aircrafts, or operating aircrafts
- Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives — for importing, dealing, or manufacturing ammunition, explosives, and firearms
- U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service — for importing or exporting wildlife-related products or engaging in wildlife-related activities
- National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries Service — for engaging in any kind of commercial fishing
- Federal Maritime Commission — for being involved in shipping cargo by sea or providing ocean transportation
- Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement — for drilling for natural gas, mineral resources, or oil on federal land
- U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission — for producing commercial nuclear energy, being involved in the distribution and disposal of nuclear material, or running a fuel cycle facility
- Federal Communications Commission — for broadcasting information by wire, radio, television, cable, or satellite
- U.S. Department of Transportation — for help with state permits for operating oversized or overweight vehicles
Your business operations might include a mix of the above mentioned activities and might need licensing from more than one federal agency. It’s important to be clear about all the characteristics of your business, so you don’t miss a licensing obligation.
Step 4: Check for Colorado permits and licenses
Although there isn’t a general business license requirement at the state level, you might need some kind of Colorado state business license to move forward with your enterprise. Many state license requirements depend on your industry and can include:
- Liquor licenses
- Professional and occupational licenses
- Commercial fishing licenses
- Gaming licenses
- Wildlife licenses
- Farming licenses
The Colorado Secretary of State new business webpage has resources regarding starting a new business. However, it isn’t necessarily an exhaustive resource that covers all of your licensing needs in detail at the federal, state, and local levels.
Step 5: Check with the city or county for local licensing in Colorado
For many Colorado businesses, the majority of licensing and permit requirements comes from the local government. Many local governments in Colorado require every business in their territory to have a general business license. Local governments also often have licensing rules that dictate how your business looks, how your business operates, how many people you can serve at a time, and where your business can be located. These licensing rules can be hard to find, and they can be vastly different from one city or county to the next. For assistance with what rules apply to you, you can speak to your city hall or county clerk.
Step 6: Search for applicable Colorado professional licenses
A great way to serve others is to open a business that offers your professional services or skills you’ve specially trained for to the public. If you want to go this route, you’ll probably need a license from the state. The state provides licensing for many professionals and specially-trained individuals, such as:
- Healthcare professionals
- Insurance professionals
- Massage therapists
- Motor carriers
Separate state boards handle the licensing for many of these professions and occupations. You can find information about many state-regulated professions and occupations by visiting the Department of Regulatory Agencies website. The website doesn’t necessarily cover every regulated service, but it can be a good place to start.
Step 7: Obtain any other necessary Colorado business licenses and permits
By this point, you’ve probably gathered that there are a lot of licenses to look for and obtain before you can run a business. Additional business licenses and permits you might need can include:
- Zoning permits
- Sign permits
- Sales tax licenses
- Food licenses
- Environmental permits
Some of these licenses and permits have to do with your industry, while others deal with the kind of impact your business has on the community around you. You’ll likely need to reach out to local and state government agencies to check if you’ve fulfilled all of your licensing and permit obligations.
Step 8: Apply for Colorado home-based business licenses
Letting your home double as a residence and a business can bring great simplicity to your professional and personal life. But before you can take advantage of that simplicity, you might need to follow a number of local rules regarding home-based businesses. Many times, a home-based business has to be licensed before it can operate. Among the licenses and permits a home-based business might need can be:
- Home occupation permits
- Sign permits
- General business licenses
- Privilege tax licenses
- Zoning permits
- Building permits
- Food preparation licenses
Many local governments also require home-based businesses in their jurisdictions to follow specific rules of operation. Although a lot of the authority you might need to operate a home-based business comes from the local government, you might also need to consult neighborhood covenants and homeowners’ association rules to make sure you can run your business without issue.
Step 9: Maintain your Colorado licensing
Your business needs constant upkeep, and your business licenses and permits likely need upkeep, too. Most business licenses and permits need to be renewed on a periodic basis to stay viable. Sometimes, nothing closes a business’s doors faster than not renewing a business license, so you must stay on top of your license renewal deadlines.
We can help you fulfill your Colorado business’s needs
Your business might need to apply for multiple licenses to have permission to operate in certain industries, partake in certain activities, and locate in certain areas. Paperwork is a big part of running a business, but you don’t have to let it overwhelm you. While you might have a lot of paperwork to fill out to comply with local, state, and federal licensing and permit requirements, we can help you complete it quickly.
One of the biggest challenges in fulfilling your licensing and permit requirements is determining which requirements you have to fulfill. With our partners at Avalara, we make determining your licensing obligations a snap. We can provide you with a Business License Report that outlines your licensing, permit, and registration obligations at every level of government. With this report, you don’t have to spend hours going from government entity to government entity to figure out what you need. We know what your business needs and who you need to speak with to get it.
Once you have your licenses, we can help you stay on top of your license renewal obligations with our Worry-Free Compliance Service. Our Worry-Free Compliance Service keeps track of your compliance deadlines, and we handle two business amendments for you per year. With our help, you can save hours and days of valuable business time.
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.
- Do all Colorado businesses need a license?
The state of Colorado doesn’t require all of its businesses to have general business licenses. But with all of the different licensing requirements at the local, state, and federal levels, it’s unlikely a Colorado business can operate without at least one license or permit.
- Can you sell things without a license in Colorado?
In general, any business that sells tangible, personal property needs to have a sales tax license.
- Is it legal to run a business from home in Colorado?
It’s legal to run a home-based business in several Colorado cities and counties, but you might have to follow strict rules and apply for certain licenses and permits.
- What kind of license do I need for an online business in Colorado?
The kind of business licenses you need for an online business in Colorado depends on the characteristics of your business. Your licensing needs vary based on your industry, activities, and location.
- Do I need a license to collect sales tax in Colorado?
If you sell personal, tangible property, your Colorado business license requirements normally include a sales tax license.