Steps to Apply for Business Licenses and Permits in Delaware
- Search for any necessary Delaware general business licenses
- Obtain applicable federal licenses for your Delaware business
- Check for Delaware licenses and permits
- Check with the city or county for local licensing in Delaware
- Search for applicable Delaware professional licenses
- Obtain any other necessary Delaware business licenses and permits
- Apply for any Delaware home-based business licenses
- Maintain your Delaware licensing
Because of its organizational structure and the presence of the federal government in Delaware, you need to research to ensure that you have obtained all the proper licenses and permits for your business. At times, government entities will overlap in their licensing and permitting requirements making it confusing to determine whether you have all the right licenses and permits. We are uniquely positioned to help you navigate this licensing and permitting maze, this guide and our Business License Report service can help you get it done easily.
What is a business license?
A business license is a federal or state authorization for you to conduct business in a certain region. It can be extremely broad in that it simply allows you to do what you do without any detail, or it can be very specific by requiring you to fulfill certain standards. Whatever form a business license or permit takes, if it’s required, it’s critical that you obtain it. Our Business License Report service and Worry-Free Compliance service can help with many of your licensing and permitting concerns.
Step 1: Search for any necessary Delaware general business licenses
All businesses that operate in Delaware must have a state business license. Go to Delaware’s OneStop website where you can fill out the state business license application. It doesn’t matter if your business is domestic (a business formed in Delaware) or foreign (your business was formed in another state). Each must apply for a Delaware state business license.
If your business has employees that work in Delaware, or if you plan to pay wages or compensation to individuals in Delaware, your business must register for:
- Workers’ compensation insurance
- Unemployment insurance
- A withholding account
The Delaware Department of Revenue (DOR) website provides all the necessary online applications to complete this registration process.
Difference Between Business Licenses and Business Registration
We want to take a moment to talk about the common confusion between the terms formation, registration, and licensing. Often these terms are used interchangeably. However, they’re not synonymous, and there’s a real legal distinction between them. We want to make sure you have the best information possible, and that includes accurate definitions:
- Forming your business means officially creating an entity (like a corporation or LLC) with a government agency.
- Registering your business means giving notice of an already formed business to a government agency.
- Licensing your business means getting permission from a government agency to engage in a specific activity.
We hope these definitions help you speak with more accuracy about your business and its operations.
Step 2: Obtain applicable federal licenses for your Delaware business
The federal government also has its licensing and permitting requirements. We’ve put together the below list of the most common federal agencies that require licenses and permits. When reviewing the list, keep in mind that there could be similar state license or permit requirements from Delaware.
Commonly required federal licenses and permits include:
- Agriculture—Do you transport animals, animal products, biologics, biotechnology, or plants across state lines? See U.S. Dept. of Agriculture.
- Alcoholic beverages—Do you manufacture, wholesale, import, or sell alcoholic beverages? See the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau.
- Aviation—Do you operate aircraft, transport goods or people via air, or conduct aircraft maintenance? See the Federal Aviation Administration.
- Firearms, ammunition, and explosives—Do you manufacture, deal, or import firearms, ammunition, or explosives? See the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
- Fish and wildlife—Do you engage in wildlife-related activity, such as the import or export of wildlife and derivative products? See the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
- Commercial fisheries—Do you engage in commercial fishing of any kind? See the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries Service.
- Maritime transportation—Do you engage in ocean transport or facilitate transport of cargo by sea? See the Federal Maritime Commission.
- Mining and drilling—Do you drill for natural gas, oil, or other mineral resources on federal lands? See the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement.
- Nuclear energy—Do you engage in the production of commercial nuclear energy, operating a fuel cycle facility, or are involved in distribution and disposal of nuclear materials? See the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
- Radio and television broadcasting—Do you broadcast information by radio, television, wire, satellite, or cable? See the Federal Communications Commission.
- Transportation and logistics—Permits for oversized and overweight vehicles are issued by Delaware, but the U.S. Department of Transportation can direct you to the correct office (U.S. Department of Transportation).
We recommend that you also check any other federal agencies not listed here that might regulate your business.
Step 3: Check for Delaware licenses and permits
There are several Delaware state agencies that could require other licenses or permits. Similar to OneStop, Delaware has created FirstSteps, another clearinghouse for additional state licensing and permitting resources. FirstSteps lists the various business activities that may require additional licenses or permits for your business. FirstSteps also provides an online application.
We encourage you to visit the FirstSteps website and dig deeper into the various licensing categories to help ensure that you have all the proper state licenses and permits. In that search, you may see the category “General Business License.” Don’t be confused, because this is the same business license we discussed in Step 2.
Step 4: Check with the city or county for local licensing in Delaware
Generally in Delaware, local business licenses are issued by the cities rather than the counties. Also, check for city or county sales tax permit requirements, which would be in addition to the tax permits required by the state that we discuss in Step 7. Delaware’s FirstSteps website provides an excellent local government list with the cities and counties that potentially require licenses or permits. Visit each applicable municipal website to check that you have all the necessary licenses and permits.
Step 5: Search for applicable Delaware professional licenses
As with most states, Delaware regulates various professions through state oversight boards. What is somewhat unusual is that Delaware still requires licensed professionals to have the state business license outlined in Step 2. As an aid to your search, here is a list of the more common licensed professions:
- Barbers and cosmologists
- Chemical dependency professionals
- Healthcare professionals (including physicians and nurses)
- Massage and bodywork
- Physical therapy
- Real estate
- Real estate appraisals
- Social workers
The Delaware Division of Professional Regulation (DPR) provides a good list of regulated professions and occupations, and we encourage you to find out if your profession is regulated. In addition, for attorney licensing please visit the Delaware Board of Bar Examiners.
Step 6: Obtain any other necessary Delaware business licenses and permits
Delaware, and its cities and counties, may also require zoning, building, signage, environmental, or health permits. Be sure to search for these various categories at both the state and local levels. For instance, you may be required to obtain a permit from a city planning and zoning board to use your commercial space in a specific way or to erect a business sign. Another example is a waste and disposal permit from the county or an environmental permit from the state.
Finally, and importantly, you need to check that you have all the proper tax permits to operate. With regard to the state, you will have to file a “gross receipts tax” form with the DOR. After you file with the DOR, check with your city or county for any local tax permit requirements. Using FirstSteps’s local listings page can help you find the proper local tax agency.
Step 7: Apply for any Delaware home-based business licenses
Contact your city or county government to determine whether a home-based business is allowed and under what conditions. Requirements for operating a home-based business vary from city to city and are very specific, so be sure to check with your city or county for their standards.
Step 8: Maintain your Delaware licensing
Virtually all licenses and permits have an expiration date and need to be renewed. We recommend that you mark your calendar with the expiration dates for each license or permit and give yourself plenty of time to renew them. Often license or permit renewals require recertification and not just the payment of a fee. So plan ahead to avoid getting caught operating with an expired license while you wait for renewal.
We can help keep your licenses and permits complaint and your business worry-free
We’re well-positioned to help you keep your licenses and permits current. With our Business License Report service and Worry-Free Compliance service, we can help you identify and keep track of these tedious requirements, thus allowing you more freedom to grow your corporation or LLC. Contact us so we can take the worry out of license and permit compliance and let you do what you do best as a businessperson.
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 Delaware businesses need a license?
Yes. All businesses that operate or generate sales in Delaware need a business license. You can find the application at the OneStop website.
- Can you sell things in Delaware without a license?
No. If you generate sales in Delaware you must have a business license. Review Delaware’s nexus requirements if you have any doubt as to whether you do business in Delaware.
- Is it legal to run a business from a home in Delaware?
Operation of a home-based business in Delaware is regulated by the specific city or county where the home-based business is located. Check with the planning and zoning department of your city or county to determine whether a home-based business is permitted.
- What kind of license do I need for an online business in Delaware?
Like all businesses in Delaware, an online business will need a business license from the State of Delaware. The only way you may not need a license is if you don’t have sufficient contact with Delaware, and you can determine that with the nexus questionnaire.
- Do I need a sales license to collect sales tax in Delaware?
Delaware doesn’t have a sales tax. However, it does have a “gross receipts tax,” and as a business you will need to file and pay the gross receipts tax.