New York Business License

How to Apply for Business Licenses and Permits in New York

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

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Getting your New York business up and running is hard work. But the work doesn’t end once you’ve successfully formed your corporation or LLC. Even after the entity formation stage, there are many other things you must do to stay compliant with the state. 

Most New York businesses will need to acquire a combination of licenses and permits at the federal, state, or local levels in order to legally operate. However, these requirements will vary based on your business location, industry, and activities. 

Not sure where to begin? Use this guide to learn more about how to apply for New York business licenses and permits and see how our Business License Report service can help you get it done easily.

What is a business license?

Most New York businesses will require some sort of New York business license or permit to operate legally within the state. But what exactly is a business license or permit, and when do you need one for your business? 

As a general matter, the business licenses and permits you need for your business will vary based on a number of factors. For example, certain licenses and permits might be required by federal, state, or local agencies. Sometimes, the licenses you must acquire depend on the specific industry in which your business conducts its activities.

Unfortunately, there’s no central authority where businesses can check to see which New York state business licenses and permits are required for their business in a particular location. Thus, it often takes some searching to ensure that you have all the necessary licenses and permits required. Fortunately, this guide can help you determine your licensure requirements so that you can stay compliant. 

Step 1: Search for any necessary New York general business licenses

A general business license is one that is required to conduct business in a particular state or region. While New York doesn’t require any general business licensure at the state level, local licenses are often required. 

Importantly, a business license is not the same as registering your business with the state. Although some people mistakenly refer to registering a business as “getting a business license,” this isn’t accurate. Rather, registering a business with the state is what officially forms the entity. Getting a business license is a separate process.

Step 2:  Obtain applicable federal licenses for your New York business

If your business activities are regulated by a federal agency, you’ll likely need to obtain some sort of licensure or permitting at the federal level. 

Specific license requirements and fees vary depending on the industry in which your business operates and the services your business provides. Below are some industries that are regulated by the federal government and require federal licenses or permits. 

  • The agricultural industry involves the import or transport of animals, animal products, biologics, biotechnology, or plants across state lines. This industry is regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which is also responsible for issuing the necessary licenses and permits. 
  • The alcoholic beverage industry involves the manufacture, wholesale, import, or sale of alcoholic beverages at retail locations. This industry is regulated by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau issues permits for these activities.
  • The aviation industry includes businesses that operate aircraft, transport goods or people via the air, or perform aircraft maintenance and is regulated by the Federal Aviation Administration. The Federal Aviation Administration issues the necessary certificates to pilots and other airmen and certifies airports and air carriers. 
  • The firearms, ammunition, and explosives industry includes any business that manufactures, deals, or imports firearms, ammunition, and explosives. This industry is regulated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, also called the ATF. The ATF issues the licenses necessary to engage in this industry.
  • The fish and wildlife industry includes businesses that engage in any wildlife-related activity, including the import or export of wildlife and derivative products. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service regulates this industry and issues the necessary permits.
  • The commercial fishing industry includes businesses that engage in any kind of commercial fishing. This industry is regulated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries Service, which also issues the fishing permits necessary for this industry.
  • The maritime transportation industry includes businesses that provide ocean transportation or facilitate the shipment of cargo by sea. The Federal Maritime Commission regulates this industry and issues required licenses.
  • The mining and drilling industry includes businesses involved in drilling for natural gas, oil, or other mineral resources on federal lands. The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement regulates the industry and issues the permits that are required to engage in the activities.
  • The nuclear energy industry includes businesses that produce commercial nuclear energy, businesses that are fuel cycle facilities, and businesses involved in the distribution and disposal of nuclear materials. This industry is regulated by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which is responsible for issuing the necessary licenses.
  • The radio and television broadcasting industry includes businesses that broadcast information by radio, television, wire, satellite, or cable. The Federal Communications Commission regulates this industry and issues the licenses that are required.

Step 3:  Check for New York permits and licenses at the state level

Even after acquiring your federally required licenses or permits, you’ll still need to comply with any state, local, or industry-specific requirements.

For example, if your business is involved in any of the following industries, it will require licensure at the state level: 

  • Amusement arcade
  • Car wash
  • Commercial lessor
  • Electronics store
  • Locksmith
  • Pedicab business
  • Process serving agency
  • Scrap metal processor
  • Sightseeing bus or guide services
  • Storage warehouse
  • Tow truck company

This isn’t an exhaustive list. As such, determining what licenses your business might require can seem overwhelming. 

Fortunately, however, New York does provide access to its Business Wizard platform to help businesses determine what state licensure they need. Of course, this doesn’t necessarily guarantee a comprehensive or accurate list of required state licensing and permitting necessary for your business. Nevertheless, it’s a great place to start your search.

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

In addition to your federal and state requirements, your business may also be subject to local licensing requirements. To what extent such local requirements exist will vary depending on the counties and municipalities in which your business operates.

There are many counties and municipalities in the State of New York, each of which may have its own licensure and permitting requirements. Thus, it can often be more difficult to find information at the local level. Nevertheless, the best way to verify what licenses and permits you need is to check your local city and county websites, the county clerk’s office, and the local tax office where you plan to operate your business.

Step 5:  Search for applicable New York professional licenses

In New York, there are also licensing requirements that you may need to meet based on the particular profession in which your business operates. Examples of some common professions that require state licensure in New York include: 

  • Acupuncture
  • Applied behavior analysis
  • Architecture
  • Athletic training
  • Audiology 
  • Chiropractic
  • Dentistry
  • Dietetics-Nutrition
  • Engineering
  • Geology
  • Interior design
  • Land surveying 
  • Massage therapy
  • Medicine
  • Occupational therapy
  • Psychology
  • Public accounting
  • Social work
  • Veterinary medicine 

Many of these professions have a state board that governs the issuance of professional licenses. It’s up to you to ensure that your business is in compliance with its licensing requirements. 

Step 6:  Obtain any other necessary New York business licenses and permits

There may be other types of licenses and permits that your business will need. For example, most New York businesses will need a “Certificate of Authority” in order to collect sales and use taxes. 

Additionally, you may also be required to obtain: 

  • Health-related licenses or permits
  • Building permits
  • Environmental permits
  • Zoning permits

If you have questions about whether your business requires these types of licenses or permits, contact the appropriate agency to gain clarity on your obligations before proceeding. 

Step 7:  Apply for New York home-based business licenses

Many New Yorkers operate businesses out of their homes. Even though the business is run out of your home, there are still license and permit requirements to ensure your business is operating legally. 

For example, New York City prohibits home-based businesses from occupying more than 25% of a residence. It also prohibits employees, other than the individual who lives in the house, from working at the home-based business. New York City’s planning department provides resources to determine the zoning requirements where your home is located.

If your home-based business operates in the food processing industry, you’ll need to apply for a “Home Processor” license with the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets.

Step 8:  Maintain your New York licensing

In most cases, the licenses and permits obtained by your business don’t last forever. For some licenses, you’ll need to pay a fee on a periodic basis to keep your license active. For others, especially professional licenses, the state regulatory agency issuing the licenses controls the requirements for keeping your license up to date. Some licenses and permits automatically expire after a certain period of time. When this occurs, you have to re-apply for the permit or license to stay legally compliant. 

Let us help keep your New York business legally compliant

The number of licenses and permits required to keep your business legally compliant can seem daunting. But don’t worry, we are here to make the process easier for you. With our Business Licenses Service, we help you identify the local, state, and federal licenses and permits that are required to run your business. After we locate and verify the licenses and permits you need, we’ll send you a report that outlines what permits and licenses are required for your business to stay legally compliant. You can rest easy knowing that extensive research went into locating all of the permits and licenses you may need for your business.

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 New York businesses need a license?

    While the state itself doesn’t require businesses to have a business license to operate, many cities in New York mandate them. For example, New York City’s Department of Consumer and Worker Protection (DCWP) issues licenses to several businesses that operate within the city.

  • Can you sell things without a license in New York?

    If you want to sell, lease, or advertise goods and services in a public place that isn’t considered a store, New York requires you to obtain a General Vendor License. Things you can sell without a vendor license includes:

    Newspapers, books, and other written materials
    Artwork
    Items at a garage sale

    If you want to sell food products, alternative licenses are required from the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

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

    Yes, New York allows home-based businesses. Depending on the industry and location of your business, you may need licenses and permits in order to operate legally. Consult with your local city planning office to determine what permits are required before opening your home-based business.

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

    Online businesses formed in New York require the same licenses and permits that are required of companies that operate out of a brick-and-mortar location. There are no specific licenses required to sell products on the internet.

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

    You don’t need a “license” to collect sales tax in New York. However, you do need to obtain a Certificate of Authority in order to collect sales and use taxes.

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