Steps to Apply for Business Licenses and Permits in South Carolina
- Search for any necessary South Carolina general business licenses
- Obtain applicable federal licenses for your South Carolina business
- Check for South Carolina permits and licenses
- Check with the city or county for local licensing in South Carolina
- Search for applicable South Carolina professional licenses
- Obtain any other necessary South Carolina business licenses and permits
- Apply for South Carolina home-based business licenses
- Maintain your South Carolina licensing
Opening your South Carolina business means the beginning of endless opportunities. However, before you can get started, you need to know what licenses and permits your business needs to operate legally. The permits and licenses your business needs depend on your business location, industry, and activities. This can make understanding what your business needs very complicated for business owners.
We’ve compiled this guide to give you an idea of what permits and licenses apply to your South Carolina business and how our Business License Report service can help you get it done easily.
What is a business license?
To legally operate your business, you have to obtain permits and licenses to comply with federal, state, and local government regulations. Many businesses are required to hold several permits and licenses at a time.
Some state and local governments require businesses to hold a general business license to operate any enterprise within their boundaries, in addition to licenses needed for industry-specific purposes. Without a central place to learn about license and permit requirements, business owners often encounter difficulty locating all of the licenses and permits necessary to operate their business legally.
Step 1: Search for any necessary South Carolina general business licenses
Unlike some states, South Carolina doesn’t require you to purchase a statewide general South Carolina business license. Instead, cities and counties issue business licenses.
Step 2: Obtain applicable federal licenses for your South Carolina business
The federal government regulates certain activities. If your business engages in activities regulated by the federal government, you may need to obtain a license or permit from a federal agency. The federal agencies responsible for issuing these licenses and the activities they regulate are described below.
- Agricultural businesses that require movement of animals, animal products, and biological organisms across state lines need licensing from the United States Department of Agriculture.
- Businesses that manufacture, import, or sell (wholesale or retail) alcoholic beverages need licensing from the Alcohol Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, and/or the Local Alcohol Beverage Control Board.
- Businesses that maintain aircraft, fly aircraft, or transport goods and/or people by aircraft need licensing from the Federal Aviation Administration.
- Businesses dealing with firearms, ammunition, and explosives need licensing from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.
- Businesses dealing with wildlife-related activities or wildlife-related products need licensing from the United States Fish and Wildlife Service.
- Commercial fisheries need licensing from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries Service.
- Businesses dealing with ocean transportation and shipment need licensing from the Federal Maritime Commission.
- Businesses that deal with mining and drilling of natural gas, oil, or mineral resources on federal lands need licensing from the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement.
- Certain businesses that deal with nuclear energy or nuclear materials need licensing from the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
- Broadcasting businesses using radio, television, satellite, wire, or cable need licensing from the Federal Communications Commission.
- Businesses that deal with the operation of oversized and/or overweight vehicles receive guidance regarding state permits from the United States Department of Transportation.
Step 3: Check for South Carolina permits and licenses
The South Carolina Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation (LLR) issues professional and occupational licenses within the state. The LLR creates commissions that license and permit certain occupations. Some of South Carolina’s licensing commissions are provided below.
- The South Carolina State Athletic Commission licenses and permits professional wrestling, professional boxing, amateur and professional mixed martial arts, and professional kickboxing.
- The South Carolina Real Estate Commission regulates real estate brokers, salespersons, and property managers. Additionally, the Real Estate Commission administers the registration of timeshare projects and out-of-state land sales that are marketed in South Carolina.
- The Massage/Bodywork Panel licenses individuals qualified to perform professional massage services and investigates complaints against those accused of violating massage laws and regulations.
Most occupational and professional licensing runs through the South Carolina license system. However, this isn’t the end of the search. Even more license and permit requirements exist at the local level.
Step 4: Check with the city or county for local licensing in South Carolina
Although the State of South Carolina doesn’t require a business license, several counties and cities in South Carolina do. The South Carolina Business One Stop site provides a chart with a list of counties that require business licenses. Every city and county can impose different license and permit requirements.
Step 5: Search for applicable South Carolina professional licenses
South Carolina authorizes state regulatory agencies to issue professional licenses and regulate certain professions. The professions regulated in South Carolina include:
- Social workers
The regulatory board responsible for issuing the licenses also governs the requirements for keeping the professional license active and investigates potential misconduct by its members.
Step 6: Obtain any other necessary South Carolina business licenses and permits
Certain local governments may require specific licenses that only apply to that particular location. Examples of other permits and licenses you may need include:
- Zoning permits
- Sales tax permits
- Health permits
- Environmental permits
- Building permits
- Signage permits
Check with your local government agencies to make sure you have the permits your business needs.
Step 7: Apply for South Carolina home-based business licenses
South Carolina regulates home-based businesses at the local level. That means you need to check with your local government to determine the rules and regulations for businesses that operate out of your home.
Step 8: Maintain your South Carolina licensing
In most cases, you need to renew your licenses and permits periodically to stay legally compliant. There isn’t a universal time period that triggers the expiration of licenses and permits, so you have to know which licenses and permits expire at what time. Letting one of your permits or licenses expire can result in your business violating federal, state, or local regulations and facing serious consequences.
Let us help with your South Carolina business needs
As you can see, there are a wide variety of South Carolina licenses and permits necessary to operate your business legally. Locating all of the permits and licenses you need can cause a huge headache for business owners that are dedicating their time and attention to operating their business. Instead, let us handle this part for you.
We offer business owners the opportunity to purchase a Business License Report to simplify the process of finding the licenses that apply to you. We partner with Avalara to research the permits and licenses that apply to your business. We’ll help take the guesswork out of the process by delivering a report that gives you a list of the licenses and permits your company needs.
Our Worry-Free Compliance Service sends business owners alerts and notifications about upcoming compliance events and monitors your business’s status to ensure your company remains in good standing. Plus you get two free amendments per year after you pay the state fee.
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 South Carolina businesses need a license?
South Carolina doesn’t require a general business license, unlike some states. However, many counties and municipalities in South Carolina do require companies to obtain a business license to legally operate a business within their boundaries.
- Can you sell things without a license in South Carolina?
No. South Carolina requires every person in the business of selling tangible personal property at retail to obtain a retail license. Retailers don’t need to obtain a separate use tax registration, as their sales tax return provides them the opportunity to remit the use tax on any property or any service purchased for their own use.
- Is it legal to run a business from home in South Carolina?
Yes, South Carolina allows business owners to operate out of their homes. Home-based businesses are subject to local laws and zoning regulations. Additionally, some municipalities require certain home-based business permits.
- What kind of license do I need for an online business in South Carolina?
South Carolina requires every person in the business of selling tangible personal property at retail to obtain a retail license, and that includes online businesses. Additionally, the location of your business’s principal office dictates what local permit and license requirements you must obtain to operate legally.
- Do I need a license to collect sales tax in South Carolina?
Yes. Individuals who collect sales tax from customers on goods or services are required to have a retail license in South Carolina.