What kinds of business activities require business licenses?

linux.poet

Active member
Sep 26, 2023
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I’m looking to start a small publishing company. Do I need a business license to rent office space for this business, or can I rent the space in my own name and transfer it to the business after legal incorporation down the road?

I’m also wondering if and when a business needs a license. If we’re selling books to bookstores and online, do we need one? If we open a small shop and go direct to consumer?
 
Location
California, United States
With any business where you provide a product or service, you will probably need to obtain a seller's permit. I don't think you need a business license unless you start to make real good money, but I suppose it wouldn't hurt to get one. Find Law has a good write-up about what is required when starting a business that you can read over here, you might need permits like;

  • Fictitious business name permit - I guess all companies have this. It's AKA "Doing Business As"
  • Zoning and land use permits - I think this is required if you're building or buying up a building for said business.
  • Fire department permits - This is if you get a lot of customers in store, but I don't know if that would be needed for you.
I think that is it, but I'd reach out with the permitting office who issues said permits.
 
With any business where you provide a product or service, you will probably need to obtain a seller's permit. I don't think you need a business license unless you start to make real good money, but I suppose it wouldn't hurt to get one. Find Law has a good write-up about what is required when starting a business that you can read over here, you might need permits like;

  • Fictitious business name permit - I guess all companies have this. It's AKA "Doing Business As"
  • Zoning and land use permits - I think this is required if you're building or buying up a building for said business.
  • Fire department permits - This is if you get a lot of customers in store, but I don't know if that would be needed for you.
I think that is it, but I'd reach out with the permitting office who issues said permits.
That link you gave me was extremely helpful. Thank you! :)

I've made note of the fictitious business name information. I definitely will need to file that permit, and possibly a seller's one. Eventually I will want to make it an S-corp, but I don't think I can do that if I'm not making any money and my business has no money in it. I think I need to start the business structure of making money first and then do the incorporation filing when it is successful, heh.
 
I think an S-corp is what my in-laws use for their businesses. They used to own The Spot in La Jolla and Urge Gastropub/Barrel Room in RB and my brother-in-law still owns the brewery that's attached to Urge as part of a restaurant group. I could maybe reach out and get some San Diego-specific perspective on starting a small business, if you think that'd be useful for you? When I had my stump grinding business, I operated as a sole proprietor, which worked fine but I think is less desirable because you assume more liability than with an LLC or S-corp. At the time, it was also nice to be able to deduct business expenses from my personal income, but that was before the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act when the standard deduction was much lower...tax benefits from such a small-scale operation would obviously be much less (if you even itemized still at all) today.

You might also consider checking into the local Chamber of Commerce for information/resources on permitting and other aspects of starting small business (e.g., SBA loans and other finance opportunities). Good luck!
 
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