Nearly all businesses are required to obtain some sort of license or permit from either a local, state, or federal agency. Furthermore as a small business owner and employer you should be aware of the consumer, workplace, and environmental laws and regulations that might affect your business. Different businesses must comply with different rules, so it is critical you take the time to find out what rules apply to you. Mistakes can at best be costly and at worst result in serious legal trouble.
The most common local permit is the privilege license, sometime referred to as a business license. A privilege license is an annual tax levied on all for-profit businesses within a jurisdiction's limits, for the privilege of engaging in a particular occupation or business activity.
Contact your city or town directly for more information about their requirements.
Many towns and some counties have zoning restrictions that limit what type of businesses can operate where, including whether or not home-based businesses are allowed. The size and location of signs is another common business item that is regulated by local government. Furthermore, some subdivisions and neighborhoods have restrictive covenants or other deed restrictions that may be more stringent than the local zoning requirements.
In order to be sure that you are in compliance check with your homeowners association and local Planning or Inspections Department:
North Carolina has over 700 business license requirements for certain types of businesses.† There are also businesses for which there are no state license requirements. To find out if your business activity requires a state license contact the Business ServiCenter at the N.C. Department of Commerce.
NC Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services, Licenses & Permits
Oversees the issuance and regulation of the licenses and permits related to agricultural enterprises
In addition to obtaining appropriate state licenses, small businesses must comply with a number of state rules and regulations. The most common relate to the responsible stewardship of the environment, the promotion of the health, safety, and well-being of workers, and the protection of consumers from fraudulent business practices.
The links below can help you learn more about what state regulations potentially affect your business:
A Guide to OSHA in North Carolina
The N.C. Department of Labor, Division of Occupational Safety and Healthís guide to the rights and responsibilities of employees and employers in maintaining a safe and healthy workplace.
Doing Business in North Carolina: Legal Aspects
The N.C. Department of Commerce, Division of Business and Industry Developmentís overview of the legal requirements of doing business in North Carolina.
N.C. Department of Commerce, Business ServiCenter
Consultants in the Business ServiCenter can assist you in identifying state licensing requirements for your specific business activity and provide a wealth of information about service providers, resources and programs available to you in North Carolina.
NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources Small Business Assistance Program
Provides assistance to small business with air quality and other regulatory requirements.
Quick Reference Guide to the N.C. Wage and Hour Act
The N.C. Department of Labor, Wage and Hour Bureauís concise reference guide to employee compensation, record keeping requirements, and youth employment.
Most small businesses are unlikely to have to acquire special federal licenses or permits to operate a business. Some more tightly regulated industries though do require federal licensing including businesses engaged in investment advising, preparation of meat products, ground transportation involving interstate commerce, and the manufacture of tobacco, alcohol, or firearms. In these cases it is best to consult an attorney regarding federal licensing requirements before starting your business.
Small businesses are subject to a number of federal laws and regulations governing how they operate their business including rules barring workplace discrimination, guaranteeing unpaid leave for medical or family reasons, and regulating harmful pollutants.
The links below can help you learn more about what federal regulations potentially affect your business:
Employment Law Guide
The U.S. Department of Laborís overview of the major federal statutes and regulations governing employers. The guide includes descriptions federal rules on wages and hours of work, workplace health and safety, the provision of health, retirement, and fringe benefits, and family and medical leave.
Environmental Protection Agency Small Business Ombudsman
The U.S. EPAís liaison to the small business community not only providing assistance for complying with environmental regulations but also offering small business ways to improve both their environmental and financial performance.
Federal Laws Prohibiting Job Discrimination Questions and Answers
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission guide to prohibited personnel practices including discrimination based on disability, race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.