Starting a business? Here’s how to get a business license in Pennsylvania and some helpful resources


Even for seasoned business owners like restaurateur Juan Plancia, getting the business license they need can be difficult.

“I have a little leg up and it’s still hard for me to navigate,” Placencia said.

A former owner of two restaurants and most recently a Cloud Kitchen operator (no food in, commercial kitchens for delivery only), Placencia has been through the business licensing process before and in several states. Now he’s at it again, as he embarks on a new endeavor with Brazza’s BBQ Chicken, a Peruvian rotisserie chicken restaurant on South Street in Philly.

If you are doing business in Pennsylvania, you will need at least one or more licenses.

For starters, every business in Philadelphia must obtain a business license to operate in the city. And depending on what business you have—restaurants, apartment rentals, entertainment, etc.—you’ll have additional, more specialized licenses to apply for. It can be tricky.

“One thing I’ve done that’s really helpful in trying to navigate all these permits and licenses is to look for local groups and organizations that are specific to your industry or type of business,” Plessia said. “I signed up for the Greater Philadelphia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. I am also a member of the Philadelphia Mexican Business Owners Association.

Remember, Philadelphia can be a difficult city to do business in because of the taxes and regulations imposed on new and small businesses in the city.

There are many aspects to making sure your business is above board, including registering your business with the state, obtaining a federal tax identification number, zoning laws and other business requirements.

This guide explains how to do it. Find out what business licenses you need and how to apply for them.

Key receivers

  • be patient. Obtaining a business license can be a long process with lots of back and forth between government agencies.
  • Find out what type of business license you need Government websites, business resource centers or local businesses.
  • Some business licenses cost money.. From free to $500, business licenses have a wide range of costs depending on the business you operate.
  • Visit the government agency that issues the license you need in person. You can call or visit their website, but the most efficient way to get your questions answered is in person.
  • Record everything. You will be provided with documents and tasks to complete on the way you want in the process. If you’ve contacted agencies about steps you’ve already completed, write them all down and save them for later.

It is a business license. A document that confirms business with a government agency and allows you to do business in a specific area – Like a city, state or country. They come in the form of permits and licenses and are issued by local, state and federal agencies.

In any case, they are going to do legitimate business.. Whether you are selling products or providing services, you must obtain certification from the government to operate that business.

It depends. Some businesses have licenses with them that cost nothing, while others pay hundreds of dollars for licenses and licensing fees. For example, if your business only requires a business permit from the city, you will pay $0. However, if you need a catering and serving license, you may be looking at licensing fees of $275 to $415. The cost of a food truck license is $341.

No — unless you have an official business like an LLC or a brick-and-mortar store. Most places to sell things online don’t require you to have a business license. This includes eBay, Facebook, Shopify and Craigslist.

No, because you’re hiring for Uber, Lyft, or whatever delivery service you’re working for.. The employer is required to have a business license, but you as a driver do not.

According to Plancia, Business owners should do their own due diligence to get the license they need. In his experience, it’s difficult to communicate with different government agencies because the agencies often don’t communicate with each other — often the agency can only answer questions about the specific permits they issue.

“A phone call from any department or one of these entities is probably the most efficient way to communicate or get these questions answered,” he said. “I find the best way to ask questions is to make an appointment or go in person.”

Here’s what you can do to get started:

  • Check federal, state and local government agency websites to see what your business license requires.
  • Ask for help from the business sources below.
  • Make an appointment or visit a government agency in person.

“Anyone you talk to should definitely record the name and place in the room you spoke to, so there’s a reference next time,” Placencia said.

Below are resources you can use to learn more about business licenses and get help applying for them.

This free online tool is for Philadelphia business owners to plan, start and expand their business in the city. you can find All business licenses On this site – in the business category – you need it. It provides a detailed list of documents you need, including business licenses, tax documents, and other certifications. Visit business.phila.gov to get started.

This free online tool can be used by business owners around Pennsylvania to find out what permits they need. It offers interactive checklist and business plan templates to help guide you through the process.

You can call 1-833-722-6778 Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., except holidays. Visit business.pa.gov to get started.

These resource centers provide free business services to entrepreneurs in Pennsylvania. Here you can get in-person guidance on what business licenses you need, help applying for them, and free business training and events. In the Philly region, Temple University and Widener University have SBDCs. You can apply for free business advice online.

🌐 pasbdc.org 📞 877-472-7232

Community Development Corporations (CDCs) are nonprofit organizations that provide services to communities in areas such as housing, employment, business, and more. You can find information about the licenses you need or find references to other places. Here is a list of CDC’s small business resources.

🌐 pacdc.org 📞 215-732-5829📍1315 Walnut Street, Suite 1600

A local non-profit organization that provides workshops, business planning and small business consulting for entrepreneurs in the Philly area.

🌐 thebizctr.com 📞 215-247-2473 📍 7500 Germantown Avenue, Elders Hall, Suite 113

This free resource center at the Free Library of Philadelphia can help. Established business owners Access to a variety of research databases, business resources, and information on public programs to support business needs.

🌐 freelibrary.org 📞 215-686-8663 📍 1901 Vine Street

You will need to apply with a business licensing agency. Each level of government has different websites where you can apply for their licenses.

Find out what federal business licenses (if any) you need on the Small Business Administration (SBA) website. There you will find information on all licenses issued by the federal government, including agriculture, radio and television broadcasting, and transportation. You can get help with federal business licensing from free consultants using the SBA Help Finder.

The Pennsylvania Licensing System (PALS) is a website where you can apply for a state business license. You can see all the requirements and documents needed to apply for a permit here. They provide an application form on the home page to help you along the way. Find out what type of business license you need and apply at pals.pa.gov.

The City of Philadelphia has a list of all business licenses issued by the city on their website. Here you can find out if your business is included in the list of business licenses and instructions on how to apply for them. For assistance from the City, visit the Office of Business Services website at business.phila.gov.





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