When you want to open a business in New York City, the type of business you are starting will dictate the permits, licenses or other form of authorization you will need. Some types of businesses will require more than one license.

Find Out Your Licensing Requirements

To find out what the licensing requirements are for your business, start with the New York State License Center. First you will need to choose a business type, followed by the county in which you want to do business. You will then need to identify the legal structure of your business.

Most Commonly Used Business Legal Structures

You can choose to set up a business as a sole proprietorship (simple business structure, owned by one individual who has unlimited liability), corporation (separate entity with its own debts and obligations), limited liability company (unincorporated business with owners having limited liability), or partnership (two or more persons, liability is dependent upon the type of partnership). Additional legal structures exist, but these are the four most common ones. Each type of business has benefits and drawbacks, so it is important to do your research when it comes to setting up your business legally.

Try the New York City Business Wizard

The New York City Business Wizard takes you through the process of determining what licenses you will need to run your business, step by step in a user friendly way. You will choose a sector for your business, and choose whether you are starting a new business or running a current one. The questions you will be asked include the nature of your business, what you are going to sell, whether you are working with live animals, alcohol, or many other options.

Register Your Business

Where you register depends on the type of business you have. New York State accepts registrations for all Corporations, Limited Liability Companies, and Limited Partnerships. You will need to register your General Partnership or Sole Proprietorship with the County Clerk in the county where you will be doing business.  

Obtain Professional Licensing

Some professions and occupations will require you to be licensed by the State of New York. The Office of Professions has information on licensing for most professions, and the New York Department of Labor lists state-licensed occupations as well as professions.

Register an Assumed or Fictitious Business Name

If you are a small business that does not plan to operate under your own name, you can operate under a business name. This circumstance may also arise where some corporations and LLCs originally register under one name with the state (the registered/actual or true name), but may later decide that they wish to operate under another name. This other business name is known as an assumed/fictitious or trade name, or a DBA (doing business as). If operating under an assumed name, corporations, LLCs and limited partnerships in New York must file with the state. Sole proprietorships and general partnerships as well as other business entities which use an assumed name must file with the county clerks in each respective county where the entity does business.

Register a Trademark or Service Mark

Trademarks, service marks and trade names are the unique identifiers of a goods, services or businesses. This is how you differentiate or distinguish your business or the product or service you provide from what your competitors provide. Trademarks and service marks can be registered with NY state, but this process is separate from whatever is required for federal registration. Information on registering trademarks and service marks with the state can be found on the Division of Corporations Website.  

Get Your Employer Identification Number

If you are opening a sole proprietorship and working alone, you can use your social security number. All other types of business must get an EIN from the Internal Revenue Service. There is no fee to get an EIN, and this will identify your business with the government for tax purposes.

If you are selling goods or services, you must register with the NYS Department of Taxation and Finance.

If you have employees, you will need to figure out what insurance you have to carry in order to do business. This includes workers compensation insurance, as well as insurance to protect the assets of your business. New York State requires employers to provide unemployment, workers’ compensation and disability benefits insurance, as well as compliance with wage reporting and tax withholding requirements. All businesses must meet state tax requirements, and liabilities and which taxes you need to register for will depend on the nature of the business.

Make sure that the area that you have identified as the physical space for your business allows your type of business to open in the area. Certain restrictions exist for businesses in various areas. In addition to zoning questions, you may want to also consider parking, sign regulations and occupational license restrictions for your particular type of business. New York City may also have its own unique regulations.

Applying for your License(s)

Information will differ depending on the type of license you need and are applying for. Most applications will request the business name, address and contact information, names of owners or officers, owner’s address and contact information, number of employees, federal employer identification number (EIN) or the owner’s social security number and a signature and date. Some local business permits may also require proof of identification and documentation showing compliance with all state and city requirements.

You will need to meet with a City of New York representative at City Hall to receive planning approval. This step should take place after you have identified and applied for the necessary business license on the New York City License Centre page. You should take this step before locking yourself into any real estate contracts to make sure your business is approved for the zone you are in. Once you obtain building and planning approval, you should bring your applications and other supporting information to the City Clerk’s Office to pay the applicable fees and/or get more information for anything else you may require.