Pennsylvania Business License

To obtain a Pennsylvania business license, you'll need to get all permits necessary for your business, register your company name, and submit applicable forms and documents.

What You Need When Applying for a Business License in Pennsylvania

You can get information and assistance from the Small Business Development Centers (SBDC) for a new or existing small business in Pennsylvania.

The online portal for the SBDC has information on:

  • Starting a business

  • Growing your business

  • Continuing the business

At the SBDC site, you'll also find business information related to:

  • Loans

  • Planning

  • Taxes

  • Specific industries

Another resource you'll find helpful is the SBA, or the U.S. Small Business Administration. The SBA includes information for specific areas across the state. Not all businesses require a business license in Pennsylvania. You'll probably be required to get at least one license or permit. Some permits and licenses are regulatory. They cover issues like:

  • The environment

  • Healthy and safety

  • Sales tax

Various state agencies issue regulatory licenses.

Alternative Business Names

A company may register under one name (known as the actual name, registered name, or true name of the business), but later decide to conduct business under a new name. This includes LLCs and corporations.

An alternative name for a company is technically known as any of the following:

  • Assumed name

  • Trade name

  • Fictitious name

  • DBA, or "doing business as"

The alternative name designation that applies to your business depends on your company structure as well as the business location.

All companies in Pennsylvania that intend to operate under fictitious or assumed names have to register with the Department of State (DOS). In Pennsylvania, there isn't a single license that applies to all businesses that want to operate in the state. File Form PA-100, Pennsylvania Enterprise Registration to submit your application for a selection of important permits and licenses.

Form PA-100 is usually used for registering new businesses in the state, but you'll also find areas relating to business licenses on it. You may either complete this form on the web portal or on paper. Depending on the type of license, you may have to obtain it locally.

Your requirements differ depending on the city. Harrisburg and Philadelphia, for example, require annual business privilege licenses for anyone operating a business there. State College and Pittsburgh don't require this license.

In addition to getting the necessary licenses and permits, some businesses will have to file records as well as organizational documents with the DOS. This includes LLCs and corporations.

Trademarks and Service Marks

Separate definitions exist for:

  • Service marks

  • Trademarks

  • Trade names

All of these terms can be used to identify:

  • Goods or products

  • A business

  • Services

You can register a trademark or service mark with the state. This is separate from federal registration.

The following must register with the DOS:

  • Limited partnership

  • Corporation

  • Limited liability company

  • Limited liability partnership

A helpful resource that contains tips about business ownership is the state publication, "The Entrepreneur's Guide: Starting and Growing a Business in Pennsylvania."

Requirements to Apply for a Local License

A business owner must provide:

  • Full name of the business

  • The type of business

  • The business address

  • Contact information

  • Owner's name

  • Owner's contact information (or officers/partners if it's a corporation or partnership)

  • Federal Employer Identification Number (EIN)

  • State tax number

For special occupational permits, you'll have to provide details on your business activities as well as specifics on the nature of the business.

Do You Need a Sales Tax License?

Every business won't require a sales tax license. To see if your goods and services may be taxable, see the Retailers Information Guide (REV-717). If your company sells goods and services that are subject to this tax, you'll apply for this license via the PA-100 Pennsylvania Enterprise Registration Form.

You can apply quickly and easily online. The following business day after completing the form, you can log on to the site and get your account number(s). Within 7 to 10 business days, you'll receive license(s) and/or registration notice(s) via mail. At your business location, you should display your sales tax license prominently. You don't have to pay any fees to obtain this type of license.

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