Understanding RI business registration is important if you want to own a company in the state. In Rhode Island, if you sell tangible personal property, you must register for a sales tax permit and this must be done, before starting your business. There is no minimum amount of sales you must make before this rule is applicable to you.

When registering you will be required to provide your personal and business identification information, such as your personal and business address, along with your social security number and your employer identification number, EIN. You will also be asked to provide the business entity type you have chosen to operate under and a description of the business activity you plan to do. You will identify the starting business date as well.

How Much Does Sales Tax Permit Cost?

A sales tax permit will cost $10 in Rhode Island and you may incur other registration fees. While the Division of Taxation does not specifically state the time frame for receiving the permit after applying, guidelines suggest that business owners should begin the process for obtaining the permit at least a month before you plan to start doing business in the state.

The cost to renew your Rhode Island sales tax permit is $10 and the permit must be renewed annually. The Rhode Island Business Tax Filings website makes the renewing process available online.

Finding Assistance With Obtaining Permits and Licenses

The First Stop Business Information Center is available online as well and can assist business owners with licenses and permits. The licenses and permits required will vary among business owners due to no universal license is available in Rhode Island. The permits and licenses you will be required to have will be based on your occupational and business activity. Most license and permits will be acquired through the Department of Business Regulation, but other state agencies may require approval as well.

The business section of the Rhode Island Secretary of State will require registration for:

  • Corporations
  • Professional service corporations
  • Limited liability companies
  • Limited partnerships
  • Limited liability partnerships
  • Producers' cooperatives
  • Consumer cooperatives
  • Nonprofit organizations

In addition, for tax withholding purposes, the Department of Revenue will require you to register if you plan to hire employees. Most cities and towns will vary in the licensing requirements for local businesses.

For example, Cranston will only require certain business owners to obtain a license based on the nature of the business they are operating, while Providence, requires almost all of their businesses to obtain a license from the city. Since requirements will vary with each city ordinance, it is always suggested to check with your local government to inquire about the licenses and permits required to operate your business.

In addition, you will need to determine if your business is zoned properly or if a special permit is necessary. This happens at the Department of Public Works, at 100 Irons Avenue, where you will complete the Zoning Inquiry Form. The business hours for the Department of Public Works are weekdays, 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Is a Building and Fire Inspection Needed?

You will need to make appointments to have a building and fire inspection completed after determining your business is zoned properly. These inspections can be requested at the Department of Public Works as well. You may do this in person or you may call the Public Works office at 231-4000 ext. 4158 and request the building inspection. There is a $45 fee for the inspection and the fee can be paid at the Building Department. You may call the Fire Department at 351-1600 ext. 1116, to request the fire inspection.

After obtaining the proper inspections, you can take the license application, the completed inspections and fees to the Assessor's office at Johnston Town Hall. File the tangible tax form with the Assessor and they'll initial the application.

Do You Have to Appear Before Town Council?

Either you or a representative will then be expected to appear before the Town Council. You will receive a notification with the date and time. Once approved, the license will come in the mail.

The Tax Assessor will issue you a registration certificate that is renewed annually along with a renewal fee. No other business can register using the same business name without your approval in writing.

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