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Does my business need a license to operate in California?

Most California business owners are aware of the necessity of obtaining common licenses and permits, such as a commercial drivers' license or building and occupancy permits. Many professions, such as law, medicine, and engineering, also require a license from the state of California as a prerequisite for selling professional services to the public. How can a businessman who is forming a new venture find out whether a license must be obtained before the doors can be opened?

The difficulty with answering this question is the large number of government entities that have the authority to require licenses. Six levels of government authority have permitting or licensing power in California: the federal government, the state, counties, municipalities, and special regulatory authorities that have power over a specified industry or profession. The website run by the state of California lists approximately twenty different kind of licenses, and the list does not include medicine or law. The list also does not include licenses and permits that must be obtained from counties and municipalities.

The task of obtaining the proper license or permit is made more complex by compiling the kinds of information that must be submitted in support of the application. Generally speaking, an application that is incomplete or fails to provide necessary information in the proper form will be rejected or substantially delayed. Some permits require a showing that the service in question will benefit the public interest; making this type of showing often requires the services of an experienced advocate.

One of the surest ways to learn what permits are required and to apply for them as efficiently as possible is to consult with an experienced attorney during the business planning and formation process. A knowledgeable business lawyer can identify all permits and licenses that may be required, assist in filing the application and deal with the officials who are charged with reviewing and approving the application.

Source: State of California, Business Permits and Licenses, accessed on Jan. 26, 2016

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