Looking to start a small business in Arizona? You may need to obtain one or more state licenses or permits, or complete one or more kinds of state registration, as part of the start-up process. Here’s a quick look at some of the main informational resources available and a few of the steps you may need to take.
The Arizona Commerce Authority (ACA) has lots of useful information for both new and existing businesses. This includes guidance on how to start and grow your business in Arizona. The Start-up Section of the ACA website has links for things like:
The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has a district office in Phoenix. The office’s website lists upcoming events, resources, and news for small businesses. The SBA also publishes an Arizona-specific Resource Guide for Small Business that you can download from the SBA website.
The Arizona Small Business Development Center (AZSBDC) has guidance on how to start and grow your business. The website has information on small business events and how to get one-on-one business counseling. The AZSBDC is part of a national network of small business development centers.
Not every Arizona business needs a license. However, many types of business either can or must get one or more licenses or permits. Different licenses are issued by different state agencies.
One of the more important state licenses is the Transaction Privilege Tax (TPT) license. The license is required for businesses that will sell products or engage in certain types of activities. The TPT license is similar to what in other states would be called a sales tax license. One place to check for more information about TPT licenses is the Arizona Department of Revenue (AZDOR). The Licensing Guide section of their website includes a link to a downloadable brochure, A Guide to Taxes for Arizona Businesses, that has detailed information about TPT licensing.
Apart from a TPT license, some businesses may be required to obtain what are broadly known as regulatory licenses and permits. These are licenses and permits for certain regulated business activities. Regulatory licenses and permits might cover, for example, activities affecting the environment or health and safety. They may be issued by, for example, the Arizona Department of Evironmental Quality or the Arizona Department of Health Services.
Apart from state licenses, some required licenses and permits are issued locally. The requirements vary depending on the city, town, or county involved. The City of Tucson, for example, has its own business license requirements. You can find more details by checking the website for the city and county where you’ll operate your business. (Some businesses may be exempt from local licensing requirements under state or federal law.)
In addition to the foregoing licenses and permits, some people will need professional or occupational licenses, which are discussed below.
Beyond obtaining required licenses or permits, some legal forms of business, such as corporations and limited liability companies (LLCs), are required to file records with the state. More specifically, corporations, LLCs, and certain other types of business must file organizational documents with the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC). Check the Corporation Division Forms section of the ACC website for more details.
If you’re a member of any one of many professions and occupations, you’ll need to be licensed by the State of Arizona. Unlike other states, Arizona’s state government currently does not have a website with a list of licensed professions and occupations and links to their respective regulatory boards and licensing requirements. Therefore, you’ll need to do an Internet search for the profession or occupation in which you’re interested.
Many small businesses don’t simply operate under the names of their owners. Instead, they operate under a business name. In addition, some businesses, such as corporations and LLCs, may originally register with the state under one name (sometimes called the registered name, actual name, or true name), but later choose to operate under another name. Depending on where you’re doing business and how your business is structured, this alternative business name technically may be known as an assumed name, a fictitious name, a trade name, or a DBA (for “doing business as”). If you want to operate you Arizona business under a trade name, you can file a form with the Arizona Secretary of State (SOS). The filing, however, is not legally required. For more information on state requirements, check the Trade Names and Trademarks section of the SOS website.
Example: Felipe originally organized his car repair business as an Arizona corporation named Phil’s Phoenix Garage, Inc. He now wants to operate the business under the name Sunshine Foreign Auto Repair, Inc. Felipe files a Trade Name Registration Application, including the filing fee, with the SOS. He can download a copy of the form from the Trade Names and Trademarks section of the SOS website.
There are separate legal definitions for trademarks, service marks, and trade names. However, speaking very generally, trademarks, service marks, and trade names are used to uniquely identify goods (products), services, or a business. This includes distinguishing a product, service, or business from potential competitors. (Arizona makes a point of stating that registering a trade name does not give exclusive rights to the registration holder.) Trademarks and service marks can be registered with the state. (This is distinct from federal registration.) You can find more information by going to the Trade Names and Trademarks section of the SOS website. From the site, you can download the Arizona Trade Name and Trademark Handbook.
Example: Selena wants to sell her coffee-cocoa candy bars under the name “Sel’s Cocoa Brown Buzz Bars.” So—after checking to make sure the name isn’t already in use—she files a Trademark Registration Application, including the filing fee, with the SOS.
This article covers only the very tip of the iceberg regarding small business licenses and registrations in Arizona. You can find much more information in the many other articles in the Small Business section here on Nolo.com. Many of those articles are part of 50-state series—so you can get plenty of information that’s specific to the State of Arizona. You can also find expanded information in many Nolo books, such as Legal Guide for Starting & Running a Small Business, by Fred S. Steingold, and The Small Business Start-Up Kit, by Peri Pakroo.