How to Get a Small Business License in Colorado

Learn the steps required to obtain a business license in Colorado.

Known for its natural beauty, the Centennial State is also a natural for start-ups with various online resources on how to get a small business license in Colorado. The Colorado Small Business Development Center (SBDC) Network offers a central clearinghouse of local, state, federal, and educational resources along with free confidential business consulting services and low- or no-cost business training courses and workshops. The SBDC Network publishes the Colorado Business Resource Book, a complete guide for new businesses, covering such topics as bookkeeping, business planning, legal structures, employer responsibilities, and taxation issues. The Colorado Secretary of State's website also offers an online tutorial, Starting a Business in Colorado, which provides a click-by-click review of key business considerations. Your licensing requirements will vary based upon the nature of your industry, business structure, and location. The main licensing issues and resources for Colorado businesses are outlined below.

  • Sales and Use Tax Licenses. In Colorado, general business licenses are referred to as sales and use tax licenses. These licenses are obtained at the city or county level depending upon your business location. Normally, you will need to provide information about your type of industry, legal structure, owner names, business property, locations, federal tax identification number, and contact information in your license application. The SBDC operates an Occupational License Database which allows you to select your industry from a pull down menu and then links you to an overview of licensing requirements and contact information for relevant state licensing agencies. The database also notes any additional local permits or licenses that you should explore with city or county authorities. Depending upon your type of business, you may further need to comply with applicable local zoning and building codes.
  • Regulated Professions and Industries. Aside from the Occupational License Database, the Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA) provides links to and information on a wide range of specialized licenses for certain regulated industries and professions. Consumers and other businesses can check license statuses as well as file complaints against regulated businesses or individuals on the DORA site. In addition, limited liability companies (LLCs) and nonprofit and for-profit corporations must register their business structure with the Colorado Secretary of State by clicking on the relevant links to file a form and submitting supportive documentation. However, sole proprietors and partnerships are not required to make these legal structure filings with the state.
  • Trade or DBA Names. Individuals or businesses must file a Statement of Trade Name if operating their venture under a name other than their true legal name, sometimes referred to as "doing business as" or DBA name. For example, if an individual wants to run a landscaping business under the trade name, Big Green Thumb, a Statement of Trade Name must be filed and subsequently renewed with the Colorado Secretary of State. In Colorado, trade names are not legally protected on a state basis. Therefore, you may select any trade name you wish to use, even if another business is already using that trade name in the state. However, it is important to consider your trade name carefully to prevent customer confusion about your business identity and to avoid violating another entity's trademark rights. Before submitting a Statement of Trade Name, the Secretary of State's office recommends a search of its online business database to check for trade name availability.

With a broad range of issues to consider, you may wish to call the Small Business Navigator to speak directly with a SBDC Network representative for initial guidance on relevant licensing obligations.

August 2013

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