How to Get a Small Business License in North Carolina

Find out what you need to do to obtain a small business license in North Carolina.

Known for its centers of excellence in education and research, the Tar Heel state brings its cutting edge, innovative spirit to bear when addressing how to get a small business license in North Carolina. Business Link North Carolina (BLNC), a free service of the North Carolina Department of Commerce, provides entrepreneurs with business licensing information, one-on-one counseling options, online filing forms, and public and private sector referrals. The BLNC offers a planning checklist and a listing of potential grants and loans to put businesses on the path to developing or further expanding their companies. The state's Small Business Ombudsman can also help answer questions and assist start-ups in navigating commercial and governmental mandates. The key licensing issues and resources for new ventures in North Carolina are summarized below.

  • General Business Licenses. A general business or "privilege" license is offered on a town, city, or county basis. The state of North Carolina does not offer a general business license. An online listing of North Carolina counties and cities or towns offers contact information for obtaining a general business license for each business location. AccessNC provides demographic, economic data, and business site information to help entrepreneurs to determine advantageous places to locate their commercial ventures within North Carolina. Further local zoning and building codes may apply to your business. In general, your company must provide information about its planned name, start date, entity structure, commercial purpose, and applicant contact information. To help sort out your applicable licensing obligations, the North Carolina Department of Commerce recommends that business people call a BNLC counselor for customized licensing guidance for their chosen industry and business location. The BLNC also provides a listing of links to relevant business tax agencies for all entities transacting business in North Carolina.
  • Specialty Licensing Boards. In North Carolina, a host of boards and commissions administer more than 700 specialty business licenses and permits. The Directory of State Business Licenses and Permits allows businesses to search a database of licensing information and requirements. The online directory is organized by relevant agency and licensing or occupational board to help guide your business.
  • Registering Business Organizations. Corporations, limited liability companies (LLCs) and limited partnerships, and limited liability partnerships (LLPs) must register their business structure with the North Carolina Secretary of State, Corporations Division. Once a business has created an account, its registration documents can be downloaded and filed online. Sole proprietorships and general partnerships do not need to register their entity structures with the state.
  • Assumed Name or DBA Registrations. A certificate of assumed name or "doing business as" (DBA) registration must be filed with the proper government body if an individual or business expects to operate under a name other than its legal name. Sole proprietorships and general partnerships should file their assumed name applications with the Register of Deeds Office in each and every county where their company operates a business location. Corporations, limited partnerships, LLCs, and LLPs should file their DBA forms with the Secretary of State, Corporations Division. Your business can search the state's corporate name database for assumed name availability.

September, 2013

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