If you want to start your business in Utah, you need to take some steps to legally operate within the state. Along with choosing your business name and registering with the state, you need to apply for the necessary business licenses and permits.
Let's look at the main regulatory requirements for forming a Utah small business.
When starting a business in Utah, you must:
The types of licenses and permits your business must apply for depends on your business structure, industry, and location. The main types of business licenses, permits, and registrations are:
The Department of Commerce (DOC) has a business licensing and registration guide that provides an overview of licensing requirements for businesses. You can also find a list of business licensing offices and their contact information for most cities and counties.
(For more general guidance, see our article on the legal requirements for starting a small business.)
Utah doesn't have a statewide general business license. However, all businesses are required to be licensed by their local municipality. So businesses will need to obtain a general business license from their city or county. The DOC's business licensing webpage has a list of business licensing resources for each county and city within that county.
Each city and county can have unique requirements and procedures. Moreover, you generally will need local licenses in each place where your business operates. You should contact the business licensing office for your city or county for details on how to apply for your business license.
Some cities have general categories of business licenses. For instance, Salt Lake City has three categories of business licenses: commercial, residential retail, and home-occupied businesses. West Valley City has four types of business licenses: home business, commercial, rental dwelling, and solicitor. Some businesses might be exempt from local licensing requirements under state or federal law.
To obtain your business license, you'll need to submit the required paperwork and pay the associated license fee. Though it varies from location to location, in general, you should be prepared to provide the following information in your business license application:
Your city or county might provide a way for you to apply for your general license online, by mail, or in person. Each jurisdiction will determine the license fee. Your fee could be based on your type of business or how many locations or employees your business has. For example, the City of Provo's licensing fee is based on the number of employees your business has.
Your city or county might require you to get additional licenses or permits based on your business activities. For example, you might need other licensing if your business:
You should check with your city and county to determine the requirements for your specific business.
Many professions and occupations require special licensing or certification. The DOPL, an agency of the DOC, is in charge of licensing and regulating many professions. The DOPL website has a list of licenses that it administers, including accountancy, cosmetology, electrical, nursing, and many more. When you click on a license, you'll be taken to a webpage with information specific to that profession, such as:
The DOPL doesn't regulate every profession and occupation, however. You should contact the board, commission, or agency in charge of your profession or occupation for more information.
You can register for sales tax either by:
Once you register your business, you'll receive a sales tax number. Keep this number with your business records.
For more details, visit the sales and use tax webpage on the STC website.
In some instances, especially if you'll be constructing or renovating a space, you'll need to get special zoning and building permits. You'll usually need approval before you begin work on the building. You'll likely need to submit a fee along with your permit application.
After you complete the work, your building will be inspected to make sure it complies with local building codes and ordinances. Some cities issue a certificate of occupancy (CO) or a similar document to show that your building complies with the current code.
Zoning laws. If your type of business isn't in line with the zoning code, you can find another space or potentially apply for a special use permit. A special permit can provide your business with an exception to the current use laws.
Building code. You can work with local departments and agencies to apply for building and construction permits. You'll likely need to have inspections related to your space's structural, electrical, mechanical, and plumbing features.
If you use a name that's different from your legal name, then you must register your assumed name (or DBA). For example, suppose Nini Salazar provides singing lessons under the name "The Music School." Because the name of her business isn't her personal legal name, she'd need to register her DBA.
Likewise, if a company that's already registered with the DOC wants to use a name that's different from its legal name, it must also register its DBA. For example, a corporation that filed articles of incorporation under "SLC Investment Corp." and then opened a store called "Salty Lake Saloon" would need to file a DBA.
You can file your DBA online using UtahID or by submitting a completed DBA application to the DOC. As of 2023, the filing fee to submit a DBA application is $22. The DBA lasts for three years and can be renewed online.
You can learn more on the doing business as (DBA) webpage of the DOC website.
Apart from the licenses and permits discussed above, your business could be required to comply with other federal, state, and local laws and regulations. For example, your business might need to obtain special licensing or follow special rules related to:
If your industry is highly regulated, you'll probably need to get multiple licenses, permits, and registrations. Check with your federal, state, and local governments about what regulatory requirements apply to your business.
The business section of the state government website has links to a large amount of useful information for small businesses. This includes pages devoted to:
In addition, the Utah Governor's Office of Economic Opportunity, in conjunction with the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), also provides a great deal of helpful information for small businesses. The SBA has district offices in Salt Lake City and St. George.
The Utah Small Business Development Centers (SBDC) network is another good resource. It's part of a national network of SBDCs, and their website has information on receiving free consultations, as well as finding money, markets, and mentors.
You can find more information about creating and running your business in our small business section. If you're looking to dive in further, 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.
If you need more personalized guidance for your small business, you should speak with a Utah business lawyer. They can help you get your business registered with the DOC and for business taxes. An attorney can also help you navigate your local city's licensing and permitting processes.