A business license is a form of permission granted by a federal or state agency that enables a natural person or entity to engage in a specific business activity within a jurisdiction. Although not all types of businesses require a license, some may need them according to the applicable state, municipal, or county rules and regulations.
Below are some examples of government agencies that grant licenses or permits for some types of business activities:
- The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) grants permits for the import, transit, and release of regulated animals, animal products, veterinary biologics, plants, plant products, pests, organisms, soil, and genetically engineered organisms.
- The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) grants permits for TTB-regulated businesses, such as manufacturing and selling beer, wine, or distilled spirits.
- The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) grants FAA licenses and certificates for pilots, aircraft, airports, and spaceports.
- The Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) grants licenses for U.S.-based companies or sole proprietors operating as Ocean Freight Forwarders (OFF) or Non-Vessel-Operating Common Carriers (NVOCCs).
- The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) grants licenses for amateur radio service licensing, commercial radio operation, television broadcast, and wireless services, among others.
- The Department of Transportation (DoT) of New York grants a permit for Oversize/Overweight Loads.
When starting a business, it’s advisable to conduct research and attain all required licenses to legally operate that specific business. Not having the legally required licenses may result in the imposition of fines or the forced closure of the business.
[Last updated in July of 2021 by the Wex Definitions Team]