Frequently Asked Questions
Business License Questions
1. Why do I need a business license?
Having businesses obtain a business license provides several important benefits to the business community and the community as a whole. It allows the County to be attuned to the local economy and better understand who the businesses are. This knowledge can help the County be more responsive to the needs of the business community. Business licenses also protect the community by helping ensure that businesses are legitimate and operating in compliance with all Richland County Codes.
2. When do I need a business license?
Any time a person or business is (1) physically located in or (2) conducts business in the unincorporated areas of Richland County, i.e., outside a city limits, regardless of where the business is located, an annual business license fee is required. A business license is required even if no income has been generated.
3. How much does a business license cost, and what do I need to have or do to get it?
The business license fee is determined by several factors, including: (1) where the business is located, (2) the type of business being conducted, and (3) the business’ gross revenue. Please contact the Business Service Center for assistance in calculating your business license fee.
4. How do I know which licensing jurisdiction I need to visit to obtain my business license?
You must obtain a business license for each jurisdiction in which you do business that also requires a business license.
If your business is located in the unincorporated area of Richland County or you do business in the unincorporated areas, you need to apply for a business license with Richland County. If you also do business in a municipality, you may also need a city business license in addition to a Richland County business license.
Licensing requirements in the other jurisdictions may be different from that of Richland County. If your business is not located in unincorporated Richland County and you do no business in the unincorporated areas of the County, you will not need a County license and will instead need to contact each jurisdiction where you are located and conducted business to obtain your license.
5. How do I find out in which licensing jurisdiction my business is located?
Go to the County’s GIS mapping website. In the left-hand column, click the box beside Municipalities. Click the Search icon above that column, then type the street number and street name to determine the jurisdiction in which your business is located. A map will appear, showing the location of the address you typed in, along with the municipality in which the address is located, if the location is within a municipality.
6. If I am moving my business to a new location, do I need a new business license?
Yes. The current ordinance (Section 16-8) requires that a change of address must be reported to the license inspector within ten (10) days after the business moves to its new location. The license will then be valid at the new address after notifying the license inspector in writing and complying with zoning and building codes and approval of other departments as determined by the license inspector. Without this written notification, the existing business license is terminated, the business will be deemed as operating without a business license, and will be subject to the appropriate penalties.
7. If I am doing more than one type of business activity at my business, do I need more than one business license?
It depends. The current ordinance (Section 16-4(1)) requires a separate license for each place of business and for each classification of business conducted at one place. However, a business may choose whether or not to identify how much revenue is generated by each type of business occurring at the business. If the business does not wish or is not able to separate the amount of income generated by each business activity, the business license fee will be calculated on the combined gross income for the classification requiring the highest rate. However, each business activity may require different County approvals.
8. Are any businesses exempt from the County’s business license requirement?
Yes. State law (Sec 4-9-30(12)) establishes that certain businesses are exempt from County business licensing requirements. These include the following:
- teachers, ministers, and rabbis;
- telephone, telegraph, gas and electric utilities or other utilities regulated by the Public Service Commission;
- insurance companies, and
- businesses making loans secured by real estate (unless it has a premises located in the county but outside a municipality).
Other businesses exempted from all (county or city) business license taxes by State or US law include the following:
- air express and passenger interstate transportation;
- alcoholic beverages;
- banks and building loan companies;
- credit unions, both state and federal;
- Marketing Cooperative Associations and Mutual benevolent aid associations; and
- Workers’ Compensation insurance premiums.
County ordinance provides one additional exemption, regarding construction contractors. This exemption covers the portion of a contractor’s revenue generated from work done for which a building permit is obtained and a fee paid. If ALL of a contractor’s revenue is generated from work done for which a building permit fee is paid, that contractor shall be exempt from paying any business license fee. However, this contractor must still file an application in the required timeframe providing documentation which establishes that contractor’s right to an exemption.
9. If I am buying a business that already has a business license, do I need to get a business license myself?
Yes. The current ordinance (Section 6-8) states that business licenses are not transferable, and a transfer of ownership is considered a termination of the old business and the establishment of a new business requiring a new business license, based on the previous business income.