Do you own a business operating in the state of North Carolina? If so, you may need to acquire licenses and permits to ensure that your company operates in a compliant fashion.

But how do you determine which permits and licenses you need (if any), and where do you acquire them? In this guide to North Carolina business licenses and permits, we’ll answer all the tough questions about this process.

Are There Federal Licenses That My Business Needs?

First off, let’s discuss the matter of federal licenses and permits. There are many business activities that are regulated by various federal agencies, from agriculture to transportation and logistics. We recommend taking a look at the U.S. Small Business Administration’s guide to federal licenses and permits to make sure you’ve got your bases covered.

In addition, most businesses should acquire a federal tax ID number, also known as an EIN (employer identification number). This is essentially a social security number for your business, and it enables you to hire employees, pay business taxes, open business bank accounts, and more. You can acquire an EIN from the IRS for free.

What State-Level Licenses and Permits Apply in North Carolina?

According to NC Business Link, “North Carolina has no single generic business license that will ensure compliance with all requirements. Some businesses may be subject to several state requirements while others may not be subject to any.”

There are over 700 occupational and industry-specific licenses in North Carolina. You will need to contact the board governing your occupation or industry to learn more about the requirements and application processes. You can find the contact information for your occupational board right here.

Your business might also be required to obtain one or more environmental permits, depending on the nature of your business. Commercial activities ranging from animal waste disposal to incinerator operation are regulated by the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality. You can see a full list of environmental permits on the DEQ website.

Which Tax Registrations are Required for North Carolina Businesses?

In addition to occupational licenses and permits, there are a number of state-level tax registrations, which are based on the industry you operate in and which business structure your company uses.

North Carolina corporations must pay a flat 5% corporate income tax, and most businesses are also required to pay the corporate franchise tax and withholding tax.

There are also many industry-specific tax requirements in North Carolina. For example, depending on the nature of your business, you may be required to pay the Motor Carrier Tax, White Goods Disposal Tax, or Machinery and Equipment Tax. You can learn more about North Carolina’s industry-specific tax requirements at this link.

Are There Local Licenses, Permits, or Registrations in North Carolina?

The answer to this question obviously depends on where in North Carolina you’re operating your business, but there are indeed quite a few licenses, permits, and tax registrations required by North Carolina localities.

There are certain local requirements for businesses that vary by city and county in North Carolina. You will need to contact your local city or county clerk for more information.

Thankfully, many cities in North Carolina provide business resource websites to help with the licensing process, including cities like CharlotteRaleighGreensboro, and Durham.

If we were to break down the exact rules and regulations regarding permitting in every locality in the state of North Carolina, this article would become excessively lengthy. With that in mind, we’ll simply say that every business owner should check with their local government to determine whether there are licenses, permits, or tax registrations required to operate in compliant fashion.

Can I Hire Someone to Research Licenses and Permits for My Business?

If this process sounds like a bit of a hassle, that’s because it certainly can be. If you would rather hire a reputable business services provider to handle this for you, that is always an option.

ZenBusiness can research the necessary licenses and permits for your company on the federal, state, county, and municipal levels. We’ll then send you the applications you need to acquire these permits and licenses, meaning all you need to do is fill them out and mail them in. Plus, if you need help with company formation, we can help with that filing as well.


There is no one-size-fits-all answer for the question of which licenses and permits your business might require to operate in the state of North Carolina. Instead, it’s important that you know how to access the resources to determine which permits your company needs to operate in a compliant fashion.

We hope this article helped you to do just that, and we wish you good fortune in your business future!

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