Pennsylvania Business License

Pennsylvania Business License

Business License Requirements in Pennsylvania

The PennsylvaniaSmall Business Development Centers (SBDCs) are designed to provide information and assistance to anyone who has a new or current small business in Pennsylvania. The website offered by the SBDC provides general information on starting, growing as well as continuing a small business. There is also more specific information available that covers specific industries, planning, taxes, loans, and many other things.

U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA)

The SBA is an excellent resource for business information. The SBA is known for providing important information for businesses located in specific regions in Pennsylvania. The SBA publishes an Eastern Pennsylvania Edition of its resource Guide for Small Businesses. It is possible for people who want such information to obtain a copy of it from a website designed for the SBA Eastern Pennsylvania District office.

One or More Business Licenses

Not every business in Pennsylvania is required to have a license. It is important to realize many companies can or are required to obtain one or more permits or licenses. Many of these licenses, as well as permits, are regulatory. They are designed to cover issues like health safety, sales tax, the environment and more.

Local License Requirements

In addition to regulatory licenses and permits, there can also be local business licensing requirements. A company conducting business in cities like Harrisburg and Philadelphia are required to get an annual business privilege license. A company conducting business in State College and Pittsburgh are not required to have such a license. It is possible for a company to learn about local licensing requirements by checking the website for the city where the business will be located. It is also possible for federal law to exempt certain businesses from local licensing requirements.

Filing Records For Specific Form of Business

In addition to obtaining certain permits and licenses, there are required legal forms for certain types of businesses including limited liability companies (LLCs), corporations and others. They may be required to contact the Pennsylvania Department of State(DOS) and file their organizational documents. On the DOS website, it is possible to check the Business Registration Forms section and learn important details.

Professional Licensing

If someone is working in certain occupations and professions like a physician, attorney, insurance salesperson, and others, they are required to be licensed by the State of Pennsylvania prior to offering their services in the state. There is a Professional Licensing section on the DOS website. It lists contact information for the state's regulatory boards. The website also provides general information concerning the various Pennsylvania professional regulatory boards.

Assumed or Fictitious Business Name Registration

It is common for a small business to not operate under the name of its owners. In these cases, they will operate using a business name. There are certain situations involving some companies like LLCs and corporations where they could originally register with Pennsylvania under a specific name. This is sometimes called the true name, registered name or actual name. They then choose to do business under another name. Depending on the location of the business and how the company is structured, this other business name could technically be considered a fictitious name, assumed name or doing business as (DBA). Any company in Pennsylvania intending to do business under a fictitious or assumed name must register it with the DOS. With this type of filing, there are publication requirements. The DOS website will have additional information concerning this in its fictitious names section.

Service Mark Or Trademark Registration

Separate legal definitions are used when it comes to trade names, trademarks as well as service marks. In a general sense, trade names, trademarks and service marks are utilized to identify a company's unique services or products. This is often done by a company who is distinguishing their products, services or type of business from all its potential competitors. In Pennsylvania, service marks, as well as trademarks, are able to be registered with the state. This is separate from any type of federal registration requirements.

A business operating in Pennsylvania is required by DOS to register with the agency if it falls under certain categories. This includes a limited liability company, corporation, limited liability partnership or limited partnership. Registration is not required for companies operating as a general partnership or sole proprietorship. A fictitious name will still need to be filed by a sole proprietorship or general partnership if they are operating under names other than the owner.


Pennsylvania does not require all businesses to have the same license. Businesses need to be licensed according to the type of services or goods they provide. Pennsylvania has many licensing boards for professionals in business and health that oversee certain occupations. Before you open your business, you must obtain one of these licenses.

Suppose your business is a corporation or limited partnership, limited liability partnership, or limited liability company. In that case, it must be registered with the Pennsylvania Department of State. Although sole proprietors and general partnerships don't need to register, they will need to file a fictitious registration if they operate under another name than their owner.

Your business will need to comply with many other requirements than those set by the state.

A uniform set of rules does not govern local licensing. The municipality where your business is located will determine whether you will require additional licenses, permits, or registrations. Philadelphia and Harrisburg, for example, require that any person conducting business in the area, regardless of whether they have an office there, get an annual business privilege license. State College and Pittsburgh, however, do not. Many businesses require additional permits depending on their nature and purpose. You may need permits to prepare food or vend. Some businesses will need multiple licenses to open their doors. To find out the licensing requirements for your business, you should consult your local government.

You will need the following information depending on which license you apply for:

  • Full business name
  • Contact information and business address
  • The owner's name and contact information. In the case of corporations or partnerships, the officers or partners' names and addresses.
  • Federal Employer Identification Number (EIN) available at the IRS
  • Number of the state tax
  • Type of business

You may need to include information about your business, including details about your business activities if you apply for a special occupational license. You will need documentation to prove that you have met state licensing or registration requirements.