Starting a New Business

Last Modified: February 28, 2014

Common questions about starting a new business in the City of Raleigh.

I am planning on opening a new business, what do I need to do?

Depending on the nature of your new business, federal, state, and local licenses and permits may be required. In most areas, there are zoning restrictions that may prevent you from operating a business from a particular location, including your home. Finally, there are state and federal income taxes, sales taxes and withholding taxes to consider. Depending on the size of your business, it may be best to consult with an attorney before getting started.

To find out what is required, contact the town(s) that you plan to operate in to see what their licensing requirements are. If you plan to conduct business within the Raleigh City Limits, contact Revenue Services at 919-996-3200 for more information. For information concerning Wake County’s requirements related to your business, contact the Wake County Revenue Department at 919-856-5400. To find out what state licenses and permits are required, contact Business Link North Carolina at the NC Department of Commerce at 919-807-4280 or toll free in North Carolina 1-800-228-8443.

How do I get a business license?

There is no such thing as "a business license" that covers every business activity. North Carolina has over 700 business license requirements for certain types of businesses. There are also businesses for which there are no state license requirements. Most businesses operating in the City of Raleigh are required to obtain a City of Raleigh Business License in order to do business within the city limits.

A Business License Application is available for download. Or, to request an application, contact Revenue Services at 919-996-3200 or come to the City of Raleigh Revenue Services office located in the 1st Floor Revenue Services Lobby of the Avery C. Upchurch Municipal Complex at 222 West Hargett Street.

How do I get a tax number?

There are several types of tax numbers. If a business is planning to have sales, a Sales & Use Tax number is required. Businesses having employees are required to obtain a Federal Employer Identification number along with a NC withholding tax number. Business Link North Carolina at the NC Department of Commerce can provide application forms to businesses for these numbers.

How do I register my business name?

The type of business structure determines where a business name (assumed name) should be registered. A Certificate of Assumed Name for sole proprietorships and partnerships must be filed with the Register of Deeds in the county or counties in which businesses plan to operate. Corporations must register their business names with the North Carolina Secretary of State Corporations Division. Your City of Raleigh Business License should be issued in your businesses Trade or D.B.A. name.

What do I need to do to incorporate my business? Do I need an attorney?

You can incorporate your own business by filing a one-page form called the Articles of Incorporation with the Corporations Division in the Department of the Secretary of State. There is a $125.00 filing fee associated with filing this form. However, there are additional steps involved in completing the corporation, and the Business Corporations Guidelines booklet is available for assistance with paperwork. Anyone who is not an attorney cannot prepare the documentation for your new corporation. There are a number of legal issues involved with establishing a new corporation and you may find the services of an attorney helpful.

How do I check to see if a name I want to use as my corporate name is available?

Name availability can be determined by contacting the North Carolina Secretary of State Corporations Division at 919-807-2225. The Division can be reached by fax at 919-807-2039. You can perform your own corporate name search by selecting the option from the home page.

How do I apply for a Federal ID Number?

A federal employer identification number can be applied for by filing an SS-4 form with the Internal Revenue Service. For more information regarding how to file by fax or phone, call 1-800-829-1040.

Where can I go for a business loan?

Contacting the bank where you are an account holder is a good place to start. Loan information can be obtained from the Small Business Administration by calling 1-800-827-5722. In addition, the North Carolina Self-Help Credit Union offers loan programs for qualified businesses and can be reached by telephone at 1-800-476-7428.

Who can help me with my business plan?

North Carolina has 58 Small Business Centers located within Community Colleges across the State. These Centers provide a variety of services to small businesses, including assistance with the development of business plans. For more information, contact your local community college. In addition, the Small Business Administration (SBA) is an excellent resource for assisting with business plans for new and existing businesses and can be reached at 1-800-827-5722.

If I have a state license, why do I need a city license?

The state license you have is good statewide in North Carolina; however, you may need additional city licenses because you are doing business within city limits. State and city governments are separate entities and may have different licensing requirements. The City of Raleigh will, in most cases, require you to get a Business License to operate in the city limits.

How can I find out about zoning restrictions in the City of Raleigh?

A list of Permitted Uses in Raleigh Zoning Districts is available from the City's Zoning Division. For more information, contact the Zoning Division at 919-996-2475.

Does the City have a program for minority and women-owned businesses?

Yes, the City of Raleigh has a Small Disadvantaged Minority and Women-Owned Business Program. For more information, contact Luther Williams, Business Assistance Program Manager, at 919-996-4278.

How do I register my business to become a vendor/supplier for the City of Raleigh?

To become an active vendor with the City, please follow the steps at Become A Vendor/Supplier. Contact the Purchasing Division at 919-996-3240 for more information.

Additional Questions?

Contact the City of Raleigh Revenue Services at 919-996-3200.

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