Photo Credit: Ambre Amari

SMALL BUSINESS RESOURCES

Photo by: Ambre Amari

Building something great is hard work. There are so many questions about what you need, where to go, and how to do it. What's harder is that so much is entirely dependent on what kind of business you have. We've put together a one-stop-shop for what you need to get going if you're a business operating in Birmingham City. You'll find some are industry specific, some are based on the city or county you are operating in. Some are required for everyone in the state. If you are a business operating outside of the City of Birmingham, follow the framework below using your local municipality. Being an entrepreneur can be stressful. Don't let it be lonely.

REGISTER YOUR BUSINESSES

You will need to acquire a variety of business licenses before you can legally operate your business. For example, you need to register your business with federal, state, and local governments. There are several documents you must prepare before registering.

To become an officially recognized business entity, you must register with the government. Corporations need an articles of incorporation document, which includes your business name, business purpose, corporate structure, stock details and other information about your company. Similarly, some LLCs will need to create an operating agreement.

After you register your business, you may need to get an employer identification number from the IRS. While this is not required for sole proprietorships with no employees, you may want to apply for one anyway to keep your personal and business taxes separate or simply to save yourself the trouble later if you decide to hire someone. The IRS has provided a checklist to determine whether you will require an EIN to run your business. If you do need an EIN, you can register online for free. 

You will need to register your business name, which can be your legal name, a fictitious DBA name (if you are the sole proprietor), or the name you’ve come up with for your company. You may also want to take steps to trademark your business name for extra legal protection. Before reserving your name, check to make sure it doesn’t already exist.

Once you have gathered the necessary information, you’ll need to apply for the main Alabama business license, called a business privilege license. The state and county license(s) is issued by the county Probate Judge or License Commissioner in the county where the business is located. Unless otherwise provided, a license is required in every county where the business is conducted. ALDOR does not administer municipal licenses. Check with every city office where you are conducting business to verify what licenses are required prior to transacting business.

New business licenses may be applied for in one of two ways: 1) using the online web portal provided by the City’s tax and licensing vendor, Avenu Insights & Analytics, or 2) applying in person, Monday through Friday, between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. at the office of the Tax and License Administration (Revenue) Division located on the first floor of City Hall, Room TL-100, 710 North 20.

Please note that there are specific documents that you are required to bring at the time you apply for a business license. If you have questions about the specific requirements for your business, you should contact the Tax and License Administration Division at (205) 254-2198 or review the Supplemental Documentation Checklist.

The license year is based on the calendar year. All business licenses expire on December 31st and must be renewed by January 1st. Business licenses become delinquent after February 15th.

ADDITIONAL LICENSES AND PERMITS

You will need to acquire a variety of business licenses before you can legally operate your business. You’ll need to get a federal license or permit if your business activities are regulated by a federal agency.

Check to see if any of your business activities are listed here, and then check with the right federal agency to see how to apply. Requirements and fees depend on your business activity and the agency issuing the license or permit. It’s best to check with the issuing agency for details on the business license cost.

In addition, the municipality where you are operating may have specific operating licenses. 

Applications for Alcoholic Beverage licenses are taken by appointment only at the office of the Tax and License Administration (Revenue) Division. Your application for an alcoholic beverage license will be processed by the Tax and License Administration (Revenue) Division and reviewed for approval/denial by the City Council, its representatives, and agencies. This process takes approximately 6-8 weeks.

A copy of your application will be forwarded to the Administrative Vice Section of the City of Birmingham Police Department for investigation. A report of their findings is forwarded to the Public Safety Committee of the City Council.

The Public Safety Committee meets on the second Tuesday of each month. The committee will review the application and recommend approval/denial to the City Council. Applicants are required to attend this meeting. The City Council office will notify you by mail of the date and time scheduled for the review of your application. Read more information 

Whenever a food establishment is constructed or remodeled and/or an existing structure is converted to use as a food establishment, properly prepared plans must be submitted to the Department of Health for review and approval, prior to beginning construction or remodeling.

Birmingham requires specific permits and licenses depending on your type of business or construction. All of the applications can be found on this site.

TAXES

Before starting your small business in Alabama, you must acquire the necessary identification numbers, licenses, or permits for tax registration. Typical forms of tax for most businesses will include sales and use tax, unemployment tax, and income tax withholding. However, the list of possibilities does not end there. Depending on the nature of your business’s services, additional taxes may apply.