Ohio State University Extension Fact Sheet

Ohio State University Fact Sheet

Community Development

700 Ackerman Road, Suite 235, Columbus, OH 43202-1578

Licenses, Permits and Zoning


Small Business Series

Cheryle Jones Syracuse
William Owen

There are a number of licenses and permits required of people with businesses. Certain zoning laws also apply. This fact sheet provides information to help business owners meet these legal requirements.

One-Stop Business Permit Center

A valuable service available to potential business owners in Ohio is the Ohio One-Stop Business Permit Center. A call to 1-800-248-4040 or (614) 466-4232 will provide information about Ohio permits and regulations pertaining to your business. The more explicit you can be about the type of business you are considering, the more complete the information provided will be. At the minimum, be prepared to explain the type of business, proposed business structure (sole proprietor, partnership, etc.) and if you intend to hire employees.

Health Permits

Check with your city or county health department to determine if your business requires a special health permit or inspection. Health departments are concerned with conditions that may affect health, sanitation, safety and food. Regulations vary from county to county. Pies, cakes and other bakery items must be licensed with the Ohio Department of Agriculture. For a home bakery license, call ODA, Division of Foods, Dairy and Drugs at (614) 866- 6361. They will arrange for a health and sanitation inspection. If other state health permits are required, your local health department can direct you to appropriate state departments.

Zoning Laws

Before you start a business in your home, check local zoning laws to determine if your neighborhood permits a business in the home. Zoning laws prevent nuisances from business in residential communities. Contact your township or municipality zoning inspector to learn about zoning restrictions.

Building Permits

A building permit is needed if you are making significant renovations or additions to your home to accommodate your business, or if you are changing the commercial use of a building. In general, a building permit is required so your building will be certified as safe for the operation of your business and the safety of your customers. Some businesses, such as child care, have specific building requirements. You may want to check these requirements before making any changes to your structure. You will need to clear all zoning restrictions before a building permit is issued.

Contact your local city or county building department to see if you need a building permit. If you do not have a local building inspector, check with the Ohio Industrial Relations, Division of Factory and Building, 2323 West 5th Avenue, P.O. 825, Columbus, OH 43216, Phone: (614) 644-2622.

Vendor's License

A vendor's license is required of all businesses making retail sales of tangible property and certain rentals and repairs. The license permits and requires the collection of sales tax from customers and forwarding of the collected sales taxes to the state treasurer's office either monthly or every six months. Failure to file the proper forms even if no sales were made will result in a $50.00 fine.

A vendor's license may be obtained from the auditor's office in the county in which the business is located. The current application fee is $25.00, with an annual renewal fee of $10.00. A temporary license is available for $5.00 and is valid for 20 days. It can be purchased from the auditor in the county where sales will be made. This license is designed for short-term trade shows, fairs, etc., conducted away from your home county. Businesses that travel extensively throughout Ohio may purchase a statewide vendor's license from the Ohio Department of Taxation for $100.00, with an annual renewal fee of $40.00.

Not every business needs a vendor's license. If your business is strictly wholesale or deals entirely in non-taxable items, there is no need to purchase a license. A common misconception is that it is necessary to have a vendor's license in order to purchase goods wholesale or to purchase items for your business without paying sales tax. A Blanket Certificate of Exemption-available from most office supply stores-given to the suppliers allows them to sell to you without charging sales tax. Likewise, you must have a Certificate of Exemption from any business you do not collect sales tax from. More specific information is available from your county auditor's office.

Registration of Business Name

Any Ohio business may register its business name with the Secretary of State. There are three categories of names: 1) trade, 2) fictitious; and corporate.

Trade Name

A trade name is a "name used in business or trade to designate the business of the user and to which the user asserts a right to exclusive use." Ohio law permits any firm in the state to register with the Secretary of State the trade name under which it operates.

A trade name registration fee is $20.00. The registration is effective for five years and may be renewed at the end of each term for a fee of $10.00.

Fictitious Name

Any business name that is not registered as either a corporate name or trade name and that does not fully identify the owner(s) of the business must be registered as a fictitious name with the Ohio Secretary of State. The registration of a fictitious name does not in any way protect the use of that same name by another business. It merely provides a method for the state to identify the owner(s) of a business.

Corporate Name

Any corporate name approved by the Secretary of State is protected from use by others in the same manner as a trade name, once approval is granted. The name of all corporations in Ohio must end with or include "Company," "Co.," 'Corporation," "Corp.," Incorporated," or "Inc." The corporate name protection remains effective as long as the corporation is recognized by the state as being in good standing. To register a name, contact the Office of the Secretary of State, 30 East Broad Street, 14th Floor, Columbus, OH 43266-0418 or telephone at (614) 466-3910. There is also a name availability line that you may call to see if a name is currently being used in the State of Ohio. The name availability line is (614) 466-0590.

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)

OSHA regulations exist for any business that has any employees beyond family members. Restrictions become more stringent and inspections are required once a business has 10 or more employees.

Additional regulations may exist if your business requires the operation of certain equipment or machinery or handles hazardous chemicals.

The State of Ohio has a consultation service for small businesses relating to OSHA. For more information on safety requirements contact the OSHA for a free On-site Consultation Service at (800) 282-1425 or (614) 644-2631 or write P.O. Box 825, 2322 West 5th Avenue, Columbus, OH 43216-0825. Or you may contact the Federal Office of OSHA at 1-800-582-1708. In Cleveland, you can call (216) 522-3818. In Columbus call (614) 469-5582. In Cincinnati the number is (513) 841-4132. The federal offices will answer questions over the phone.

All educational programs conducted by Ohio State University Extension are available to clientele on a nondiscriminatory basis without regard to race, color, creed, religion, sexual orientation, national origin, gender, age, disability or Vietnam-era veteran status.

Keith L. Smith, Associate Vice President for Ag. Adm. and Director, OSU Extension.

TDD No. 800-589-8292 (Ohio only) or 614-292-6181

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