Starting a Business
Congratulations! Starting a business is quite an undertaking, and Richland County wishes you every success. There are many resources available online (any search engine will provide valuable resources) as well as locally. To help you in your endeavor, Richland County would like to share some important information.
Things to Keep in Mind
- Please be aware that FOUR different levels of government can affect businesses in South Carolina: federal, state, county, and city/town. Each level of government will have its own requirements for businesses to operate.
- Each level of government will include different kinds of fees, taxes, licenses, and/or permits. (Example: federal income taxes, State health requirements, County Hospitality Taxes, and city/town business licenses)
- Please be sure to check with each city and county that your business will either be located in or do business in to see what their business requirements are.
- Nearly all cities in SC and nine of 46 counties in SC require businesses either located in or doing business in their jurisdiction to have a business license. (No, there is not a business license that covers the entire state.) The nine counties include: Beaufort, Charleston, Dorchester, Horry, Jasper, Marion, Orangeburg, Richland, and Sumter counties.
Critical Steps to Consider
To help your business get started on the right foot, there are several critical steps that you should go through before starting your business. These steps are described below.
1. GET MORE INFORMATION! This is so important. The more you learn beforehand, the more equipped you will be to address the many issues that will inevitably arise. Some of the available resources include:
2. DEVELOP A BUSINESS PLAN. This is a plan for operating your business. Knowing what success looks like and how you plan to get there gives you extra understanding and guidance in starting or running your business. Some of the available resources for this include:
3. SELECT A BUSINESS NAME. You will need to give this careful thought, as it reflects how your business will be presented to the public. Be sure to give the full and exact same spelling of the name to every agency or organization that needs it. If you wish to "reserve" a name, you will need to register the name with the SC Secretary of State's Office.
4. CHOOSE THE BUSINESS'S LEGAL STRUCTURE. There are several different legal structures to choose from. The selected legal structure will affect your income taxes and personal liability. It is a very good idea to consult with an accountant or attorney for advice and assistance in determining the most appropriate legal structure for your business.
Except for Sole Proprietors, all legal structures need to register with the SC Secretary of State's Office.
More information about legal structures is available in this YouTube webinar.
The types of legal structures include:
- Sole Proprietors (individual)
- Limited Partnership (LP)
- Limited Liability Partnership (LLP)
- Limited Liability Corporation (LLC)
- Corporation (Inc)
5. DETERMINE THE BUSINESS ACTIVITY CODE. The North American Industrial Classification System (NAICS) code is a federal coding system used to identify each business activity. (These are the "next generation" of SIC codes.) It is critical to select an accurate code for your business to accurately reflect what your business will be doing. Go to the online NAICS code website to find your 2017 NAICS code. Be sure to give this same code to every agency or organization that asks for it.
6. FIND A LOCATION AND DETERMINE ZONING AND PERMIT REQUIREMENTS. Learn before you lease! It is essential that you identify what the requirements are to conduct a given business activity at your desired location -- BEFORE you are committed to a lease or purchase anything for your business.
However, you must first know with certainty what city limits you are in, or if you are in no city limits at all. This will allow you to determine whose requirements you must comply with. To determine the jurisdiction, please use the County's mapping website. Click here for instructions on using the website.
The County's Community Planning and Development Services Department will be happy to help you find the property's jurisdiction and help you understand the requirements applicable to your business.
If you wish to conduct business from your home, please review the information about requirements for home occupations. If you have questions, please contact Zoning Division at firstname.lastname@example.org or (803) 576-2180.
7. APPLY FOR ANY APPLICABLE LICENSES AND/OR PERMITS. Some good resources to learn more about what State and local licenses or permits may apply to your chosen business activity are shown below:
8. GET TAX INFORMATION. Remember that there are four levels of government -- city, county, state, and federal. Each may have taxes that apply to your business. Some resources to learn about these taxes are shown below:
Some of the taxes that may apply where you are located -- or where you conduct business -- are shown below:
- Hospitality Taxes (local sales tax on all prepared or modified foods or beverages)
- Local Accommodations Taxes (local sales tax on the provision of all accommodations less than 30 consecutive days)
- Business Personal Property Taxes (local property tax on fixtures, furniture, and equipment of a business)
- Local Option Sales Tax (local sales tax on all retail sales, even those sales that may be exempted from State sales taxes)
- Local Option Transportation Tax (local sales tax on all retail sales, even those that may be exempted from State sales taxes)
- State Accommodations Taxes (State sales tax on the provision of all accommodations less than 30 consecutive days)
We know it can be confusing. To help businesses better understand what sales taxes apply to what sales and what the sales tax rates in a particular jurisdiction are, please see the Richland County Sales and Use Tax Information Sheet.
9. LEARN ABOUT RESPONSIBILITIES ASSOCIATED WITH HIRING EMPLOYEES. Hiring employees includes other responsibilities with the State and federal government. Some resources for more information include:
10. APPLY FOR A BUSINESS LICENSE. Each city in SC and nine counties (Beaufort, Charleston, Dorchester, Horry, Jasper, Marion, Orangeburg, Richland, and Sumter counties) in SC require a business license to be obtained for any business that is located in or doing business in their jurisdiction. There is not one business license that covers a business for the entire state; each business will require one business license for each city and county the business is located in or conducts business in.
- To apply for your first Richland County business license, please click here to begin the online application process.
- If you would like more assistance, we encourage you visit the County's comprehensive Business Service Center webpage.
If you do not have access to the Internet or are uncomfortable with computers, the Richland County Library and all branch libraries have computers available to the public that can access the Internet. (Please call first to determine availability, due to restricted occupancy associated with the coronavirus pandemic.)
Thank you for choosing to do business in Richland County. We appreciate your decision to locate or conduct business here. Your business helps make the Richland County community a great place to live, work and visit. We wish you every success as you begin and operate your business.
* Many thanks to the City of San Diego and its business website for the inspiration and model for assisting new businesses so thoughtfully and so well.