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Small Business Focus: Do I really need an Arlington business license?

This column is sponsored by BizLaunch, a division of Arlington Economic Development.

For anyone who runs or is looking to open a business in Arlington, the answer is yes.

With only a few exceptions, Arlington business owners need to get a business license and maintain that year over year. This includes businesses of all types of sizes. If you’re a freelance artist/maker, own a retail establishment or restaurant, operate as a consultant or even have a home-based business or nonprofit, an Arlington Business License is required to operate.

Obtaining that business license is pretty simple through the Arlington Commissioner of Revenue, which issues business licenses every year and assesses the amount of tax businesses are required to pay. The entire process can be done online via the CAPP — Customer Assessment and Payment Portal. Simply go to the website and click on “Register a new business/location.”

Be sure to have your EIN (Employer Identification Number) or SSN (Social Security Number) and your home occupation permit or your Certificate of Occupancy (CO) number handy as you’ll need those to complete the application. Once you’ve completed your business license application, click submit and you officially applied for your business license. A business tax inspector will review your application, once approved, you will receive an e-mail confirmation, and you’re done.

But why is having a license so important? A business license serves as the taxing mechanism for both the Business License Tax, which is based on the gross receipts of a business, and the Business Tangible Personal Property Tax, which is based on the individual tangibles, or personal assets, of a business — things like furniture, machinery, tools or programmable computer equipment.

We all know that no one is overly excited about the prospect of additional taxes, but it’s important to remember that not only does that tax revenue help to fund Arlington’s many amenities, like public transportation, social services, public art, parks, community centers and bike trails. But even more importantly, if a business is found to be operating without required licenses, it can be fined and/or sent to court for each day of operation without required licenses. Making sure all of our businesses are operating in full compliance of the law is key, and the BizLaunch team is here to help ensure Arlington businesses are up to date.

We know the various licenses, taxes and fees can be a little overwhelming, especially at the beginning, and BizLaunch and the Arlington Commissioner of Revenue are here to help.

For new businesses wanting to start, the BizLaunch team has put together a thorough Small Business Checklist outlining each step a business needs to take to launch, including licensing and regulation. Additionally, the Arlington Commissioner of Revenue’s Office has put together a helpful guide for businesses opening in Arlington.

For more information about BizLaunch visit

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