Business Advocates Call for Uniform Licensing Law


Should South Carolina have a uniform standard for issuing business licenses?

If you are starting a business in South Carolina, there are a number of steps you must take, starting with selecting the right business organization, filing foundational documents with the state, crafting a business plan, and obtaining the necessary business licenses.

While this seems straightforward, these matters can become complicated, particularly when it comes to licensing. This is because there is no uniform licensing law and the state’s 270 cities and towns (and some counties) have different classifications, forms, due dates, term and renewal dates, and fees. So if you intend to operate in more than one municipality, there are many bridges to cross.

However, this patchwork of laws reportedly can cost the state about $300 million, which is why there is a growing movement for a statewide uniform law. At the same time, business licenses are a crucial source of revenue for cities, towns and counties. In addition, licensing requirements at the local level allow municipalities to monitor the types of entities that set up shop and also serve as a means to enforce building codes, zoning laws, and environmental ordinances.

But a uniform law will support business customers, and there are several advocates who support the law, including the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce, and the Municipal Association. Nonetheless, plans for a uniform law have been in the works for five years as business leaders, lawmakers and officials try to carve out a compromise.

With the next legislative session underway, some are hopeful that a uniform standard is within reach. At the same time, a bill has yet to be crafted. However, the bill could include provisions such as a uniform application, fewer classifications, and a definition of gross income for purposes of calculating the license tax.  In addition, the Municipal Association also supports the creation of a centralized computer system and a clearing house through which applications would be submitted and processed. However, cities are opposed to having a state agency run this portal.

The Takeaway

At this juncture it is uncertain if and when lawmakers will draft the needed legislation, and how long it may take to approve a uniform licensing law. While the objective is to streamline the business licensing process, it remains to be seen how the measure could affect the income streams these municipalities have long relied on. In the meantime, if you need assistance with obtaining a business license or any related start-up matters, you should engage the services of an experienced business law attorney.