How to Get a Business License in South Carolina

by Griffith Pritchard; Updated September 26, 2017
Charleston South Carolina Skyline

South Carolina requires a company to obtain general business licenses and tax registrations before it can begin operating in the state. The state has different requirements for those who plan on operating a retail business versus a wholesale or service-based company.

Business Registration

South Carolina requires businesses operating as a corporation, limited liability partnership, limited liability company, or limited partnership to register -- partnerships and sole proprietors are exempt -- with South Carolina’s Secretary of State Office. Registration can be done online at the South Carolina One Business Stop website or directly though the Secretary of State office. Once you are registered, you can attain the other general business licenses and registrations you will need to operate.

Retail License

South Carolina wants you to collect sales taxes for the state, so every retail establishment must get a retail license. If a business has more than one location, each must have its own license. Retail licenses are obtained through one of the state's Department of Revenue offices; cost for a license as of 2014 is $50.00. Special licenses are available for temporary and transient retailers. Yard sales and flea market vendors are exempt from getting a license if they sell no more than once a calendar quarter. Non-profit charitable organizations can request an exemption for obtaining a retail license from the state.

Use Tax

Businesses purchasing goods from outside South Carolina to use, store, or consume in the state need to obtain a Purchaser’s Certificate of Registration. Businesses that do not have a retail license are required to report use taxes on the items brought into South Carolina using Forms ST-3 or St-455. Registration is free of charge.

Business Personal Property Taxes

A business must register with the state to report its Business Personal Property Tax. Businesses are taxed on the furniture, fixtures and equipment it owns. Personal property used by the business also is taxed. File an annual report to the Department of Revenue detailing the fair market value or use value of the property. The state assesses a tax on based on the classification of the property and its assessed value. For example, a manufacturing plant will be charged a tax of 10.5 percent of its fair market value for 2014.

Be Aware

The above licenses and registrations are what the state government requires. Contact the local municipalities and counties to find out if they have any specific licensing requirements you will need to meet to operate a business in their jurisdictions.

About the Author

Griffith Pritchard served as a senior branch manager and banking officer for M&T Bank. He specialized in small business and personal financial, credit and banking products. He also has extensive experience in small business sales and non-profit management. Pritchard is a graduate of Hobart College.

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