The city of Houston does not issue general business licenses. Instead, the city requires prospective proprietors to register with several city, state, and federal tax and business-related entities. To open a business in Houston, you must register with the Harris County Clerk, the Texas Comptroller office and the Internal Revenue Service. Depending on the type of business that you are starting, you must also obtain business permits from the city of Houston for specialized business activities.
Register the trade name or assumed name that your business will use. Once you have a proposed name, search the online database at the county clerk's office to see if the name is locally available (see Resources). Once you have verified that your intended name is acceptable then you must visit the Harris County Clerk office to register your business name with the county. The application fee is $15.
Harris County Clerk 201 Caroline St. 3rd Floor Houston, TX 77002 713-755-6411 cclerk.hctx.net
Obtain a state sales tax permit from the Texas State Comptroller. You will need to charge state sales tax of 6.25 percent on all sales that you conducted. You must apply for a sales tax permit online at the Texas State Comptroller's website (see Resources). There is no fee for this application.
Obtain a federal tax identification number form the Internal Revenue Service. If you are a sole proprietor with no employees, then you may use your Social Security number and may skip this step. All other businesses must obtain numbers. You may apply for an Employer Identification number at the IRS website (see Resources). You'll need to provide the IRS with information about the nature of your business, your business's mailing address and physical location and personal information about all partners in the business.
If you don't want to apply online then you may download and complete IRS form SS-4, Application for Employee Identification Number, and return the completed form to:
Internal Revenue Service Center EIN Operation Cincinatti, OH 45999
File a listing of all of property that is associated with your business. You must download and complete a Harris County Personal Property Rendition Form (see Resources). Property that you must report includes all inventory, materials, furniture, equipment and vehicles. Houston charges a property tax rate of approximately 3 percent on all business property.
Mail the completed form to:
Harris County Appraisal District Business & Industrial Property Division P.O. Box 922007 Houston, TX 77292-2007
Obtain any permits that are required by the city for your specific type of business. Additional certification is required for a wide range of businesses, including any business that pertains to construction, sells alcohol, engages in second-hand vending, or operates gaming equipment. You also need a permit if your business may produce excessive noise or pollution. Visit the city of Houston permits website (see Resources) to verify whether you need any additional permits for your business and for information regarding applying for permits.