Do You Need a License for a Cleaning Business?

Cleaning image by Mykola Velychko from

Owning a cleaning business can be lucrative and fun. Cleaning houses and commercial buildings allows you to set your own hours, build a clientele and expand your company. In most jurisdictions throughout the nation, you are required to possess a business license to own and operate a cleaning company. This ensures you follow certain laws, pay taxes and complete I-9 forms on any employed alien workers.

Cleaning Company Purpose

A cleaning company's purpose is to provide residential or commercial cleaning services to its clients for a profitable fee. Whether you have employees or decide to remain small and just take on a few clients, once you begin charging for your services, you are acting in an official business capacity and must obtain a business license in most locales.

What a Business License Does

A business license alerts the city, county and state that you are operating a cleaning business within their jurisdiction. This triggers many elements including tax tracking, demographic information and your ability to obtain grant funding, business insurance and bonding. The business license is renewed annually and costs vary across the nation. In Hendersonville, Tennessee, for example, a 2011 business license cost $15. The required accompanying county business license cost $5.

Going Without One

Choosing not to obtain a legally required business license places you at risk for financial penalties and loss of income if you are discovered. Not having a business license precludes you from getting the best prices on cleaning supplies. Wholesale suppliers of cleaning supplies typically require either a tax resale number or a copy of your business license before they will sell you products at the business owner's discount. The Internal Revenue Service will impose fines and penalties for all income earned but not reported. Without a business license, it becomes difficult to prove deductions and allowable expenses as a business owner when you file your taxes.

How to Get One

If you are simply cleaning your elderly grandmother's house once a week, and they are paying you a small allowance for doing so, you do not need to get a business license. However, when you take on clients outside of the immediate family or the family pays you a set wage for each cleaning job, you need a license. You can obtain a business license through your city government offices. Some cities have additional rules such as checking with the planning department to confirm your business address is properly zoned for a cleaning business. Once you comply with your city's requirements, fill out the proper forms and pay the fees, you will receive your license.


About the Author

Candace Webb has been writing professionally since 1989. She has worked as a full-time journalist as well as contributed to metropolitan newspapers including the "Tennessean." She has also worked on staff as an associate editor at the "Nashville Parent" magazine. Webb holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism with a minor in business from San Jose State University.

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