Does South Carolina Require a Business License?

16 Feb, 2024

On Behalf of Mack & Mack Attorneys | business law

Opening a business in Lancaster is not only a monumental milestone in your professional life but also an exciting journey to begin. You have dreams and are hoping to create a thriving business. Unfortunately, getting beyond the dreams and figuring out the logistical and legal details can feel intimidating. Working with a Lancaster business formation attorney can help you bridge the gap between legal requirements and accomplishing your dreams.

Who Needs a Business License in South Carolina?

Every state handles business licenses differently. While South Carolina does not have a statewide general business license, several counties and all its cities still require a business license. This means that one of the first questions you need to answer when planning your business is where your business will be located and where you will do business. Once you decide on a place, you can research that specific location’s requirements.

Business Structures That Require a License in South Carolina

There are several types of business structures available for you to choose from. Each one offers benefits and downsides that must be evaluated for your needs. Common business structures include:

  • Sole proprietorships
  • General Partnerships
  • Limited Partnerships
  • Limited Liability Corporations (LLCs)
  • Corporations

Beyond determining the physical location of your business, you need to select a business structure that makes sense for you. Certain types of business structures require more or less paperwork, with sole proprietorships usually demanding the fewest number of steps.

Types of Licenses in South Carolina

One of the first questions every new business owner needs to ask is what their business is going to offer. It is helpful to inventory your own skills, as well as carefully examine the market you are trying to break into, the competition you will have, and how you can make yourself stand out as a new business. Deciding what goods or services your business will offer can also help you select which licenses you will need.

While South Carolina does not have a general business license, there are still several licenses you will need to look into. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Retail licenses: These are required if you provide goods or services that fall under tax laws.
  • Food preparation licenses: These licenses and employee food handler cards verify that food is being prepared, handled, and served correctly and help ensure community safety.
  • Professional licenses: A number of professions regulate who is allowed to offer their particular service to the community and license individuals and businesses. This includes professions ranging from cosmetology to nursing and beyond.

Other Questions to Answer When Planning A Business

When determining what kind of business license or licenses you need, you have to consider what kind of business you are forming, where it will be located, and what kind of structure your business will have. All these questions can help you choose the correct license(s) for you. Beyond these questions, several others will also set you up for success.

  1. What will my business’s name be? You will want to consider not only an attractive business name but also one that is not currently in use by another company or is too similar to another business. You will also need to figure out how to legally file your business name.
  2. Do I need specific licenses or permits for a building or vehicle? You should not only look into licenses for the business itself but also make sure that you are following zoning and other permits for your space.
  3. What tax regulations will impact my new business? Do I need an Employer Identification Number? You may be able to file your business taxes as a part of your taxes, depending on your business structure. Once you decide on your structure and business details, you should look into tax requirements for that type of business.
  4. Should my company keep a business attorney on retainer? Working with an attorney will offer valuable support, including thinking through business formation, drafting contracts, and dealing with litigation.


Q: Is a Business License Required in South Carolina?

A: Depending on where you plan to open your business, a business license may be required in South Carolina. In Lancaster County, for example, a business license is not required. In the city of Lancaster, a business license is necessary. Even if a business license is not required, you may still need to register your business or look into other permits for your new business. Make sure you consider all the areas in South Carolina your business plans to serve to verify what is required.

Q: Do I Need to Register My Sole Proprietorship in South Carolina?

A: Becoming a sole proprietor of a business is very simple in South Carolina, as there are no fees and no state law requiring that you register your sole proprietorship. There may, however, be local licenses or permits required based on where you are opening your business and the type of business you plan to create. You should also make sure you are considering tax regulations, choosing a business name, etc.

Q: What Cities in South Carolina Require a Business License?

A: The entirety of South Carolinian cities require a business license. Beyond the cities, nine counties currently require a business license. These counties include:

  • Beaufort
  • Charleston
  • Dorchester
  • Horry
  • Jasper
  • Marion
  • Orangeburg
  • Richland
  • Sumter

Even if your physical business is located outside of a city, you should acquire a business license for any city where you plan to do business.

Q: Does South Carolina Have a State Business License?

A: There is no business license that currently covers the entire state or all the cities in South Carolina, which means you will need to research your particular geographic area to figure out what license(s) you should obtain. Working with a seasoned business formation attorney can help you figure out exactly what licenses, permits, and registrations you need.

Connect With a Seasoned Business Formation Attorney

It can feel overwhelming when you are in the process of planning your business, obtaining licenses and permits, and making sure you are in line with all the regulations in your state. Partnering with a Lancaster business formation firm like Mack & Mack Attorneys can give you the confidence and peace of mind required to begin your new business. Please reach out to us today.

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