Do you need a business license for blogging?

Business licensing requirements sign

I have to confess that I stumbled on the topic “do you need a business license for blogging” by doing keyword research. One of the KW research software platforms I used spit this out.

I had to laugh when I saw it because after being a full-time blogger for 10 years, not once did it ever occur to me that maybe I need a business license.

After thinking about it for a few minutes, one could be referring to different licenses and registration requirements for a blogging business.  They include (and this will vary by country and jurisdiction):

  • Business number for tax authorities (at least in Canada we need this whether a corporation or sole proprietorship).
  • Corporate or LLC number/name registered with the corporate registry.
  • Workers Compensation registration (yes, as a blogger, I’m registered with and pay Workers comp premiums).
  • Local business license.

My hunch is that most who ask whether they need a business license are asking whether they need a business license from their local municipality.  Most municipalities in North America require businesses to get a license.  You often see it framed somewhere on the business’ premises.

I don’t have a local business license. I never thought to look into it.

This topic prompted me to check with a BC government website which said as follows:

Most municipalities in British Columbia require you to obtain a business licence, which gives you permission to operate your business on your premises (whether in your home or in a commercial space) within that municipality.

In some instances, you may be required to obtain a licence in municipalities where you do not maintain premises but do carry on business.

Contact your local city hall – as well as the city hall in each community where you’re doing business – to see which permits (including mobile business licences) might be required for your type of business.

Technically, I do operate a business in a rented office (which is a small condo, not a commercial premises).

I decided to check with my local municipality (District of North Vancouver, BC). Here’s what it says:

You need a licence to conduct any business in the District. This includes those that are temporary, home-based, based outside of the municipality, or not-for-profit.

It appears that technically I need a local business license.  Who would’ve thought?  Maybe it was obvious to you. Not me.  Anyway, maybe I’ll get around to it one day.

Will I get a local business license?

No, I’m not for now. If someone tells me to, I’ll happily do so but I see no reason despite the above, to obtain a license.  It’s not as if I have retail customers or clients coming and going.  I’m not serving booze, operating heavy equipment, taking care of kids at a daycare or doing anything that anyone would consider business activity.  I rent a residential condo for my office where I write blog posts like this.  As far as anyone is concerned, I could be watching TV all day in my rented space.

Which brings me to the point.  Every jurisdiction is different. You should check with your local municipality.

What would happen if my business license application was declined?

Wouldn’t that be something? Would I be forbidden from writing blog posts?  Would the district bar me from entering my rented office space?  It seems the consequences of not having a license if one must have one in my neck of the woods is having to pay a fine.

Dealing with taxes and/or corporate registries is very different

Admittedly, I’m cavalier about this local business licensing thing but I’m not when it comes to ensuring my company paperwork is properly filed every year and that my company is in good standing with the corporate registrar.  You do not want to mess around with this stuff because there could be some serious tax consequences if you lose your corporate status.   I’m telling you from personal experience.

I failed to file a simple two-page annual corporate report with the BC corporate registry for a couple of years when I first started.  I just happened to forget.  Once I realized what happened, I hired a lawyer to get them completed and filed.  Apparently, I wasn’t too far from having my corporation removed from the registry.  While on the face of it that may not seem like a big deal but it is.  The Canadian Revenue Agency (CRA, which is the same in Canada as the IRS is in the USA), would have deemed me to have sold my company at fair market value.  That would have resulted in a hefty tax bill.

I also have a business number registered with the CRA.  I ensure all my tax returns are filed on time quarterly and the big one annually.  I take this stuff seriously because tax authorities aren’t terribly forgiving if you fail to do this stuff.  My previous accountant forgot to file my annual corporate returns several years back. The resulting penalties were stiff.  My accountant paid them of course.  That was also when they become my “former” accountant.

Again, how you structure your blogging business will vary by jurisdiction.  I have many colleagues in the USA who use an LLC.  Since we don’t have the equivalent of an LLC in Canada, we can either operate as a sole proprietorship or corporation. I opted for a corporate structure.  My guess is that one thing is certain in every jurisdiction and that is you must register and file with the tax authorities.

Bottom line: Check with your local municipality whether you need a business license.  If in doubt, ask a lawyer.

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