If you're starting a new business, there are probably any number of things that require your immediate attention. But among your foremost priorities should be educating yourself on the local laws that may affect your business.
Putting off potential legal issues until after your business is already open may end up costing you big in the long run.
What local laws do you need to know before you start your business? Here are three to get you started:
Zoning. Zoning laws control the type of businesses that may occupy certain areas. In addition, commercial zoning laws may regulate other sort of activity, such as the level of noise permitted, the appearance of buildings, or the number of parking spaces a business must have. Make sure that your business' activity is permitted by the zoning in your location. Also be aware that previous occupants of commercial property may have been operating under a variance or as a nonconforming use, neither of which may apply to your use of the property.
Permits. Your local laws may also require that you obtain permits for any number of things associated with opening your business, from building permits for renovations to your building to signage permits for any external signs advertising your business. If your business involves the preparation of food or the sale of regulated products such as liquor, gasoline, or lottery tickets, you may need to obtain even more permits before you can operate legally.
Taxes. The amount and types of taxes your business will be required to pay and/or collect will also vary depending on where your business is located; some areas (like a downtown Business Improvement District) may even require additional taxes or fees. Tax laws can be incredibly complex and can vary dramatically depending on city, state, and type of business, so you may want to consider consulting an accountant or an attorney who specializes in tax law.
To learn more about what you'll need to get a new business off the ground, check out FindLaw's section on Starting a Business.