[1] The CDMA contains Richland, Lexington, Kershaw, Sumter, Newberry, Saluda, Orangeburg, Calhoun, Lee, and Fairfield counties in South Carolina.


Business licenses are issued for home based, commercial, and industrial businesses located in municipalities (incorporated cities and towns) in all counties of the CDMA and in the unincorporated areas of some counties. The commercial and industrial categories may have sub-categories.

A joint City of Columbia/Richland County office located in Columbia accepts applications and issues licenses to businesses located in the city or outside of the incorporated cities and towns (Arcadia Lakes, Blythewood, Forest Acres, and Eastover) in Richland County.

In the City of Sumter, a similar office provides the same service to businesses located within the city or in the unincorporated area of Sumter county. In addition to the City of Sumter two incorporated townships, Mayesville and Pinewood, issue licenses in Sumter County.

In Lexington County, the incorporated cities and towns of Batesburg-Leesville, Cayce, Chapin, Gaston, Gilbert, Lexington, Irmo, Pine Ridge, Pelion, Springdale, South Congaree, Summit, Swansea, and West Columbia issue business licenses. Licenses for all other areas of the county are issued by the County.

In the other counties within the CDMA, a business license is required only by incorporated cities and towns. These cities and towns are: (1) Camden (Kershaw County), (2) Orangeburg (Orangeburg County) (3) Saluda (Saluda County), (4) St. Matthews (Calhoun County), (5) Bishopville (Lee County) and (6) Ridgeway and Winnsboro (Fairfield County). Newberry and Prosperity require business licenses but Newberry County licenses only door-to-door sales firms.

Each of these governments expects a business to obtain a license if it is located or does business more than once or twice within its jurisdiction even if the business is located elsewhere. For that reason a business that expects to do business in any jurisdiction that requires a license should determine if a license is necessary there.

The state also licenses businesses and occupations.


A call to the Town or City Hall of the community in which the business will be located, do business, or both is the best way to start an application. Arrange an appointment.

Anyone living in an unincorporated area who does not know the phone number to call should check the blue pages of the phone books. If no number for a city or town is found, one can go to and click on "Cities in Towns in South Carolina". It showa a list of all cities and towns in South Carolina andthe county in which each is located. If a city or town has a website , clicking on the name will take you there

Note that the web page "Cities and Towns in South Carolina" may also have links to business licensing, zoning, and planning. Exploring them should provide information about business licensing and indicate the phone number to call. A few, like Cayce and Sumter, provide instructions to applicants and down-loadable license application forms.

If there is no specific information about licensing, there will be a directory which lists names, titles and phone number. An applicant can call some one responsible for licensing, zoning, or planning or the mayor or city manager.

If all these avenues do not yield specific information about licensing, an applicant can call the Municipal Association of South Carolina at 803-933-1200 and ask for its help.

An applicant should go to the first meeting with any licensing function prepared with the name of the company[2], its owner or owners, the type of organization sole proprietor-ship, partnership, limited partnership, limited liability partnership, LLC, or corporation[3] its products or services, and how they will be delivered.

[2] Name is important. John Smith Plumbing and Heating or Smith Plumbing and Heating are suitable for a sole proprietorship but Smith Associates Plumbing and Heating Associates is not because it implies more than one owner. For more information about forms of organization do a Google search on "sc business one stop links" and click on the first listing. Look on that website for information on business structures.

[3] All of these forms of organization except a sole proprietorship and a "doing business as" company must register with the South Carolina Secretary of State. Only small service related businesses without any employees may not be required to register with the Department of Revenue.

An applicant should be prepared with questions about the licensing process. What steps does it involve? What other departments? Who can be contacted to determine progress? Will a building, fire, or other inspection be required? Is a "doing business as" or other registration required? By whom? Where? Before, during, or after the licensing process?

The reward for preparation will be fewer problems, less time to obtain a license and tips (from licensing personnel) with respect to the State of South Carolina departments such as DHEC which might require a permit or license.


An applicant going to the City of Columbia/Richland County Licensing office will receive: (1) a license application, (2) a home business, commercial business, or industrial business occupation form, and (3) and instructions to take the latter form, when completed, to the zoning authority for the city or Richland county.

The Town of Lexington issues a home, commercial, or industrial occupation permit. Initial contact should be through the Zoning and Building Department--preferably by telephone since personnel are few and often in the field. Home based business applications are usually referred to the Business Licensing Department which then issues them. Commercial and industrial applications located in the appropriate zone are referred to the Engineering Department to verify that the town water and sewer systems can handle any additional load.

Instead of a business license the Zoning Board of Lexington County issues a home business, commercial, or industrial zoning permit. Commercial and industrial applicants are expected to submit a site plan and information about the current use of all adjoining properties.


Forty agencies of the state license or issue permits for over 100 businesses and occupations ranging from CPA's, doctors, engineers, barbers and barber shops to personal trainers, tanning bed and water treatment operators. Some licenses are mandatory; some are optional.

To find out if a business or an occupation requires state licensing, an applicant should call the state information number, 803-896-000 or input SCSGPortal/static/scbos_00_tem2.html or Google "sc business one stop links" and click on the first listing which will take an applicant to the same website.

At this location there are links to Licenses and Permits, Professional Licenses, Forms, Business Structures, Featured Business Types, information about state and federal tax registration and some forms. Clicking on Licenses/Permits on this new page yields a page which lists all state licensed occupations and businesses. Clicking on a listing produces information about it, contacts, and downloadable license application forms. If no forms appear, an applicant should determine which agency licensees his or her occupation or business, go back one page, click on forms, and then the agency which appears on the resulting page. A list of forms will then appear.

Clicking on the DOR and ESC partner for Online Business Registration provides information on that subject.

Clicking on Featured Business Types produces links to a number of topics which should interest anyone starting a business.


[4] Much of the information in this section came from the South Carolina Association of Counties Handbook pp. 131 and 132

A zoning ordinance regulates the use, location and size of any structure placed on a property to preserve the health, safety and general welfare of the people in the community. Land is generally zoned for residential, commercial, and industrial use but there are special zones such as planned unit development (PUD) residential zones, office and institutional zones and light and heavy industry zones.

When examining a potential business use the authority considers--to the extent the zoning ordinance permits/requires--such factors as the use, dimensions, density and setback requirements, traffic, on- and off-street parking, the environment, and esthetics such as screening and land-scaping. It may require fire, safety, or other inspections of existing facilities to be used by an applicant for a business license and delay its approval until these have been completed and reports are submitted.


The Zoning Authority should approve a home based business if the owner (or owners) and family are the only employees, if there are no visitors, and if no truck with the business name will be parked outside the home. Some authori-ties allow occasional visitors, but frequent visitors or many at one time will raise questions.

If the Zoning Authority approves a home based business and a truck is parked outside or visitors are frequent or come in large numbers, the neighbors may complain.

A commercial or industrial businesses will be held to the requirements of the commercial or industrial zone in which it is located, state occupation and business license requirements, state regulations, and the inspections the board requires.

It is wise to verify that the structure housing the business does not have a "grandfathered" exception to some zoning regulation or that exception exists and will pass to the new occupant.


City of Columbia/Richland County Business Licensing Office 545-3345
Town of Lexington Zoning and Building Department 356-9638 and 951-4655
Lexington County Zoning Department 953-8121
City of Sumter/Sumter County Licensing Office 803-436-2520
Cayce City Hall Information 796-9020
Chapin Zoning Administrator 345-2444
Forest Acres Business Licensing 782-4245
West Columbia Clerk's Office 791-1880

This material may be reproduced partially or in toto without charge if it is attributed to the copyright holder.

Please report any additions or corrections to John R. Huffman. SCORE, Strom Thurmond Federal Building, 1835 Assembly Street, Room 1425, Columbia, SC, 29201 or click on Contact Us "Contact Us" and references Jack Huffman's paper on business licensing.

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Copyright 2005 by SCORE Midlands Chapter 230