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How to Get a Business License in Hawaii
Written by: Coralee Bechteler
Coralee is a business writer with experience in administrative services, education, and software testing.
Edited by: David Lepeska
David has been writing and learning about business, finance and globalization for a quarter-century, starting with a small New York consulting firm in the 1990s.
Updated on May 2, 2023
How to Get a Business License in Hawaii
- Why are business licenses required in Hawaii?
- Which agency issues business licenses in Hawaii?
- Steps to Get a Hawaii Business License
- Types of Business Licenses
One of the most important elements of starting a business in Hawaii is making sure you have all the requisite licenses and permits. The requirements vary by state, some of which have as many as 300 different licenses and permits.
This article is too short to list them all, but it’s crucial that you’re aware of which ones your business needs and that you follow the steps for application and put your business on the road to success.
In Hawaii, businesses need certain licenses and permits to legally operate as a business. The regulatory hurdles required vary depending on the type of business, its location, and the products and services offered.
To help you launch your new business, this article lays out the most commonly needed permits and licenses in Hawaii— and details the steps required to acquire them.
Why are business licenses required in Hawaii?
Business licenses and permits are issued to certify that a business and its products and services are safe for the public. This explains why food businesses, for instance, require more licenses than most other business types.
Businesses in Hawaii must submit an initial Basic Business Application to the state’s Department of Taxation.
Which agency issues business licenses in Hawaii?
In Hawaii, the Department of Taxation issues the vast majority of licenses and permits, though some are issued by the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations and the Department of the Attorney General. For instance, the state Department of Health issues food establishment permits, while the Commercial Driver Licensing Agency issues truck driver’s permits.
Some licenses and permits are issued by cities or counties. So if you live on the Big Island, you’ll need to check with the county of Hawaii to see if licenses or permits are required for your business.
Before you apply, it’s important to know which state or local agency issues the license you need. Check the state’s guidelines here to learn more.
You could also check this SBA guide for your state’s requirements, but we recommend using MyCorporation’s Business License Compliance Package. They will research the exact forms you need for your business and state and provide them to ensure you’re fully compliant.
Steps to Get a Hawaii Business License
In Hawaii, the steps for acquiring specific licenses and permits vary widely, so it’s important to be aware of what you need, and how to get it.
Determine the Types of Licenses That You Need
As mentioned at the beginning of this article, businesses in the state of Hawaii must submit an initial Basic Business Application to the state’s Department of Taxation. This broad application enables you to hand-select and file for multiple business licenses and permits at once.
The additional licenses your business needs to conduct business in Hawaii safely depends on the county your business is located in, as well as the general type and nature of your business.
Submit Your Business License Application
Businesses in Hawaii can submit a Basic Business Application online here through the Department of Taxation.
In Hawaii, additional business licenses may need to be filed with the business’s local county office or with an agency other than the Department of Taxation, so it’s best to double-check where to file a given form.
How much does a Hawaii business license cost?
Business license fees vary in Hawaii depending on location and specific licenses. For example, a business acquiring a general excise tax license must pay a one-time fee of $20, while a business seeking a liquor license is required to pay an annual fee of $2.50 to maintain its validity.
In Hawaii, and most US states, jumping through all the hoops to acquire the necessary licenses and permits can be exhausting. But if you want to operate your business, you’ll have to wade through all the red tape. So get started on these regulatory hurdles as early as possible and clear the way for your entrepreneurial journey to success.
How fast can I get a business license in Hawaii?
If your Basic Business Application is submitted online, processing should only take about two to four days. If you mail in your application, however, you can expect processing to take about three to four weeks.
For other licenses, the processing time varies from county to county, but filing online can help speed up the process when the option is available.
Renew Your Licences When Needed
Most business licenses in Hawaii are either required to be renewed annually, or they simply don’t expire. For example, businesses can elect to apply for both a general excise tax license and a liquor license within the state’s Basic Business Application. However, a general excise tax license is a one-time registration and fee, while businesses with liquor licenses must renew annually and pay the renewal fee.
Be sure to check with the state for renewal regulations and fees regarding the licenses your business needs.
Types of Business Licenses
Your business may need local, state, and/or federal licenses and permits, depending on your type of business. Fees for these vary, but most costs are minimal.
Federal regulations associated with starting your business include doing business as (DBA), health licenses and permits from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), trademarks, copyrights, patents, and other intellectual properties, as well as industry-specific permits.
The most common permits and licenses include:
- Business operating licenses may be required by the city and the state to allow you to operate.
- Industry-specific licenses may be required, depending on your type of business. Businesses involved in construction, childcare, plumbing, electrical, food and liquor, insurance, finance, landscaping, and architecture all require licensing, for example. In some highly regulated industries, you may require licensing from a federal agency, such as the FDA or Department of Transportation.
- Zoning permits are issued by municipalities to ensure you’re operating in an area in which you’re allowed to operate.
- Building permits verify that the building you’re operating in is up to code. Home occupation permits, which some areas require, allow you to operate a business from your home.
- DBA permits allow you to do business under a name that is different from your legally registered business name.
- Sales tax permits allow you to sell products and collect sales tax.
- An employer identification number (EIN) is required if you plan to have employees, no matter what your business entity type.
- Health licenses and permits are required for certain businesses based on industry, and you will be required to maintain health and safety standards. Environmental permits are also required for certain industries in some locations.
- Fire permits certify that your business is up to fire safety codes. Depending on your location, this may be required for all businesses, while in other areas it’s required only if you work with flammable materials.
- Sign permits may be required for your location or other signage if there are rules about sign size and location.
Check with the state and local government offices for specific requirements for your location and industry.
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