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Learn about starting or operating your business in New York City

Business Checklist Resources

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Create a Business Plan

Develop your business idea. ​​Every business starts as an idea. Take advantage of free courses to ​​​turn​ your idea into a business plan. Register for business planning courses.

Seek out business advice. Get feedback on your business idea and plan. Small Business Services (SBS) offers hands-on, intensive, cohort-based instruction for your business plan. Sign up for classes.

Write your business plan. A business plan is a living document that serves as a roadmap for your business. Access an online guide to create your business plan.

Register Your Business

Choose your legal structure. The business's legal structure determines who owns and is legally responsible for your business and affects how you file your taxes.​ Get free advice on legal structures.

Register your business. Corporations, limited liability companies, and limited partnerships register with New York State. General partnerships and sole proprietorships register with the appropriate county clerk. Get free legal advice.

Apply for an Employer Identification Number (EIN). An Employer Identification Number (EIN) — also known as a federal Tax ID number — is a unique nine-digit number assigned by the IRS that businesses use for tax filing and reporting purposes. In some instances, if you are a sole proprietor, you may be able to use your Social Security Number for tax filing and reporting purposes instead. Learn more about EIN.

Register as a sales tax vendor. Register as a sales tax vendor with the NYS Department of Taxation and Finance in order to sell products and services. Apply early to avoid delays in obtaining additional permits. Learn more about the Sales Tax Vendor Certificate.

Research required insurance. Research the necessary insurance types for your business, including workers' compensation, liability, and disability insurance. These are not only essential for securing permits and licenses but also safeguard your business against losses, fines, and legal actions.

Finance Your Business

Determine your financing needs. To start your business, you will need money or capital to purchase equipment and run your operations. Increase your chances of getting financing for your business.

​​Understand your insurance needs. ​​Understand your insurance needs such as workers' compensation, liability, and disability insurance. Some are needed for permits and licenses and protect you from loss, fines, and lawsuits. Managing risk is an essential part of your business. Learn more about insurance.

Identify incentive programs. Your business can benefit from programs that allow you to lower your cost of doing business. Small Business Services (SBS) can help you identify and access energy cost savings, tax credits, and other incentives. Learn more about incentives.

Find, Plan, and Build Out Your Space

Find a location zoned for your business. Find a location zoned for your business, and at the legally required distance from a school or place of worship if you plan to serve alcohol. Your business location​,​ and the opinion of the local Community Board​,​ will be reviewed for your liquor license application. Learn more about zoning requirements.

Learn more about zoning in your neighborhood. Learn more about zoning in your neighborhood with the Department of City Planning's ZoLa map. Use the ZoLa Map.

Learn about facilities and program sites in your prospective neighborhood. Learn about facilities and program sites in your prospective neighborhood that might impact your business on the Department of City Planning's Facilities Explorer.

Get help understanding and signing your lease. Before signing, talk to a lawyer to make sure the timing is right, the terms are legal, and the agreement is good for you. Get free commercial lease assistance through SBS.

Review your building plans for major and minor construction within your space. Review your building plans for major and minor construction within your space. The NYC Department of Small Business Services (SBS) offers free plan examinations, and experienced client managers can help you navigate the process. Get help with plan examinations.

Plan your food establishment design. Select and engage architect(s), general contractor(s), and/or interior and kitchen designers to plan any changes and ensure that your space complies with building and fire codes. Make sure your architect and/or contractor is licensed.

Professional certification. Professional Certification or "Pro-Cert" could save you weeks in receiving permits. Pro-Cert allows a professional to self-certify projects without initial review from the NYC Department of Buildings. Learn more about Pro-Cert.

Digitally plan submissions. Digitally plan submissions and review to save time. Have your professionals use the NYC Development HUB, including for Pro-Cert. Visit the NYC Development HUB.

If your location will host events where 75 people or more will gather. If your location will host events where 75 people or more will gather, you will need a Place of Assembly Permit. Learn more about the Place of Assembly Permit.

Backflow prevention devices. Most property owners must install backflow prevention devices on each service line to protect the New York City water supply from contamination or pollution. Learn more about approval of backflow prevention devices.

Limit construction noise. You must create and post a noise mitigation plan to keep noises from bothering neighbors. Failure to do so can result in fines. Learn more about construction noise regulations.

Canopies. Canopies must be approved by the property owners and the NYC Department of Transportation. Learn more about canopy approval.

Your construction should match what your business permits require. Make sure your licensed professional plans spaces and utilities connections to match the requirements of your business permits.

Consult your licensed professional about progress inspections. Consult your licensed professional about progress inspections and their cost, which may not be included in your project bid. 

Submit digital plans to the NYC Department of Buildings HUB. Accelerate the plan review process for new buildings or major alterations that change a building’s egress by directing your licensed professional to submit digital plans to the NYC Department of Buildings HUB. Use the HUB.

A work permit and certificate to operate, and/or registration for boilers, water heaters and industrial equipment. To protect public air quality, businesses must get a work permit and certificate to operate, and/or registration for boilers, water heaters and industrial equipment. Please note that boilers, water heaters, and multiple dryers (for laundromats) must be registered with DEP only if they have a rated input of greater than 350,000 but less than 4.2 million BTUs/hour. Learn more about the Air Code.

Prepare to Open

Pre-operational inspections. Schedule your pre-operational inspections with the NYC Fire Department (FDNY). Schedule pre-operational inspections.

​​Avoid common violations and fines.​ SBS offers free compliance consultations that can save you time and money. Get help with licenses and permits​.​

The Federal, State, and City requirements. ​​Learn about the Federal, State, and City requirements, as well as​​​ the permits your business will need by using the Step-by-Step Tool​.​

Maximize recycling and avoid violations. Set​​​-​up your space to maximize recycling and avoid violations. Attend a DSNY training and download or order educational materials. ​​Attend a training​.​

​​​Business signs. Business signs,​ if nailed or screwed into the building​,​ or if illuminated, must be approved by NYC Department of Buildings. Learn more about signs.

The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). ​​​The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP)​ has many permit and non-permit environmental compliance requirements. Learn more about DEP requirements.

Post applicable worker protection posters. Follow Federal as well as New York State requirements. ​Download posters​.

Post prices, refund policy, and other required signs. Post prices, refund policy, and other required signs from the NYC Department of Consumer and Worker Protection.​ Learn more about posting and signage requirements​.​

Hire a Team

Minimum wages. The minimum wage for employees in New York City is $15.00 per hour. Home health aides have a higher minimum wage. Learn more about minimum wage.

Train your employees. Train your employees, so that your team has the skills your business needs. We can help cover training costs. Learn more about employee training.

Unemployment insurance. I​t's important to ​understand your business’ unemployment insurance requirements​.​​​ Contact the New York State Department of Labor for more information. Learn about unemployment insurance.

Workers' compensation. ​​It's important to​​​ understand your workers' compensation insurance requirements for your business​. Contact the New York State Department of Labor for more information. Learn about workers' compensation insurance.

Laws for employers. Employing New Yorkers means following rules about how much to pay, what benefits to provide and more. Learn more about local laws employers must follow.

Get help with hiring. Talented workers can help your business succeed. Let ​Small Business Services (SBS)​​ ​help you find the right employees. ​​Get help with hiring.

Open and Operate

Display licenses and required posters.

Give customers clear receipts. Show prices and print your business name and address on your invoices and receipts.

Prepare and pay your taxes. Learn about taxes in NYC.

Hazardous materials above threshold amounts. Hazardous materials above threshold amounts must be registered under NYC Department of Environmental Protection’s Right-to-Know program. Many common materials such as paint, solvents, inks, pool chemicals, and cleaning products can have hazardous characteristics. Learn more about Right-To-Know.

All vehicles may only idle as permitted or face fines. As a general rule of thumb, no person should allow the engine of a motor vehicle to idle for longer than three minutes while parking, unless it is an authorized emergency motor vehicle, or a vehicle using an engine to operate a loading device. The legal idling time is reduced to one minute if the vehicle is parked adjacent to a school facility. Learn more about idling regulations.

Watch for asbestos. A licensed asbestos investigator must determine if asbestos is present, and if so then a licensed abatement contractor must contain it and give notice to the NYC Department of Environmental Protection before you can demolish or renovate the structure. Learn more about asbestos rules and regulations.

Train your employees on sexual harassment prevention. You must do so under state law. Learn more about sexual harassment training.

Compliance Tools

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Department of Buildings

Occupancy Contrary to That Allowed by the Certificate of Occupancy or Department of Buildings ​Records
Penalty: $400 - $25,000 fine

How to Avoid a Violation:

  • Ensure the space (building or lot) you own or rent has a current Certificate of Occupancy on file with the Department of Buildings (DOB).
  • If you own or rent a space constructed before 1938, make sure your space has a Letter of No Objection from the Department of Buildings (DOB).
  • If you plan to change the use, egress, or occupancy of your space, make sure the property owner has filed for an amended Certificate of Occupancy.
  • Verify that your type of business is consistent with the use authorized by the Certificate of Occupancy.
  • Do not own or operate any business in a space where it is not authorized, or in a zoning district where it is not allowed.

Additional Information:

Legal Basis: 

NYC Construction Code  §28-118

Department of Environmental Protection

Operating an Emission Source (Boiler) with an Expired Registration
Penalty: $400 - $1,600 fine

How to Avoid ​a ​Violation:

  • Owners of boilers with a capacity of 350,000 BTUs or higher must register their equipment every three years.
  • Building owners​ or ​​​managers who meet this threshold should ​consult a with a design professional or a Licensed Master Plumber ​discuss their building heating system.

Additional Information:

Legal Basis:

Registrations §24-109 

Unreasonable Noise From a Sound Reproduction Device for Commercial or Business Advertising Purposes
Penalty: $440 - $1,320 fine

How to Avoid ​a​​ ​Violation:

  • It is unlawful to use any sound reproduction device​,​ such as speakers or a radio​,​ for commercial or business advertising purposes to ​draw​​ ​attention to your merchandise or for any performance.
  • Business owners ​are prohibited from ​plac​ing​​​ speakers near or outside​​ doors or windows to attract customers into the premises​.​​​​ This​ includ​es​​ playing such devices ​inside the establishment ​so t​he sound ​​can be heard outside in ​public​ areas​​​.

Additional Information:

Legal Basis:

Sound reproduction devices §24-244

Fire Department

Failure to Conduct Specified Fire-Safety Inspection/Test
Penalty: $1,000 - $5,000 fine

Code: VC20

Violation Type: Inspection and Testing

How to Avoid a Violation:

  • Test your fire suppression systems tested after installation.
  • Schedule appointments for periodic systems testing. 
  • Keep your records up to date.
  • Ensure records are readily available for a FDNY representative upon request.
  • Have appropriate Certificate of Fitness holders.

Additional Information:

Legal Basis: 

NYC Fire Code §107.1

 

Failure to Obtain Specified Certificates of Fitness and Certificates of Qualification (Submit Copy of Certificate)
Penalty: $1,000 - $5,000 fine

How to Avoid a Violation:

  • ​​Maintain​ proper fire safety/prevention supervision of storage, handling, and use.
  • Keep your records up to date.
  • ​​Ensure​ records are ​readily ​available for ​a ​FDNY representative upon request.

Additional Information:

Legal Basis: 

NYC Fire Code §113.1

 

Failure to Obtain Specified Fire Safety Permit or Submit Copy of Permit Fee Receipt
Penalty: $1,000 - $5,000 fine

Code: VC3

Violation Type: Permits

How to Avoid the Violation:

  • Make sure to obtain the proper permits.
  • Remember to renew the permits.
  • Be sure to save the receipt after paying the bill for the permit.

Additional Information:

Legal Basis: 

NYC Fire Code §105.6

 

Failure to Provide and​​ Maintain Required Fire Protection Systems​,​ ​​or Prevent Unnecessary​​ Alarms
Penalty: $1,000 - $5,000 fine

Code: VC12

Violation Type: Fire Protection Systems

How to Avoid a Violation:

  • Repair defective Fire Protection System(s).
  • Have ​an ​appropriate Certificate of Fitness Holder​.​

Additional Information:

Legal Basis:

 NYC Fire Code §901.6

Failure to Provide or Maintain Fire Safety Records
Penalty: $1,000 - $5,000 fine

Code: VC5

Violation Type: Record Keeping

How to Avoid a Violation:

  • Keep your records up to date.
  • ​​Ensure​​​ all records are ​readily ​available for ​a ​FDNY representative at inspection.
  • Have appropriate Certificate of Fitness holders​.​ 

Additional Information:

Legal Basis: 

NYC Fire Code §107.7

Failure to Provide or Maintain Required Signs, Postings, Notices, or Instructions
Penalty: $1,000 - $5,000 fine

Code: VC6

Violation Type: Signs, Postings, Notices, and Instructions

How to Avoid the Violation:

  • Ensure all signs, postings, notices, and instructions are visible and available for inspection.
  • Keep your signs, postings, notices, and instructions up to date.
  • Have an appropriate Certificate of Fitness holder.

Additional Information:

Legal Basis: 

NYC Fire Code (varies with materials on premises)

Department of Sanitation

Dirty or Obstructed ​S​​idewalks and ​A​​djacent ​A​​reas
Penalty: $50 - $100 fine

How to Avoid a ​​Violation:

  • Keep sidewalks and adjacent areas clean. These areas include gutters (18 inches from the curb into the street), tree pits and grass strips, driveways, alleys, parking lots, front and backyards, and open storage areas. These spaces must be kept clear of anything that could obstruct pedestrian traffic, including garbage, waste receptacles, merchandise, or A-frame signs. 

Additional Information:

Legal Basis:

NYC Administrative Code  §16-118(2)(a)

Failure to Separate Designated Recyclables from Garbage
Penalty: $100 - $400 fine

How to Avoid ​a​ Violation:

  • Recycle, at a minimum, all bulk metal, corrugated cardboard, office paper, magazines, catalogs, phone books, newspaper, and textiles (if over 10 percent of your waste stream).
  • Set out trash in black bags or covered bins and bundle recyclables in labeled covered bins or clear plastic bags.

Additional Information:

Legal Basis: 

Rules of the City of New York: Title 16 §1-10

Improper ​D​​​isposal of ​G​​arbage or ​R​​​ecycling
Penalty: $100 - $400 fine

How to Avoid ​a Violation:

  • ​​Do not use trash or recycling receptacles belonging to others without their permission​.​​
  • ​​D​​o not place garbage or recycling in front of any premises other than your own.

Additional Information:

Collection and Setout Laws for Businesses

Legal Basis:

NYC Administrative Code §16-120(a)

Failure to Post a Private Carter Decal
Penalty: $5 fine

How to Avoid ​a ​​​Violation:

Post a ​clearly labeled decal that ​states the name of the private carter ​that has been hired to provide services, the type of service rendered ​(​for example, ​garbage collection, source-separated recycling, co-collection of recycling or single-stream collection of recycling)​,​ and the days and times the service(s) is provided. The NYC Department of Sanitation does not collect commercial waste. 

Additional Information: 

Failure to Remove Snow and Ice from Sidewalk
Penalty: $100 - $250 fine

How to Avoid a Violation:  

  • Clean snow and/or ice from the sidewalk after the snow has stopped falling. 
  • Do not shovel snow into the street. 
  • ​​Snow-melting material such as sand or salt may be used if the snow or ice becomes frozen and cannot be cleared from the sidewalk.

Additional Information:

Legal Basis:

 NYC Administrative Code §16-123 

Improper ​D​​​isposal of ​B​​​atteries
Penalty: $50 fine

How to Avoid ​a Violation:

  • Do not dispose of automotive or car batteries with trash or recycling. Improper disposal of automotive or car batteries is illegal. ​

Additional Information:

Legal Basis:

NYS Environmental Conservation Law § 27-1701(3)

Improper ​D​​isposal of ​E​​​lectronic ​W​​​aste
Penalty: $100 - $200 fine

How to Avoid ​a​ Violation:

  • Do not dispose of any materials considered to be electronic waste with trash or recycling.​​ Improper disposal of electronic waste is illegal. ​
  • NOTE: Only certain items qualify as e-waste under the NYS Electronic Equipment Recycling and Reuse Act

Additional Information:

Legal Basis:

Rules of the City of New York: Title 16 §1-04.2 

Improper ​D​​​isposal of ​N​​​oxious ​L​​​iquids
Penalty: $100 - $350 fine

How to Avoid ​a ​​Violation:

  • Do not allow noxious liquids to fall on any public place run into the street.

Additional Information:

Legal Basis:

NYC Administrative Code §16-118(3) 

Improper use of DSNY ​L​​itter ​B​​​asket
Penalty: $100 - $350 fine

How to Avoid​ a​​ Violation:

  • Do not dispose of commercial refuse or liquids in DSNY litter baskets. Sanitation litter baskets are designed for light waste and for use by pedestrians only. 
  • Do not use litter baskets to display merchandise or wares.

Additional Information:

Legal Basis:

NYC Administrative Code §16-120(e)

Loose Rubbish
Penalty: $100 - $200 fine

How to Avoid a Violation:

  • Securely bundle, tie, or package waste and recycling before placing out for collection to avoid it being blown away or scattered on the street.

Additional Information:

Legal Basis: 

NYC Administrative Code §16-120(3)(d)

Street Obstruction
Penalty: $100 - $150 fine

How to Avoid the Violation:

  • Do not place items like boxes, barrels, garbage containers, or movable property like ATMs on a public street. It is illegal. 
  • NOTE: Construction containers are allowed with an appropriate permit.

Additional Information:

Legal Basis:

NYC Administrative Code §16-122(b)