Small business licences: a checklist of what you need to know

Small business licences: a checklist of what you need to know

January 29, 2020 by Sandra

If you’re embarking on a new business venture, you may be wondering if you need a business licence; not all UK businesses require a licence, but if you do need one it’s important to know the rules and costs.

As well as providing insolvency advice for small businesses, we also help our clients start afresh so if you're concerned about business licences or want to know how much they cost, our simple checklist can help you find out everything you need to know.


Do I need a business licence in the UK?

You may be surprised to know, but not all small businesses in the UK require a business licence, and if you are properly set up with HMRC and have selected an appropriate legal structure, you may be able to trade without one. However, a number of business activities require you to have a licence, for example one of the most popular is the alcohol licence, if you’re proposing to serve alcohol on your premises.

Does your business fit with any of these categories? If so, you will require a business licence:

  •       Serving alcohol
  •       Taxi services
  •       Serving or preparing food
  •       Hotels
  •       Pet shops and grooming parlours
  •       Hairdressers
  •       Childminding or nursery schools
  •       Financial services, such as lending or recovering money


It’s worth noting that if you intend to play recorded music, for example in a retail shop or café, you will require a separate licence.

The types of licences change depending on what part of the UK your business is operating in; there are different Food premises approval licences for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.


How do I get a business licence?

Your first step is to work out what type of business licence you need. You can use the government’s Licence finder website to help you do this and there is extensive information on Alcohol licensing and all the other kinds of licence you may need.

Once you have outlined your type of business, you can then add all the additional business requirements which may also require separate licences, for example, distributing free promotional material, putting signs up on the pavement to advertise your business or requiring the use of CCTV.

The website will also tell you where to apply for your business licence – most licences are generally granted by individual local authorities.

Using the Licence finder, you will be provided with appropriate point of contact for your application though there are some exceptions, such as if you wish to run a childminding business. You will need to apply to a specific government body, for example Ofsted in England or the Care Inspectorate in Scotland. And if you wish to play music in your premises, contact PPL PRS – the specific music licensing body.


How much does a business licence cost?

In short, this depends on the type of licence you are applying for. Alcohol licences in England and Wales are also subject to an application fee, which is based on the value of the venue for which you require a licence. Your local authority sets the cost for individual licences and they can vary depending on where your business takes place, and you can find out the cost of each licence on your local authority’s website.


Use our handy checklist when applying for a business licence:

  1. Use the online Licence finder tool to find the licences you need
  2. Add in your extra requirements, like CCTV or handling customer data
  3. Contact your local authority to confirm your requirements
  4. Apply for each licence online or in person and pay the fee


If you require more information on business licences, we can help: request a free, no-obligation consultation with one of our experienced team. We can talk through all your licensing requirements and help you to apply for them if necessary. Specialising in insolvency advice for small businesses, we are here to help you.


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