Licensing Applications Get Wired- New Online Filing Options for Business Licenses

As municipalities build out their websites and look at ways to reduce costs, many are transitioning their filing requirements from paper to electronic applications. We are finding a significant increase in the frequency that the municipalities are making electronic filing available either as an alternative option to paper submissions, or making online filings mandatory for almost all filers. This is true for some state agencies as well.

For example, the California Board of Equalization has recently mandated that the licenses they govern must be filed online. This means that all sales and use tax filings must be conducted online and the BOE no longer accepts paper applications as of October 1, 2012.  Generally, you can now get the sales tax account number within minutes of completing the filing. Retail, wholesale and distributor cigarette licensing are also now done electronically.

In a similar vein, Washington DC has expanded their online filings for the various endorsements for the Basic Business License and now includes all categories.  It is not a perfect system as it does not yet allow for all multiple endorsements to be done on a single license.  Documents may still need to be submitted to the Authority via mail for some endorsements, but for most you can print out the actual license at the end of the application process. Any applicant who has experience with the DC bureaucracy will welcome this change wholeheartedly.

We have found state and local online filing options for everything from alarm permits to collection agency licenses, insurance licenses, and vehicle dealer licenses. There are numerous smaller municipalities expanding their web portal filing options on a staged basis- some for initial applications and some for renewals only.

The flip side of this drive toward ease and efficiency are the inevitable bumps in the road when new processes are implemented. The recent difficulty experienced in Atlanta is an example of a system overload that was not foreseen by the agency- creating a lot of angst and aggravation for filers. Overall, however, the agencies are following the business world’s lead- expanding online access and pursuing the inherent economic benefits of electronic processing. As the use of technology increases, and the resources dedicated to supporting it continue to expand, we anticipate seeing many more municipalities getting wired.