I had to have a business license and DBA to open a business checking account, so I have always had a license. I also have a business phone number and Yellow Page ads. Getting a business license is a cost of doing business.
I'm in California but home business requirements depend on the requirements of the city where you live. There are really wide variations. In my city, Alameda, you can't have any employees. After I hired my 3rd employee I moved to a regular business office ;>
I'm sure there are appraisers using personal checking accounts and personal phone numbers. I don't recommend it for anyone who is serious about having a business.
Two of them that are specifically about running a appraisal business vs. "doing appraisals":
- Most appraisers are propreneurs, not entrepreneurs
- Entrepreneur, technician, and manager - the three conflicting roles of fee appraisers
My business runs under the laws of corporation. I incorporated for many reasons, including tax reasons, etc. Some cities here may want you to have a license too. That would be silly as there are 75+/- cities in So Calif. and I don't have thet much space on my walls to hang that many licenses!
Ask an attorney. My layman answer is that a California corp. can do business in California without having to pull a city license at every city you do appraisals in. I could be wrong, but that's my understanding.
If your file a "DBA" in the County that you are located, either the city or county will find you at some point. They need your license money and taxes on business inventory. Once they find you that got you, and they won't let go until you die or that you can prove that your business no longer exists. It does not matter if you work out of your house or office. They just want the money.
There are many Licensing Requirements for those who operate a Business both at the State and Local Level, and an Appraisal Business is one of those Businesses. Incorporation with the State is different from a Business License that is generally a requirement by the City where your Business is located or where you may have a branch office. There is also another lesser known Registration that State Require, and that is a "Fictious Name" or DBA Registration for those who want to operate a business using a name other than their own personal name when they are not Incorporated.
Up in shasta county the county handles all the ficticious business names, I think it is thirtysomething bucks to get one. In the City of Redding the business lisence is around 90 for sole proprietor, plus a little more for each employee.
It might be wise to get a business lisence for the city that your home or office resides. But check with your city and county see what they require.
Here is the suggestion. If you are working for yourself at home and no employees (maybe except a family member help you) then you really don't need a business license because you have no business directly to the general public in your house. This also depends on the city that you live -of course most city if you ask they might say yes.
Think of it as if you are working for a mortgage company as a independent contractor but instead of working in their office -you are working in your house. and as a independent contractor - you're paying your own taxes and other expenses. Just like freelancers of writers, or any free lancers of any profession. they work at their house. it is within the law. The problem in trying to get a business license for your home is that most city code will not allow you to have a business in your house -they are not up to the times with their codes -cause they might want you meet some codes -fire code, etc. that it would not make sense. Of course once you become so busy that you need to move out of your home and get help (employees) then get an office and a business license. -if any of your employee (appraiser) become independent contractor then of course they will probably be working at their house -no license required. see.
Now regarding corporate. Yes this is want you want to do. suggest to corporate as "S-corporation" because you limit any liabililties, and do not double tax yourself in your income -consult your accountant. open an corporate busines account. and have all your fee be paid to your corporation. and your accountant will pay all local and federal taxes.
I have done this for the past 15 years -per my accountant.