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Business licence FAQ's

The City of Calgary requires certain types of businesses and/or occupations to obtain a business licence. This site answers the most commonly asked questions regarding licensing.

Before you commit to a location for your business, check with The City of Calgary's online Business Registration system to determine if your type of business activity is permitted in a specific location.  You can explore different business activities and potential locations as well as determine what approvals, permits, and business licences you may need.

Frequently asked questions...

Do I need a business licence?

 
Most businesses need a licence to operate.  In order to determine whether you require a business licence go to Business Registration.  Answer a few questions about your business activities and the system will advise if a business licence is required.
 
Alternatively, you can contact us at 403-268-5311, and provide a complete description of your intended business activity.  If it is determined that you require a business licence, you will be advised of the licensing category or categories within which your business falls, as well as steps you will have to take in order to obtain the licence.
 
A list of the types of businesses that require licensing, including the Business Licence Fee Schedule and examples of how to calculate the licence fee is available under Categories and Fees.

Why should my business get a licence?

A business licence signifies to the public and other businesses that you have met The City of Calgary's licensing requirements and are permitted to operate your particular business within Calgary.

 
Please note:  Without a valid business licence, contractors are NOT able to obtain construction permits.

How do I apply for a business licence?

 
 

What bylaws apply to licensing?

 

There are ten bylaws pertaining to the licensing of businesses in Calgary:

What must I do in order to obtain a licence?

Every type of licence requires certain inspections and/or approvals to be completed.  All businesses occupying a premises require Use Approval from Development & Building Approvals under the Land Use Bylaw; inspections by the Fire Prevention Bureau of the Fire Department; and possibly inspections by Alberta Health Services.

 
Home-based businesses are not subject to a fire inspection, but need approval from Development & Building Approvals.  Many types of licences require the owners of the business (and in some cases, the directors of a corporation), to submit to a Calgary Police Services background check, while others may need provincial approval from such agencies as the Alberta Gaming & Liquor Commission, and the Alberta Government Services - Consumer Services Division.
 
Business Registration or the Licence Division will advise you of the specific approvals required for your business.
 
Your business licence will be issued after all required approvals have been obtained.
 

Who inspects the business premises and how often is the premises inspected?

 

Before a licence can be issued, the commercial business location will be inspected by the Fire Prevention Bureau.  An inspection by an Alberta Health Services field inspector may be required and a licence inspector or police officer may inspect the premises as part of the licensing process.  Subsequent inspections may be conducted by any one of the regulatory bodies on an annual basis.  See the Business Licence Approvals Checklist for more information.
 

How do I arrange for these inspections?

 

 

Do I need a licence if I don't operate from a commercial premises?

Certain types of businesses that do not operate from a commercial location will still require a business licence.  Businesses such as contractors, pushcart vendors, exotic entertainers, escorts, massage practitioners, and alarm agents, fall under this category

Do home-based businesses require a licence?

 
The Business Registration system will help you determine whether you require a business licence for your home-based business depending on your business activities.  Business Registration will also advise if other approvals are needed.
 
For some businesses, employees, as well as the business owner are required to get a licence.
 
Even if you do not require a business licence for your home-based business, you may still need a Home Occupation Permit.

What happens if I move my business location?

 
Most businesses are licensed to operate at a specific location.  Before committing to a new location for your business, you should contact The City of Calgary Development & Building Approvals (phone 403-268-5311) to confirm your type of business activity is permitted in a specific location.
 
If you relocate, Use Approval must be obtained for the new location and a new licence application must be completed.  After you have received all required approvals for the new location, a new business licence can be issued.

What happens if I close or sell the business?

 
If you sell your business, the new owners must apply for a business licence and new approvals may have to be obtained.  If you close or sell your business, please notify the Licence Division (403-268-5311) promptly so your licence file can be closed.

Do employees need a business licence?

 
For certain occupations (exotic entertainer, massage practitioner, escort, and alarm agent) employees, as well as the business owner, are required to get a licence.  If you are licensed, and employed by an exotic entertainment agency, escort agency or alarm agency, you must notify the Licence Division of any change in employer.

Do I have to pay business taxes or property taxes?

 
All businesses that occupy commercial premises are assessed and levied a business tax.  If the business owns real property, property taxes will be levied against the property.  Information regarding business or property taxes can be obtained by calling 3-1-1.

Do businesses based outside of Calgary need a licence?

Any business operating in Calgary, whether resident or not, requires a licence if the business activities fall within the licence categories.  Non-resident companies pay the same fees as resident firms, plus a surcharge to approximate the Calgary business tax levy they don't pay.  The test of residency is whether the licensed business is on either The City's property or business tax roll.

Can I operate my business before I actually receive my licence?

If your business is identified as requiring a business licence, you should take steps to ensure the licence is in place before operating your business.  If you are found operating your business before the licence is issued, you could be subject to charges.

How long does it take to get my licence?

This can vary from one day to a number of weeks, depending on the approvals required and how long it takes for you to obtain the necessary approvals.

What happens if my application for a licence is turned down?

A licence hearing may be called to determine if there is a basis on which to refuse to issue the requested licence.  You would be requested to attend the hearing (with legal counsel, if you wish).  If the licence hearing decision was to refuse to issue the licence, you could then appeal this decision to The City of Calgary, Licence and Community Standards Appeal Board.  For more information on the appeal process, contact The City Appeal Boards at 403-268-5312.

How and when do I renew my licence?  

Licences are issued for a period of one year from the date the licence fee is paid.  Forty-five days before the licence expires, a notice is sent out advising the licensee of the date on which the licence expires, and the fee which must be paid in order to renew the licence for another year.

Should I register my trade name?  

 
You are not required to register your trade name to obtain a business licence.  For information on trade name registration contact a private registry office or consult a lawyer.

Am I required to incorporate?  

 
You are not required to incorporate to obtain a business licence.  For more information about incorporation procedures, contact a private registry office or consult a lawyer.

Do I need a business licence to undertake charitable fundraising activity?

 
A charitable organization is not required to obtain a City of Calgary business licence in order to undertake fundraising activities in Calgary.  There are provincial government regulations covering charitable fundraising.  For more information contact Service Alberta – Consumer Contact Centre at 1-780-427-4088 or 1-877-427-4088 toll free in Alberta only.

Do I need a permit for a sign?

 
Yes, permits for signs are issued by Development & Building Approvals.  Information can be obtained by phoning 403-268-5311.

Do I need to register for a G.S.T. number in order to get a licence?  

No, Goods and Services Tax registration is not a requirement of licensing.  However, the Federal Government may require that you register for a G.S.T. number; contact Revenue Canada at 1-800-959-5525.

What categories of business require a business licence?

 

How is the licence fee established?  

Licence fees are not taxes, and are not related to the size of a business or its revenues.  The fee is based on the actual cost of performing the necessary inspections and issuing the licence.

 
Note:  Planning approval fees, Fire Prevention Bureau inspection fees, and Calgary Police Service review fees are independent from Business Licence fees.  However, these fees are collected when you apply for your Business Licence and are non-refundable.

Business licences are issued for a period of one year from the date payment is received, and the licence must be renewed each year. 

Can a licence fee be refunded?

No, since the fees are based on the costs of reviewing a licence application and issuing a licence, once the costs have been incurred there is no basis on which to provide a refund.

What is a Licence Review Hearing (LRH)?

An LRH is a quasi-judicial hearing held by the manager and/or the chief licence inspector of Compliance Services or their designate. An LRH will be held for alleged breaches of The City of Calgary Bylaws that fall under Compliance’s portfolio such as inappropriate behaviour, breaches of the bylaw and any statute or criminal activity, or ongoing complaints. For more information read the Licence Review hearing brochure