Grabbing a seller's or reseller's permit (the name varies depending on the state) is an absolute necessity for any business involved in the selling of products. In some states, this may also include restaurants or even food stalls at local farmer's markets. Yes, it's that stringent. However, figuring out what you need to do to get one may be something of a challenge. Worse, it's a little bit different for each state; and you may need multiple ones depending on which state you travel to! Isn't business exciting?
Let's take a look at how to get a seller's permit in a general light. More information can be found per state in our library of articles.
Essentially, you need a permit because the government says you need to have one. It's how they keep track of who is selling what (or at least what category), where, when, and how. It's a great way for them to make sure that people aren't harmed by what you're selling or that you aren't operating outside of a licensed and approved manner. After all, there are certainly people out there that would create a poorer product if not for government legislature and checking up on these sorts of things.
That said, it also shows that you're selling a product that is deemed safe (or as safe as we are aware of it) for consumer use. That's important.
If you aren't a registered business and you're just re-selling some personal items through eBay or your local Craigslist, you're unlikely to raise any eyebrows. However, if you're setting up a permanent shop at the local trade day or flea market, or you have a constant source of income via a business that sells items? You may need to look into local laws.
Many local laws state exactly how much of a certain thing (food, for example), you are allowed to sell without repercussions. However, this changes depending on what you're selling. You can't get into business making computers for people and selling hundreds of thousands of dollars in technology every year without having a selling license and, usually, at least an LLC to cover it all. This is largely to protect you and your buyers from any issues that may come up.
These range an enormous gamut from a misdemeanor fine to even time in jail. This is especially a problem when it comes to recalls or issues with the product you're selling. Take for instance the numerous recalls with baby equipment; everything from car seats to cribs have been recalled due to parts being inappropriate for the age range or rails sliding down and trapping infants. That sort of thing is common.
Many resellers grab clearance, returned pallets, and such things. These items may be present on those pallets, causing problems. It is impossible to know every single recall based on the amount of product that stores sell both nationally and internationally. However, if a child is harmed due to your resale of an inappropriate item, even if it is done in complete innocence, your lack of a resale permit is going to be a problem. It will only compound the other issues you are about to face.
At best, you will be shut down and fined in accordance with the law for operating an unlicensed business.
Achieving a selling permit is as simple as applying for one. So long as you have a sound background check and product to sell, most states are willing to let people have their permit.
The problems come when you actually begin applying. Your first stop should be your county tax office for further directions. You're going to need them. It gets complicated because there are so many checks involved. Stay with it and you'll be approved soon. There are also a wide variety of suites available that help you to apply for permits like these.
Few states have more than a 10 day wait period for inspections and approvals once you've got your permit. In fact, some have no wait at all; you could get started as soon as you have your permit in your hands.
Permits are typically renewed on a yearly basis, though this tends to be nothing more than a quick renewal slip and your fee in the mail, directed to the correct office for processing. Simple, easy, and quick to finish off.