City of Pittsburgh Council District 8
A Step-By-Step Guide

This is a step-by-step guide on how to start your very own business in the City of Pittsburgh! 

Quick Checklist for Starting a Business in Pittsburgh

- Make a business plan

- Find a location, confirm the proper zoning laws for the property

- Register your name

- Decide upon legal structure of business

- Figure out NAICS number

- Get an Employer Identification Number

- Find Workers Compensation Insurance

- Set up Unemployment Insurance payment system

- Identify and set up Federal, State, County, and Municipal Tax Payments

- Register new business with the City of Pittsburgh

- Apply for all relevant licenses and permits on the Federal, State, County, and local levels

- Profit!


Step 1: Make Plans

Choose a location, get financial support, and make a business plan.

Picking the right area for your business is crucial. New business owners should consider foot traffic, public transportation, and parking availability, among other things.

There are many ways to finance your business: from government grants and bank loans to attracting investors or funding it yourself. Make sure to establish a sound financial plan before you go about making your business dream a reality.

Pennsylvania also has an easy-to-use search engine for finding and applying for state funding. Click here to explore what your state has to offer.

Step 2: Register for Taxes

Choose a business type, register a name, set up tax payments, buy workers/unemployment compensation insurance, etc.

The legal structure of a business can take many forms: sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, Limited Liability Company (LLC), S corporation, cooperative, or nonprofit. This determines your federal tax obligations. Learn more about the differences between all of these business entities.

The State of Pennsylvania offers a comprehensive online program that guides you through the process of registering your new business with the state. The program is called the Online Business Registration Interview (OBRI). It is highly recommended that you use this program to register your company, as it provides you with helpful definitions and links regarding most of the forms and taxes one must pay 

The OBRI helps you file for your business type, register your business name, register with the PA Departments of Labor and Revenue, and sets up state tax payment systems.

NOTE: The OBRI program can only be accessed by using either Netscape, Internet Explorer with compatibility mode on, or Safari with adjusted setting.

For Internet Explorer Users

For Safari Users

Though before you get started, a few bits of information are required:

In order to help facilitate the process of registering for licenses and permits (as discussed in the next step), there is a North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) that assigns a number to each category of business. Finding the NAICS for your business can help you quickly find the relevant taxes and licenses that apply to your business

If you plan to employ workers, you must also file for several additional things beforehand:

1. You must register for an Employer Identification Number (also known as an EIN, SS-4 or Employer Tax ID). All corporations and partnerships must also register for an EIN (full list of EIN qualifications). Make sure to keep good records of your employment taxes, along with all other financial statements! Register for EIN

2. All businesses that employ workers must provide workers compensation insurance. Both the state and private markets offer affordable insurance plans to make sure your workers are covered if they ever get injured on the job. Read more.

3. Employers must also pay into a state-wide unemployment insurance fund. Register here to set up the payment system.

4. Federal Tax Payments to programs like Social Security, Income Tax, and Medicare tax can be paid through a single service offered on the IRS’s website called the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System® (EFTPS). Read more.

The State of Pennsylvania also has its own taxes. After completing the OBRI program, you can use the online program e-TIDES to easily make your state file returns, payments, and extension requests to the State of Pennsylvania.

Alternative to the OBRI, you can also use the PA-100 online program, which is for users who already have prior experience with the legal process of creating a business.

Helpful Tax Links

Federal Tax Information

Pennsylvania State Tax Information

Allegheny County Tax Information

City of Pittsburgh Tax Information

Step 3: Apply for Permits & Licenses

Check the federal, state, country, and local levels for permits & licenses.

Every level of government has its own version of permits and licenses for many types of business. Sometimes your business will require licenses, and sometimes they will not, but it’s important to make sure what you’re liable to pay, lest you be subjected to penalties, or worse­- jail!

Federal License & Permit Information

State Contact List for Business Licenses

County License & Permit Information

Municipal License Information

Every new business in Pittsburgh must register with the Registering for New Business Department of the City of Pittsburgh. Register (includes instructions).

After registering your new business, you're now free to start applying for municipal licenses and permits. Licensing and permits are managed by the Bureau of Building Inspection, and all of their information is listed on their website.

And presto! You've created your very own business. We wish you the best of luck on your future endeavors.

Helpful Links

PA Beginner's Guide to Starting a Business

How to Hire Your First Employee

Pennsylvania State Forms List

10 Steps to Setting Up a Payroll System

Type of Business Forms and Filings

Application for Registration of Fictitious Name

State Filings Guidelines

State-Run Business Incentive Programs


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