Ask the Business Librarian 7-7

By Liz Kudwa

Q: How can I find out if I need a license to start my business?

A:  At one time, I would have said checking to see if you need a license or permit to run your business can be tricky.  There are several hundred licensed occupations and services in the State of Michigan and no generic business license.  However, in 2003 Governor Granholm issued an Executive Directive to create MiTAPS or the Michigan Timely Application & Permit Service.  This service was created to streamline the State’s permitting and licensing process for individuals and businesses and is designed to be a one-stop shop.  The website, which is, is a single point of entry allowing Michigan businesses access to a faster, simplified and more efficient permitting and licensing process.

MiTAPS allows a user to access and use an ever expanding list of online permitting services 24-hours a day, seven days a week.  Services provided include:

o    Searching all permit and licensing requirements for doing business in Michigan
o    Help for individuals or businesses to determine whether a particular permit/license is required
o    Letting individuals/ businesses customize their account profile to include those permits/licenses that are of interest
o    Completion of permit application forms with an easy-to-follow permit wizard and step-by-step instructions
o    Entering personal and company data once, with the ability to route data to multiple permit applications, avoiding the need for data re-entry and the use of duplicate forms
o    Making fee payments online
o    Monitoring your permit/license application status

MiTAPS is the best place to check to see if you need a permit or license to run your business.  After getting to the MiTAPS home page (, click on “Search for Permits” at the top of the left hand column.  From this screen you will be able to browse lists of permits alphabetically or by the Department that issues the permit, conduct a search by permit name, number or permit authority or you can browse categories of business to find the permit/license you need.

Q:    I’ve heard that businesses can file their incorporation papers directly online with the State of Michigan?  Is this true and if it is, how do I do this?
A:    Well this is partially true.  To the best of my knowledge, you cannot file incorporation papers online.  What the State of Michigan does offer is FILEOnline, a service offered by the Bureau of Commercial Services, Corporation Division that allows online filing of Michigan corporation annual reports, "Information Updates", and annual statements for Michigan and foreign limited liability companies.  For online filing of annual reports/statements, the corporation or limited liability company must be in good standing.
To locate FILEOnline, visit the Department of Labor & Economic Growth’s website at  Then click on “Online Services” in the menu on the left side of your screen.  In the center of your screen you will see a listing of online services, click on FILEOnline for more information about filing various documents online. 

FILEOnline is not to be confused with MICH-ELF, the state’s document submission service via fax which allows corporations, limited partnerships, and limited liability companies to electronically file various forms.  Customers send their documents via fax and these documents are received at the Bureau of Commercial Services through a fax gateway.  Then they are transferred through the State’s computer system and the documents are processed and stored electronically.

This service is designed specifically for applicants with short applications – 10 pages or fewer.  Applicants with packets larger than this are instructed to mail their applications.  MICH-ELF documents also must be sent using a setting of high (or fine) resolution, namely 200 DPI (dots per inch) vertical and horizontal resolution. The document should have a half inch border on the right-hand margin and bottom.  For more information on MICH-ELF, visit and click on “Commercial Services & Corporations”.  Then click on “Business Services” in the menu on the left side of your screen.  You should see four “How do I” boxes in the middle of your screen.  Click on the down arrow for the first box and select “Submit documents by fax”.  This will take you to information on MICH-ELF.

Elizabeth Kudwa  is the Business Reference Librarian at the Capital Area District Library located at 401 S. Capitol Avenue in Lansing, MI.  Contact her at 517-589-9400 or by e-mail at [email protected]