how to get your municipal business license (patente municipal) in puerto rico
I think it’s pretty clear to longtime readers of this blog that I LOATHE waiting in lines. So you can imagine the sinking feeling I felt when my accountant informed me that I needed to get a municipal business license to work from my home. After giving myself a few minutes to conjure up worst-case scenarios of wasted mornings or even full days in waiting rooms, I resigned myself to get started the next morning. I knew there was no other way out but through.
Obtaining a municipal business license in Puerto Rico is a time-consuming process, requiring visits to multiple government buildings and filling out several forms. However, because I didn’t know what I was doing, I unnecessarily made the process take even longer than it had to. That’s why I wanted to spend some time this weekend to document the process, potentially saving others undue stress and wasted time.
How to get your patente municipal in Puerto Rico
The first step is to go to your municipality’s Office of Planning and Development (Oficina de Planificacion y Desarrollo) and ask for a letter of recommendation (recomendación municipal) for your place of business. In my case, it was for my home office. The main document they are going to want to see is the deed or lease agreement. The lady in the Aguada office told me that if there is a restriction against commercial activity in my deed, I would not legally be allowed to work from my home!
I was sweating bullets as she put on her reading glasses and began to pore over every line of my deed, which was all in Spanish. My mind was racing. What would I do if my request was denied? One phrase I couldn’t get out of my head was, “the power to tax is the power to destroy“. Anyway, I rode the emotional rollercoaster lower and lower. Then she looked up and matter of factly said there was no restriction in the deed preventing commercial use. I felt a huge weight lift off of me and was never happier to have the privilege to pay a service fee, which in this case was $25. Two days later, the letter was ready for me to pick up.
The next step is to apply for a Use Permit (along with three other permits) from the regional permit management office (Oficina de Gerencia de Permiso or OGPE). The office that serves the entire west coast of Puerto Rico is on the 9th floor of the Centro Gubernamental building in Aguadilla. Here’s a list of the main things they are going to ask for:
- The letter of recommendation you just received from the municipality
- A statement from CRIM showing that you are up-to-date on your property taxes (I got this from the finance office in Aguada for $2.50)
- Pictures of the inside and outside of your “place of business” (these can be on your phone)
- A document explaining the requested use of the property as well as the number of employees and available parking if applicable
- A sketch showing the floor plan of the property and available parking if applicable
- A deed or lease agreement
- If your business is structured as an LLC you’ll need to provide your Certificate of Organization, Merchant Registration Certificate, and Employee ID number
Because of the number of applicants and a system outage, just getting my application in the system took two half days and one full day spent in the waiting room! Having my laptop and hotspot with me helped me take things in stride and actually stay somewhat productive during this time. Furthermore, having these tools with me saved the day on multiple occasions when they requested documents I didn’t have printed out but were on my computer. This experience really hammered home the point that, even if Liberty internet was to suddenly become reliable where I live, I would keep my hotspot service.
As briefly alluded to earlier, there are actually a total of four permits you need from OGPE. Below are the names of each along with their cost:
- Use Permit – $130
- Certification of environmental compliance by category exclusion – $75
- Environmental health certification – $35
- Certificate for fire prevention – $50
You will be able to check the status of your permit applications in the Single Business Portal. It took about a week for me to receive the Use Permit. The others became available after only a day or two.
Now you should have just about everything you need to apply for a business license at your municipality. The only documents you might be missing are a criminal record and a certificate of debt from Hacienda. If you have already been living in Puerto Rico for a while, these can be pulled up quickly and easily online using the links below:
- Certificate of Good Standing – https://servicios.pr.gov/cap
- Certificate of Debt – https://colecturiavirtual.hacienda.pr.gov/portal/en-us/Services/Certifications
When you are ready, take all of the required documents to the finance office (oficina de finanzas) of your municipality. In my case, they put together an application packet and told me I should hear from them in a week. See if you can get the phone number or email address of the person who helped you so you can get in touch with them if it is taking longer than expected. In about two weeks, a person at the office replied to an email from me telling me my patente was ready to be picked up. Now, every six months I bring an income statement to the finance office and pay the municipal tax.
All told, it took about a month from start to finish to receive my patente municipal. Armed with the information above, perhaps it will take less time for others. If you are an intrepid entrepreneur who feels the itch to start a business in Puerto Rico I salute you. Good luck, bring plenty of patience (and your laptop!) and let us know how it goes!