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Businesses locate in cities because of the core of commercial activity centered in a city. This commercial activity is supported by city services including police services, fire services, zoning, street lights, sidewalks that can't be paid for on an individual usage basis.

Most public services such as police, fire, zoning, permitting, economic development activities, sidewalk upkeep and street lights cannot be billed based on consumption. Through a business license tax, businesses together help pay for the city services that all businesses benefit from.

The Association provides cities with a model business license ordinance that establishes a common rate structure based on the North American Industrial Classification System. The Business License Officials Handbook outlines proper application and collection of the tax. City business licensing officials receive substantial training from the Business License Officials Association.

In 2014, the Association established a standardized business license application targeted particularly to help transient businesses (those that do work in multiple jurisdictions) streamline the application process.