Starting a business? Time to get cozy with government regulations! One of the first things you need to do is get the proper licenses or permits from the appropriate agencies to operate your business legally.
Business licenses and permits are intended to keep consumers safe and operations transparent. The U.S. Small Business Administration says that virtually every business needs some sort of license or permit from state officials, but requirements vary based on the type of business, where it’s located, and what government rules apply. If your business is involved in activities supervised and regulated by a federal agency—such as selling alcohol, firearms, commercial fishing, etc.—then you need to obtain a federal license or permit.
Time to Look for Business License Policies Near You
It’s often the case that different business licenses might be required on the state, city, and county levels. Additionally, if a board, commission, or association regulates your industry, you may be required to present a certification from those bodies before receiving a state or county business license. You’ll need to be sure to check if your local government has specific business license policies related to your business.
This process can be quite taxing, but services like CityApplications can help you locate licenses and permits needed across the country in specific locations. You can also do your own sleuthing through the state-level agencies.
See our state-by-state breakdown below to help you find everything you need to get your business credentialed in no time—note that it’s usually helpful to have your Taxpayer ID at the ready and to have registered for a Federal Employer Identification Number to ease the process.
AtlasAlabama is a statewide website established to help start and expand small businesses in the state. You can find information here about what businesses need occupational licenses, how to obtain a business tax number, and many other forms.
The Alaska Department of Commerce has a great breakdown for you. Check their list for businesses that don’t require a license. You can file for your license online here. Note that you must renew once a year by January 1 with a $50 fee!
Use this website to search for online license registration forms for your specific type of business in Arkansas.
CalGold is your source for business licenses and permits in California. Simply search for your business type and follow the instructions from there.
Check out the state of Connecticut’s New Business Checklist to go through everything you’ll need in order to file for a license. Then search for your license registration forms by business type here. If you’re still having trouble, they also have a 5-step “Wizard” to get you going.
District of Columbia
All businesses are required to have a license in D.C. and most can apply for a basic business license through this portal.
You can get information on licensing requirements in Florida right here. Click on your business type and follow the instructions from there.
You can search Idaho.gov’s online services by your business type for any related license forms and instructions you need.
Indiana’s Business Owner Guide is a great place to get the information you need to start your business, including licensing and permitting issues.
According to IowaEconomicDevelopment, Iowa does not have a general business license: “Licensing and other compliance requirements are based on the nature of a business or professional occupation. IASourceLink provides a comprehensive license search engine and personalized assistance to help identify compliance requirements.”
Create an account on GeauxBiz.com to start the process of obtaining your license in Louisiana. You’ll be prompted to start a business license checklist that will name the “resources to help plan, make key financial decisions, and complete legal activities necessary to start a business.”
According to Maine.gov, “General licenses to operate a business are managed at the town/city level in Maine. Contact your town office for information. To obtain contact information for your town office or to locate your municipal website, visit the Maine.gov Local Government portal.”
The Maryland Department of Commerce has compiled a database of statewide and county level licenses you might need to operate a business. Compile a search based on your business type and structure.
This comprehensive database of license and permit requirements needed for businesses in Massachusetts will lead you in the right direction. The site advises that you follow up with appropriate authorities to make sure the information is up to date.
Not every business in Michigan is required to be licensed by the state. Licenses are required for certain vocations or occupations that may be conducted within a business, and local governments may also require business licenses. Find out if your new venture could require a state license or permit through the business license search. And check out their guidebook and step-by-step outline for how to start a business in Michigan.
The Missouri Business Portal lets you register with the Secretary of State and Department of Revenue simultaneously and provides a list of occupations that require licensing. They suggest you contact your county/city government to learn more about their requirements.
Search this index of licenses to find the one most suitable for your business—it will link you to the appropriate state agency that administers the license.
The Nebraska Licensing Division oversees collection agencies, debt management agencies, credit services organizations, private detectives, truth and deception examiners, athlete agents and nonrecourse civil litigation funding companies. Follow the links on their website to get your required license and check with your local government to see if they require additional licenses.
The SilverFlume Business Portal has a step-by-step guide to starting your business and getting appropriate licensing.
New Hampshire has what it calls the Online Professional Licensing portal right here.
The New Jersey Business Action Center makes it easy for you to find the state licenses and permits you need.
Want to find out what permits or licenses your business needs in New York? Start with the Business Wizard to determine which New York State licenses are necessary to get your business up and running.
The State of North Carolina does not issue general business licenses, but your business might be subject to state, city, county, and federal requirements. Click here for a directory of all occupational boards in N.C. and their contact information. Call the Business Link North Carolina (BLNC) team at (800) 228-8443 or (919) 447-7828 to determine your state license needs.
Links to licenses you need in North Dakota can be found in this index.
Go here for the list of Oklahoma business licenses and permits by county.
The Oregon License Directory Search is the #1 spot to help you get started on your state of Oregon business licenses, permits, and registrations.
This list is a good place to start your search for a Pennsylvania business license. Many Pennsylvania businesses are required to get some sort of operating business license or a business permit from the state of Pennsylvania or from their corresponding county or city in Pennsylvania.
You can find forms for business licenses in Rhode Island on their secretary of state website: Click on “Step 4: Find forms for your business,” which will prompt a questionnaire. You can also search directly using keywords for your business.
The Division of Business Filings in S.C. files licensing forms for businesses, but sole proprietorships and general partnerships do not have to file with the Division. To learn more about each of these divisions, call (803) 734-2158.
This handy PDF has all the info you need on getting a business license in South Dakota.
According to the Tennessee Department of Revenue, if you have an in-state business with sales of more than $3,000, you must obtain either a “minimal activity license” or a “standard business license” from your county or municipal clerk. For more information, click here.
Texas has two places for registering or renewing business licenses. The Department of Licensing and Regulation has this list of occupations that require licenses. You can also go to Texas.gov and scroll down to the “Work” section to see more specific licenses related to your business.
To get a business license in Utah, select your occupation or profession for this list on the state website. They’ll direct you from there on out.
You can obtain a license for your business through the Vermont business portal here.
Use this list of licenses for Washington to determine what your business needs. You can then file for the license online by clicking on your business type.
West Virginia has a licenses directory you can search right here. Though they don’t guarantee they have every license listed, they recommend you check with local officials in your area.
Wisconsin’s department of safety and professional services has you covered—search for your business type through their portal here.
Business licenses in Wyoming are provided through professional boards. See the list of boards here to check if your business needs a license.
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