A State-by-State Guide to Business Licenses and Permits

Georgia McIntyre

Georgia McIntyre

Finance Writer at Fundera
Georgia McIntyre is the resident Finance Writer at Fundera. She specializes in all things small business finance, from lending to accounting. Questions for Georgia? Comment below!
Georgia McIntyre

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.

Alabama

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.

Alaska

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!

Arizona

This nifty guide is designed to help Arizona businesses comply with the state’s basic tax and licensing requirements. You can apply for certain licenses online here.

Arkansas

Use this website to search for online license registration forms for your specific type of business in Arkansas.

California

CalGold is your source for business licenses and permits in California. Simply search for your business type and follow the instructions from there.

Colorado

The Colorado Business Express is your portal to filing for a business license both online or manually. Check here to see if your business qualifies for a license.

Connecticut

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.

Delaware

Go here to register or renew a Delaware business license. There, a questionnaire will lead you to the appropriate forms to obtain the license you need.

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.

Florida

You can get information on licensing requirements in Florida right here. Click on your business type and follow the instructions from there.

Georgia

Start here to submit an application for a new license—but be sure to check this list of license types in the state of Georgia before you begin.

Hawaii

Hawaii’s Business Express automates the process of registering your business online. You need to have or create an eHawaii.gov account ahead of time.

Idaho

You can search Idaho.gov’s online services by your business type for any related license forms and instructions you need.

Illinois

Applications for specific business type licenses can be found here for businesses in Illinois. You can also check out their First Stop Business Info Center to help you get started.

Indiana

Indiana’s Business Owner Guide is a great place to get the information you need to start your business, including licensing and permitting issues.

Iowa

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.”

Kansas

To register a business in Kansas, use this guide to decide which structure you’d like to organize your business with. Then you can head to the Kansas Business Center online to finish the process.

Kentucky

The Kentucky One Stop Business Portal is designed to help your business start and succeed. You need to create an account on the site first.

Louisiana

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.”

Maine

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.

Maryland

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.

Massachusetts

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.

Michigan

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.

Minnesota                             

Minnesota Elicensing lets you search for required licenses by topic, agency, or index. Note that you do need a state tax ID to get your license.

Mississippi

Search this list of professional licenses in Mississippi and be sure to check out their Business One Stop Shop to get you good and started.

Missouri

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.

Montana

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.

Nebraska

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.

Nevada

The SilverFlume Business Portal has a step-by-step guide to starting your business and getting appropriate licensing.

New Hampshire

New Hampshire has what it calls the Online Professional Licensing portal right here.

New Jersey

The New Jersey Business Action Center makes it easy for you to find the state licenses and permits you need.

New Mexico

You can search for required licenses and permits by county in New Mexico right here. Your business license requirements can also be compiled in a single online report in minutes.

New York

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.

North Carolina

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.

North Dakota

Links to licenses you need in North Dakota can be found in this index.

Ohio

Step one in Ohio’s guide to starting a business informs you of the legal structure variations involved in business licensing. You can then search this index to find the licenses you need.

Oklahoma

Go here for the list of Oklahoma business licenses and permits by county.

Oregon

The Oregon License Directory Search is the #1 spot to help you get started on your state of Oregon business licenses, permits, and registrations.

Pennsylvania

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.

Rhode Island

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.

South Carolina

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.

South Dakota

This handy PDF has all the info you need on getting a business license in South Dakota.

Tennessee

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

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.

Utah

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.

Vermont

You can obtain a license for your business through the Vermont business portal here.

Virginia

The Virginia.gov Business One Stop recommends looking up if your business requires a license through City Applications. You can then register quickly online through One Stop.

Washington

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

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

Wisconsin’s department of safety and professional services has you covered—search for your business type through their portal here.

Wyoming

Business licenses in Wyoming are provided through professional boards. See the list of boards here to check if your business needs a license.

Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.
Georgia McIntyre

Georgia McIntyre

Finance Writer at Fundera
Georgia McIntyre is the resident Finance Writer at Fundera. She specializes in all things small business finance, from lending to accounting. Questions for Georgia? Comment below!
Georgia McIntyre

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