How to Get a Business License

People filling out business license paperwork
Business License Application
3 Steps to Getting a Business License:

In most cases, a company will need a business license to operate. The licenses and permits needed will depend on the type of business and the location of the company.

1. Find out which licenses and permits are required by your city or county.

This is as easy as asking your local city or county government office. Most cities have their own websites as well, and they have applications you can download or fill out and submit online. Sometimes, you will need to visit your local government office to submit your application.
Or you can do it online.

Note: In addition to a general business license, you may be required to get additional licenses and or permits from the state.

For instance, most states have a requirement that businesses obtain a special license to sell firearms. The same applies when selling gasoline, tobacco or liquor.

If you work in a specific field, the state may require you to get a specialized license for that particular profession, including real estate agents, appraisers and contractors.

2. Submit your application.

Submitting a business license application is fairly quick and painless. Forms are usually just a few pages and sometimes only a single page. Basic information is needed, such as company name, contact details and location, individuals affiliated with the company and type of establishment.

Below is a basic guideline of what you’ll need to fill out a general business license application. Keep in mind that each city, county and state will have its own licensing requirements. Some of the items listed may not always be required, while some places may require additional information.

Information You’ll Typically Need to Apply for a Business License

  • Reason for license application (ie. opening a new business, adding a new location, changing trade name, changing location, etc.)
  • Structure of business (ie. sole proprietor, corporation, partnership or LLC) (corporations and LLCs need a Federal Tax ID number)
  • Business trade name, address and phone number
  • Have you registered your trade name yet? Register your business name.
  • Date business opened, purchase information if business was purchased.
  • Business owner names and addresses
  • Business activities, products and/or services
  • Estimated gross annual income of business
  • Bank name and branch
  • Number of employees you plan to hire (companies with employees need to have a Federal Tax ID number)

3. Get your certificate.

Once an application is approved, the business license is generally mailed to the business owner within a few weeks. A temporary certificate is issued in the meantime. Licenses typically need to be renewed annually, along with a renewal fee.

Note: You will need to register your business name, often called a fictitious business name or DBA if you are not using your personal name for your business name. You register your business name at the county clerks office, and actually you will need to do this before you apply for your business license. Once you register your business name or DBA, you usually don’t need to renew it for several years.

“Do I Need a Business License for a Home Business?”

Again, this depends on what your particular city or county requires. However, most home based businesses are not excluded from having a license. Just because a company operates out of a home rather than a commercial space does not mean that a license is not required.

How to Find Out if Your Home Business Needs a License:

Contact your local office: find your city’s contact information (listed by state). You can also find out which licenses and permits you need at the Small Business Administration website.

Need Help with Your Business License Application?

You can also get help from BizFilings and apply online. They can research which licenses you need and send you all applicable license, permit and tax registration applications. You also get complete filing instructions.

Do You Need a Tax ID #?

If you don’t know if you need a Federal Tax ID Number for your business, answer these questions. If you already have a Tax ID Number, but have misplaced it, you can call the Business and Specialty Tax Line at (800) 829-4933 and have them look it up for you.

How to Apply for a Federal Tax ID Number

You get a Federal Tax ID Number, or Employer ID Number (EIN), from the IRS.

You can apply through their website, by phone, fax or mail. For fastest service, apply online. It can take up to five weeks to get your EIN if you apply by mail.

The EIN you receive is your permanent number and can be used for business tasks such as opening a business bank account, applying for a business license or filing a tax return.