A person completes forms to acquire the small business licenses that are needed to run a business

Small Business Basics: Permits and Licenses

Depending on your line of work, location, and certain government rules, you may need to attain federal, state, and/or local permits and licenses to operate your business. In this article, we’ll break down some of these requirements and direct you to agencies that can help you with your specific permit and licensure needs.

 

Federal small business permits and licenses

Business owners who engage in activities regulated by a federal agency will need to attain a federal permit or license. If you plan to take part in any of the following activities, be sure to contact the agency that’s referenced to learn about permit or license requirements:

Agricultural import or transport

Contact: U.S. Department of Agriculture

Alcohol production, wholesale, import, or sale

Contact: Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau

Aviation operations, transport, or maintenance

Contact: Federal Aviation Administration

Firearms, ammunition, or explosives production, sale, or import

Contact: Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives

Fish and wildlife activities, which may include the import or export of wildlife or wildlife products

Contact: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Commercial fishing

Contact: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries Service

Maritime transport or the facilitation of cargo transport by sea

Contact: Federal Maritime Commission

Mining and drilling for natural gas, oil, or mineral resources on federal lands

Contact: Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement

Nuclear energy production, distribution, or disposal or operations as a fuel cycle facility

Contact: U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission

Radio and television broadcasting, which may also include wire or satellite broadcasts

Contact: Federal Communications Commission

Federal small business licenses may include a fee. Be sure to inquire about the fee when asking for a federal license application.

 

State and local small business permits and licenses

States regulate other activities, including transportation and logistics, construction, auctions, farming, trade work, salon services, pet care, food services, dry cleaning, and retail. To learn about the specific permit or license requirements in your state, visit your state’s licensing body’s website. You can find a link to your state's site below:

Alabama

(334) 242-9600

Hawaii

(808) 586-2727

Massachusetts

(617) 701-8600

New Mexico

(505) 476-4500

South Dakota

(800) 872-6190

Alaska

(907) 465-2550

Idaho

(800) 225-3815

Michigan

(517) 241-9221

New York

(518) 485-5000

Tennessee

(615) 741-8914

Arizona

(602) 845-1200

Illinois

(217) 782-7500

Minnesota

(800) 310-8323

North Carolina

(800) 228-8443

Texas

(512) 936-0100

Arkansas

(501) 682-3409

Indiana

(317) 233-0800

Mississippi

(601) 359-1633

North Dakota

(701) 328-5300

Utah

(800) 530-6701

California

(916) 653-6814

Iowa

(866) 537-6052

Missouri

(573) 751-0293

Ohio

(614) 466-2711

Vermont

(802) 828-2386

Colorado

(303) 894-7855

Kansas

(785) 296-3481

Montana

(406) 444-6900

Oklahoma

(405) 815-6552

Virginia

(804) 367-8500

Connecticut

(860) 713-6100

Kentucky

(502) 564-3490

Nebraska

(402) 471-8606

Oregon

(503) 986-2200

Washington

(360) 705-6741

Delaware

(302) 577-8778

Louisiana

(225) 925-4704

Nevada

(775) 684-5708

Pennsylvania

(833) 367-2762

West Virginia

(304) 558-8000

Florida

(850) 487-1395

Maine

(207) 624-9670

New Hampshire

(603) 271-0658

Rhode Island

(401) 462-9500

Wisconsin

(608) 224-5012

Georgia

(404) 962-4000

Maryland

(410) 767-1350

New Jersey

(800) 537-7397

South Carolina

(803) 898-5690

Wyoming

(307) 234-6685

 

Fees for small business licenses will vary by state. Contact your state’s licensing body to learn more.

Next, contact your city or county officials to learn about the other requirements your business—and the building it’s housed within—must meet. Your local zoning boards and commerce boards should walk you through zoning concerns, building and signage permit needs, and other local requirements.

Need help locating your local zoning board? Start by calling your local town hall. You can find the contact information for your town hall by visiting Townhallproject.com.

 

What’s next?

Starting a business is a complicated process, but we have articles and advice that can help you with every action you need to take. Log into your owner’s portal for free, personalized guidance that will help you make your venture a success.

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