Get Business Licenses and Permits in Kentucky

Navigating the requirements for business licenses and permits in Kentucky is essential for entrepreneurs to launch and grow their businesses successfully in the state. Our business license report can help you determine what licenses and permits you need to start a business in Kentucky.

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It takes more than just forming a business to achieve the dream of being a small business owner.  Once a person has formed their business, they must ensure that they’ve met all Kentucky business license requirements. Unfortunately, the process of meeting these business license requirements takes a lot of work. But we are here to help. Read on to learn about what kinds of permits and licenses you might need for a Kentucky business, and how our Business License Report service can help you get it done easily.

What is a business license?

The majority of Kentucky businesses need to have some kind of state license or permit to operate. The requirements for licenses and permits come from a variety of different groups at the federal, state, and local levels. Business owners need to meet each one of these groups’ requirements to operate legally. 

Business owners must know what Kentucky state business licenses apply to their company’s industry and situation. Yet Kentucky doesn’t have a central database where business owners can go to find out exactly what they need to legally operate. Because there is no central database, acquiring all of this information can take up a lot of valuable time and effort. 

How to get your Kentucky business licenses and permits

Step 1: Search for any Kentucky general business licenses

Many states in the US require that all businesses obtain a general business license before they open their doors. However, Kentucky isn’t one of these states. 

Nevertheless, different cities and counties throughout Kentucky may have their own business license and permit requirements. It’s absolutely critical that business owners research exactly what business licensing requirements exist in their jurisdiction. 

Kentucky Business Licenses vs. Kentucky Business Registration

Many people confuse getting a Kentucky business license with the process of registering a business in Kentucky. The two processes are both required, but they are totally different. 

Small businesses register their businesses in Kentucky by completing and submitting formation documents to the Commonwealth of Kentucky’s Secretary of State. All kinds of business entities — including for-profit corporations and limited liability companies (LLCs) — have to submit formation documents. Obtaining business licenses is a separate process that business owners complete after they register their business as a legal entity within the state. 

Step 2: Obtain applicable federal licenses for your Kentucky business

The federal government insists that certain industries obtain federal business licenses and permits. Business owners who don’t obtain the required federal licenses could get slapped with monetary penalties. In the worst-case scenario, the federal government may even dissolve the non-compliant business entirely. 

Below, we’ve compiled a list of the industries that commonly require federal licenses or permits. This isn’t an exhaustive list. Rather, the industries listed below are the ones that the federal government regulates most often.

  • Agricultural businesses that transport animals, animal products, and biological organisms across state lines must obtain appropriate licensing from the United States Department of Agriculture.
  • The Alcohol Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, and the Local Alcohol Beverage Control Board has licensing requirements for businesses that manufacture, import, or sell (wholesale or retail) alcoholic beverages. 
  • The Federal Aviation Administration issues licenses for businesses that maintain aircraft, fly aircraft, or transport goods and people using aircraft.
  •  The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives has permit and license requirements for businesses that sell, maintain, or transfer firearms, ammunition, and explosives.
  • Many businesses that engage in wildlife-related activities or deal in wildlife-related products need to acquire licenses and permits from the United States Fish and Wildlife Service.
  • Commercial fisheries must obtain licensing from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries Service. Kentucky is part of the Southeast Regional Office. 
  • Businesses that carry out oceanic transportation activities, transoceanic shipments, and that serve as intermediate trade operators need licensing from the Federal Maritime Commission.
  • Businesses that engage in the mining and drilling of natural gas, oil, or mineral resources on federal lands must comply with the license requirements of the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement.
  • Some businesses that deal with commercial nuclear energy production or handle radioactive materials need licenses from the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
  • For businesses that conduct broadcasts via radio, television, satellite, wire, or cable, there are licensure requirements from the Federal Communications Commission.
  • Finally, the United States Department of Transportation offers guidance on state permit and licensure requirements for all businesses engaged in the operation of oversized and overweight vehicles.

Step 3:  Check for Kentucky permits and licenses

Although Kentucky doesn’t require a general business license, it has many industry-specific licensure requirements. Fortunately, Kentucky has a One Stop Business Portal to help business owners see what kinds of permits and licenses they need. 

Step 4:  Check your city or county for local licensing in Kentucky

Counties and cities also have their own license and permit requirements. These can be even harder to find than federal and state licensing requirements. Business owners must thoroughly research their county or municipality’s business licensing requirements. 

Business owners can begin searching for local licensure requirements by visiting the website of the county or city that their business is located in. Another good place to search for requirements is the county clerk’s office and the local tax office. 

Step 5:  Search for applicable Kentucky professional licenses

The Commonwealth of Kentucky regulates almost every profession to some degree. Specifically, the Kentucky Department of Professional Licensing (DPL) administers and advises the Commonwealth’s 24 professional regulatory boards. Together, these regulatory entities control the licensing certification of professions in Kentucky. Examples include:

  • Drug counselors
  • Psychologists
  • Medical equipment suppliers
  • Massage therapists
  • Chiropractors
  • Occupational therapists
  • Private investigators
  • Podiatrists
  • Professional counselors
  • Geologists

Business owners should visit the DPL’s list of boards to see if their profession requires licensure or certification. 

Step 6:  Obtain any other necessary Kentucky business licenses and permits

The Commonwealth of Kentucky also requires permits for issues that aren’t strictly related to a business’s industry. Potential permits include:

  • Occupancy permits
  • Building permits
  • Health-related permits
  • Environmental permits (like waste management on sewage)
  • Zoning permits

You can view some of these requirements online at Because some of these licenses are issued locally, business owners need to check the website of their business’s locality.  

Step 7:  Apply for Kentucky home-based business licenses

Home-based businesses, although free from many regulations, still have significant permit requirements that can be surprisingly diverse. Most of these permit requirements originate from city or county zoning laws. However, things like emergency exits, safety systems, parking, business hours, and signage limits are often regulated. 

Step 8:  Maintain your Kentucky Licensing

Most Kentucky state business licenses last for a few years before expiring. When that happens, these licenses must be renewed. The expiration period, renewal fees, and renewal process will vary according to the rules of the applicable licensing board.

Let us help make running your Kentucky business a breeze

We can help you avoid spending hours searching through county, state, and federal web pages. We offer a Business License Report that can help smooth the licensing process. We can cut through the red tape and help you more easily determine what licenses and permits you need before you open your doors. Our partner uses your business’s location, industry, and activities to identify the applicable local, state, and federal licensing requirements. After that, we’ll send you a brief summary report showing you the applicable license and permit requirements for your enterprise. 

On top of that, we offer our Worry-Free Compliance Service to keep business owners informed of any upcoming filing deadlines and compliance events. With this service, we’ll help you keep your business in compliance. Let us help you today!

Kentucky Licenses and Permits FAQs

  • A business may very well be engaged in an activity that doesn’t require industry-specific federal or state regulations. Yet most businesses do need to obtain more generic licenses and permits from their city or county.

  • Everyone who engages in any kind of selling in Kentucky must obtain a resale certificate (also known as a Sales and Use Tax Permit) with the Commonwealth’s Taxation and Revenue Department. There are a few exemptions from the sales and use tax permit requirement, but businesses must apply for one of these exemptions.

  • Generally, yes. Nevertheless, most counties and cities regulate home businesses to some degree. These regulations typically come in the form of zoning laws. These laws can limit things like operating hours, building occupancy, and signage. Home business owners should contact their locality to learn more about what requirements apply to their business.

  • Almost all online businesses need to obtain a resale certificate from the Kentucky Department of Revenue. In addition, online businesses need to pay Kentucky sales and use tax and comply with any industry-specific requirements.

  • Yes. A business engaged in any kind of selling, leasing, renting, or manufacturing will need to have a valid sales and use tax permit. Contact the Kentucky Department of Revenue at (502) 564-5170 for more information.

Disclaimer: The content on this page is for information purposes only and does not constitute legal, tax, or accounting advice. If you have specific questions about any of these topics, seek the counsel of a licensed professional.

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Written by Team ZenBusiness

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