Montana licensing and permitting

How to Apply for Business Licenses and Permits in Montana

Our business license report can help you determine what licenses and permits you need to start a business in Montana.

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If you’re an entrepreneur, a great business idea can take you far, but you have to have the paperwork to back it up. In many cases, you need to file paperwork to form your business, and then you file more paperwork to run your business. The paperwork most businesses need to legally operate in Montana are applications for business licenses and permits. If you don’t know the first thing about the licenses and permits your business needs before it opens, this is a good place to start. Let’s take a look at what kinds of licenses your Montana business might need, and how our Business License Report and other services can help keep your business running smoothly.

What is a business license?

A business license gives permission from a governing body for you to engage in commercial activities. Your need for one or more business licenses and permits can be specific to your industry, location, or business needs. You might also need to obtain licenses from federal, state, and local governing bodies at the same time. Some states require general business licenses that aren’t industry-specific — but are required of almost all enterprises before they can do any kind of business. 

With so many licensing authorities and differing requirements, how do you make sure you’re covering all of your obligations? Unfortunately, there isn’t a central place for you to check for all your licensing requirements. Instead, entrepreneurs like you need to search many different governmental agency websites to confirm what you need. We’ve got you covered: Consider getting a business license report from us so you are sure to be compliant.

Step 1: Search for any necessary Montana general business licenses

General business licenses are required in some states before you can do business of any kind. Montana is not a state that requires a general business license. Although you don’t need a general business license at the state level, multiple Montana municipalities require a general business license. You’ll likely need one or multiple licenses from your county, city, or municipality to operate a business. In some cases, you might even need licenses from the federal government. 

Though it’s easy to switch up the terms, getting a business license isn’t the same as registering your business. You register your business to form it, but you get licenses and permits for your business to be able to run it. 

If you’re still at the formation stage of creating a limited liability company (LLC) or corporation, we have the tools to get you started. We offer both Montana LLC formation and Montana corporate formation services to help your business idea get off the ground. 

Step 2: Obtain applicable federal licenses for your Montana business

You might have formed your business under Montana law, but depending on what your business is, the federal government might need to grant you permission to run your business. There are many business activities the federal government regulates. Generally, these business activities need permits or licenses from the following federal agencies:

  • Operating overweight or oversized vehicles might require assistance from the U.S. Department of Transportation for guidance on state permits.
  • Dealing with nuclear materials or running a fuel cycle facility might require licenses or permits from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
  • Broadcasting information by radio, satellite, television, wire, or cable might require licenses or permits from the Federal Communications Commission.
  • Dealing with commercial fishing requires licensing and permission from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries Service.
  • Providing ocean transportation or dealing with shipment by sea might require licenses or permits from the Federal Maritime Commission.
  • Dealing with drilling for oil, natural gas, or minerals on federal land might require licenses or permits from the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement.
  • Manufacturing, importing, or dealing in firearms, explosives, or ammunition might require licenses or permits from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.
  • Dealing with wildlife-related activities, or importing/exporting wildlife and wildlife-related products might require licenses or permits from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
  • Operating aircraft, maintaining aircraft, or transporting people or goods by air might require licenses or permits from the Federal Aviation Administration.
  • Manufacturing, selling (wholesale or retail), or importing alcoholic beverages might require licenses or permits from the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (and the Local Alcohol Beverage Control Board).
  • Transporting or importing animals, animal products, biological products, or plants across state lines might require licenses or permits from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Depending on the nature of your business, you might need licensing or permits from more than one of the above-mentioned government agencies. You might also notice that you need to fulfill licensing requirements at the federal, state, and local levels to engage in the same business activity. 

Step 3: Check for Montana permits and licenses

Although Montana State business license requirements don’t include a general business license, there are multiple state agencies and entities that might need to regulate your business activities. Your business might need the following state licenses or permits regarding the following matters:

  • Environmental matters
  • Agricultural matters
  • Animal health matters
  • Public health matters
  • Outdoor advertising
  • Commercial wildlife matters
  • Providing professional services
  • Selling alcoholic beverages
  • Engaging in gambling or casino-related business activities

You can contact the Montana Department of Revenue for liquor licensing. The Department of Justice has a division that handles licensing for gambling-related activities. Other regulated business activities have specific state agencies that oversee their licenses and permits. Though it doesn’t necessarily cover all of your Montana business license needs, the Department of Revenue provides a One-Stop Licensing Program to help you obtain and maintain up to seven licenses at the same time. 

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

In Montana, business license requirements are mostly handled at the county and municipal levels. Licensing requirements can vary from local government to local government, so it’s important to contact your local governing bodies about what kinds of licenses and permits they require for you to run a business in their area. Typical licenses and permits required at the local level can include:

  • General business licenses
  • Contractor licenses
  • Liquor licenses
  • Rental licenses
  • Wastewater permits
  • Itinerant vendor licenses or permits

It isn’t always easy to find licensing information at the local level, but you can reach out to your city, county, and municipal officials for assistance. 

Step 5: Search for applicable Montana professional licenses

Sometimes you’ve received specialized education that you want to put to good use in the business world. If you’re looking to provide professional services through your business, you’re probably going to need a professional or occupational license from the state. Montana provides licensing for people in many professions and occupations, including: 

  • Engineers
  • Healthcare professionals 
  • Scientists
  • Cosmetologists
  • Accountants
  • Construction professionals
  • Funeral service professionals
  • Attorneys
  • Electricians
  • Massage therapists
  • Counselors 
  • Nutritionists
  • Architects 
  • Real estate professionals

This is not an exhaustive list of licensed professions. Normally, different state boards handle the regulation of professional licenses. 

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

Hopefully, your head isn’t spinning with the potential amount of business licenses you need to get going, because we have more licenses to discuss. Other types of licenses and permits that could apply to your business include:

  • Zoning permits
  • Signage permits
  • Background check clearances
  • Tax registrations
  • Building permits

Typically, state businesses need some kind of permit or license for collecting sales tax, but Montana is one of the rare states that doesn’t have sales tax. Depending on your situation, you might need to apply for the same kinds of permits and licenses at the state and local levels. 

In some cases, running your business requires that you apply for an employer identification number (EIN) from the IRS. If one of the following circumstances applies to your business, you likely need an EIN:

  • Your business has employees
  • Your business operates as a corporation or partnership
  • You file tax returns for employment, excise, or alcohol, tobacco, and firearms
  • You withhold taxes from non-wage income for a non-resident immigrant
  • You have a Keogh plan
  • Your business is involved with certain trusts, organizations, or entities

In addition to helping you fulfill federal tax obligations, an EIN can help you open a business bank account and apply for certain business benefits.

Step 7: Apply for Montana home-based business licenses

As technology brings us more opportunities and the workforce changes, home-based businesses have become attractive options for many. If you want to start a home-based business, the convenience of that setup can be exceptional, but there’s a good chance you’ll have to prepare plenty of paperwork to get started. Permits that might apply to your home-based business include: 

  • Zoning permits
  • Signage permits
  • Short-term rental permits
  • Local general business licenses
  • Home occupation permits

You can apply for many permits through your city and county government. You might also have to reach out to your homeowners’ association or review residential covenants to make sure your home-based business doesn’t violate their terms. Taking care of these matters on the front end can save you a lot of time and headaches in the future. 

Step 8: Maintain your Montana licensing

As a business owner, you probably know that maintenance is key. You need to maintain your business registration, clientele, business equipment, possibly your inventory, and your business practices. Your business licenses and permits are no different. Many business licenses and permits need to be renewed regularly. If you have multiple licenses, the renewal deadlines can come up at multiple different times. You need to have a game plan for keeping track of all your renewal obligations and deadlines if you want to run a solid business. 

Depend on us to help you keep your Montana business state-compliant

As you can see, getting your business properly licensed can be a daunting task. It can be especially hard to figure out all the different licenses your business needs. Fortunately, we and our partners at Business Licenses, LLC., provide a Business License Report that lets you know all of your business licensing and permit needs at the federal, state, and local levels. Business Licenses, LLC., uses information about your business activities, your industry, and your location to create one, simple report that lets you know all your licensing and permit obligations. We also offer a Worry-Free Compliance service to assist you in staying legally compliant. Our services can take a lot off of your plate so you can confidently move forward with your business plans.

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.

FAQs

  • Do all Montana businesses need a license?

    Although the State of Montana doesn’t require you to have a general business license, you’ll likely need some kind of license from the local, state, or federal government to do business. It’s rare for a Montana business to not need some kind of license to operate.

  • Can you sell things without a license in Montana?

    Montana doesn’t have a general sales tax, but your local governing body might require you to have a permit to sell goods in their community. Also, you might need a Montana business license to sell certain goods such as alcoholic beverages.

  • Is it legal to run a business from home in Montana?

    In many cases, it’s legal to run a home-based business. But your home-based business will likely need some kind of licensing from local, state, and/or federal government agencies. You might also need to get permission from a homeowners’ association or review residential covenants before starting a home-based business.

  • What kind of license do I need for an online business in Montana?

    The licenses you need to run an online business in Montana depends on the nature of your business, your location, your business activities, and your business needs. Although there’s no general sales tax in Montana, you might need to reach out to an attorney to determine your tax obligations when making sales to customers outside of Montana.

  • Do I need a license to collect sales tax in Montana?

    Generally, no, but you’re required to collect sales tax and have a license to sell certain items like alcoholic beverages and tobacco products. Once again, if you sell items online to customers outside of Montana, it’s a good idea to talk to an attorney about your tax collection requirements.

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