Oregon licensing and permitting

How to Apply for Business Licenses and Permits in Oregon

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

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Starting your own business can be rewarding, but you have to be organized about it. It’s important to have a good idea, a financial plan, and the proper authorization from the government. Many businesses need to register their business with the state they’re in, and many more need some kind of license or permit to operate. If you don’t know where to start with licensing your business, this article can help you get it done.

Let’s take a look at what kinds of permits or licenses your business might need and how our Business License Report service can help you get it done easily.

What is a business license? 

A business license is a business’s permission to operate, and most businesses need one. Some states require general business licenses to do any kind of business. Many businesses need more than one license or permit to operate. Though most businesses need one, getting a business license isn’t a one-size-fits-all process. Your potential need for a license or permit can depend on your location, your industry, your business characteristics, and certain rules at the federal, state, and local government levels.

Although a business might need more than one license, there isn’t one central place for searching for all of your business license needs. If you want to make sure your business has all of the proper authorizations, you need to make a lot of inquiries with a lot of different government agencies. 

Step 1: Search for any necessary Oregon general business licenses

It doesn’t take a lot of guesswork to figure out what a general business license is: it’s a license to do any kind of business, regardless of what your business is. Although the state doesn’t have a general business license requirement, some Oregon municipalities require a general business license. Also, there’s a good chance your Oregon business will need to have some kind of specific license or permit to operate. 

Getting an Oregon business license isn’t the same as registering a business. Depending on the structure of your business, registering your business is what forms it under state law. If you have a corporation, limited liability company (LLC), limited liability partnership, or a business name that’s different from your surname, you need to register your business to let the state know it exists. Normally, you get your business licenses and permits after you register your business, and their purpose is to give you permission to run the business you formed. 

If you want to form an LLC or corporation and you’re unsure how to get started, we can help. You can use our Oregon LLC formation service, or our Oregon corporation formation service to get the ball rolling. 

Step 2: Obtain applicable federal licenses for your Oregon business

Although registering businesses often happens at the state level, some businesses need licenses and/or permits from the federal government to operate. If your business is involved in one of the following activities, you likely need a license or permit from a federal agency: 

  • Businesses that deal with importing or transporting animals, animal products, biological products or plants across state lines normally need licenses/permits from the U.S. Department of Agriculture
  • Manufacturers, wholesalers, retailers and importers of alcoholic beverages normally need licenses/permits from the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (and the Local Alcohol Beverage Control Bureau)
  • Businesses that operate aircrafts, maintain aircrafts, or transport goods or people by air normally need licenses/permits from the Federal Aviation Administration
  • Manufacturers, dealers, and importers of firearms, ammunition, and explosives normally need licenses/permits from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives
  • Businesses involved with wildlife-related activities such as importing or exporting wildlife and wildlife-derived products normally need licenses/permits from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
  • Businesses involved in any kind of commercial fishing need licenses/permits from the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration Fisheries Service
  • Businesses providing ocean transportation or dealing with cargo shipments on the sea normally need licenses/permits from the Federal Maritime Commission
  • Businesses involved with drilling for oil, natural gas, or minerals on federal land normally need licenses/permits from the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement 
  • Producers of commercial nuclear energy, fuel cycle facilities, and distributors and disposers of nuclear materials normally need licenses/permits from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission
  • Businesses that broadcast information by radio, television, wire, satellite, or cable normally need licenses/permits from the Federal Communications Commission
  • Operators of overweight or oversized vehicles might need direction from the U.S. Department of Transportation regarding state permits

Depending on your business, you might need licenses or permits from more than one federal agency. It’s important to be very clear on your business operations and what field(s) your business occupies so that you reach out to all appropriate federal agencies for the proper licensing/permission.

Step 3: Check for Oregon permits and licenses

If you’re starting a business in Oregon, many of your business licensing needs are likely going to be at the local level. But there are many activities that can require an Oregon state business license, including:

  • Food processing
  • Food retail
  • Growing and/or handling hemp
  • Producing and/or handling hemp seed
  • Alcohol-related business activities 
  • Cannabis-related business activities
  • Selling, handling, storing, or importing plant nursery stock 
  • Professional services
  • Pesticide application

You might also need more than one Oregon business license to run your business properly. The State of Oregon has a license directory online for searching licenses you might need, but remember that this search function doesn’t necessarily cover every license you need to run a business. 

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

Depending on the city and/or county your business is in, you might need multiple local licenses and/or permits before you can engage in commercial activity. Some licenses or permits you might need can include:

  • A general business license
  • A rental housing license
  • A food and beverage cart permit
  • A contractor license
  • A marijuana registration
  • A payday lending license
  • A license to sell certain items

Licensing and permit requirements (and fees) can vary from municipality to municipality. It’s important to contact the officials in each town, city, or county where your business is located to confirm your specific obligations. 

Step 5: Search for applicable Oregon professional licenses

One of the best ways to put your specialized education and training to work is by opening a business that offers your professional services. Those who offer professional services typically need to be licensed by the state. Professionals who require licensing in Oregon include: 

  • Accountants
  • Social workers
  • Dental professionals 
  • Massage therapists
  • Engineers
  • Land surveyors
  • Medical professionals
  • Insurance professionals
  • Contractors 
  • Tax professionals
  • Therapists 
  • Counselors 
  • Cosmetologists
  • Psychologists
  • Lawyers

This isn’t an exhaustive list of Oregon-licensed professionals. You need to check with the state for the kinds of licenses you need to practice your profession. Separate state boards tend to handle professional licensing for individuals in their fields.

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

We’ve talked about many licenses, but we’re not finished yet. There are a lot of miscellaneous permits, registrations, and authorizations your business might need to stay legally compliant. The following are some of the typical requirements you can encounter at the local, state, and federal levels.

 Oregon environmental permits

Running your business could have an impact on the environment and resources around you. In some cases, you need a number of permits from different agencies to ensure that your commercial activities stay within legal limits. Among the state agencies that provide environmental permits are: 

  • The Department of Environmental Quality
  • The Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries
  • The Department of State Lands

Contacting your federal, state, and local officials can give you a better idea of all the environmental permits you might need. 

Zoning, building, and sign permits in Oregon

Your location and physical business needs can play a huge part in how you conduct your business or even get it off the ground. You may need zoning, building, or sign permits to locate your business where you want, advertise it how you want, and/or build the facilities it needs. If you don’t take these steps for your business, there’s a good chance you won’t be able to operate. Your state and local government officials can let you know what permits you need to keep your doors open. 

Oregon business registry resale certificates

Unlike many other states, Oregon doesn’t have a general sales or use tax. But if your Oregon business buys goods outside of Oregon and resells them in the state, you may need to fill out and give the out-of-state seller an Oregon Business Registry Resale Certificate. 

Employer Identification Number

Certain businesses need to identify themselves with the IRS for tax purposes. These businesses need to apply for an Employer Identification Number (EIN). Businesses needing an EIN include: 

  • Businesses with employees 
  • Businesses that run as partnerships or corporations
  • Businesses that file tax returns for employment, excise, or alcohol, tobacco and firearms taxes
  • Businesses that withhold taxes for non-wage income paid to non-resident immigrants
  • Businesses with Keogh plans
  • Businesses involved with certain trusts, organizations, or entities

Aside from its required tax purpose, an EIN can be pretty handy when your business needs to set up a bank account or apply for certain benefits.

Step 7: Apply for Oregon home-based business licenses

Running a business from your home can help you reap a lot of benefits, but you have to play by the rules. Your home-based business may be subject to a number of restrictions or need a number of licenses/permits to run lawfully. Licenses and permits for your home-based business can include:

  • A home occupation permit
  • Zoning permits
  • Signage permits
  • A general business license

Your need for a license can depend on the nature of your business, whether your customers visit, and what kind of employees you have. These licensing requirements also differ depending on your location. Speak to your municipality’s officials for more information on how you can make running a business from home work for you.  

Step 8: Maintain your Oregon licensing

Businesses require constant upkeep, including the upkeep of their licenses and permits. Many business licenses must be renewed periodically. You want to stay on top of your licensing and renewal requirements. Otherwise, missing a requirement can be one of the easiest ways to shutter your business without trying. 

Rely on us to help you fulfill your business license and permit needs

Don’t feel bad if the upkeep of your business sounds like a lot. It is a lot. We provide the tools you need to make obtaining and maintaining your licenses and permits easy. 

We have partnered with Business Licenses, LLC, to make the Business License Report service available to you. The Business License Report service looks at the characteristics, location, and needs of your business and provides you with a report that consolidates your business licensing and permit needs into one, simple document. This service gives you information on your federal, state, and local licensing and permit needs. This means you don’t have to spend the bulk of your time running from agency to agency to find out how to get permission to run your business. We also provide a Worry-Free Compliance service to help keep your licenses and permits current and keep you confident in your business’s legal status.  

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 Oregon businesses need a license?

    Oregon businesses don’t need general business licenses at the state level. But it’s unlikely a business can legally run in Oregon without some kind of license or permit.

  • Can you sell things without a license in Oregon?

    Oregon doesn’t have a general sales and use tax. However, you might still need a license/permit from a federal, state, or local agency to make sales of certain items or to make sales in certain locations.

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

    Yes. Depending on the rules of your location, your home-based business might be highly restricted. You might also need special permits/licenses to run a business from home.

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

    The kind of Oregon business license, or other kind of business license, you might need for online business depends on the nature, location, and needs of your business. It’s also important to speak to a lawyer about your tax obligations if your Oregon business sells to customers outside of Oregon.

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

    Oregon doesn’t have a general use and sales tax, but there can be different tax requirements for specific industries. For example, businesses involved with selling tobacco products or alcoholic beverages have specific tax requirements for their activities.

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