Texas business license

How to Apply for Business Licenses and Permits in Texas

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

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Opening your own business in Texas can be a daunting task, especially knowing that you must also keep it state compliant to give it the best chance to succeed and grow. A big part of this is obtaining the permits and licenses you need to operate your business legally within the state. Most Texas businesses need a combination of licenses and permits depending on location, industry, and business activity. And because agencies on the federal, state, and local levels have the authority to grant these permits, there’s no one place to find all the licenses your particular business will need. 

Don’t worry, this is why we’re here! Read on to learn more about what kinds of licenses and permits you might need for a Texas business, and how our Business License Report service can help you get it done easily.

What is a business license?

Most Texas businesses need some kind of license or permit to operate. A license can be specific to your industry or profession. In other cases, licenses and permits can be regulated and issued by the federal government. Licenses and permits can even be regulated by your local city or county.

Some states require a general business license before your company can even get started. Texas is an extremely business-friendly state and doesn’t require a state-issued general business license. In fact, many cities and counties in Texas don’t require general business licenses either. The Texas Economic Development and Tourism Division provides business owners with a website called Texas Wide Open for Business. This website can help Texans begin to decipher what Texas business licenses and permits they might need. 

If you’re having trouble navigating the process, we can help with our Business License Report. This report from our partner uses your business location, industry, and activities to search for and identify local, state, and federal licensing requirements. Getting the right Texas business license can be a challenge, but we can help simplify the process.

Step 1:  Search for any necessary Texas general business licenses

A general business license is a license granted by the state and would be required before you are permitted to do any business in a state. The state of Texas is very pro-business and doesn’t require a general business license. 

A general business license isn’t the same as forming your business with the state. Texas has made life very easy for business owners and streamlined many Texas business license and permit requirements. However, you must register your business with the state of Texas in order for it to be legally recognized. This means creating a business entity and registering it in the state of Texas.

Registering a business, like forming your corporation or limited liability company (LLC), is what officially forms the business. People often erroneously call this “getting a business license.” Creating your corporation or LLC just allows the state to have basic information about your company. It also provides the state with information about how to tax you at the end of the year. 

Need to form a business in Texas first?  Check out our fast, easy formation services for both corporations and LLCs. 

Step 2:  Obtain applicable federal licenses for your Texas business

Federal business permits are different from Texas state business permits. If your business works within any of the following 11 industries, you’re likely to need a federal permit, as well as state and local permits. Those industries are:

  • Agriculture: including the import of plants, animals, or biotechnology across state lines 
  • Alcoholic beverages: meaning the manufacture, sale, wholesale, retail sale, or import of alcoholic beverages
  • Aviation: including transporting people or goods by aircraft (this even includes crop dusting)
  • Firearms, ammunition, and explosives: meaning manufacturing, dealing, or importing firearms, ammunition, or explosives
  • Fish and wildlife: including any wildlife-related commercial activity (including the operation of private zoos)
  • Commercial fisheries: including any kind of commercial fishing
  • Maritime transportation: meaning transportation of cargo by sea
  • Mining and drilling: meaning drilling for minerals, natural gas, oil, or other resources 
  • Nuclear energy: including performing any commercial activity in the lifecycle of nuclear any production or waste-handling
  • Radio and television broadcasting: including broadcasting by radio, satellite, cable, or TV signal
  • Transportation and logistics: meaning your business operates certain large vehicles in interstate commerce, you may also be primarily regulated under state laws

In any of these 11 industries, you’re likely to have both federal and state licensing obligations.

Step 3:  Check for Texas permits and licenses

The Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation (TDLR) provides a list of occupations, businesses, programs, and industries that it oversees that require Texas state business licensing and permitting. The list doesn’t cover every possible license required in Texas. It shows businesses what professions and commercial functions might require a license or permit. The list isn’t exhaustive and some professions and businesses are regulated by other departments

Texas business owners should also confirm specifics about each license when relying on information provided by TDLR. Additionally, the TDLR business license list provides information on licenses required only by the state of Texas. This list doesn’t account for licenses that may be required by counties and municipalities within Texas.

The state of Texas also typically handles sales tax permits from the State Comptroller. Most businesses that sell goods or services need to obtain a sales tax collection permit. Some cities and counties will also charge sales tax, and you should check with your local tax authority to confirm whether you need additional tax permits.

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

The Lone Star state is big, and every Texas city and county may have its own licensing requirements — both general and specific. State-wise, Texas doesn’t require a general business license. But individual cities within Texas are allowed to require a general license. You’ll need to check with your Texas city and county to confirm that you’re getting the correct local licenses and permits to do the work you want to do. 

Gathering information about local-level permit requirements can be more difficult than getting information on the state or federal level. You can check your county and city website, the county clerk’s office, and the local tax office. We can also assist you through our Business Licensing Report service. 

Step 5:  Search for applicable Texas professional licenses

Some specialized professions require “professional licenses” in Texas. These types of licenses typically require specialized training and some kind of specialized education or degree. Often, these licenses also require paying high fees and taking examinations. These professions include engineering, law, medicine, nursing, and teaching, among others. 

Many of these professions have a state board that governs the issuing of licenses. Because obtaining professional licenses can be so arduous and specialized, make sure you know what kinds of professional licenses you might need before trying to obtain one.

Step 6:  Obtain any other necessary Texas licenses and permits

Your type of business will dictate what kinds of other licenses and permits you need. As a small business owner, you’ll quickly learn more about real estate zoning and waste removal than you ever wanted to know! Common permits to consider include:

  • Zoning permits, if operating a physical retail outlet or office location
  • Sales tax collection licenses or permits, whether selling online or offline
  • Health permits, if selling or creating food or hygiene items
  • Environmental permits, if disposing of commercial waste 
  • Building permits, if modifying your space
  • Signage permits, if displaying your business’s signs

As you can see, the permits you might need to run your business sometimes have nothing to do with being a hairstylist or running a doggie daycare company. Often, the Texas business license process has a lot to do with keeping your fellow Texans safe.

Step 7:  Apply for Texas home-based business licenses

Texans have long operated businesses out of their homes.  If you’re one of them, you may be offering design services from home, or operating your accounting business from your spare bedroom. You might even be selling handmade crafts online. Operating a home-based business in Texas is completely legal. However, there may be slightly different licensing and permitting requirements if your business is home-based.

For instance, if your in-home business brews kombucha for sale, you may need to have your residence inspected by the state or federal Department of Agriculture. You may need to obtain fire marshall and health department permits or approvals from your city or town. These licenses could be slightly different than if you were making and selling your fizzy fermented drinks from a commercial kitchen with a sterile bottling process or as pre-packaged drinks from a retail store. When investigating which Texas business license your company might need from which state or local entity, make sure to check whether the rule applies to home-based businesses or retail establishments equally.

For another resource on starting your home-based Texas business, check out our guide to starting a business. We can help you form your Texas corporation or LLC, as well as understand what business licenses might be required.

Step 8:  Maintain your Texas licensing

The requirements for maintaining your licenses and permits will be different for each type of license or permit that you have. Licensed professionals usually have professional continuing education requirements. These requirements help the state make sure that your doctor’s knowledge is up to the most current professional standards. Your doctor usually needs to pay annual registration fees and submit evidence that they completed the continuing education courses.

Other licenses and permits expire each year but renew automatically. A company needs to be in good standing for certain licenses to automatically renew. One great way to make sure you stay in good standing is by using our Worry-Free Compliance service. 

We can help your Texas business thrive

No matter what kind of business you run, we can provide tools and services to give you the best chance to succeed. We can help your business from idea, to formation, to compliance, and beyond. Take a look at our many formation services and compliance tools to see how we can make running your Texas business a breeze.

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 Texas businesses need a license?

    Most Texas businesses need at least a sales tax collection permit if they engage in commercial activity.

  • Can you sell things without a license in Texas?

    Yes. If you try to sell your baseball card collection on a neighborhood website, you likely won’t need a license or permit to collect sales tax or otherwise run a business. Unless, of course, you plan to start regularly selling baseball cards for profit.

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

    Yes! Many Texas home businesses have been extremely successful. Make sure to confirm what permits and licenses you need, as the nature of your home-based business might trigger additional license or permit requirements in some municipalities.

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

    There are no special licenses needed for an online business in Texas. Make sure to understand what the local or municipal requirements are for operating an online business. Zoning laws may even apply to certain types of online businesses. And be sure to consider sales tax collection obligations.

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

    You do need a sales tax collection permit. The paperwork to obtain this can be filed with the Texas State Comptroller.

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