So, you’re thinking about (or are already in the process of) starting a small business in Ohio. We’re probably preaching to the choir here when we say the amount of tasks you need to cross off your to-do list in order to turn your dream into a reality can get overwhelming, fast.
One item on most new small business owners' to-do lists that leads to confusion, panic, high blood pressure, question marks circling around their heads cartoon character style, etcetera etcetera (you get the idea) is figuring out what the whole deal with business licenses is.
A business license is an official document that lets city, state, and/or federal officials know your business is legally allowed to operate within Ohio. What gets confusing is knowing how many licenses you need, and at which government levels.
Conveniently for you, we created this guide to teach you everything you need to know about how to get a business license in Ohio, without all the jargon. Here, we cover the different types of business licenses, when and why you’d need a business license, how to get an Ohio business license, and everything you’ve ever wanted to know about getting a business license in Ohio but have been too afraid to ask. Read on to learn more!
Is a business license required in Ohio?
Almost all businesses operating in Ohio will require at least one license. Ohio does not have one singular business license, but a vendor's license/seller’s permit is needed if you’re selling goods or services (which we bet you are).
You might require more licensing, depending on your industry or location, on a local, statewide, or federal level, which we’ll jump into below.
Types of Ohio business licenses
You may need a business license or permit, depending on your industry and your location, from one or all three government levels, including:
- Local (city, village, or county)
For example, if you’re opening up a restaurant, you might need food and/or alcohol licensing on a state and/or federal level; health permits; building permits; and/or signage permits.
Local business licenses in Ohio
You may need local business licenses depending on the city or county your Ohio business is operating in. For example, most businesses in Cincinnati are required to get a local city business license to specifically operate within Cincinnati.
Unfortunately, this article doesn’t have the technology to pinpoint your exact coordinates and then magically list every license or permit you need. But your local Ohio village, city, or county government office comes close to that! We recommend consulting their websites to determine what business licenses are needed for your unique situation.
Statewide business licenses in Ohio
Remember the vendor's license (aka seller’s permit) we mentioned before? This is a statewide license, and it’s really the only general state-level license required in Ohio. As we said, you’ll need one if you’re selling goods or services.
There are many other state-level permits or licenses that may be required depending on your industry, including professional licenses. The most common industries that require licenses and permits are:
- Healthcare and wellness
- Combat sports
This list isn’t comprehensive, so always check Ohio state's website on Licenses & Permits to make sure.
You might also need permits for things like zoning, building, signage, and alarm systems. If your business is based out of your home, you could need extra permits. Nonprofits also require special licensing.
Federal business licenses and permits
The federal-level requirements for operating a business in Ohio depend on your industry and location (zoning requirements). These operations are regulated by the federal government:
- Firearms and explosives
- Fish and wildlife
- Commercial fisheries
- Maritime transportation
- Mining and drilling
- Nuclear energy
If your business activities fall into any of these categories, you’ll most likely need a business license or permit on the federal level.
How to get an Ohio business license: Five easy steps
By now, you should have an idea of the types of licenses you’ll need. Now, let’s dive into what you can expect from the business license application process. Here are the five steps to getting a business license in Ohio:
- Name your company and form it in Ohio
- Apply for an Ohio vendor's license
- Determine other local licenses applicable to your Ohio business
- Apply for any statewide license that your business may require in Ohio
- Apply for federal licenses and any necessary tax treatment
1) Name your company and form it in Ohio
First things first: officially create your business. (Psst, if you want a breakdown of everything you need to start a business in Ohio, check out our guide.) Officially starting your business (i.e., naming it and registering it with the state) will give you access to important business information and paperwork you’ll need to license it. Basically, you can’t get your business licenses before you start your business.
Here’s what you’ll need for your business license application:
- The name of your business
- Your EIN (Employer Identification Number)
- Your business structure (i.e., LLC, corporation, sole proprietorship, etc.)
- Your business address and phone number
- Your business plan
- Your business insurance information (if needed)
2) Apply for an Ohio vendor's license (if required)
We’ve covered what an Ohio vendor's license is, now let's go over how to apply for one.
Luckily, it’s pretty painless! Simply go to the Ohio Business Gateway site, where you can apply online for your vendor's license. You can also apply through your local Ohio County Auditor. Each application costs $25.
3) Determine other local licenses applicable to your Ohio business
The number and type of local licenses you need is dependent on your industry and your location, so it’s important to check (and check again!) what type of licensing you’re responsible for. As we said before, consult your local city/village or county website to determine which local licenses they'll need.
4) Apply for any statewide license that your business may require in Ohio
Statewide licensing in Ohio is dependent on industry, so you would apply for a license through the appropriate agency or board.
Here’s an example of what the process might look like for Sally, an acupuncturist:
- First, Sally checks the Licenses & Permits page on the Ohio government website to see if she needs a license for her industry.
- The website shows her that licensing is necessary for acupuncturists. It also provides her with the website and contact information for the State Medical Board of Ohio, which grants the appropriate licensing.
- She can easily click onto the Board’s website for information on how to apply for an acupuncturist license and get more information on the necessary documents and application fees.
5) Apply for federal licenses and any necessary tax treatment
Federal licenses and permits are needed for certain industries. If you fall into any of the categories we mentioned above, you can apply for a business license through the appropriate federal agency. The U.S. Small Business Association also has a list of industries you’ll need a license for and their issuing agencies.
Ohio business license FAQs
How much does a business license in Ohio cost?
It costs $25 to apply for a vendor's license. If you want to open up another location for your business, you’ll need a separate vendor's license for that location (which will require another $25 fee).
As for other types of licenses in Ohio, there isn’t one single cost for a business license in Ohio—it will depend on your industry and your location. They can cost as little as $15 or as much as $1,000 a year.
Forbes gives a great example of this: an arcade in Cincinnati will pay $75 a year for a business license, while an arcade in Toledo will pay $400 a year for a business license PLUS $15 per machine.
Is a business license required in Ohio if I sell online?
Yup! Even if you’re selling goods or services online rather than in a brick-and-mortar location, you will need a vendor's license.
How do I renew my Ohio business license?
A vendor's license does not have to be renewed.
If you need a license based on your industry, you’ll probably have to renew it once a year. Be sure to check with the appropriate department or agency to make sure.
Do LLCs require business licenses in Ohio?
You bet! When you form an LLC in Ohio, you are not automatically licensed to operate in Ohio. You’ll probably need a vendor's license, as well as any local, statewide, or federal licenses based on your industry and location.
What's the difference between an EIN and a business license?
An EIN is not the same as a business license. An EIN is a unique number used to identify your business. Just because you have an EIN does not mean you have a business license. You’ll still need to apply for a vendor's license if you’re selling goods or services, as well as any local, statewide, or federal licenses based on your industry and location.
Go get your Ohio business license today!
And there you have it! Everything you need to know about getting a business license in Ohio. The main takeaways:
- You’ll probably need a vendor's license, at the very least
- The types of licenses or permits you need greatly depend on your location and industry, so it’s important to consult the appropriate local, state, and federal websites
Good luck with your business ownership journey!
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