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Do I Need a License?

Small Business Administration on Business Licenses

December 17, 2019

One of the questions we’re often asked at the U.S. Small Business Administration is whether or not someone needs a business license to operate the type of small business they’re thinking of starting.

Do You Need a Federal License?

From a federal standpoint, you’ll need to get a federal license or permit if your business activities are regulated by a federal agency. These would include any businesses related to:

  • Agriculture
  • Alcohol
  • Aviation Firearms, ammunition and explosives
  • Fish and wildlife
  • Commercial fisheries
  • Maritime transportation
  • Mining and drilling
  • Nuclear energy
  • Radio and TV broadcasting

The licenses and permits you need from the state, county or city will depend on your business activities and?business location. Your business license fees will also vary.

Do You Need a State License?

States tend to regulate a broader range of activities than the federal government. The state of Iowa doesn’t have a “general” business license, but like many other states has licensing and permit requirements based on specific types of businesses. Fortunately, the state of Iowa has a very useful tool for determining what, if any, type of license or permits your business needs in Iowa: the Business License Information Center (BLIC) from IASourceLink. The Iowa BLIC gives some excellent general business licensing tips for the state of Iowa, but it also allows you to search the complete list of licenses and permits required in Iowa to see if anything may apply to your particular type of business.

Once you’ve determined if there are any licenses or permits required by the state for your business, it’s a good idea to check with your county and city to determine if there are any specific requirements you need to meet at their level. Typically, any federal or state licensing covers county/city requirements, but not always. It’s best to be sure. If you didn’t check licensing and permit requirements before you started your own business, it’s not too late to do so. It’s better to bring a potential issue up yourself than to have someone else discover you may not have the proper license or permit that you need.

For more information on licenses and permits in Iowa, and to access the license and permits search tool, go to iasourcelink.com/regulatory/business-license-home.

Read more SBA blogs and learn more about starting and growing your business at sba.gov.

Small Business Administration

The Small Business Administration Iowa is responsible for the delivery of the SBA's many programs and services to the 99 counties in Iowa, consisting of 2.9 million Iowans and some 240,000 small businesses.