Step 1. Name and form your company
If you have not already started a company, your first step before applying for an Ohio business license should be to do so. For help starting your business, check out one of our Forbes Advisor guides on starting a business, forming an LLC and, for those who desire assistance with forming a commonly used business structure, Best LLC Services. Once you have officially started your business, get your paperwork in order and make sure you have:
- A business name
- An EIN (Employer Identification Number) or SSN (if you’re a sole proprietor)
- A business entity type (LLC, partnership, corporation, etc.)
- A business address and phone number
- A business plan that includes anticipated revenue and expenses
- A COI (certificate of insurance) for your business insurance policy, where required
Step 2. Apply for your Ohio vendor license, if needed
If your business will sell or lease taxable goods or services, you’ll need to collect sales tax. To do this, you must obtain an Ohio vendor license. Ohio makes this easy with the Ohio Business Gateway site, a one-stop web page for all the business registration, licensing and permitting your business may need at the state level.
Step 3. Determine which local licenses may be applicable
Next, you’ll want to see which local licenses may be applicable to your business. Most larger cities in Ohio require licenses for only some professions and occupations while some smaller cities and villages require licenses for all businesses. Visit your local municipalities’ websites to learn more and apply for any applicable licenses. You can find these websites by heading to the Ohio Municipal League’s list of cities and villages or the directory of counties.
Step 4. Apply for any additional statewide license (s) you need
It’s important to check to see if you need any state-regulated licenses. These licenses are primarily for certain professions and occupations in industries such as health and wellness, food service, liquor, entertainment, construction and finance, but run a quick search for your business activity even if it’s not in these categories. For a full list of business and professional licenses and to apply, head to the Ohio state website’s Licenses & Permits page.
Step 5. Apply for federal licenses and tax treatment (as necessary)
The majority of small businesses will not need to obtain any federal licenses or permits, but if your business conducts any activities regulated at the federal level, you may need a federal license. Common federal business licensing areas include:
- Alcoholic sales, serving, distribution or importing
- Aviation, maritime or ground transportation
- Firearms, ammunition and explosives
- Fish and wildlife, including commercial fisheries
- Mining and drilling
- Nuclear energy
- Radio and television broadcasting
If you operate in any of these industries, contact the appropriate federal agency to see which, if any, requires licensing or permits you’ll need.