How to Apply for a Business License in Idaho

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Swyft Filings is committed to providing accurate, reliable information to help you make informed decisions for your business. That's why our content is written and edited by professional editors, writers, and subject matter experts. Learn more about how Swyft Filings works, our editorial team and standards, what our customers think of us, and more on our trust page.

Carlos Serrano
Written by Carlos Serrano
Written byCarlos Serrano
Updated January 19, 2024
Edited by Alexis Konovodoff
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You’re a prospective business owner in Idaho, and you’re going through the process of setting up so you can conduct your business activities. That usually involves filing the relevant business formation documents with the Secretary of State.

But your new business may be missing something - a business license.

Even with properly completed formation documents, your business needs certain licenses and permits for issues related to zoning, your professional qualifications, and, in some cases, simply to operate in a state. 

These licenses apply to all business entity types that want to meet regulatory requirements, and this article explores what those licenses are in Idaho.

Idaho Business License: Key Takeaways

  • Businesses in Idaho may require various licenses and permits to stay in good standing and meet zoning regulations, professional qualifications, and operational standards. 

  • While Idaho doesn't mandate a general state license, federal, city, county, or professional licenses might be necessary depending on the nature of the business.

  • Idaho business owners must remain aware of the renewal requirements for their licenses, which often involve paying renewal fees and adhering to specific renewal timelines. 

Navigate Idaho Business Licensing with Ease

Ensuring you have the right business licenses and permits is crucial. Let us manage the complexities for you, so you can stay focused on what you do best — running your business.

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What Is a Business License?

A business license is a document that permits a small business to transact in the state of Idaho. 

In many ways, it’s similar to a permit. Only licenses tend to be longer lasting, whereas permits often apply to specific situations, such as building permits for individual property developments.

Your license will usually contain key information about your corporation or limited liability company, like its official business name and any assumed business names, or “doing business as (DBA)” names, it uses. A relevant authority, such as the Secretary of State, signs the license, and you can conduct business.

Business licenses come in several varieties, often depending on your business type. In addition to a general state license, you may need licenses from the federal government to operate in certain industries. Many states also have licenses beyond the general for those industries. You may also need city or county and professional licenses.

Get Your Idaho Business License in 8 Steps

Getting your business license and additional licenses can be a roundabout process that takes you from the state level to several county clerks or city councils. You may also need occupational licenses, often at the local level.

It can all leave you feeling trapped in a web of business licensing requirements. But by following these seven steps, you can handle this important aspect of Idaho business registration.

Step 1: Apply for Idaho General Business Licenses

Unlike other states, the state of Idaho doesn’t require any business to have a general state license.[1]

It’s important to recognize that no general state license doesn’t mean your small business needs no licenses at all. For instance, you may need a professional license for certain industries, such as the medical or legal fields, and many cities and counties have licenses, even in areas where the state doesn’t. We’ll discuss these in the steps below.

Step 2: Apply for Federal Licenses for Idaho Businesses

If you operate in any industry that a federal agency oversees, you’ll usually have to get a license from that specific agency. Even if Idaho doesn’t ask you to have statewide licenses for the same industry, these federal licenses are required. 

The U.S. Small Business Administration provides a complete list of the various business activities that require federal licensing.[2] But a few examples include the following:

  • The U.S. Department of Agriculture: You’ll need a license for any activity that involves importing or transporting plants, animals, animal products, or biological matter across state lines.

  • The Federal Maritime Commission: Anybody who provides transportation to carry cargo by sea needs a business license from this organization.

  • The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF): Any new business dealing in firearms, ammo, or explosives, whether manufacturing, selling, or importing, needs an ATF license.

You can usually apply for federal business licenses via the relevant authority’s website. 

It’s also important to note that a federal license doesn’t supersede the need for a state license. For instance, Idaho has licensing laws related to alcohol sales, so you need that state license and a federal license to sell alcohol.

The Capitol Building for the state of Idaho at sunset | Swyft Filings

Step 3: Search for Idaho Permits and Licenses

Even though you don’t need a general state business license, you might need specific state licenses.

First, you must apply for a sales tax license. You can do that via the Idaho Department of Labor and the Idaho State Tax Commission, often as part of your business registration.[3]

From there, what your business does will guide you to the appropriate state license. But the following are a few examples of statewide organizations that handle licensing:[4]

  • Alcohol Beverage Control: Provides the alcohol license you need to sell alcoholic beverages in Idaho.

  • Idaho Division of Building Safety: Handles everything from building permits to specific occupational licenses for plumbers, electricians, and public work contractors.

  • Idaho State Police: Grants licenses for businesses requiring background checks or fingerprinting.

Step 4: Search for Local County or City Idaho Business Licenses

You often need licenses at the city or county level on top of your state and federal licenses. Each local region dictates what licenses are needed in its ordinances:

  • Boise: Idaho’s largest city requires additional licenses for various industries, including alcohol, animal care, and pawnbroking. You’ll also need to apply for permits related to building, assemblies, and hooding festivals or special events.[5]

  • Meridian: Similarly to Boise, Meridian has licenses for alcohol and pawnbrokers and permits related to fireworks, building, and the temporary use of city facilities.[6]

  • Nampa: You’ll need to apply for a building permit in Nampa for any commercial building project, among other licensing requirements.[7]

Each city has its own ordinances, with different license fees and requirements. The city clerk’s office is usually a good starting point for determining which specific licenses you need for each city you operate in.

Step 5: Search for Idaho Professional Licenses

You’re almost there with licenses, but you may also have to get a professional license to work in a specific industry in Idaho.

A professional license is separate from a state license. Where the latter permits you to conduct a certain type of business in Idaho, the former is about demonstrating that you have the relevant qualifications, tested by the state, to do that business. As such, you may need both state and professional licenses for certain industries.

Professional licenses are granted by the relevant Idaho state licensing board, with the following being some examples:[1]

  • Idaho Board of Pharmacy

  • Idaho Division of Building Safety

  • Idaho Board of Accountancy

  • Idaho Division of Building Safety

It’s important to note that people inside your company may need professional licenses, too, even if you have one for yourself. For instance, a law firm’s lawyers must all have licenses from the Idaho State Bar to practice law in the state.

Step 6: Apply for an Idaho Home-Based Business License

Some states require a separate license if you run your business out of your home. Examples include online sellers who keep their merchandise at home and home-based businesses, such as daycares or nurseries.

Idaho isn’t one of the states that require a small business based on home occupation to get a separate business license. However, you may still need the licenses mentioned above. Your new business must also still register with the Idaho Secretary of State before you can get going. You can do that via the Idaho Business Registration System.

It’s also worth noting that some home-based businesses require professional licenses, even if you don’t need a general home business license. Any that involves work with children may also have to conduct background checks on its employees to stay in good standing.

Step 7: Maintain Your Idaho Business License

As nice as it would be for all of your licenses to be permanent, that sadly isn’t the case. You have to renew most of them regularly, with renewals often coming with fees paid to the Secretary of State in Idaho.[8]

So, though you don’t have to worry about renewing a general business license in Idaho, your state, local, professional, and even federal licenses are subject to constant review and renewal. If you don’t want to have to stay on top of all of that documentation, especially as your company grows, we can handle your business license renewal for you.

Stay Compliant in Idaho Without the Hassle
  • Focus on Your Business: Dive into your passion while we handle the intricacies of acquiring the necessary local, state, and federal business licenses and permits.

  • Simplify Your Paperwork: Complete our straightforward questionnaire, and we’ll handle all the required filings for you, accurately and promptly.

  • Stay Compliant: Avoid the risks and severe repercussions of non-compliance. We’re here to ensure your business remains in good standing.

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How do I get a business license in Idaho?

You can usually apply for any federal, local, or state business license you need via the appropriate authority’s website.

Does Idaho require a general business license?

No, you don’t need a general business license to transact business in Idaho. However, your business may still need state, federal, local, or professional licensing.

Can you sell things in Idaho without a license?

No, you’ll need either a regular or temporary seller’s permit, which you can get from Idaho’s official government website.[9]

Do I need a special license for an online business in Idaho?

You don’t need a special license to sell things online in Idaho. However, your business may be subject to state, federal, or local licensing requirements.

Can I collect sales tax in Idaho without a license?

No, you’ll need to have a seller’s permit if you wish to collect sales tax in Idaho.

How much does an Idaho business license cost?

Business license fees depend on your business type and the appropriate authority. However, you’ll usually have to pay filing fees, often over $100, for professional licenses.

What’s the penalty for not having a business license in Idaho?

Assuming your business doesn’t deal with anything that requires a professional, federal, state, or local license, you can do business in Idaho without penalty. If you require specific licenses, the penalties vary depending on the license type, ranging from fines to business dissolution.


  1. Idaho Official Government Website. “Licenses, Permits, and Regulations.” Accessed July 19, 2023.

  2. U.S. Small Business Administration. “Apply for Licenses and Permits.” Accessed July 19, 2023.

  3. Idaho Department of Labor. “Idaho Business Registration.” Accessed July 19, 2023.

  4. Idaho Official Government Website. “Licenses/Permits.” Accessed July 19, 2023.

  5. City of Boise. “Licensing.” Accessed July 19, 2023.

  6. Meridian Idaho. “License and Permit Applications.” Accessed July 19, 2023.

  7. Nampa Idaho. “Business.” Accessed July 19, 2023.

  8. Idaho Division of Occupational and Professional Licenses. “License Renewal Information.” Accessed July 19, 2023.

  9. Idaho Official Government Website. “Seller’s Permits.” Accessed July 19, 2023.

Originally published on October 19, 2023, and last edited on January 19, 2024.
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