How to Apply for a Business License in Illinois

Rock River view in Rockford Town of Illinois

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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.

Julie Bawden-Davis
Written by Julie Bawden-Davis
Written byJulie Bawden-Davis
Updated October 17, 2023
Edited by Carlos Serrano
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You’ve started your new business in the state of Illinois — congratulations! It’s time to ensure your limited liability company (LLC) is fully licensed. As a business owner, it’s your job to determine if you need a business license and apply for one.

Illinois Business License: Key Takeaways

  1. Illinois does not require a general business license at the state level, but many cities and municipalities may require permits for specific types of businesses.

  2. While no general federal or state license is required to operate a business in Illinois, specific industries must comply with federal regulations and obtain additional licenses or permits.

  3. Entrepreneurs in Illinois should check with their local city or county governments for particular licensing requirements beyond federal and state regulations. Certain professions in Illinois, such as plumbers and pest control operators, require professional licenses and local and state business licenses.

Navigate Illinois 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 indicates that your small business has been approved to operate in your area. This approval can come from your local, federal, or state government. Obtaining a local or state license is not the same as registering your limited liability company. Getting a business license comes after you set up your LLC in Illinois.

Obtaining the necessary business licenses for your company is essential, as you can get fined if you don’t hold the required permits for your type of business. There are a variety of benefits of having a business license. These include ensuring a positive reputation in the local business community, establishing customer trust, gaining access to funding, and fulfilling landlord or vendor requirements.

Many cities require a business license. Whether you will need one will depend on your city’s requirements, including your type of business and where you are located. Registering for your DBA is a type of licensing. You may also hear about required permits. Business licenses permit you to operate, while permits are official documents issued to ensure your company abides by regulations.

Get Your Illinois Business License in 7 Steps

To ensure your business is successful, you must understand the business license process, including what licenses and permits you require. This includes if you need any additional licenses, such as a state license or occupational tax certificate. 

Step 1: Apply for Illinois General Business Licenses

No general business license is required for the state of Illinois. Though a state license isn’t mandated, many cities and municipalities require licenses for small businesses. Whether you need a license, such as a professional license, will depend on your type of business and where your company is based.

Step 2: Apply for Federal Licenses for Illinois Businesses

Though there isn’t a general federal business license required to run a company in Illinois, specific industries must abide by federal regulations. If your company falls into this category, you will need additional licenses for your new business.

The Small Business Administration (SBO) lists industries requiring federal licenses and permits.[1] For example, if you are a business owner transporting animals or plants across state lines, you will need a license from the Department of Agriculture.

If your business is a TV or radio station, you will need licensing from the Federal Communications Commission. Those businesses that serve alcoholic beverages require licenses from the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau.

Step 3: Search for Illinois Permits and Licenses

The state of Illinois doesn’t require a general license, but there are state license requirements for various industries. Any additional licenses you need will depend on your type of business.

To see if your business needs a specific license, consult the Registration, Licenses & Permits page, where you can search your type of business.[2] You will find links to the appropriate licensing agencies, depending on your industry.

For example, suppose you are running a pet store, dog kennel, or other animal-related business. In that case, you will require a license from the Illinois Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Animal Health and Welfare.[3] On the other hand, if your business sells alcoholic beverages, you will need an alcohol license from the Illinois Liquor Control Commission.[4]

Depending on your occupation, you may require a professional license. According to the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR), this is the case if you run an esthetician business.[5] The same goes if you are an electrician.[6]

Remember that you will likely require a building permit if you are doing any building or renovation. Every business in Illinois that hires employees, buys or sells products or manufactured goods, either retail or wholesale, must register with the Illinois Department of Revenue for a seller’s permit, also known as a Certificate of Registration or License.[7]

Aerial View of the Chicago Suburb of Elgin, Illinois in Summer

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

Depending on your location and the ordinances in your area, certain cities in Illinois require specific licenses or permits beyond federal and state requirements. After registering your new business, find out what additional licenses are needed in your area by checking with your city government or, if you are in an unincorporated area, your county government.

For example, in Chicago, business licenses are required for many types of businesses. These include clothing alteration, dry cleaning, laundry service, vehicle towing, and mobile food operation. The Business Licensing page lists professions that require a professional license.[8]

In Aurora, a business license is also required for some types of business. These include pawn shops, second hand stores, taxicabs, and spray paint dealers.[9] The same goes for Joliet, where a variety of businesses require a general business license, including auctioneers, gas stations, nursing homes, and tattoo artist shops.[10]

You will need a general business license if your company is located in unincorporated Cook County. This rule applies to any company in the county with a fixed place of business.[11]

Remember that you will require a building permit to do any construction or renovation, a sales tax permit if you sell any goods or services, and most businesses need a business tax certificate.

When you have offices or stores in more than one city or county in Illinois, you must abide by the requirements for each location.

Step 5: Search for Illinois Professional Licenses

Some industries and professions require a professional license and a local or county business license. A professional license is a state license that ensures you are adequately trained to work in a particular field. The purpose of such additional licenses is to protect the health and safety of the citizens of Illinois.

For instance, plumbers and pest control operators require professional licensing from the Illinois Department of Public Health. Other professions with professional licensing requirements include veterinarians, real estate professionals, lawyers, physicians, construction workers, and mental health care providers.[12]

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

If you wish to run a home-based small business in Illinois, ensure that doing so is allowed. Whether you can run a company from your home depends on the business type and location.

Before you set up your new business, check zoning regulations for your area to ensure that your home occupation is not prohibited. For instance, in the city of Chicago, a wide variety of business activities are not allowed in residences. These include animal services, catering or any food-related business, and personal services like hair care.[13]

If you determine you can conduct business from home, check to see if you require a business license. For example, in Skokie, home occupations are not required to obtain a business license except for childcare operations.[14]

Step 7: Maintain Your Illinois Business License

To ensure your business remains compliant, you must maintain your State of Illinois business license(s). As a business owner, you must ensure that you have all necessary licenses at the federal, state, and local government levels up to date. This includes your business tax certificate and any occupational tax certificate required by the Illinois Department of Revenue.

The cost of business licenses in Illinois varies. For instance, in Chicago, a license ranges from $165 for a children’s services facility to $3,800 for a firearms dealer. Whereas in smaller communities, licensing fees tend to be much lower or nonexistent in those areas where local licenses aren’t required.

Keeping up on business license renewal dates and fees is vital. Failing to renew your license means stiff fines and could revoke your license. If keeping track of renewal deadlines and requirements is stressful, Swyft Filings can help.

Old State Capitol in Springfield, Illinois

Apply for an Illinois Business License Online

At Swyft Filings, we realize your time as a new business owner is limited. We’re here to make your life easier so you can focus on running your small business. The experts at Swyft Filings will explain your company’s business license needs.

We make things even easier by completing your business license application and ensuring the necessary documents are filed with the Illinois Secretary of State. We keep track of your business license renewal dates to put your mind at rest. When it’s time to refile, we will complete the renewal paperwork promptly and ensure all fees are paid.

Stay Compliant in Illinois 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.

Begin My License Application Today


How do I get a business license in Illinois?

To get a business license in Illinois, check with your city or your county clerk for business license renewal requirements if you are in an unincorporated area. Also, check with the state and federal government to see if your profession requires special licensing.

Does Illinois require a general business license?

No, Illinois does not require a general business license.

Can you sell things in Illinois without a license?

You may not sell goods in Illinois without a seller’s permit, also known as a Certificate of Registration or License.

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

You need a seller’s permit to sell goods online in Illinois.

Can I collect sales tax in Illinois without a license?

No, you cannot collect sales tax in Illinois without a license.

How much does an Illinois business license cost?

Illinois business license prices depend on your industry and location within the state. Fees range from less than $100 to several thousand dollars.

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

Fines for operating without a business license in Illinois vary. In Chicago, according to the Municipal Code, a business operating without a business license will be “fined not less than $250.00 nor more than $500.00 for each offense.” The fine applies to each day the business operates without a license.[15]


  1. Small Business Administration. “Federal Licenses and Permits.” Accessed June 27, 2023.

  2. “Registrations, Licenses & Permits.” Accessed June 27, 2023.

  3. Illinois Department of Agriculture. “Animal Welfare Act License Application and Renewal.” Accessed June 27, 2023.

  4. Illinois Liquor Commission Control. “Most Frequently Asked Licensing Questions.” Accessed June 27, 2023.

  5. “Esthetician.” Accessed June 27, 2023.

  6. “Electrical Certification.” Accessed June 27, 2023.

  7. Illinois Department of Revenue. “Business Registration.” Accessed June 27, 2023.

  8. “Business Licensing.” Accessed June 27, 2023.

  9. Aurora “Business Licenses.” Accessed June 27, 2023.

  10. “Business License Applications.” Accessed June 27, 2023.

  11. Cook County Government. “General Business License.” Accessed June 27, 2023.

  12. “Professional Licenses.” Accessed June 28, 2023.

  13. “Home-Based Businesses in Chicago: What you need to know.” Accessed June 28, 2023.

  14. “Home-Based Businesses.” Accessed June 28, 2023.

  15. Code Library. “Chicago Municipal Code.” Accessed June 28, 2023.

Originally published on September 22, 2023, and last edited on October 17, 2023.
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