How to Apply for a Business License in Minnesota

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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.

Polina Solovyeva
Written by Polina Solovyeva
Written byPolina Solovyeva
Updated October 17, 2023
Edited by Carlos Serrano
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Are you excited to start doing business in the state of Minnesota? Your new business will likely need to obtain a business license — or several — before you can begin operating. Read on to learn about licensing requirements in Minnesota and how business owners can stay in good standing. 

Minnesota Business License: Key Takeaways

  1. Minnesota doesn’t require a general business license. However, businesses may still need state licenses, professional permits, or local licenses based on their activities.

  2. Maintaining your business licenses is crucial, as failing to do so can result in penalties or business closure, and renewal is often an annual requirement.

  3. Federal permits are required for businesses in federally regulated industries, such as agriculture, alcohol, aviation, firearms, and more.

Navigate Minnesota 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?

In theory, the concept of a business license is pretty straightforward. It’s a legal document that allows your business to carry out specific business activities. 

In reality, figuring out what type of business licenses your entity needs can be nothing short of challenging. Business licenses and permits exist at three different levels: federal, state, and local. You may need to obtain a federal license from the federal government, a state license from a state agency, and additional local licenses from your town, city, or municipality. 

Most small businesses will need some business license or a permit in Minnesota. As a business owner, you must know what business licenses your business structure needs. 

Remember that registering a business entity — such as a limited liability company — differs from applying for a business license. First, you must choose your business name, register with the Minnesota Secretary of State, and handle any business needs like applying for a DBA. Then, you’ll also need to apply for appropriate licenses. 

Get Your Minnesota Business License in 7 Steps

Many business owners need clarification on the process of applying for business licenses. From state licenses, occupational tax certificates, and additional licenses required by your local government, we’ll take you through everything step-by-step so you can keep your business in good standing. 

Step 1: Apply for Minnesota General Business Licenses

A general business license is a license that every business needs to obtain to operate in a state or a specific municipality. Some states require a general business license, and other states don’t. Minnesota doesn’t have a general business license requirement. 

However, you may still need state licenses for your small business if your business activities involve a regulated industry. Depending on the nature of your profession, you may also need a professional license. Additionally, your local government may have a general license requirement.  

Step 2: Apply for Federal Licenses for Minnesota Businesses

The federal government regulates specific business industries, such as alcoholic beverages and nuclear energy. You must apply for a federal business license if your business is in a federally regulated industry. 

Use the table below to determine if your new business needs a federal license and what government agency can issue it for you.[1]

Business Activity

Government Agency

Import and transport of animals, animal products, biologics, biotechnology, and plants across state lines

Department of Agriculture

Manufacture, wholesale, import, and retail of alcoholic beverages

Alcohol and Tobacco Tax Trade Bureau and Local Alcohol Beverage Control Board

Operation of aircraft, transport of people or goods via air, and aircraft maintenance

Federal Aviation Administration

Manufacture, dealing, or import of firearms, ammunition, and explosives 

Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives

Export of wildlife and derivative products

US Fish and Wildlife Service

Commercial fishing

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries Service

Ocean transportation or facilitation of shipment of cargo by sea

Federal Maritime Commission

Drilling and mining for natural gas oil, or other regulated natural resources on federal lands

Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement

Commercial production of nuclear energy, operating a fuel cycle facility, or distribution and disposal of nuclear materials

US Nuclear Regulatory Commission

Broadcasting information by radio, television, wire, satellite, or cable

Federal Communications Commission

Transportation, logistics, and operation of an oversized or overweight vehicle

US Department of Transportation

You can learn more about federal licensing requirements here

Business owners should remember that after obtaining a federal license, they will likely need to apply for additional licenses from the state of Minnesota and their local government. Obtaining a federal license doesn’t satisfy state and local requirements. 

Step 3: Search for Minnesota Permits and Licenses

Depending on the nature of your business activities, you may be required to obtain a state license in Minnesota. Minnesota regulates various industries at the state level, and the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development has helpful information on licensing requirements. 

In particular, Minnesota ELicensing, the state’s licensing web portal, has an extensive index of all industries that require licensing.[2] Some of these industries include: 

  • Alcoholic beverages (e.g., alcohol licenses for beer and wine, a liquor license) 

  • Adult care (e.g., adult day centers, group care, and social work) 

  • Animals (e.g., cats & dogs, pet food, wildlife) 

  • Corporations and organizations (e.g., clubs, inventions, charities) 

  • Building and construction (e.g., building permits, schools) 

You may also need a professional license or additional licenses from your local government. 

The Lowry Bridge in Minneapolis, Minnesota lit up at night

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

Minnesota’s cities, counties, and municipalities may have separate licensing requirements. You may need to get a professional license, a business tax certificate, a building permit, a sales tax permit, or a zoning ordinance — to name a few. 

For example, the city of Minneapolis requires businesses in the following industries to obtain additional licenses:[3]  

  • Alcohol and tobacco

  • Animal-related businesses

  • Contractors 

  • Door-to-door and secondhand sales

  • Dry cleaning and laundry services

  • Food and restaurants

  • Entertainment and recreation 

  • Lodging

  • Massage, tanning, and body art

  • Vehicles 

The city of Saint Paul also has extensive licensing requirements that broadly fall into the following industries:[4]

  • Alcohol 

  • Animal 

  • Automotive

  • Entertainment

  • Events and temporary licenses

  • Food and lodging

  • Health and fitness

  • Merchandise, product sales, and tobacco 

  • Professional services

  • Transportation

  • Miscellaneous

Local licensing requirements can be complicated, and it’s always best to check with your local authorities, such as your city clerk, city hall, or local tax office. 

Step 5: Search for Minnesota Professional Licenses

Certain professions require a professional license. Occupations requiring licensing involve extensive professional training, such as medicine or law. 

Minnesota ELicensing has a list of professions that require a business license in the state.[5] These professions include agriculture professionals, plumbers, cosmetologists, and more. Not obtaining the necessary professional licenses can have serious consequences. 

Obtaining a state license doesn’t satisfy local licensing requirements. If you need to apply for a state professional license, you may need a local professional license as well. 

Step 6: Apply for a Minnesota Home-Based Business License

If you operate your small business from home, you may be required to obtain a home occupation license. 

Whether you need this type of business license depends on your business location. Minnesota doesn’t have a general licensing requirement for all home-based businesses. Still, your city, town, or county might have one in place. Your home-based new company may also need to obtain a zoning permit. When in doubt, check with your local authorities.  

Step 7: Maintain Your Minnesota Business License

Maintaining your business licenses up to date and in good standing with the state of Minnesota is crucial. Most business licenses need to be renewed annually, but there are exceptions to this rule. Failure to renew your business licenses on time can result in severe penalties. 

You may be too busy to maintain your business licenses properly as a business owner. You can use Swyft Filings to prevent things from falling through the cracks. We’ll carefully research licensing requirements for your business and renew all necessary licenses by the deadline. 

Facade of the Minnesota State Capitol Building in St Paul

Apply for a Minnesota Business License Online

Keeping up with business license requirements for your new business can take time and effort. Your small business may require federal, state, and local licenses, and there’s no one comprehensive database for business owners to figure out what kinds of licenses they need. 

Swyft Filings is here to help. We’ll research to find out what licenses and permits you must obtain at the federal, state, and local levels and file appropriate business license applications so you can run your business worry-free. 

Stay Compliant in Minnesota 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 Minnesota?

There’s no straightforward answer to this question. You may need to obtain a business license at the federal, state, and local levels, so start researching what types of permits you need.

Does Minnesota require a general business license?

No, there are no general business license requirements in Minnesota. However, businesses in specific industries still need to obtain a state license. 

Can you sell things in Minnesota without a license?

It depends on the nature of your business and its location. Still, you will most likely be unable to sell things in Minnesota without a license. 

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

Minnesota doesn’t require a specific online business license. However, depending on the nature of your business, your local government may require a general business license, a zoning permit, or a professional license. 

Can I collect sales tax in Minnesota without a license?

You’ll need a Minnesota tax ID number to collect sales tax in the state. You can learn more on the Minnesota ELicensing portal. 

How much does a Minnesota business license cost?

It depends on the type of license you’re applying for. Typically, you can expect to spend $20-$300 per license. Most licenses also need to be renewed regularly, which often involves a renewal fee. 

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

Failure to comply with Minnesota licensing requirements can lead to severe consequences. You may be required to pay a fine or close your business. If you don’t have time to research and file for business licenses, Swyft Filings can do it for you. 


  1. US Small Business Administration. “Apply for licenses and permits.” Accessed June 5, 2023.

  2. “License Minnesota.” Accessed June 5, 2023.

  3. The Official Website of the City of Minneapolis, City of Lakes. “Business licenses.” Accessed June 5, 2023. 

  4. The Official Website of the City of Saint Paul. “Business Licenses and Permits.” Accessed June 5, 2023. 

  5. “Licenses By Topic.” Accessed June 5, 2023.

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