How to Apply for a Business License in New York

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Carlos Serrano
Written by Carlos Serrano
Written byCarlos Serrano
Updated October 17, 2023
Edited by Alexis Konovodoff
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Starting a new business in the state of New York can be exciting. However, as a business owner, you have plenty of paperwork to go through before your limited liability company can launch. This includes filing your articles of organization, registering your Employer Identification Number (EIN) with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and getting necessary business licenses.

If you’re on that last step, this article guides you through everything you need to know about business licenses in New York and their acquisition.

New York Business License: Key Takeaways

  • Business licenses allow business entities to operate legally at the local, state, and federal levels. 

  • New York does not require a general business license, but specific licenses are required based on your business's nature and location.

  • You need a professional license if your business offers professional services, such as plumbing, dentistry, or engineering, alongside other licenses and permits.

Navigate New York 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 allows business entities to operate on the local, state, and federal levels. Whether you’re launching a limited liability company, a sole proprietorship, a general partnership, or a corporation in the state of New York, you’ll probably have to obtain at least one type of business license. 

The number and type of licenses depend on your location, scope of your operations, and business type, including:

  • General licenses issued by the state

  • Federal Licenses issued by the federal government

  • State licenses for certain industries

  • Local licenses specific to cities, towns, and counties

  • Professional licenses held by individuals providing certain professional services

A business license is different from permits. Compared to permits, business licenses last longer even though they have to be regularly renewed. Permits undergo regular inspections and have more restrictions than licenses.

It’s worth noting that obtaining a business license differs from registering your business. These two processes might seem similar, but while business registration means registering basic information about your business, such as your business name or DBA (“doing business as” or assumed name) with the state, business licenses are what allow you to conduct business.

Get Your New York Business License in 8 Steps

Knowing how to obtain your business licenses will make your business launching smoother and allow you to begin its operations much sooner. Below are eight steps that ensure no surprises once you start obtaining your necessary permits and licenses.

Step 1: Apply for New York General Business Licenses

The state of New York doesn’t require a general business license, which is one less thing you need to think about when starting your business. You can move on to obtaining state, city, and professional business licenses.

Step 2: Apply for Federal Licenses for New York Businesses

If your business activities have significance for the federal government and need oversight by federal agencies, you must obtain a federal license.

Here are only some examples of business categories that require federal licenses:

  • Agriculture: Licenses issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture cover businesses that import and transport animals, plants, animal products, and biotechnology.

  • Alcoholic beverages: Selling, manufacturing, or importing alcoholic beverages is covered by business licenses provided by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau.

  • Firearms, ammunition, and explosives: Businesses that import, manufacture, or distribute firearms, ammunition, and explosives need an appropriate license from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.

  • Radio and television broadcasting: The Federal Communications Commission issues business licenses for businesses that broadcast information by radio, television, wire, satellite, or cable.

For the full list of industries that need federal licenses, visit the Small Business Administration website.[1] 

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Step 3: Search for New York Permits and Licenses

Federal and general licenses aren’t the only documents you need to obtain if you plan on operating in the State of New York. Plenty of businesses require specific state licenses. Here are some examples:

  • Real Estate Brokers require licenses issued by the New York Department of State[2]

  • Food service establishments need a license issued by the New York Department of Health[3]

  • Contractors need a building permit from the Department of Buildings[4]

  • Businesses selling alcoholic beverages require an alcohol license provided by the New York Liquor Authority[5]

Step 4: Search for Local County or City New York Business Licenses

Outside of general, federal, and state licenses, you might need licenses on the city and municipality levels to operate within certain city limits. Here are some examples:

  • New York City: Most businesses need occupational or industry-specific business licenses.[6]

  • Rochester: A Business Permit Program that requires businesses such as bars, restaurants, various salons, automobile service facilities, and tobacco retailers to have business permits.[7]

  • Buffalo City: Most businesses need a business license to conduct certain activities, such as bakers, pawnbrokers, sidewalk cafes, sightseeing buses, etc.[8]

Other cities also require business tax certificates, sales tax permits, and additional business licenses to run a specific type of business on their grounds. It’s best to visit each city’s official website and learn more about the specific details of ordinances.

Step 5: Search for New York Professional Licenses

In addition to city or state licenses, you’ll need professional licenses to provide goods and services connected to certain professions. 

For example, plumbers, dentists, engineers, and nurses require licenses stating that they’re qualified for their services. You can find the full list in the Office of the Professions section on the New York State Education Department website.[9]

Step 6: Apply for a New York Home-Based Business License

Operating your business within your home is a viable solution for small businesses. You won’t have to spend money on buying or renting out a space for your business or time to commute to it.

Fortunately, you don’t need a Home Occupation permit to run a business from the comfort of your home. However, depending on your location and type of business, you might still need business licenses required by the city, state, or government, as outlined above. 

Step 7: Maintain Your New York Business License

Obtaining the necessary licenses isn’t the only aspect of your business formation. You need to ensure that you regularly renew your business licenses and tax certificates to keep your certificate of good standing with the New York Secretary of State.

Apply for a New York Business License Online

Are you overwhelmed by the amount of research that goes into business licenses? Don’t worry — your business license application can be as simple as filling out a few empty fields. We’ll research what licenses you need and contact the New York Secretary of State's office on your behalf before promptly delivering you everything you need to start operating.

Stay Compliant in New York 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 New York?

The steps to obtaining a business license in New York depend on your business activities and location, as licensing requirements can differ. You can visit the New York Business Express Business Wizard to see which state licenses apply to you.[10]

Does New York require a general business license?

Businesses in New York don’t need a general business license. Still, you might need licenses specific to certain cities or professions.

Can you sell things in New York without a license?

Entrepreneurs looking to sell goods and services in New York need a sales tax certificate. If you want to sell or lease your products and services without a retail location, you must also obtain a General Vendor License.[11]

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

You don’t require a special license to do business online in New York, but your online business must satisfy the same license criteria as brick-and-mortar businesses.

Can I collect sales tax in New York without a license?

To collect tax on your taxable goods and services, you must obtain a Certificate of Authority 20 days before you begin running your business or before purchasing the assets of another business.[12]

How much does a New York business license cost?

Since each business requires a different type of license, there are no set filing fees. However, you can expect to pay between $50 and $150 for professional licenses, while a sales tax certificate has no fee.

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

If you operate your business without a valid Certificate of Authority, you can be fined up to $10,000.[13] For additional information about business license penalties, consult


  1. U.S. Small Business Administration. “Apply for Licenses and Permits.” Accessed July 25, 2023.

  2. Department of State. “Real Estate Broker.” Accessed July 25, 2023.

  3. Department of Health. “Regulations & Permit Requirements.” Accessed July 25, 2023.

  4. Department of State. “Building Standard and Codes.” Accessed July 25, 2023.

  5. New York State. “New York State Liquor Authority.” Accessed July 25, 2023.

  6. New York City Business. “License and Permit index.” Accessed July 25, 2023.

  7. City of Rochester. “Business Permits.” Accessed July 25, 2023.

  8. City of Buffalo. “License Applications & Code Requirements.” Accessed July 26, 2023.

  9. New York State Education Department. “New York State Licensed Professions.” Accessed July 25, 2023.

  10. New York State. “Business Express.” Accessed July 25, 2023.

  11. New York City. “General Vendor License Application Checklist.” Accessed July 25, 2023.

  12. New York State Department of Taxation and Finance. “Do I Need to Register for Sale Tax?“ Accessed July 25, 2023.

  13. New York State Department of Taxation and Finance. “Sales and Use Tax Penalties.“ Accessed July 25, 2023.

Originally published on September 21, 2023, and last edited on October 17, 2023.
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