How to Apply for a Business License in Ohio

The Ohio state flag waving along with the national flag of the United States of America

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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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Before you start operating your new business in Ohio, you must apply for all the necessary business licenses and permits to stay in good standing. Business owners often get confused navigating licensing requirements in Ohio, but we’re here to help. Read on to learn everything you need to know to apply for an Ohio business license successfully. 

Ohio Business License: Key Takeaways

  1. Ohio doesn’t have a general business license requirement; businesses must determine which federal, state, and local licenses they need.

  2. Federal licenses are required for businesses in federally regulated industries, such as agriculture, aviation, and firearms.

  3. Licenses and permits must be renewed regularly, with most requiring annual renewal. Failure to renew can result in severe penalties, including business dissolution. 

Navigate Ohio 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 legal document that allows you to carry out business activities. Different types of business licenses exist. Depending on the nature of your business, you may need to obtain a business license from the federal government, the state government, or your local government.  

There’s no one state license that every business in the State of Ohio is required to hold. It’s vital to research federal, state, and local regulations to determine what type of license your small business needs. Remember that you may need to apply for multiple business licenses and permits. 

Some business owners confuse registering a business entity — for example, a limited liability company — with obtaining a business license. These two processes are different. Register your business with the Ohio Secretary of State first, then apply for the necessary business licenses.  

Get Your Ohio Business License in 7 Steps

Getting appropriate business licenses is essential to keep your business in good standing. Still, it can take time to navigate through different requirements. From state licenses to occupational tax certificates, we’ll guide you through the licensing process step-by-step. 

Step 1: Apply for Ohio General Business Licenses

Some states require all businesses to obtain a general business license, regardless of what they do. However, Ohio doesn’t have a general business license requirement. 

This doesn’t mean that your small business won’t need any licenses. Depending on the nature of your activities, you may need to apply for an industry-specific state, professional, or local permit.  

Step 2: Apply for Federal Licenses for Ohio Businesses

New businesses in federally regulated industries need to obtain a federal business license. Business owners should contact the following government agencies to obtain proper licenses for their small businesses:[1

  • Department of Agriculture if you import or transport animals, animal products, biologics, biotechnology, or plants across state lines

  • Alcohol and Tobacco Tax Trade Bureau and Local Alcohol Beverage Control Board if you manufacture, import, or sell alcoholic beverages

  • Federal Aviation Administration if you operate aircraft, transport people or goods via air, or are involved in aircraft maintenance

  • Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives if you manufacture, deal, or import firearms, ammunition, and explosives

  • US Fish and Wildlife Service if you import and export wildlife and derivative products

  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries Service if you fish commercially

  • Federal Maritime Commission if you transport cargo by sea or facilitate the shipment of cargo by sea

  • Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement if you drill for natural gas oil, or other mineral resources on federal lands

  • US Nuclear Regulatory Commission if you commercially produce nuclear energy, operate a fuel cycle facility, or distribute and dispose of nuclear materials

  • Federal Communications Commission if you broadcast information over the radio, television, wire, satellite, or cable

  • US Department of Transportation if you operate an oversized or overweight vehicle

You can learn more about federal license requirements here. Remember that applying for a federal license doesn’t satisfy state and local requirements. For example, if you sell alcoholic beverages, you’ll likely need multiple licenses.

Step 3: Search for Ohio Permits and Licenses

Depending on the nature of your business activities, you may need to apply for a state license or a permit to operate in Ohio. 

For example, you’ll need a liquor license if you run a restaurant that sells alcoholic beverages. You may need different types of alcohol licenses depending on the type of alcohol sold and the nature of your establishment. 

Similarly, Ohio law requires any person or business making retail sales of tangible personal property or taxable services to apply for a vendor’s license.[2]

The Official Website of the State of Ohio,, has a helpful list of the required licenses and permits in the state.[3

Cleveland, Ohio, USA skyline on the river

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

Your city, county, or municipality likely has business licensing requirements that your business needs to comply with. Depending on your activities and business location, you may need to obtain a professional license, a sales tax permit, a business tax certificate, a zoning ordinance, or a general business license. 

For example, the city of Cincinnati may require you to obtain a regular vendor’s license or a transient vendor’s license. In the city of Columbus, you may be required to apply for a zoning or a building permit.[4]

The best way to learn about your local licensing requirements is to contact your city’s local tax office or another local government agency. 

Step 5: Search for Ohio Professional Licenses

Some professionals, such as lawyers and doctors, must obtain a professional license to provide services in compliance with the law. You can find the complete list of professions that require additional licenses here, but some examples include the following: 

  • Accountants

  • Architects 

  • Attorneys

  • Engineers 

  • Paramedics

You may need to obtain a professional business license from the state and local government. 

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

Suppose you run your small business from home. In that case, you may need to apply for a unique business license  — the home occupation license. There’s no home-based business license requirement at the state level. Still, your local government may require you to obtain a home occupation license, a zoning permit, or another type of license. 

Childcare facilities and child learning centers are new businesses that often require additional licenses. 

Step 7: Maintain Your Ohio Business License

Maintaining your business licenses in good standing and regularly renewing them is essential. In most cases, business owners will need to renew their licenses and permits every year in the State of Ohio, but there are exceptions to this rule. 

Failure to renew your business licenses on time can result in penalties and fines. But don’t worry — Swyft Filings can help you keep your licenses and permits up to date in just a few clicks. 

Columbus, Ohio, USA skyline on the Scioto River

Apply for an Ohio Business License Online

Many new business owners need help with applying for business licenses and permits. Understanding different federal, state, and local requirements takes time, and finding relevant information online can be challenging. 

Swyft Filings can apply for all the necessary business licenses for you. We’ll investigate what licenses your small business needs at the local, state, and federal levels and file your business license applications with the correct agencies so you can avoid the headache and focus on doing what you love. 

Stay Compliant in Ohio 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 Ohio?

Start with figuring out whether your small business needs a federal license, a state license, a local license, or a combination of them. Then, file your applications with the appropriate government agencies. 

Does Ohio require a general business license?

No, there’s no general business license requirement in Ohio. However, businesses in specific industries may still need to apply for a state license. 

Can you sell things in Ohio without a license?

You must obtain a vendor’s license to sell anything in Ohio. Failure to obtain proper licensing can result in criminal charges. 

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

There’s no special online business license in Ohio. Still, you may be required to obtain appropriate state and local licenses depending on the nature of your business. If you don’t know where to start, Swyft Filings can help. 

Can I collect sales tax in Ohio without a license?

No, you’ll need to obtain an appropriate vendor’s license. 

How much does an Ohio business license cost?

Business license costs vary depending on the type of license that you’re applying for. Typically, you can expect to spend anywhere from $20 to $300 per license.[5] 

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

Failure to obtain appropriate licenses in Ohio can result in fines and criminal charges.  


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

  2. Ohio Department of Taxation. “Register for a Vendor's License or Seller's Use Tax Account.” Accessed June 10, 2023. 

  3. “Licenses & Permits.” Accessed June 10, 2023.

  4. The Official Website of the City of Columbus. “Doing Business with the City of Columbus.” Accessed June 10, 2023. 

  5. Ohio Department of Taxation. “License Filing Requirements.” Accessed June 10, 2023.

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