How to Apply for a Business License in Pennsylvania

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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 October 17, 2023
Edited by Alexis Konovodoff
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You’re starting a business in Pennsylvania and want to ensure all your obligations towards the state are in order. Of course, you’ll file the appropriate documents to start your LLC, corporation, or sole proprietorship, choose a business name, and provide all the necessary contact information. 

However, you must also get specific licenses depending on your business type, location, and industry. 

If all this sounds a bit confusing, don’t worry. This article will take you through all the details of Pennsylvania business licenses and explain how to get the appropriate permits for your company.

Pennsylvania Business License: Key Takeaways

  • Most Pennsylvania businesses must obtain a sales tax license issued by the State Department of Revenue to sell taxable products or services.

  • Depending on the nature of your business, you may need multiple licenses on the federal, city, and county levels and professional licenses.

  • Once you obtain the required licenses, ensuring timely renewals is crucial to avoid legal issues and maintain compliance with state and local regulations.

Navigate Pennsylvania 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 an official permit issued by local, federal, or state agencies for specific business operations.

For example, running a food truck will mandate business licensing for handling food, specific local licenses for operating in the city, county, or town, and a state license for selling food.

Generally speaking, registering a business and getting a business license aren’t the same. When it comes to Pennsylvania, this difference can be a bit harder to comprehend since the state doesn’t issue general business licenses. Instead, you must have a sales tax license from the State Department of Revenue. 

This requirement applies to all companies that sell taxable products or services, which is the majority of businesses. However, your company may still need additional federal, state, and local licenses. We’ll dive into each of these below.

Get Your Pennsylvania Business License in 8 Steps

While different organizations might need a specific business license, getting the appropriate permits shouldn’t be overly complicated. We’ve outlined the essential steps that you’ll need to take to get your licensing in order.

Step 1: Apply for Pennsylvania General Business Licenses

As mentioned, Pennsylvania doesn’t require a general business license. Instead, the state Department of Revenue issues sales tax licenses to all eligible businesses.[1] In that regard, every company selling a product or service must get this license.

The application process for this license can be done via the official Business One-Stop Shop website.[2] The portal also contains other relevant links that will help you learn more about the business registration process.

Step 2: Apply for Federal Licenses for Pennsylvania Businesses

Businesses dealing in federally regulated activities may be subject to federal licensing. In addition, every license will need to be issued by the appropriate federal agency. 

For example, drug manufacturing and meat processing require licenses from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). To sell alcohol, tobacco products, or firearms, you’ll need a license from the aptly named Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (AFT). These are just a few examples of industries that require a federal license.

A view of downtown Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania | Swyft Filings

Step 3: Search for Pennsylvania Permits and Licenses

In addition to federal licensing, the state of Pennsylvania issues permits and licenses for specific purposes. This means that certain businesses will need special permits to operate within the state, with the permit serving as proof that the business is properly equipped to act in its industry.

These licenses include alcohol, retail food, tobacco, and hazardous waste permits and licenses. These are issued by the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board, Department of Agriculture, Department of Revenue, and Department of Environmental Protection, respectively.

The best way to ensure all your state and federal licenses are in order would be to consult the Small Business Administration (SDA). Alternatively, ask an attorney for professional guidance on which licenses are necessary for your business.

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

Local governments in Pennsylvania, including counties, cities, and towns, may also issue licenses per their regulations. Naturally, not all regulations will be the same. The differences between various counties and cities may be quite considerable.

In Philadelphia, all businesses must register with the local Department of Revenue to get their Business Income and Receipts Tax ID. In addition, the city of Philadelphia mandates companies to get a commercial activity license.

In Pittsburgh, the Department of Permits, Licenses, and Inspections may mandate special business licenses for companies operating tow trucks, antique stores, bed and breakfast establishments, and more.

Other specific local licensing may depend on zoning and occupation.

Step 5: Search for Pennsylvania Professional Licenses

Certain professions regulated in Pennsylvania necessitate professional licensing. According to the Pennsylvania Licensing System page on the Pennsylvania Department of State website, the following professions need special licensing:[3]

  • Vehicle dealers

  • Barbers

  • Salvage yards

  • Food vendors

  • Architects

  • Daycares

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

The state of Pennsylvania doesn’t require a special license or permit for home-based businesses. In other words, if you’re running a business from your home rather than a commercial location, you’ll only need to get the licenses that apply to your business type.

Step 7: Maintain Your Pennsylvania Business License

Once you get all the licenses required by the state, county, and city, you’ll need to renew those licenses regularly. Some licenses require annual renewals, while others may require additional steps.

You can make business license renewals easier by employing a professional service like Swyft Filings. This way, we can handle this complex task while you focus on the crucial business operations.

Apply for a Pennsylvania Business License Online

Getting the right licenses for your business can get overwhelming. Luckily, you don’t have to go through the process yourself.

With Swyft Filings, applying for specific permits becomes a breeze. Our dedicated filing service can get your business underway as quickly as possible, leaving you to focus on business growth and operational efficiency. Contact us today and find out how we make businesses thrive through reliable and quick filing services.

Stay Compliant in Pennsylvania 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 Pennsylvania?

Every Pennsylvania business selling a product or service must acquire a sales tax license from the Department of Revenue. You can apply for this license via the official Business One-Stop Shop website.

Depending on your business location, industry, and type, you may need additional federal, state, and local licenses.

Does Pennsylvania require a general business license?

The state of Pennsylvania doesn’t mandate companies to get general business licenses. However, every Pennsylvania business selling a product or service must acquire a sales tax license from the Department of Revenue.

Many businesses will also need additional licenses or permits. These licenses may be issued by local authorities, the Department of Revenue, or the Pennsylvania Department of State.

Can you sell things in Pennsylvania without a license?

No, service providers and retailers need a sales tax license for business tax purposes related to sales. Every business needs this permit, regardless of whether it sells items on specific occasions or throughout the year. Online stores must also have a sales tax license, like brick-and-mortar businesses.

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

Online entrepreneurs don’t have to file for special licenses solely for online businesses. Licenses in Pennsylvania depend on the type of business activity rather than whether the business functions on physical premises or strictly online. 

Can I collect sales tax in Pennsylvania without a license?

Collecting sales tax without a license is illegal in Pennsylvania. Businesses can only collect sales taxes after obtaining a sales tax license.

How much does a Pennsylvania business license cost?

The exact price of a business license in Pennsylvania will vary from one company to another. At the lower end of the scale, licenses go for $50, while some businesses may pay up to $500 for a license. The price will depend on the type of license you need, and additional costs may apply if you’re getting special licenses.

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

The repercussions for not having a business license can be severe, ranging from fines to jail time. The lowest fines may be about $300 per offense, while the imprisonment penalty can be up to 30 days.


  1. License Lookup. “Pennsylvania Business License.” Accessed July 26, 2023.

  2. Pennsylvania Business One-Stop Shop. “Basic Business Registration Overview.” Accessed July 26, 2023.

  3. Pennsylvania Department of State. “Welcome to the Pennsylvania Licensing Systems (PALS).” Accessed July 26, 2023.

Originally published on October 05, 2023, and last edited on October 17, 2023.
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