How to Apply for a Business License in Texas

American and Texas state flags flying on the dome of the Texas State Capitol building in Austin

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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.

Charlie Mitchell
Written byCharlie Mitchell
Carlos Serrano
Edited byCarlos Serrano
Updated October 17, 2023

Once you’ve incorporated your new business as a limited liability company or other entity in Texas, it’s time to secure the business licenses and permits you need to hit the ground running. This article will help Texas business owners figure out their business license requirements at every level of government.

Texas Business License: Key Takeaways

  1. While Texas doesn't require a general state license for all businesses, most businesses will likely need some form of professional license, city permit, or local business license.

  2. A business license in Texas allows you to conduct specific business activities in a particular location, covering everything from selling commodities to practicing licensed professions.

  3. Once acquired, business licenses need to be renewed, and compliance with renewal requirements and due dates is essential.

Navigate Texas 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?

The term “business license” can mean a few different things for your small business. In essence, a business license gives you the required government permissions to do the type of business you are doing in the place you’re doing it.

State licenses and other licenses allow you to:

  • Sell specific commodities, such as tobacco or gasoline.

  • Use a name that’s different from your incorporated business name. This is called a “doing business as,” or DBA. In Texas, it’s called an assumed name.[1]

  • Build or modify a building or structure (building permits are a type of business license).

  • Practice as a licensed professional, whether you’re a masseuse or a lawyer.

  • Perform other business activities that require a license or permit at the Federal government, the state of Texas, and the city, town, or county where you do business.

Because business licenses are issued at several levels of government, it will take some research to determine what permits your business needs to operate legally. What permits are required and how to get them will depend on the laws of your city, town, or county.

Take note: just because you turned your sole proprietorship into a limited liability corporation or otherwise registered your business with the Texas secretary of state, this is only the first step in securing the proper business licenses. You must still secure the requisite permits and licenses for your specific business.

Get Your Texas Business License in 7 Steps

Texas business owners are lucky: Texas does not require a general state license for all businesses. However, you will still need to look for additional permits in your city or county and determine if your business is federally regulated. Some localities will refer to a business license as an “occupational tax certificate.”  

Step 1: Apply for Texas General Business Licenses

Luckily, Texas does not require a general business license.[2] So that’s one form you won’t have to worry about.

But you may need a state license of some kind, and more likely than not, your type of business will require a professional license, city permit, or other local business license. So, entrepreneurs need to read on and see this whole process through for the good of their small business.

Step 2: Apply for Federal Licenses for Texas Businesses

Most new businesses won’t require a business license from a Federal agency. But for example, if you intend to ship animals, plants, or animal products across state lines, you’ll need to contact the Department of Agriculture and secure a permit.[3]

Additional sectors that fall under Federal auspices include:[4]

  • Radio and television broadcasting

  • Alcohol production and distribution

  • Mining and drilling on Federal lands

  • Aviation

  • Firearms and explosives

  • Nuclear energy and waste

  • Fishing, wildlife, and maritime transport

Once business owners have secured the Federal permits and licenses that they need, there will likely be additional licenses they’ll have to get from the state and your city or county. 

Step 3: Search for Texas Permits and Licenses

You probably realize your business needs an alcohol license to sell alcoholic beverages in Texas. But state licensing requirements apply to all kinds of companies, from laundromats to auto dealers.

To determine if your business needs a state license or professional license, refer to this business licenses and permits guide from Texas, which clarifies the regulatory agencies, building permits, and additional licenses required for dozens of business types. Contact information is provided for the relevant state-level offices.[5

In the licenses and permits guide, you’ll see, for example, that dog breeders need to be licensed by the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation (TDLR). The liquor section will direct you to the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, where you’ll find the permitting requirements for just about every alcohol business you can think of.[6

Houston, Texas, USA downtown city skyline over Root Square

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

Locally, things can get complicated. The city, town, and county in which you are incorporated will require you to obtain additional licenses and building permits, depending on the relevant ordinances and requirements in that municipality.

Consider these tips for getting your local government licenses squared away:

  • Start by getting a sales tax permit or seller’s permit from a local government office. Your city’s tax office has essential business resources and is accustomed to answering questions from businesses like yours. The county clerk’s office will have similar business resources if you’re a rural business.

  • Building permits and zoning are usually handled at the local level, so keep an eye out for those.

  • Food businesses, in particular, will want to contact their local public health department. Here’s a list of all of the organizations in Texas.[7]

A couple of examples for different cities in Texas include: 

  • In Austin, a universal recycling ordinance (URO) requires landlords and commercial businesses to provide simple access to recycling, and food businesses must divert food scraps. Business owners need to have a plan in place for these systems.[8]

  • In the same city, a right-of-way permit is required to modify any public land, even temporarily.[9]

  • In San Antonio, you can have four garage sales per year (one per quarter) — but that’s it, and you need a permit for each one.[10]

  • In the same city, commercial alarm systems require a permit.[11]

It’s vital to incorporate your business entity with the Texas secretary of state and secure an employer identification number (EIN) from the IRS. You will need these credentials in order to obtain many of these permits. Once you get a sales tax permit from your county or city, it may be called a business tax certificate.

Step 5: Search for Texas Professional Licenses

Many businesses require a state license, especially when specific qualifications and training are involved. You’ll need to employ properly licensed people, but you’ll also need a professional business license for your operation.

The Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation (TDLR) website offers quick access to standard licenses in the state of Texas.[12] Plumbers, dietitians, barbers, auctioneers, doctors, lawyers, and even tattoo artists require a professional license in Texas.

Remember that cities and counties might ask for additional licenses beyond your state license.

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

You don’t need a Texas business license just to run a business out of your home. If you participate in an online marketplace, you’ll need to procure a sales tax permit from the Texas comptroller like other retail businesses.[13] The Texas Department of State Health Services has specific regulations for cottage food businesses.[14]

The state encourages business owners to check with their local government about home occupation zoning and permits that may apply to their new business if they have chosen a residential business location. The state regulates childcare facilities, but there aren’t permits or rules specific to at-home care.

Step 7: Maintain Your Texas Business License

Once you have secured every business license required of you, all that’s left to do is keep your business in compliance. Just like the Texas secretary of state requires an annual report to keep your incorporation documents up to date, these business licenses will expire and need to be renewed.

It’s important to keep close track of all the licenses, renewal requirements, and due dates, including setting aside a fee budget. You may also need to plan to schedule inspections. Having documents like your occupational tax certificate or business tax certificate on hand, and on display where applicable, can show customers that you are operating a professional business.

The Texas business license landscape can be exhausting and confusing. That’s why we recommend you let Swyft Filings take care of the process. Before you sink precious time and energy into puzzling over permits and licenses, we immediately take it off your plate.

Austin, Texas, USA at the Texas State Capitol

Apply for a Texas Business License Online

Business owners are forced to spend hours searching for the proper business license applications, filling them out, and getting them to the right offices all over Texas. And for any new business, time is of the essence.

But when Swyft Filings handles your business license paperwork, your small business will be off to the races, not stuck in a quagmire of bureaucracy. We can find out what business licenses you need and get the forms to where they belong, from the Texas Secretary of State to your county clerk’s office.

Stay Compliant in Texas 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

FAQs

How do I get a business license in Texas?

Purchase the business license you need from every government agency that requires one. You can start by referring to this guide published by the business permit office in Texas.

Does Texas require a general business license?

Texas does not require a general business license.

Can you sell things in Texas without a license?

A sales tax permit is required to sell items in Texas.

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

There is no specific license for online businesses in Texas, but they should purchase a sales tax permit.

Can I collect sales tax in Texas without a license?

No. You will need a sales tax permit from the Texas comptroller. 

How much does a Texas business license cost?

Licensing fees depend on the license required. You can learn more from the government office issuing the license.

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

Because Texas does not have a general business license, the penalty for operating without a required license will vary. Still, fines and potential jail time are often significant.

Bibliography

  1. Texas Secretary of State Jane Nelson. “Name Filings FAQs.” Accessed June 13, 2023. 

  2. austintexas.gov. “Start a Business.” Accessed June 11, 2023.

  3. U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. “Permits - APHIS eFile.” Accessed June 13, 2023.

  4. U.S. Small Business Administration. “Apply for licenses and permits.” Accessed June 12, 2023.

  5. State of Texas Business Permit Office. “Texas Business Licenses and Permits” Accessed June 13, 2023.

  6. Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission. “TABC License and Permit Types.” Accessed June 13, 2023.

  7. Texas Department of Health and Human Services. “Texas Local Public Health Organizations.” Accessed June 13, 2023.

  8. austintexas.gov. “Universal Recycling Ordinance (URO).” Accessed June 13, 2023.

  9. austintexas.gov. “Right of Way (ROW) Permits.” Accessed June 13, 2023.

  10. City of San Antonio. “Residential.” Accessed June 13, 2023.

  11. City of San Antonio. “Apply for an Alarm Permit.” Accessed June 13, 2023.

  12. Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation. “TDLR Online Services.” Accessed June 13, 2023.

  13.  Comptroller.Texas.Gov. “Marketplace Providers and Marketplace Sellers.” Accessed June 13, 2023.

  14.  State of Texas Business Permit Office. “Texas Business Licenses and Permits” Accessed June 13, 2023.

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

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