Missouri Business License

Written by: Mary Gerardine

Last updated:

Missouri Business License

Interested in starting a business in Missouri? Before you can open up shop, you might be required to obtain one — or several — business licenses and/or permits.

In this Missouri Business License article, we’ll delineate everything you need to know to get started, explain how your location and niche can affect your licensing requirements, and break down the fees that you will be expected to pay.

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Do I Need a Business License in Missouri

Whether you need a business license or not will ultimately depend on your exact location within Missouri, as well as on your business’s industry.

Type of Business

Below, we’ve detailed common ways in which your business type can dictate the licenses you’ll be required to obtain, as well as specific examples of these:

  • Sales Tax Licenses: Businesses must register with the Missouri Department of Revenue to obtain a sales tax license if they plan to sell tangible personal property and/or taxable services. This license — referred to as a “seller’s permit” within the state — gives businesses a unique Missouri sales tax number
  • Business Licenses: Many cities and towns in Missouri require a general business operating license for certain industries. In Union, for example, all businesses that operate within the city must obtain a general business license
  • Professional Licenses: Your business might need a professional license if it focuses on certain areas, such as accounting, financial services, healthcare, tattooing, veterinary care, professional boxing or wrestling, or construction and design. The Missouri Division of Professional Registration oversees these licenses
  • Environmental and Health Permits: These permits ensure businesses comply with environmental and health standards, such as those that relate to waste management, food safety, and other public health concerns. The Missouri Department of Natural Resources and the Missouri Department of Health & Senior Services provide information about all applicable permits

However, this is not the only factor influencing the exact combination of licenses you’ll need — the location of your business within Missouri plays an important role as well.

Location

In this section, we’ve provided a succinct overview of the potential licenses and permits that your business may need due to local, state, and federal requirements:

  • Local: You’ll likely need to obtain a general business operating license from the local government that oversees your business’s jurisdiction. You will also need to check whether you need any additional licenses and/or permits from your city or county. All businesses that generate revenue, transact, or employ people within Kansas City, for example, must have a business operating license
  • State: If you plan to run a business in Missouri that’ll sell or rent tangible physical property or offer taxable services, you’ll need to get a sales tax license. Depending on your business’s field or profession, you might also need to obtain a niche-specific state license 
  • Federal: If your Missouri business will relate to any federally regulated activities, you may need to obtain a federal license. Some of the common areas that typically require federal licensing include agriculture, alcohol, aviation, firearms, fish and wildlife, and radio and television broadcasting

Since the exact permits and licenses your business will need are entirely unique to your situation, you’ll have to conduct thorough research into your own local, state, and federal regulations to smoothly launch your business.

Alternatively, many entrepreneurs opt to leverage the expertise of third-party services to handle this on their behalf.

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How to Get a Business License in Missouri

In order to get your business license(s) in Missouri, you will need to complete the following steps:

  • Form Your Business
  • Obtain an Employer Identification Number (EIN)
  • Apply for the Required Licenses and Permits

Let’s take a look at each step in more detail below.

Step 1: Form Your Business

Before setting out to obtain a business license in Missouri, it’s pivotal that you first choose an appropriate structure for your business. Sole proprietorships, general partnerships, and corporations are all common choices, however it’s often seen as the most advantageous for small businesses in Missouri to register as a Limited Liability Company (LLC). Here are a few reasons for why:

  • Limited Liability: Members are protected from personal liability for business debts, safeguarding personal assets
  • Tax Benefits: LLCs typically enjoy a pass-through tax treatment, avoiding the double taxation that corporations are subjected to
  • Management Flexibility: LLCs allow for flexibility in management structure, either being member-managed or manager-managed based on the preferences outlined in the certificate of formation
  • Ease of Formation: With the Missouri Secretary of State providing forms that meet the minimum state law requirements and the option to file online, setting up an LLC is relatively straightforward

Many small business owners opt to avoid the tricky process of forming an LLC by instead leveraging the help of third-party LLC formation services.

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Step 2: Obtain an EIN

The second step you’ll need to complete before applying for your business license is to obtain your EIN. This is a unique nine-digit number assigned by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to businesses in the United States so that their financial transactions can be identified and tracked.

An EIN is often necessitated when applying for various permits and licenses as it allows local and state governments to ensure your business is operating within the confines of the law. You can obtain it in a number of ways:

  • Online: You can apply for your EIN on the IRS’s official website by using the EIN Assistant. You should be granted your EIN shortly after completing this application
  • By Fax/Mail: After completing Form SS-4, you can apply for an EIN by submitting it to the IRS via mail or fax
  • By Phone: International applicants and businesses located outside US Territories are required to call the IRS at (267) 941-1099 to obtain their EIN — which they should receive during this call

Note: If you are a sole proprietor, you will be able to use your Social Security Number (SSN) instead (as long as you do not have employees).

Step 3: Apply for Licenses and Permits

After settling on the appropriate structure for your business and initiating the application for your EIN, the next step is to focus on securing the necessary licenses and permits to operate legally within your locale and industry.

  • Local Licenses: The application process for a local business operating license in Missouri will depend on the city or county in which your business is located. This means that you will need to check with your city clerk’s office in order to find out what licenses and permits you’ll need
  • Statewide Licenses: In Missouri, there is no statewide business license.The most common license nearly every business within the state must obtain is the sales tax license. You can apply for this license by filling out Form 2643 via email or online through the Missouri Online Tax Registration portal
  • Federal Licenses: While the federal government doesn’t mandate licenses for general business operations, if your business falls under any government-regulated category, such as agriculture, fishing, firearms, and alcohol sales, it may be required to obtain additional federal licenses or permits

Note: The Missouri state government’s website provides lists of cities and counties — each with their own websites — to make it easy for you to access information on business licensing requirements in your local area.

Step 4: Renewal of Licenses and Permits

In Missouri, the process for and frequency in which you will need to renew your license(s) can be different for each license.

When it comes to your business’s sales tax license, for example, renewal is not required at all. Having said that, if anything changes with your business — such as its address or ownership — you will need to contact the Missouri Department of Revenue and ensure that your business tax registration information is up-to-date.

On the other hand, Kansas City requires business owners to renew their general business licenses every year between January 1 and February 28 in order to avoid penalties.

Generally speaking, we recommend contacting your local city or county government for the most accurate information on renewal requirements.

Alternatively, you can use a third-party service or a professional attorney for this process. This can be a good choice if you want to ensure that you avoid potential fines, as well as if you want to be as time-efficient as possible.

If you’re interested in finding out more about this process, see our article on How to Get a Business License.

How Much is a Business License in Missouri

It is difficult to give a general business license cost for Missouri. This is because this will be highly dependent on your business’s specificities (e.g., niche, exact location, etc).

In the city of Columbia, for example, the cost of local business licenses are calculated based on each business’s gross receipts, with the maximum license fee being $3,000.

For reference, if your business has gross receipts of $189,000 per annum, you would need to pay $30 for the first $100,000 and an additional $22.24 for the remaining amount.

The cost of obtaining a liquor license can also vary depending on your city and county. A “retail by the drink” license for spirits, wine, and beer, for example, costs $300.

Missouri Business License FAQ

How do I get a business license in Missouri?

To get a Missouri business license, you will need to check the specific requirements of the city and/or county that your business is registered in. You can do this independently, hire a third-party service (recommended), or work with a business attorney. Note: You may need to obtain a Federal Employer Identification Number (FEIN).

Does Missouri require a business license?

Missouri doesn’t have a state-level general business license, but most cities and counties within the state will require you to have a local business license in order to operate. This means that whether you will be required to obtain a business license or not will depend on your business’s location and niche. Check out our How to Get a Business License for more information.

How do I find out if a business has a license in Missouri?

To check whether a business in Missouri is licensed, you will need to go to the Missouri Secretary of State’s Business Services page. This official site lets you easily search for and confirm the licensing status of any business in the state. You can also turn to your local city or county clerk’s office, which keeps its own records of licensed businesses.

How much does it cost to register a business in the state of Missouri?

The cost to register a business in Missouri will depend on your business entity structure (e.g., sole proprietorship, limited liability partnership, LLC, c corp, etc.). If you’re interested in forming an LLC, you will need to file your business’s Articles of Organization with the Secretary of State and pay a $105 filing fee.

For all related articles, have a look at our How to Get a Business License page.