Montana Business License

Written by: Nik Ventouris

Last updated:

It’s easy to overlook how difficult launching a business in Montana can be since it has fewer state-level business regulations compared to other states. However, it’s common for business owners to struggle with this process since the state doesn’t offer a general Montana business license.

Instead, there are numerous specialty licenses for various professions, and almost every business needs some type of license even though there are fewer regulations.

We’ve designed this article to walk you through this process and help you to get your Montana business licensed as quickly as possible.

We recommend registering your business as an LLC before getting your business license(s) in order to avoid potentially having to repeat the process later on. To get started, you can use a trusted LLC formation service for a small fee.

4.7 out of 5 starsForm Your LLC With Northwest ($29 + State Filing Fees)

Do I Need a Business License in Montana

In Montana, businesses are required to obtain various licenses and permits at the local, state, and federal levels. Here’s a general breakdown:

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:

  • Professional Licenses: In Montana, the state government issues numerous specialized licenses your business may need that cover a number of industries, including agriculture, healthcare, and energy. For a comprehensive list of the professions regulated with licenses and the respective professional boards, see the Montana Department of Labor & Industry website
  • Environmental Permits: Businesses in Montana that could have an environmental impact are often required to obtain specific permits in order to operate. For example, businesses with an incinerator of any sort or the potential to emit more pollutants than the annual threshold levels will need to obtain a Montana Air Quality Permit (MAQP) from the Montana Department of Environmental Quality

However, this is not the only factor influencing the exact combination of licenses you’ll need — the location of your business within Montana 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: At the local level, it’s common for specific licenses to be issued that apply to businesses based within a particular city or county. For example, the City of Helena issues a general city business license that all companies based there must obtain
  • State: Even though there’s no statewide seller’s permit to collect sales tax, like in many other states, there are still a number of different specific licenses that can apply to your business at a state level. For a more comprehensive look at these licenses that the state regulates, be sure to use the Montana License Lookup tool on the Montana Department of Revenue’s Montana License Lookup tool
  • Federal: If your business operates within certain industries or does specific types of work, you might need a license from the federal government. These include the alcohol, aviation, firearms and explosives, radio and television broadcasting, and transportation industries, among others

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.

Recommended Service

We recommend registering your business as an LLC before getting your business license(s) in order to avoid potentially having to repeat the process later on. To get started, you can use a trusted LLC formation service for a small fee.

4.7 out of 5 starsForm Your LLC With Northwest ($29 + State Filing Fees)

How to Get a Business License in Montana

In order to get your business license(s) in Montana, 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 Montana, 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 Montana 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 Montana 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.

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: It’s best to check with your municipal and county governments to get an idea of the specific licenses needed to operate in these areas. As an example, contractors in the City of Missoula often need to obtain additional construction contractor licenses specific to this municipality
  • Statewide Licenses: While there is no general business license issued in the state of Montana, there are still a large number of common business licenses that are regulated at a state level — particularly for specific industries like tobacco, alcohol, retail food, and firearms. Montana’s eStop Portal is a great place to build your knowledge of some of the most common ones
  • 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: For more detailed information on Montana’s municipalities and counties, check out the Municipal Directory and Montana County Websites.

Step 4: Renewal of Licenses and Permits

Most business licenses must be renewed annually in order to keep them valid, though a few must be renewed biennially instead. However, since the renewal schedule and process of each license vary depending on the agency that issued it, it’s best to check with the issuer for clarification.

Alternatively, due to how complicated each step of applying for and renewing Montana business licenses is, third-party services that handle this entire process are becoming an increasingly popular option.

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 Montana

The Montana business license cost often differs based on who’s issuing it. In most Montana cities, the fees are determined by whether your business is home-based or commercial and by the number of employees you have (e.g., between $10-$400 depending on number of workers, etc.).

For example, a Helena business with between five and ten employees would pay a $50 license fee, whereas a home-based business in Missoula with up to four full-time employees would be charged $104. Fees for additional, specialized licenses could be higher, depending on the nature of your business.

For the most accurate estimate of how much it will cost to get the licenses you need in Montana, it’s recommended you use a third-party service or business attorney.

We recommend registering your business as an LLC before getting your business license(s) in order to avoid potentially having to repeat the process later on. To get started, you can use a trusted LLC formation service for a small fee.

4.7 out of 5 starsForm Your LLC With Northwest ($29 + State Filing Fees)

Montana Business License FAQ

Does Montana require a business license?

Yes, most businesses in Montana will be required to obtain some form of license or permit, though the specific licenses needed will depend on the exact nature of your business, its location, and whether it poses any environmental risks. To find out more about this, see our Montana Business License article.

What do you need to start a business in Montana?

To join the business community in Montana, you’ll generally need a business name, a plan, financing, and an understanding of state and local regulations. After this, the next step is to register your business before obtaining the necessary licenses or permits. For more information on this final step, check out our article on How to Get a Business License.

How much does it cost to start a small business in Montana?

The cost of becoming a new business owner in Montana varies widely depending on the industry, location, and scale. For example, basic filing fees for both LLCs and corporations can start at around $35, but specialized licenses and other regulatory costs can add to this figure, regardless of your business entity.

What is the annual fee for Montana corporations?

In order to continue to conduct business in Montana, you’ll be required to pay a $20 annual report fee each year to keep it in good standing with the state. Note this fee will only maintain your business, you’ll need to pay a number of other costs, such as registered agent fees, taxes, and your business license requirements, to remain compliant.

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