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Federal Licenses & Permits

If your business is involved in activities supervised and regulated by a federal agency – such as selling alcohol, firearms, commercial fishing, etc. – then you may need to obtain a federal license or permit. Here is a brief list of business activities that require these forms and information on how to apply.

TIP: In addition, you can also use SBA’s Permit Me search tool to find general business permits, licenses and registrations required by your state, county or city.

Agriculture

If you import or transport animals, animal products, biologics, biotechnology or plants across state lines, you’ll need to apply for a permit from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Sole Proprietor Taxes

Because you and your business are one and the same, the business itself is not taxed separately-the sole proprietorship income is your income. You report income and/or losses and expenses with a Schedule C and the standard Form 1040. The “bottom-line amount” from Schedule C transfers to your personal tax return. It’s your responsibility to withhold and pay all income taxes, including self-employmentDownload Adobe Reader to read this link content and estimated taxesDownload Adobe Reader to read this link content. You can find more information about sole proprietorship taxes and other forms at IRS.gov.

Alcoholic Beverages

If you manufacture, wholesale, import, or sell alcoholic beverages at a retail location, you will need to register your business and obtain certain federal permits (for tax purposes) with the U.S. Treasury’s Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB). The website has a number of online tools that make this process straightforward. If you are just starting a business in this trade, start by reading the TTB’s New Visitors Guide which offers helpful information for small business owners.

TIP: Remember, you will also need to contact your local Alcohol Beverage Control Board for local alcohol business permit and licensing information.

Aviation

Key Questions: Does your business involve the operation of aircraft; the transportation of goods or people via air; or aircraft maintenance?

If so, you’ll need to apply for one or more of the following licenses and certificates from the Federal Aviation Administration:

  • FAA Licenses and Certificates – Get licensing information for airmen, aircraft, airports, airlines and medical aviation services.
  • Pilot Licenses and Training Requirements
  • Aircraft Mechanic Licenses

Firearms, Ammunition and Explosives

Businesses who manufacture, deal and import firearms, ammunitions and explosives must comply with the Gun Control Act’s licensing requirements. The Act is administered by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).

TIP: Refer to the following resources from the ATF to make sure your business is properly licensed:

Fish and Wildlife

If your business is engaged in any wildlife related activity, including the import/export of wildlife and derivative products, must obtain an appropriate permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Maritime Transportation

If you provide ocean transportation or facilitate the shipment of cargo by sea, you’ll need to apply here for a license from the Federal Maritime Commission.

Nuclear Energy

Producers of commercial nuclear energy and fuel cycle facilities as well as businesses involved in the distribution and disposal of nuclear materials must apply for a license from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Radio and Television Broadcasting

If your business broadcasts information by radio, television, wire, satellite and cable, you may be required to obtain a license from The Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

Transportation and Logistics

If you operate an oversize or overweight vehicle, you’ll need to abide by the U.S. Department of Transportation offers guidelines on maximum weight. Permits for oversize / overweight vehicles are issued by your state government.

State Licenses & Permits

Key Questions: Starting a business? Confused about whether you need a business license or permit?

Virtually every business needs some form of license or permit to operate legally. However, licensing and permit requirements vary depending on the type of business you are operating, where it’s located, and what government rules apply.

TIP: To help you identify the specific licenses or permits your business may need, use SBA.gov’s Permit Me tool. Simply enter your zip code and business type to view a list of the licenses or permits you’ll need, together with information and links to the application process.

Find Business Licenses & Permits

In order to operate your business, you must comply with a wide range of local, state and federal rules. SBA’s Business Licenses and Permits tool can help you navigate through this process.

How to find the right license and permit for your new business

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