Startup Business Checklist: A Guide to Licenses and Permits in Ohio

Starting a business is both exciting and daunting. You are venturing out as an entrepreneur, yet so many things you have to do. One area you need to address promptly is what business licenses and permits you need to have in place. To make things a bit easier, we’ve put together a guide on business license and permits for your business startup in Ohio.

Here are licenses and permits that you may need to get for your business.

Business License
In most cities and counties, you will need a general business license to get started. In Ohio, you need to register your business with the Secretary of State’s office. You also need to check with your city or county office if you need a license from them. In many cases, getting a business license requires providing basic information and paying a fee.

Fictitious Name
When you are doing business under a different name from your own, you need to register it with the state. In Ohio, that name must be unique. You can use the online database at to search for already registered names. Once you find a unique name, you fill out the Name Registration form and file it with the Secretary of State’s office.

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Employer Identification Number (EIN)
If your business will have employees, you will need an employer identification number (EIN) from the IRS. This identifies you as a business to the IRS. Obtaining an EIN is free when you do it directly with the IRS. If you are a sole proprietor or an LLC, you can hire your first employee using your Social Security Number.

Sales Tax Permit
If you plan on selling products or services, you may need a sales tax permit. In Ohio, this is called a vendor’s license. It allows you to collect taxes on taxable products and services, then send those funds to the state. You can obtain a vendor’s license by filling out the appropriate forms and submitting them through the Ohio Business Gateway at

Zoning Permit
Many cities and counties in Ohio use zoning laws to restrict where businesses can operate. You should check with your city or county zoning office to see if you need a special permit to operate your business in your desired location.

Home Occupation Permit
Some local Ohio governments require home-based businesses to have a home occupation permit. Check with your city and county government to determine if you need this permit.

Professional License
Specific professionals and businesses need special licensing in place before they can open their doors. For example, in Ohio, doctors and lawyers need to be certified and licensed before they can offer their services. Day care centers are another business that needs to obtain and keep special licensing.

Health Permits
A health permit is required for most businesses that sell food or beverages that are cooked and served to the public. In Ohio, these permits are handled at the county level. Check with your local Health Department for permit requirements.

Fire Department Permit
Some businesses store and use flammable liquids. If these businesses are open to the public or offer a place for people to assemble, the fire department may need to inspect and certify the space. Your local fire or building department can help you determine if you need such a permit.

Environmental Permits
Businesses of all sizes must comply with environmental regulations, controls, and laws. The Ohio EPA is responsible for making sure businesses are in compliance. If your business will create, transport, store, treat or dispose of any hazardous waste, you need to contact the Ohio EPA about regulations. At the city and county level, you will need to get approval from your local sewer department before you connect to a publicly owned wastewater system.

Signage Permit
Some Ohio city and county governments have laws that require businesses to get a signage permit before putting up a sign. Some also regulate how big the sign is and where it can be placed. Talk with your local building department to see if you need a signage permit.

Building and Construction Permits
If you are renovating a building where you will be operating a business, you may need building and construction permits from the local building department at the city or county level. Contact them before you start making any changes.

Special State and Federal Licenses
Many state and federal agencies require certain businesses to obtain special licenses. For example, in Ohio, businesses that manufacture or sell alcohol must have a license from the Division of Alcohol Control in the Department of Commerce. Businesses that manufacture guns or transport wildlife may need special permits from both the state and federal levels.

You might think getting a business license isn’t a big deal. It’s just easier to start your business without all the hassle. That’s where you’re wrong. If you are caught without the proper licenses and permits, you could face stiff penalties, the closure of your business, and, in some cases, jail time. It’s just not worth the gamble.

Before you open your doors, it’s a smart idea to consult with an attorney that specializes in business law. The attorney can help you determine the business license and permits you need and how to obtain them. Contact Corpus Law Inc. today.

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Chris Corpus

Founding Partner at Corpus Law Inc

This article does not provide legal advice or create an attorney-client relationship. If you have any questions or would like to learn more about this topic or if you have other legal questions, do not hesitate to contact Chris Corpus, Esq. of Corpus Law Inc at 216-973-2475. Copyright Christopher A. Corpus 2024.