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What Business Licenses & Permits are Needed in Iowa?

What Business Licenses & Permits are Needed in Iowa?

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What Business Licenses & Permits are Needed in Iowa?

Starting a business in Iowa will mean potentially registering with a number of federal, state, and local agencies. Let’s take a look at common licenses and permits a business will register for in Iowa.

Before applying for any licenses, the business structure of the business will need to be established. Learn more about the differences between the sole proprietorship, general partnership, corporation, and Limited Liability Company (LLC). Corporations and LLCs register with the Iowa Secretary of State.

Related: Comparison of Business Entities

Learn more about forming an LLC in Iowa

Also see: Steps to starting a business in Iowa

Business License

There is no general state of Iowa business license, however, many cities require businesses to be licensed in order to operate. The cost and rules for business registration vary depending on location and what the business does. Below are a few cities that have licensing requirements.

Des Moines – The City of Des Moines requires licensing for certain businesses such as those selling alcohol, mobile vendors, pawn shops, and several more.

Cedar Rapids – A few types of businesses need to register with the Cedar Rapids City Clerk, including bowling alleys, businesses selling alcohol, skating rinks, mobile food vendors, and several others.

Davenport – The Davenport Revenue Division issues business licenses to businesses operating within city limits. Businesses selling alarm systems, food trucks, retail merchants, and others will need to register.

Sioux City – Certain businesses such as those that provide body piercing, pawnbrokers, transient merchants, and a few others will need to register with the City Clerk.

WaterlooBusiness licenses in Waterloo are required for those operating tree trimming businesses, pawnbrokers, etc.

Done for you license research

Take the guesswork out of figuring out what licenses and permits are required to start your business with license research packages from IncFile and LegalZoom.

For as little as $99, you can save a lot of time and know your business is in compliance with local, state, and federal requirements. 

Building & Zoning Permits

Zoning Depending on the location of the business, it’s important to verify whether the business needs an occupancy permit or has specific zoning regulations to follow. Depending on city requirements, home-based businesses may need to apply for a home occupation permit.

Building PermitA building permit may be needed from the city or county building and planning department if there is any construction or renovations to a facility.

Signage Permit Some municipalities require a permit before adding signage.

Iowa Business Tax Permit

Anyone selling taxable goods or services in Iowa must register for a Business Tax Permit through the Iowa Department of Revenue. A permit is needed for each location in Iowa, and there is no charge to register.

Sales Tax Exemption Certificate

Businesses purchasing merchandise to resell will usually want to obtain an Iowa Sales Tax Exemption Certificate in order to not pay sales tax for merchandise that is being resold to customers.

Professional License

A variety of professions in the state are regulated and need to be registered before offering certain services. A few common professions that require licensing in Iowa include; alarm installers, brewpubs, commercial kitchens, dietitians, fur dealers, and many more. Additional information, fees, and licensing requirements for professions are available from the Iowa Professional Licensing Bureau.

In addition to professional licenses, businesses in a variety of industries such as food establishments, daycares, vehicle recyclers, and many others require licensing.

Employer Identification Number (EIN)

Many businesses will register with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for an EIN (also referred to as a FEIN, Federal Employer Identification Number, or Federal Tax ID Number). The EIN is the business equivalent for a Social Security Number for an individual. Corporations, Limited Liability Companies, Partnerships, and Sole Proprietorships with employees will all need to register for one. Sole Proprietorships without employees can use the owner’s Social Security Number.

There is no cost for an EIN, and it only takes a few minutes to get.

Learn how to apply for an EIN

Trade Name Registration

While not a small business license, it’s common for Sole Proprietorships and Partnerships operating under a name that is different from the full name of the owner(s) to register for a Trade Name (also known as a Doing Business As, DBA, or Fictitious Business Name) with the County Recorder’s Office in the county where the business is located.

These are some of the most common business licenses, but there are far too many licenses and permits for us to keep track of. Before starting your business, be sure to check with the Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA), City Clerk’s Office, Chamber of Commerce, and/or Economic Developer in your area to get more information regarding business licensing.


  • Greg Bouhl

    With over two decades as an entrepreneur, educator, and business advisor, Greg Bouhl has worked with over 2,000 entrepreneurs to help them start and grow their businesses. Fed up with clients finding and acting on inaccurate and outdated information online, Greg launched StartUp101.com to be a trusted resource for people starting a business.

What Business Licenses & Permits are Needed in Iowa?

What Business Licenses & Permits are Needed in Iowa?

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