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Missouri Business License Basics

Missouri Business License Basics

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Missouri Business License Basics

Starting a small business in Missouri often means registering with several federal, state, and local agencies. Let’s review common Missouri business license registrations so your business starts off right.

Related: Guide to starting a business in Missouri 

Setting Up the Business

Sole proprietorship: In Missouri, a sole proprietorship is an unincorporated business owned by a single individual. The owner has complete control over the business but is personally liable for all debts and obligations. No formal registration is required, making it the simplest and most common form of business structure.

General partnership: A general partnership in Missouri is an unincorporated business owned by two or more individuals who share management responsibilities, profits, and losses. Partners have unlimited personal liability for the partnership’s debts and obligations. No formal registration is required, but a partnership agreement is recommended to outline the partners’ roles and responsibilities

Corporation: A corporation in Missouri is a legal entity separate from its owners, providing the owner’s (shareholders) limited liability protection. Corporations are the most complex business structure to set up and have specific administrative requirements. 

Limited Liability Company (LLC): An LLC in Missouri combines aspects of sole proprietorships and corporations, offering flexibility in management and taxation. Owners, called members, have limited personal liability for the LLC’s debts and obligations, but aren’t as complex as the corporation. 

Related: Comparison of Business Structures

What Licenses Do Missouri Businesses Need?

With the business structure out of the way, we can begin looking at the different types of registrations businesses in Missouri may need. There isn’t a standard business license, as requirements vary depending on where the business is located and what it does. Here is a general overview of the different registrations your business may need.

General Business Licenses

There is no general business license for the State of Missouri; however, many cities require businesses to be licensed in order to operate. Rules for business registration vary depending on location and the business’s activities. Below are a few cities that have licensing requirements.

  • Kansas City: All businesses need to complete a business license application when conducting business in Kansas City. They will also pay the “Profits Return Earnings Tax.”
  • St. Louis: Businesses operating in the city of St. Louis will need to obtain a Graduated Business License (GBL). In addition, certain types of businesses, such as auto sales, catering, daycares, jewelry repair businesses, and several others, require additional requirements from the city.
  • Springfield: Most businesses operating in the city will need to get a Business License from the Springfield Finance Department. Business licensing includes home-based and commercial-based businesses.
  • Independence: Before starting a business in the city, a business must obtain a City Occupation License and possibly zoning clearance.
  • Columbia: The Business License Office of City Hall issues business licenses, which are required for any business activity.
Take the guesswork out of figuring out what licenses and permits are required to start your business with license research packages from Bizee 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. 

Fictitious Name Registration

While not a business license, it’s common for Sole Proprietorships and Partnerships operating under a business name that is different from the full name of the owner(s) to register for a Fictitious Name (also known as a Doing Business As or DBA) with the Missouri Secretary of State’s Office.

Building & Zoning Permits

  • Zoning: Depending on the business’s location, it’s important to verify whether it needs an occupancy permit or has specific zoning approval to operate. In some areas, home-based businesses may be required to have a home occupation permit before starting the business.
  • Building Permit: Building permits ensure that construction, additions, alterations, and repairs comply with the Missouri building codes, which vary by jurisdiction. Building permit applications are submitted to the local building department or the city/county clerk’s office, and the process includes plan review and inspections to ensure compliance with state and local building codes.
  • Signage Permit: Businesses must obtain sign permits to ensure their exterior signage complies with local sign ordinances, which regulate the size, location, and design of signs. In Missouri, sign permit applications are typically submitted to the local building department, planning department, or city/county clerk’s office.

Business Tax Registration

A business must register for the Missouri Sales Tax License if it collects sales tax. Many businesses will need to register for a sales tax license from the Missouri Department of Revenue to sell tangible personal property or provide certain fabrication, rental, or other specific services.

Merchant’s License

In addition to the state business tax registration, several counties also require businesses making retail sales of products or merchandise to obtain a Merchant License.

Check with your County Clerk’s Office for more information. 

Sales Tax Exemption Certificate

Businesses purchasing merchandise to resell will usually want to obtain a Missouri Sales Tax Exemption Certificate to avoid paying sales tax on merchandise intended for resale.

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 Missouri include; electrical contractors, accountants, interior designers, tattoo artists, and many more. Additional information, fees, and licensing requirements for professions are available from the Missouri Department of Professional Regulations.

Employer Identification Number (EIN)

The Missouri Employer Identification Number (EIN), also known as a Federal Tax Identification Number, is a unique nine-digit number assigned by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to businesses operating in Missouri. It is used for tax filing and reporting purposes, similar to how an individual uses a Social Security number. Companies can apply for an EIN through the IRS website or by submitting a paper form.

Next Steps

These are some of the most common business licenses a new business in Missouri will need to register for. Be advised that while it’s a good start, there are so many different licenses that may be needed, be sure to double-check with the City Clerk’s Office, Chamber of Commerce, and/or Economic Development office in your area before opening your doors.

Missouri Business License Basics

Missouri Business License Basics

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