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Montana Business License Basics

Montana Business License Basics

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Montana Business License Basics

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

Related: Guide to starting a business in Montana 

Setting Up the Business

Sole proprietorship: In Montana, 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 Montana 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 Montana 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 Montana 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 Montana Businesses Need?

With the business structure out of the way, we can begin looking at the different types of registrations businesses in Montana 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 License

There is no general state of Montana business license; however, some businesses will need to register for city and county licenses. Rules for business registration vary depending on location and the business’s activities. Below are a few cities that have licensing requirements.

  • Billings: Anyone conducting business within Billings’ city limits will need a City business license from the City of Billings Finance Department. The cost of a business license in Billings varies by the amount of gross revenue, the number of employees, and what the business does.
  • Missoula: Most businesses operating in the City of Missoula will need to obtain a General Business License.  Businesses that fall into certain categories (contractors, mobile vendors, businesses that sell alcoholic beverages, or medical marijuana) will need a special business license. Any business that physically operates from a residential property will need to have a background check. Additionally, home-based businesses will have to submit the Home Occupation Additional Info form with their business license application.
  • Great Falls: Several types of businesses operating in the City of Great Falls will need to obtain licensing from the Planning and Community Development Department. Some of these businesses include electricians, plumbers, daycares, and home-based businesses. All businesses operating out of a physical location will need to obtain a Safety Inspection Certificate from the Fire Department.
  • Bozeman: All businesses operating within city limits will need to have a business license from the Bozeman Department of Community Development before starting. Licenses are renewable each year and are also required for some home-based businesses.
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. 

Assumed Business Name Registration

While not a 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 an Assumed Name (also known as a Doing Business As or DBA) with the Montana Secretary of State.

Building & Zoning Permits

Zoning: Businesses should review the local zoning map and ordinances to determine if their intended use is permitted in the desired location. In Montana, zoning information can be obtained from the local planning department or the city/county clerk’s office.

Building Permit: Building permits ensure that construction, additions, alterations, and repairs comply with the Montana Building Code. These permits are issued by the local building department, which reviews construction plans for code adherence.

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 Montana, sign permit applications are typically submitted to the local building department, planning department, or city/county clerk’s office.

Professional License

A variety of professions in the state are regulated and need to be registered before offering certain services.  A few common occupations that require licensing in Montana include; barbers, cosmetologists, massage therapists, landscape architects, and many more.   Additional information, fees, and licensing requirements for professions are available from the Montana Department of Labor & Industry.

In addition to professional licenses, businesses in various industries, such as food establishmentsdaycaressalvage yards, and many others require specific licensing.

Contractor License

All incorporated construction contractors and construction contractors with employees must register with the Montana Department of Labor & Industry.  A separate license is required for independent contractors.

Employer Identification Number (EIN)

The Montana 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 Montana. 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 Montana 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.

Author

  • 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.

Montana Business License Basics

Montana Business License Basics

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