How to Get a Small Business License in Texas

Learn the steps required to obtain a business license in Texas.

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If you are thinking about basing a new venture in the Lone Star state, you will discover a business-friendly climate and extensive resources on how to get a small business license in Texas. The Office of the Governor’s Texas Economic Development and Tourism Division operates Texas Wide Open for Business, an online clearinghouse, with information on business incentives, industry reports, and site selection issues for starting, expanding, or relocating a business to the state. The Governor's Small Business Forums also offers opportunities for new businesses to learn from and interact with public officials, agency representatives, private sector experts, and regional businesses through educational seminars and networking events. The main licensing issues and resources for businesses in Texas are outlined below.

  • Business Permits and Tax Registration. As part of its business-friendly approach, the state of Texas and many cities and towns in the state do not mandate a general business license. Your permitting obligations are handled on a city or county level and will vary based upon the nature of your industry, business structure, and location. You should contact the city clerk or county office to determine if your business is subject to any permitting requirements. Depending on the nature of your business, you may further need to comply with any applicable local zoning and building codes. In addition, any business operating in the state must register for different tax-related purposes. Your business should file a Texas Online Tax Registration Application with the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts.
  • Registering Organizations and Regulated Professions. All corporations, nonprofit organizations, limited liability companies (LLCs), and all types of partnerships, including limited liability partnerships (LLPs) which are common amongst professional groups, such as doctors and lawyers, must apply for a Certificate of Authority with the Texas Secretary of State’s Office. Using SOSDirect, a 24/7 online service, these business entities may file their formation applications online. Once a Certificate of Authority is issued, your registered business is permitted to legally transact business in Texas. The Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation (TDLR) further handles licensing for a relatively small number of specialized professions and industries. Individuals and businesses can also check the status of licensed professionals and file complaints on the TDLR website.
  • Assumed Business or DBA Name Certificates. Individuals or business entities operating under a name other than their legal name must file an assumed business or “doing business as” (DBA) name certificate. For example, an individual who wants to name a day care service as “Wee Ones Day Care” must file an assumed business name certificate. The state does not permit you to select a name that is the same as or deceptively similar to an existing entity’s name. You may call or email the Corporations Division of the Texas Secretary of State’s Office or search online using SOSDirect for a preliminary review of your proposed assumed business name. If no conflict exists, you may wish to reserve your assumed business name online at SOSDirect for up to 120 days in advance of your formal application. It is important to note that the nature of one’s business structure determines where you must file this certificate. In Texas, sole proprietorships and general partnerships must file this certificate with the county clerk’s office in every county in which they operate any business premises. Business organizations regulated through the Secretary of State’s Office must file an assumed business name certificate at both the county and state levels.

August 2013

Updated by: , J.D.

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