How to Get a Small Business License in Idaho

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

By , Attorney · University of North Carolina School of Law

Do you want to create a new business in Idaho? If you do, you'll need to follow the state's legal requirements. Your business will probably need to obtain one or more state licenses and permits or complete one or more kinds of state registration, as part of the start-up process.

Here's a quick look at some specific licensing issues for you to consider as you start your new business.

Which Business Licenses Do You Need for Your Small Business?

When starting a business in Idaho, you must:

The types of licenses and permits your business must apply for depends on your business structure, industry, and location. The main types of business licenses, permits, and registrations are:

(For more general guidance, see our article on the legal requirements for starting a small business.)

General Business License in Idaho

Idaho, like many other states, doesn't issue a statewide general business license. Instead, your company's location and business activities will determine whether you need to obtain a license.

Idaho has two wizards on its state business website that might be helpful to your small business:

  • the Business Wizard, and
  • the Resource Wizard.

For each Wizard, you'll answer questions about your business or business needs to get your customized results.

Idaho's Business Wizard: By answering a few questions about your business's structure, activities, and employment plans, you'll receive a personalized checklist for your business. The checklist can include information about income taxes, employee reports, employment taxes, labor laws, licenses and permits, the regulatory agencies you should contact, and more. You should also receive links to resources and forms specific to your business. For example, if you answered that your business would be a general partnership, your checklist will include links to federal and state partnership income tax returns.

Idaho's Resource Wizard: Idaho's Resource Wizard is less comprehensive than the state's Business Wizard. You'll answer four basic questions with drop-down answer options. You must choose the general and specific type of assistance you're looking for, which county you're interested in, and whether you only want resources for that county. Once you complete the short questionnaire, you'll receive a list of resources for your business, including links to the resource's websites and contact information.

In addition to state regulatory licenses, some business licenses and permits are issued locally. The requirements vary depending on the city or county involved. In Idaho, many cities require only businesses in particular industries to get a license. Your city might not require any licensing at all.

For example, the City of Boise requires individuals or businesses engaging in specific business activities to get a City of Boise license. These activities are generally associated with:

  • animals
  • child care
  • food and alcohol
  • security services
  • vehicle licensing
  • special events, and
  • vendors.

In Boise, you'll also need to pay the license fee associated with your type of license.

Visit your city's website or contact local officials to determine whether your business operations require a license. In general, each city will have its own procedure and license fees. (Some businesses might be exempt from local licensing requirements under state or federal law.)

Professional and Occupational Licenses for Businesses and Individuals in Idaho

Before you start practicing, you need to make sure you have the licenses and certifications required for your industry. Your profession or occupation might require you to obtain two separate licenses: one for you and one for your business.

Idaho's Division of Occupational and Professional Licenses (DOPL) regulates dozens of boards and commissions for professions and occupations across the state. Generally, the DOPL provides licensing and permitting for:

  • building, construction, and real estate
  • health professions
  • accountancy
  • barber and cosmetology services, and
  • various other occupational services.

The DOPL website houses webpages for each regulatory agency it oversees. For example, if you click on "Nursing" from the dropdown menu on the DOPL home page, you'll be taken to a webpage for the Board of Nursing. On that page, you can:

  • apply for and renew your license
  • search for a license or registration
  • read statutes, rules, and guidance
  • access the board's meeting minutes and other information
  • view resources and forms
  • see answers to frequently asked questions
  • find education programs, and
  • research licensing fees.

The DOPL doesn't include every license or permit for every profession and occupation. If you're not part of one of the professions or occupations under the DOPL, you'll likely need to contact your regulatory agency directly. You can start with an internet search: Your regulatory board or commission likely has a website.

It's important to note that each profession or occupation has its own rules and requirements. For instance, your profession might require you to pass an initial licensing exam or complete continuing education courses. Make sure you know what you need to complete and submit to apply for and maintain your license or certification.

Idaho Seller's Permit

In general, if you sell or lease tangible personal property or provide taxable services to a final consumer, then you're required to collect and pay sales tax in Idaho. You'll need to apply for a seller's permit from the STC.

You can apply for a seller's permit online using the Idaho Business Registration System (IBRS). The IBRS is a one-stop registration system where you can also register for:

  • use tax
  • income withholding tax
  • unemployment insurance
  • workers' compensation insurance, and
  • other business taxes and permits.

You can find out more on the sales and use section of the STC website. In the section, you can find various guides, forms, and instructions for businesses.

You should also check with your city or county to learn about their tax reporting requirements.

Local Zoning and Building Permits

If you're planning on construction work—for example, building a new space or renovating an existing space—you'll probably need to get special zoning and building permits from your city or county. To get the required permits or special zoning, you'll typically need to go through a review process that consists of filing an application, attending meetings with local officials, and passing final inspections. If your work will be more extensive, you might also need to submit site plans or hire a professional architect or engineer.

The City of Boise does most of its zoning and permitting online. You can check out the building and planning section of the city government website to access information about:

  • the city's online permitting and licensing system
  • building permits, including applications and current city codes
  • an overview of the planning process
  • Boise's project management program to assist qualifying projects, and
  • zoning, including maps, definitions, and more.

Talk to your local officials or visit your city website for information related to zoning, building permits, and inspections. You should also review your local code and ordinances to figure out which zoning and building requirements apply to your business and planned operations.

Zoning laws. If your type of business isn't in line with the zoning code, you might need to look for another space for your business. Alternatively, you might be able to apply for a special use permit. A special permit can provide your business with an exception to the current use laws.

Building code. You can work with local departments and agencies to apply for building and construction permits. You'll likely need to have inspections related to your space's structural, electrical, mechanical, and plumbing features.

If you're planning to lease a commercial space, make sure you have a section in the commercial lease that ensures that the building and your use of the space are in line with the zoning laws.

Filing an Assumed Business Name Certificate in Idaho

In Idaho, if you do business under a name that's not your true name, you must register that name with the SOS. Your "true name" depends on your business structure:

(Idaho Code §§ 30-21-803 and following (2024).)

If you use a name that's different from your true name, then you're using an assumed business name. An assumed business name is also called a "DBA," "trade name," or fictitious name."

You can file a Certificate of Assumed Business Name online with the SOS. As of 2024, the filing fee is $25.

For example, suppose Javier originally organized his car repair business as an Idaho corporation named Javi's Boise Garage, Inc. He now wants to operate the business under the name "Javier's Rocky Mountain Foreign Auto Repair, Inc." Javier must file a Certificate of Assumed Business Name, including the filing fee, with the SOS.

For additional information, see the assumed business names FAQ webpage on the SOS website.

Other Licenses and Permits Your Business Might Need

Apart from the licenses and permits discussed above, your business might be required to comply with additional laws and regulations. For example, your business could need to apply for special licensing or follow special rules related to:

  • safety
  • health, and
  • the environment.

Sometimes, these regulatory areas are included within other licenses, permits, and registrations. However, at other times, these licenses and permits will require a separate process altogether. If you're in a highly regulated field, you're more likely to need additional licenses and permits. For example, if you're running a plant that could potentially affect water streams or air quality, then you'll probably need to follow additional protocols.

The requirements vary depending on the city or county involved. You should check the websites for the city and county where you'll operate your business for more information. Some businesses might be exempt from local licensing requirements under state or federal law.

Check with your federal, state, and local governments for more information.

Additional Information for Small Businesses in Idaho

When launching your small business, you should first take a look at the licenses, permits, and registrations webpage on the Idaho business website. The webpage gives you a general overview of the regulatory requirements for new businesses. It also serves as a good starting point because it provides links to other government resources where you can learn more. Check out the FAQ section of the website for topics related to:

  • starting a business
  • financing a business
  • operating a business
  • licenses and permits
  • employer issues, and
  • other issues.

You should also check out the website for the Idaho Small Business Development Center (SBDC). The website has guidance on how to start and grow your business, including information on planning, financing, and marketing your business. It also has information on training sessions and specialized services (such as help with environmental regulations). The SBDC is part of a national network of small business development centers.

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has a district office in Boise. The office's website lists upcoming events, resources, and news for small businesses.

In addition to the great state resources, you can also find more information on the small business section of our website. If you want even more information, you can also read Legal Guide for Starting & Running a Small Business, by Fred S. Steingold (Nolo), and The Small Business Start-Up Kit, by Peri Pakroo (Nolo).

If you're looking for more personalized, professional help, consider speaking with an Idaho business attorney. If you can, you should reach out to a lawyer who already has experience working with businesses in your industry. This prior regulatory knowledge can help streamline your licensing and permitting processes. An attorney can help you apply for business licenses, navigate local zoning and building codes, and keep your business compliant with federal, state, and local laws.

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