How to Get a Small Business License in Indiana

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

By , Attorney
Updated by Amanda Hayes, Attorney (University of North Carolina School of Law)

If you want to start a small business in Indiana, you need to make sure you have all the necessary licenses and permits. Here are the legal requirements for opening an Indiana business.

Which Business Licenses Do You Need for Your Small Business?

When starting a business in Indiana, you must:

You can take care of most of your business requirements through INBiz, a one-stop government resource for small businesses.

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 Indiana

Businesses don't need to obtain a general business license from the state to operate in Indiana. However, your city or county might require your business to have a license if you want to operate within city or county limits.

The City of Indianapolis requires some types of businesses to have a license to operate within the city. You can find a list of businesses that require a license in Indianapolis on the city website, along with links to the license application and associated city ordinance. The businesses that require a license in Indianapolis include arcades, hotels, pet stores, pawnbrokers, towing companies, and cart vendors, among others.

You'll probably need to also pay a license fee with your application. In Indianapolis, the license fee depends on the license type.

Visit your city's website or contact local officials to find out whether your business operations require a license. Each city will have its own procedure and license fees.

Professional and Occupational Licenses for Businesses and Individuals in Indiana

Many professions and occupations require their practitioners to obtain some kind of licensing or certification before conducting business. You might need to apply for a license for yourself and your business.

The Indiana Professional Licensing Agency (PLA) provides licensing services to dozens of professions and occupations—from accountants to veterinarians. The PLA features a webpage with a list of professions it serves. By clicking a listed profession on the PLA website, you'll be taken to a webpage for the board regulating that profession. From there you can get detailed information about licensing requirements such as:

  • license applications and renewals
  • license and renewal fees
  • statutes and rules
  • board meeting dates
  • board meeting minutes and agendas
  • consumer information
  • board contact information
  • education resources, and
  • other topics.

The PLA website offers many online services. For example, you can apply for and renew your license using Indiana Licensing Enterprise, which is managed by the PLA. Individuals can register for an account through Access Indiana and businesses can register for an account through MyLicense.

Through the PLA website, you can also:

  • track your license application
  • update your license information
  • digitally certify your license
  • search for and verify a license
  • order a license card
  • download license files, and
  • file a complaint against a license holder.

The PLA oversees many—but not all—of the state's regulatory boards and commissions. Those boards and commissions are in turn responsible for regulating the various licensed professions and occupations. Your regulatory authority might have its own website and resources separate from or in addition to the PLA.

You should contact the board or commission in charge of your occupation or profession for information related to your license.

Indiana Registered Retail Merchant Certificate

If your business sells tangible personal property, then you must register with the DOR to collect and pay sales tax in Indiana. You can register your business by completing a Business Tax Application (Form BT-1). You can use this application to register for multiple taxes, including sales tax, withholding tax, and food and beverage tax.

You can register your business by mailing a completed application to the DOR or fiing the application online using INBiz.

For more, visit the sales tax section of the DOR website.

Local Zoning and Building Permits

In some circumstances, for example, if you'll be constructing or renovating a space, you'll need to obtain special zoning and building permits from your city or county. For any major construction projects, you'll likely need to pass multiple inspections and receive a clearance letter (or similar document) before you can start occupying your commercial space.

You'll need to talk to your local officials or visit your city or county website for information related to building permits and inspections. You should also review your local code and ordinances to determine which requirements apply to your business and your planned operations.

Zoning laws. If your type of business isn't in line with the zoning code, you can find another space or potentially 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 intend to lease a commercial space, make sure you have a section in the commercial lease that ensures the building and your use of the space are in line with the zoning laws.

Filing a Certificate of Assumed Business Name in Indiana

Sole proprietorships and general partnerships that use a business name that's different from their real names are using an assumed business name—also known as a "trade name" or "DBA." For example, if Erica Sinclair designs board games under the business name "Stranger Things Gaming," she'd be using an assumed business name.

If a business has registered its legal name with the SOS but does business under another name, then it's also using a DBA. Businesses that register with the SOS can include:

If you use an assumed business name in Indiana, you must register that name under Indiana law. Sole proprietors and general partnerships must register their DBAs with their county recorder. Registered business entities—including corporations, LLCs, LPs, and LLPs—must register their DBAs with the SOS. (Ind. Code § 23-0.5-3-4 (2023).)

If you're registering your DBA with the SOS, you'll need to file a Certificate of Assumed Business Name. You can file this certificate online through INBiz. As of 2023, the filing fee is $26.

If you're filing at the county level, you should contact the county recorder for each county you'll do business in.

Other Licenses and Permits Your Business Might Need

In addition to the licenses and permits discussed above, you might be required to comply with other 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 areas are encompassed within other licenses, permits, and registrations. Other times, these licenses and permits will require a separate process. If you're in a highly regulated field, you're more likely to need additional licenses and permits. You should check with your federal, state, and local governments for more information.

Government Resources for Indiana Small Businesses

The Indiana state website has a section on specific licensing and permitting issues with helpful information. On this page, you can find guidance and resources related to:

  • construction and building renovation
  • fire safety
  • environmental protection, and
  • occupational business licenses.

The Indiana state website also provides a Business Owner's Guide to help business owners navigate general regulatory requirements. This guide offers information and resources regarding:

  • business structures
  • tax accounts
  • employer responsibilities
  • licenses and permits, and
  • local regulations.

The Indiana Small Business Development Center (SBDC) offers guidance and information on how to start and grow your business. The SBDC website has information on workshops and events as well as an extensive frequently asked questions page covering—among other topics—starting, managing, marketing, financing, and registering your business. 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 Indianapolis. The office's website lists upcoming events, resources, and news for small businesses.

Additional Licensing Help for Indiana Small Businesses

You can also find more information on the small business section of our website. If you're looking to dive in further, you can also find expanded information in many Nolo books, such as Legal Guide for Starting & Running a Small Business, by Fred S. Steingold, and The Small Business Start-Up Kit, by Peri Pakroo.

If you need more personalized legal assistance, consider reaching out to an Indiana business attorney. If possible, you should try to find a lawyer who has experience assisting businesses in your industry. An attorney can help you navigate the steps to get your business license or permit.

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