If you want to start a small business in Louisiana, you'll need to follow the appropriate legal procedure. In addition to filing your formation paperwork and choosing a location, you'll need to apply for and obtain the necessary business licenses and permits.
Let's take a look at the legal requirements for forming your business in Louisiana.
When starting a business in Louisiana, 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.)
At the Louisiana geauxBIZ website, which is run by the SOS, you can create an online account and then sign in to create a business license checklist. The checklist will include all of the federal, state, and local licenses and permits your business needs.
Louisiana, like many states, doesn't require businesses to obtain a general business license to operate within the state. However, your city or parish might require your business to obtain a general license to operate within its city limits. In general, you'll need to renew your general business license with your city every year. Your city or county might refer to the general business license by a different name, such as an "occupational license."
For example, the City of New Orleans requires all new businesses to obtain an occupational license before opening in the Orleans Parish. The associated license fee depends on your type of business and annual gross receipts.
If your city or parish requires you to have an occupational license, you'll need to submit a license application. For example, New Orleans requires you to submit an application that asks for basic information such as:
You can find a list of Louisiana parishes on the Louisana state website. Contact your city or parish for more information.
Some professions and occupations require you to have special licensing or certification before you can start practicing. If you fall into one of these professions or occupations, you'll need to make sure you apply for and obtain the proper authorizations. You might need to obtain two licenses: one for you as an individual and one for your business.
The licenses section of the Louisiana state website lists these various professions and occupations. By clicking an item on the list, you'll be taken to the website for that profession's state regulatory board or agency. The board or agency webpage generally provides detailed information about state licensing requirements, such as:
The state website's licenses section also has links to pdfs under "service" that provide guidance and application forms for that particular profession or occupation. For instance, the service link for accountant takes you to a webpage that provides detailed instructions on how to become a CPA, including education, examination, and education requirements.
However, not every profession and occupation is included in this list. The board, commission, or authority over your practice area likely has its own website where you can find the information you need. For those in the medical field, check the Louisiana Department of Health (DOH) website. The DOH has a list of all the licensing boards for medical professionals.
If you provide goods or services that are subject to the state sales and use tax, then you must apply for a sales tax certificate with the DOR to collect and pay sales tax in Louisiana. The sales and use tax applies to the following commercial transactions in Louisiana:
You can register for your tax account and apply for sales tax certificate online using the Louisiana Taxpayer Access Point (LaTAP). At LaTAP, you can also apply for a resale certificate to avoid paying sales tax on inventory you purchase from suppliers to resell.
Your city or parish might also require you to apply for a sales tax certificate or register your business to collect sales tax. You should check with your local government's revenue or taxation department for specific requirements.
In some instances—for example, if you'll be constructing or remodeling a space—you'll need to get special zoning and building permits.
Oftentimes, cities will require you to get a certificate of zoning compliance, certificate of occupancy, or a similar permit before you can apply for your general business license. In general, these certificates simply demonstrate that your proposed business activities and use of the space comply with current city codes and ordinances.
For example, New Orleans requires most businesses to get an inspection and certificate of occupancy before applying for an occupational license. If you're leasing or buying an existing building, it likely already has a certificate occupancy. However, you'll need to get a new one under the following conditions:
If you'll be taking over a building where the last occupant had a different type of business, then you'll need a building permit. When you receive your building permit, you'll also receive your certificate of occupancy. Home-based businesses will also need a certificate of occupancy in New Orleans.
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're going to be leasing a commercial space, make sure you have a clause or paragraph in the commercial lease that ensures the building and your use of the space are in line with the zoning laws.
Many sole proprietors and partnerships operate their businesses under a trade name rather than their own name. Additionally, some corporations, LLCs, and limited partnerships trade under a different name than what they have registered with the SOS. For instance, Old Bayou Corp. might open a seafood restaurant called "Bites in the Bayou." In that case, the corporation is using a trade name. A trade name might be referred to as a "DBA," "assumed name," or "fictitious name."
In Louisiana, sole proprietorships and partnerships that operate under a name that's different from their real name must register their trade name with their parish. If you'll be conducting business in multiple parishes, then you'll need to register with each parish. In general, registering your trade name is required before you can apply for any local licenses. (La. Rev. Stat. § 51:281 (2023).)
If you have a registered corporation or limited liability company (LLC) and you're using a name that's different from what you have registered with the SOS, then you should also register your trade name. However, the state's laws for trade names are extensive and can be confusing, so you might want to consult with a lawyer before filing any forms.
You can file an Application to Register Trade Name, Trademark, or Service Mark with the SOS. The form must be notarized. As of 2023, the filing fee is $75.
Apart from the licenses and permits discussed above, you might be required to comply with other laws and regulations. These laws, for example, could be related to safety, health, and the environment. If you're in a highly regulated field, you're more likely to need additional licenses and permits.
Sometimes these areas are encompassed within other licenses, permits, and registrations. Other times, these licenses and permits will require a separate process. You should contact your federal, state, and local governments for more information.
The Louisiana Small Business Development Center (SBDC) also has guidance on how to start and grow your business. The website has sections on topics such as business plans, financial analysis, sales and marketing, and technology commercialization. It also has information on training sessions and how to get free confidential business counseling. The Louisiana SBDC is part of a national network of small business development centers.
If you'd like to learn more about starting and running your business, you can find more information in our small business section.
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.
You might also want to consult with a Louisiana business lawyer at some point in the licensing process. Requirements vary across the state and the process can sometimes be lengthy and require forms, inspections, and detailed information. An attorney can help you comply with all the legal requirements and help you successfully obtain the necessary licenses and permits for your small business.