How to Get a Small Business License in Missouri

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

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

Do you want to start a small business in Missouri? If so, you'll need to follow the state's regulatory requirements and obtain the necessary licenses and permits from your state and local governments.

Let's look at the license, permit, and registration requirements for a Missouri business.

Which Business Licenses Do You Need for Your Small Business?

When starting a business in Missouri, 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 Missouri

Missouri, like many other states, doesn't require businesses to obtain a statewide general license to operate in the state. Instead, businesses might need to obtain a license based on their occupation or location.

Many cities and counties require anyone who wants to operate within the city or county to obtain a license. Some cities and counties require every business to have a license while others require only businesses in particular industries to get a license.

The City of St. Louis, for example, requires anyone who wants to do business within the city limits to have a graduated business license. Some types of businesses are exempt from this license requirement. In St. Louis, you'll need to obtain a separate permit for every business location.

Similarly, the City of Springfield also requires most businesses to apply for a City of Springfield business license. In Springfield, the license you apply for depends on your business operations and location. There are separate applications for:

  • businesses operating from a residence in Springfield
  • businesses operating from a commercial location in Springfield
  • businesses operating in Springfield with a business address outside of the city, and
  • businesses operating in Springfield for a temporary period.

You can find more details by checking the website for the city where you'll operate your business. (Some businesses might be exempt from licensing requirements under state or federal law.)

Professional and Occupational Licenses for Businesses and Individuals in Missouri

Before you open your business or start practicing, you need to make sure you have the licenses and certifications required for your industry. Depending on your field, you might be required to have two separate licenses: one for you and one for your business.

The Missouri Division of Professional Regulation (PR) oversees and provides administrative support to more than 40 professional licensing boards, committees, and commissions. The PR website has separate sections listing the boards and professions the Division serves. You can click on either your board (if you know it) or your profession. Either way, the links will take you to a webpage dedicated to the board or commission for that profession.

On each board's webpage, you can find information about:

  • the regulatory board and its members and staff
  • laws, rules, and standards for the profession
  • license application forms
  • board newsletters, meetings, and events
  • examinations and continuing education requirements
  • fees, and
  • other topics and issues.

    You can also renew your license online through the PR website.

    The PR, however, doesn't handle all professions and occupations, and you'll need to apply for your initial license through your profession's board or commission. Check with the board, commission, or agency that regulates your profession to see which licensing requirements apply to you.

    Missouri Retail Sales License

    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 Missouri. Before you start collecting sales tax, you must apply for a retail sales license.

    You can apply for your Missouri retail sales license either with the DOR by:

    After you register, you'll receive your sales tax number and license. You can also register for other business taxessuch as use tax, withholding tax, and corporate income tax—using the same application.

    To learn more, visit the business tax registration FAQ section of the DOR website. You should also check with your city or county to learn about their tax reporting requirements.

    Local Zoning and Building Permits

    In some casesfor instance, if you'll be building or remodeling a spaceyou'll need to apply for special zoning and building permits. Typically, you'll need to complete an application and pay a fee. If your work is more substantial, you could need to submit your plans and go through additional reviews and inspections. Oftentimes, your city will also require you to have a certificate of occupancy, occupancy permit, or a similar document before you can use your building.

    For example, St. Louis requires any business located in the city to have an occupancy permit. Springfield requires anyone to get a certificate of occupancy if:

    • a building or structure is constructed, reconstructed, enlarged, structurally altered, or moved
    • vacant land is used, or
    • the use of a land or structure changes.

    Sometimes, you'll need zoning approval regardless of whether you do work on a building or structure. For example, the City of Springfield includes a "zoning approval" page in its business license application. If you run your business from home, you'll also need to fill out a home occupation questionnaire.

    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.

    If you're planning to do construction work in a historic district or a historic building, you'll probably need to follow more rules and requirements. You should check with your city's historical society or commission. Be prepared for tighter restrictions on the work you can do, longer review periods, and additional inspections.

    Filing a Fictitious Name (DBA) Registration in Missouri

    If you use a name that's different from your true name to do business, then you're using a fictitious name—also called a "DBA" a "trade name," or an "assumed name." The definition of a "true name" varies depending on your business structure:

    For example, suppose Marty Byrde, a sole proprietor, opened up a financial investment firm called "Marty's Money Moves." Because Marty's business doesn't contain his full, true name, his business name would be considered a "fictitious name." Or, suppose, a company incorporated in Missouri under the name "Ozark Investment Properties, Inc." The company then started doing business under the name "Ozark Rentals." The company would be using a fictitious name.

    If you plan to use a fictitious name, you must register that name with the SOS before doing business under that name. (Mo. Rev. Stat. § 417.200 (2023).)

    You can register your fictitious name online with the SOS using the Business Registration Online Portal. You'll need to create an account to complete the online filing.

    You can also register your fictitious name by mail or in person. You'll need to fill out Registration of Fictitious Name (Corp. 56). All owners of the fictitious name must sign the form.

    As of 2023, the filing fee is $7. Registration lasts for five years and can be renewed.

    For additional information, check the fictitious name registration FAQ webpage on the SOS website.

    Other Licenses and Permits Your Business Might Need

    You might be required to comply with other laws and regulations in addition to the licenses and permits discussed above. For instance, your business might 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. For example, if you're running a plant that could potentially affect water streams or air quality, then you'll likely 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.

    You should check with your federal, state, and local governments for more information.

    Additional Information for Small Businesses in Missouri

    The SOS has a section dedicated to Missouri business resources. The webpage contains links to information on many state business topics, such as how to start, grow, and manage your business. Using the website, you can find links to information on required business filings, taxes, and various registrations.

    The SOS has a section on its website with steps for starting a business. The webpage includes basic information and resources, including links to various Missouri organizations, tax agencies, and online services.

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

    For personalized, professional help, consider talking to a Missouri business attorney. You should try, if possible, 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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