How to Get a Small Business License in South Dakota

Learn the steps required to obtain a business license in South Dakota.



Looking to start a small business in South Dakota? You may need to obtain one or more state licenses or permits, or complete one or more kinds of state registration, as part of the start-up process. Here’s a quick look at some of the main informational resources available and a few of the steps you may need to take.

South Dakota Small Business Information

You can find information and get assistance for your new or existing South Dakota small business by going to theBusiness section of sd.gov (sd.gov is the official South Dakota government website). The section has links on starting, financing, growing, operating, and closing a business. You should also check the Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED), which provides downloadable documents on starting and licensing your business, as well as a new business checklist and directory of business resources. Finally, consider checking the websites for the South Dakota Department of Revenue (DOR) and the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). The SBA has adistrict office in Sioux Falls.

Get One or More Business Licenses

Not every South Dakota business needs a license. However, many types of business either can or must get one or more licenses or permits. Some of these licenses and permits are regulatory, covering matters like sales tax, the environment, and health and safety.

Different regulatory licenses and permits are issued by different agencies. The GOED has a downloadable document that lists licenses issued by many of these agencies, such as the Departments of Agriculture, Environment and Natural Resources, Health, and Labor & Regulation. You can access the document, Licensing and Registering Your Business, from the GOED website. The document runs over 60 pages and is quite comprehensive.

You can apply for some important state business licenses relating to taxes, such as sales tax, manufacturer’s tax, excise tax, and several taxes relating to alcoholic beverages, by completing a South Dakota Tax Application. You can complete the application online at the DOR’s tax application website.

In addition to state-issued licenses, some required licenses are issued locally. You can find more details by checking the website for the city where you’ll operate your business. (Some businesses may be exempt from local licensing requirements under state or federal law.)

File Records For Your Form of Business

Beyond obtaining required licenses or permits, some legal forms of business, such as corporations and limited liability companies (LLCs), are required to file records with the state. More specifically, corporations, LLCs, and certain other types of business must file organizational documents with the South Dakota Secretary of State (SOS). Check the Business Services section of the SOS website for more details.

Obtain Professional Licensing

If you’re a member of any one of many professions and occupations, you’ll need to be licensed by the State of South Dakota. Licensing of many professions and occupations is coordinated by the South Dakota Department of Labor and Regulation (DLR). The Occupational Licensing Agencies section of the DLR website lists many of state agencies and boards that regulate various professions and occupations. Similarly, the South Dakota Boards and Commissions Portal provides a searchable list of licensing agencies and boards. By clicking on items listed on either website, you can find detailed information about the chosen occupation or profession.

Some professions, such as physicians and attorneys, are not listed on the foregoing websites. For those professions, you should seek out the website for the regulating board or agency on your own.

Example: Veronica wants to work as a licensed cosmetologist. She’ll need to apply for a license through the South Dakota Cosmetology Commission. By going to the Commission’s website, she can find information on licensing, including forms, fees, exams, and other details.

Register an Assumed or Fictitious Business Name (Trade Name)

Many small businesses don’t simply operate under the names of their owners. Instead, they operate under a business name. In addition, some businesses, such as corporations and LLCs, may originally register with the state under one name (sometimes called the registered name, actual name, or true name), but later choose to operate under another name. Depending on where you’re doing business and how your business is structured, this alternative business name technically may be known as an assumed name, a fictitious name, a trade name, or a DBA (for “doing business as”). In South Dakota, any proprietorship that does not include the last name of each proprietor in its name, and each corporation, partnership, and LLC conducting business under any name other than its business name (the name already on file with the SOS), must file a fictitious name reservation with the SOS. For additional information, check the Fictitious Business Name Registration section of the SOS website.

Example: Jerry originally organized his car repair business as a South Dakota corporation with the name Jerry’s Pierre Garage, Inc. He now wants to operate the business under the name Pierre’s Best Foreign Auto Repair, Inc. Jerry must go to the Fictitious Name Registration application on the SOS website, complete the online application, and submit it, along with the filing fee, to the SOS.

Register a Trademark or Service Mark

There are separate legal definitions for trademarks, service marks, and trade names. However, speaking very generally, trademarks, service marks, and trade names are used to uniquely identify goods (products), services, or a business. This includes distinguishing a product, service, or business from potential competitors. Trademarks and service marks can be registered with the state. (This is distinct from federal registration.) For more information, check the Trademark Name Registration section of the SOS website.

Example: Charlotte wants to sell her coffee-cocoa candy bars under the name “Charlie’s Deep Brown Cocoa Buzz Bars.” So—after checking to make sure the name isn’t already in use—she files a Mark Registration Application, including the filing fee, with the SOS. She can download a copy of the form from the Trademarks section of the SOS website.

Additional Information

This article covers only the very tip of the iceberg regarding small business licenses and registrations in South Dakota. You can find much more information in the many other articles in the Small Business section here on Nolo.com. Many of those articles are part of 50-state series—so you can get plenty of information that’s specific to the state of South Dakota. 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.

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