How to Get a Small Business License in Texas

Take a look at which licenses, permits, and registrations your small business might need in Texas.

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

If you're thinking about basing a new venture in the Lone Star state, you'll need to gather all of the necessary licenses and permits before you begin your operations. Let's take a look at the legal requirements for starting your small business in Texas.

Which Business Licenses Do You Need for Your Small Business?

When starting a business in Texas, 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 Texas

Texas, like many other states, doesn't have a statewide general business license. Instead, your location and occupation will determine whether you need a license to do business.

Most cities and counties don't require a general business license. However, many cities will require you to obtain a permit or license to operate a specific type of business. In general, you'll need to renew your business license with your city every year.

Typically, you'll have to submit an application related to your specific license. Though it varies based on your location and type of license or permit, in general, you should be prepared to provide the following information in your application:

  • your name and mailing address
  • your business name and mailing address
  • your trade name (DBA), if applicable
  • your business structure (for example, sole proprietorship, partnership, LLC, or corporation)
  • your proposed business activities
  • your business's federal tax ID number (usually an EIN)
  • your hours of operation, and
  • other basic information.

You'll also likely need to submit a license fee. The fee will depend on your location and type of license. You should contact the city clerk or county office to determine whether your business has any permitting requirements.

Professional and Occupational Licenses for Businesses and Individuals in Texas

Many people operating under particular occupations and professions must have a special license or certification. Before you start practicing in your specific area, you'll need to make sure you apply for and obtain the proper authorizations. In addition to getting your individual licensure or certification, you could need to obtain a license or certification for your business entity.

The Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation (TDLR) handles licensing for a few dozen specialized professions and industries. By selecting one of the programs licensed and regulated by the TDLR, you'll be taken to a webpage with information specific to that program, including details about:

  • applications, forms, and publications
  • examinations
  • continuing education
  • laws and administrative rules
  • license renewal
  • news and updates
  • frequently asked questions (FAQ), and
  • other information.

You can also apply for and renew your license by visiting the occupational and professional licenses section of the Texas state website. This webpage also includes links to helpful resources and information about the regulatory agencies in charge of licensing. For example, the webpage includes links to the following licensing authorities:

  • the Texas Board of Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors
  • the Texas State Board of Plumbing Examiners
  • the Texas Real Estate Commission and Texas Appraiser Licensing and Certification Board
  • the Texas Racing Commission
  • the Vehicle Inspection Connection (VIC), and
  • the Texas Medical Board.

Many boards and commissions for various occupations and professions have their own websites where you can find more information.

The Texas Economic Development's Business Permit Office (BPO) is a great resource for small businesses. The BPO website includes a Texas Business Licenses and Permits Guide. This guide lists licenses, permits, regulations, and resources for more than 300 business types. Use the table of contents to find your business and locate your specific details. You can also watch FAQ videos about business licensing and permitting in Texas.

You should also contact the county and city government where you plan to do business to determine whether there are any additional requirements.

Texas Sales Tax Permit

Most Texas businesses need to obtain a sales tax permit from the CPA. You must apply for a sales tax permit if your Texas business engages in one of the following:

  • sells, leases, or rents taxable goods
  • provides taxable services, or
  • purchases or acquires taxable goods or services from out-of-state suppliers that don't have a sales tax permit.

You can apply for a sales tax permit online through the CPA's eSystems. Once you register your business, you can begin to collect and pay sales tax in Texas.

For more, visit the Texas sales and use tax FAQ webpage on the CPA website.

Local Zoning and Building Permits

In some cases—for instance, if you'll be building or renovating a space—you'll need to get special zoning and building permits. Typically, your building will need to go through some sort of inspection for you to obtain the necessary building permit.

Some cities issue a certificate of occupancy (CO) or a similar document to show that your business is allowed under the city codes and ordinances. Typically, this certificate is required before you can use the space and apply for any business permits. For example, Dallas requires anyone who wants to use or change the use of a building to obtain a CO before they can use a space. In Dallas, you'll need to apply for a new CO if:

  • your use is the first use of the land or building
  • there's a change of use in the land or building
  • there's a change in tenant for the existing CO, or
  • an existing use increases or decreases the floor area.

You'll usually need to pay a fee and, depending on your use of the building, submit site plans and other documents.

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'll be leasing a commercial space, be sure to 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.

Filing an Assumed Name Certificate in Texas

If you use an assumed name (also known as a "DBA" or "fictitious name"), Texas requires you to file an assumed name certificate. For a sole proprietorship and partnership, an "assumed name" is one that doesn't include the last names or other legal name of the owners. For a corporation, limited liability company (LLC), limited partnership, or limited liability partnership (LLP), an "assumed name" is one that's different from what's listed in that company's formation documents. (Tex. Bus. & Com. Code § 71.002 (2023).)

For example, suppose Tall Tale Corp., a Texas corporation, does business under the name "Pecos Bill Ranch." The Texas corporation would be using an assumed name because the name it does business under is different from the name that's listed in its articles of incorporation.

Where you need to file your assumed name certificate depends on what kind of business you have:

  • A sole proprietor and partnership must file an assumed name certificate with their county clerk.
  • A corporation, LLC, limited partnership, and LLP must file an assumed name certificate with the SOS.

(Tex. Bus. & Com. Code §§ 71.054, 71.103 (2023).)

As of 2023, the fee to file your assumed name certificate with the SOS is $25. If you need to file a certificate at the county level, then you'll need to check with your county for their current filing fees. Your assumed name certificate is good for 10 years and can be renewed.

You can use Form 503 to file your assumed name certificate with the SOS. Your county will provide its own assumed name certificate form.

You can learn more on the name filings FAQ webpage of the SOS website.

Other Licenses and Permits Your Business Might Need

Apart from the licenses, permits, and registrations discussed above, your business might be required to comply with other laws and regulations. For example, you could have additional safety, health, and environmental requirements. If you're in a highly regulated field, you're more likely to need additional licenses and permits.

While this article has focused mainly on state and local licensing requirements in Texas, you should check federal laws that might apply to your business. If you have questions or need help navigating the licensing or permitting process, reach out to a Texas business lawyer. They can help you identify the licenses, permits, and registrations you need for your business. They can also help you apply for these permits and comply with federal, state, and local laws.

Additional Resources for Texas Small Businesses

Check out the SOS's guides and resources webpage to discover resources to help you build your small business in Texas. This webpage has links to resources that include:

Your local government website also probably has information to help your small business grow. For example, the City of Austin has a step-by-step guide to help small business owners choose a business structure, register their business, file their business taxes, and apply for licenses and permits.

In addition to these state resources, you can read more about how to start and operate your business in the small business section of our website. If you want 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.

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