How to Get a Small Business License in Connecticut

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

By , Attorney University of North Carolina School of Law
Updated 3/06/2024

If you want to create a new business in Connecticut, you'll need to follow the associated legal requirements. Before opening for business, you'll need to make sure you've satisfied all the regulatory requirements at the federal, state, and local levels, including obtaining the necessary licenses and permits for your small business.

Below are some specific licensing issues for you to consider as you start your new business.

Which Business Licenses Do You Need for Your Small Business?

When starting a business in Connecticut, 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 Connecticut

As is the case with many states, Connecticut doesn't issue a statewide general business license. However, you might need to obtain a business license depending on your location or business activities.

You can create a personalized business checklist through Connecticut's government website. By answering a series of questions about your business and your proposed business location and activities, you can view a checklist customized for your business. Depending on your answers to the questions, your checklist can include information about:

  • registering your business
  • getting approval for your business location from local officials
  • filing for a trade name (also called a "DBA")
  • registering for taxes and permits with the DRS
  • paying employment taxes
  • applying for licenses and permits, and
  • obtaining insurance.

The checklist also includes links to various government resources for small businesses.

You could need to obtain special licensing at multiple levels, such as through the city, county, state, and federal governments. Some cities and counties require anyone who wants to operate within the city or county to obtain a license. Other cities require only businesses in particular industries to get a license.

For example, the City of New Haven requires licensing for only select business activities. Likewise, Hartford's Licenses and Inspections Division issues business licenses for limited services, such as laundromat, mobile vendor, and food truck services. In these cases, you only need to obtain a business license if your business activities fall under one of the service areas that requires a license from the city.

Visit your city's website or contact local officials to determine whether your business operations require a license. In general, each city will have its own procedure and license fees. (The City of Hartford has a list of city requirements for businesses on its starting a business webpage.)

Professional and Occupational Licenses for Businesses and Individuals in Connecticut

Your profession or occupation might require you to obtain a license to practice in your industry. Depending on your field, you might be required to have two separate licenses: one for you and one for your business.

Connecticut's eLicense website provides a central location for practitioners across many professions and occupations to apply for and renew their licenses. The eLicense website includes licenses, permits, registrations, and certifications issued by more than a dozen regulatory agencies. Some of the agencies include:

To apply for and renew your license using Connecticut's eLicense website, you'll need to create an account.

Your license might not be associated with the eLicense website. If your license or certification isn't issued by one of the agencies listed on the eLicense website, then you should contact your regulatory agency directly. In general, your regulatory agency website will have details regarding your license requirements, including how you can apply for and renew your license.

Every profession or occupation has its own rules and requirements. For instance, your profession might require you to pass an initial licensing exam or complete continuing education courses. You should contact your regulatory authority directly if you're unsure about how to apply for or maintain your license.

Connecticut Sales and Use Tax Permit

In general, you must register with the DRS and obtain a sales and use tax permit if you do any of the following activities in Connecticut:

  • sell, rent, or lease tangible personal property
  • provide taxable services, or
  • operate a hotel, motel, lodging house, or bed and breakfast.

Your sales and use tax permit will allow you to make taxable sales in Connecticut and to collect and pay sales tax from customers.

You can register your business with the DRS online via myconneCT. As of 2024, the fee to register for a sales and use tax permit is $100. Once you register your business, you'll receive a CT tax registration number and sales tax permit. You must visibly display your permit at your place of business.

When you register your business with the DRS, you can also register for other business taxes—such as the pass-through entity tax, income withholding tax, and corporate business tax—using the same application.

In Connecticut, cities, counties, towns, and other local municipalities don't collect sales tax.

Local Zoning and Building Permits

If you plan to do construction work—for example, building a new space or renovating an existing space—you'll probably need to get special zoning and building permits from your city or county. To get the required permits or special zoning, you'll typically need to go through some sort of review process that consists of filing an application, attending meetings with local officials, and passing final inspections.

If your work is extensive, you might also need to submit site plans or hire a professional architect or engineer. Sometimes, at the end of the process, if the city has signed off and has determined your construction is up to code, you'll receive a clearance or approval certificate (or similar document) that allows you to start occupying your commercial space.

For example, the City of New Haven's Office of Building Inspection and Enforcement issues permits for construction work. The Office (also referred to as the "Building Department") provides the following steps to its construction process:

  1. You obtain zoning and property information.
  2. You design and draw up your project plans.
  3. You submit your plans and permit application to the Building Department.
  4. The Building Department approves your plans and issues the permit.
  5. You start construction, and the Building Department completes inspections.
  6. The Building Department does its final inspection of your space and issues either a certificate of occupancy or a certificate of approval.

While the process for each city and type of permit differs, the aforementioned steps provide a general overview of what you can expect.

You should talk to your local officials or visit your city or county website for information related to building permits and inspections. You can sometimes find an online application for the type of permit you need. Be sure to also review your local code and ordinances to figure out which zoning and building requirements apply to your business and 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 plan to lease a commercial space, make sure you have a section in the commercial lease that ensures that the building and your use of the space are in line with the zoning laws.

Filing a Trade Name Certificate (DBA) in Connecticut

If you conduct business in Connecticut using a name that's different from your real or legal name, you're using a trade name (also called a "DBA," "fictitious business name," or "assumed name").

In Connecticut, your real or legal name depends on your business entity:

If you do business using a trade name, then you must file a trade name certificate with the town clerk's office in the town where you'll do business. (Conn. Gen. Stat. § 35-1 (2024).)

For example, suppose Samantha registered her advertising agency with the SOTS under the name "Bewitched Advertising LLC." But Samantha now wants to do business in Fairfield under the name "Samantha's Bewitching Ad Agency." Samantha must file a Trade Name Certificate, including the filing fee, with the Fairfield Town Clerk.

As of 2024, the filing fee for a trade name certificate is $10. You must have your certificate notarized.

For additional information, see the getting a trade name certificate (DBA) webpage on the Connecticut government website.

Other Licenses and Permits Your Business Might Need

In addition to the licenses and permits discussed above, your business could be required to comply with other laws and regulations. For example, your business might need to apply for special licensing or follow special rules related to:

  • safety
  • health, and
  • the environment.

These regulatory areas are sometimes encompassed within other licenses, permits, and registrations. However, at other times, these licenses and permits will require a separate process altogether. If your business is part of 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 probably need to follow additional protocols.

The requirements and processes might 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 details. It's important to note that some businesses might be exempt from local licensing requirements under state or federal law.

Check with your federal, state, and local governments for more information.

Additional Information for Small Businesses in Connecticut

The business section of the Connecticut government website is a great place to start for new business owners. You can access information, resources, services, tools, and assistance through this section of the website.

You should also check out the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD) for help and resources for your small business. The DECD offers support to businesses by business type (for instance, small businesses, women-owned businesses, entrepreneurs, and more) and industry. On the DECD website, you can find links about:

  • business registration requirements
  • licensing requirements
  • business taxes
  • labor laws
  • employer services
  • funding opportunities, and
  • tax incentives.

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has district offices in Hartford and Bridgeport. The office's website lists upcoming events, resources, and news for small businesses.

Moreover, the Connecticut Small Business Development Center (CTSBDC) has guidance on how to start and grow your business. The website includes information on training sessions and workshops, as well as how to request business advice. The CTSBDC is part of a national network of small business development centers.

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

For personalized, professional help, you should speak with a Connecticut business attorney who has experience working with businesses in your industry. An attorney can help you navigate the steps to get your business license or permit.

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