Tennessee Business License Requirements for an LLC

Home » Tennessee LLC » Tennessee Business License Requirements for an LLC

Deal alert! Our favorite company, Northwest, is forming LLCs for $39 (60% off!) See details.

A Tennessee business license gives your Limited Liability Company (LLC) permission to operate in a certain location or within a specific industry.

While we can’t walk you through any applicable license applications step-by-step, we do provide helpful resources like:

  • information about state licensing rules
  • instructions for researching municipal licenses

And if you want to just hire a company to do the research for you, we have a recommendation below.

Tennessee Business License Requirements

Business License

After you form a Tennessee LLC, you may need to obtain a business license or permit.

Your requirements are determined by the industry you are in and where your Tennessee Limited Liability Company is located.

Because of the large number of industries and all of the municipalities in Tennessee, it’s not possible for us to explain them all. However, you can use the search tools below, call your local municipality, or hire a company for help.

Need to save time? We recommend hiring MyCompanyWorks (for $99) to handle the business license research for you.

How to get a Business License in Tennessee

You can obtain a business license in Tennessee by applying with the relevant licensing or regulatory agency. The agency you apply with will depend on where your business is located and what business activities it engages in.

The business license application typically requires basic information, such as your LLC name, EIN Number, business address, and contact information. Many also include a questionnaire that asks about your business activity.

There are three main licensing jurisdictions:

  • State licensing
  • Local licensing, such as county, city, township, etc.
  • Federal licensing

Does Tennessee Require a Business License?

That depends on where your business is located, and what it does.

There are two types of state-level business licenses:

  • a general business license
  • and an occupational license

Tennessee General Business License

Some states have a general license requirement, which means all businesses operating in those states must have the license, regardless of what they do.

Although Tennessee doesn’t have a general business license requirement, you do have to register with the Department of Revenue. Tennessee has a state Business Tax that applies to almost every company doing business in Tennessee.

You can review the Business Tax Manual from the Department of Revenue to see if your LLC is exempt from the business tax.

Tennessee Business Tax Registration

Almost every business operating in Tennessee must register for the Tennessee Business Tax.

The Tennessee Department of Revenue’s Registration and Licensing page will guide you through the process. The registration fee is $15.

Online Registration for Business Tax

All new businesses must register using TNTAP.

First, create a TNTAP username and password.

Then from the dashboard, click “View Registration Links” in the Registration/Exemption section.

On the next screen, click “Register a New Business” and complete the form.

Tips:

  • You will need your LLC EIN Number to complete this registration.
  • If you formed an LLC in Tennessee, your “State of Original Charter/Certification” will be Domestic.
  • If you formed an LLC in another state and are registering it in Tennessee, you’re a Foreign LLC.

The system will also allow you to register for a variety of other tax licenses from the Department of Revenue.

Tennessee Occupational License

Most states have occupational business license requirements. This means a license or permit may be required depending on what your business does or what your occupation is. For example, if you sell used cars, or run a hair salon, you may need an occupational business license. But a license may not be required for other types of businesses.

The Tennessee Department of Commerce & Insurance Licensing & Regulations page can help you determine if your Tennessee business needs an occupational license or permit, and which agency to contact about applying for the license. Look through the list of licensed occupations and industries on the left side of the page.

You can look through this list of Regulatory Boards to see if your industry or occupation needs a business license in Tennessee.

You can also contact the Department of Commerce & Insurance with questions. Or you can contact the relevant Regulatory Board or Commission directly.

Note: Tennessee business licenses are not issued by the Secretary of State. The Secretary of State is responsible for business entity administration, for example Limited Liability Company formation.

How much is a Tennessee Business License?

Tennessee doesn’t have a general business license at the state level, so there are no fees there. But the Business Tax registration with the Department of Revenue costs $15, and almost every Tennessee LLC must file that registration.

However, your business may need a state-level occupational license or municipal-level license or permit to operate. The filing fee for these licenses will vary depending on where you’re doing business and what industry you’re in. To be honest, we can’t predict your specific Tennessee business license cost.

For example, licenses issued by a county that contains a large city are usually more expensive than licenses in less populated, rural counties. And licenses for regulated industries, like child care facilities, are usually more expensive than generic business licenses.

But your LLC might not need a license or permit at all. So your Tennessee business license cost could be $0.

See LLC Cost in Tennessee to learn about all the possible LLC fees.

Municipal Business License

Municipal business licenses can be issued by the city, town, county, parish, township, borough, etc. We refer to all of these as a “municipality” to keep things simple.

There are two types of municipal business licenses:

  • general business license
  • industry-specific license

For example, if a municipality has a general business license requirement, all businesses operating in that municipality must have the license, regardless of what they do.

And if a municipality has industry-specific business licenses, a license or permit may be required depending on what your business does. For example, if you operate a food truck, or run a daycare, you may need an industry-specific municipal business license. Or if you’re purchasing or leasing real estate, you may need a zoning permit.

But a license may not be required for other types of businesses, like making wedding invitation templates or offering marketing consulting.

You can contact your municipality to check on their local licensing requirements. The University of Tennessee’s Institute for Public Service has convenient links to county and city websites:

And make sure to check whether your city has a business tax. This is not a business license, but registering for the business tax and paying it every year is important to keep your LLC in good standing.

Tennessee Sales Tax License

If you sell products to consumers in Tennessee, you may need to collect sales tax and file a Sales and Use Tax Return.

If your business activities are subject to sales and use tax, your LLC must register with the Department of Revenue.

Note: This requirement will apply whether you sell products online or in a physical location in Tennessee.

You can register for sales tax with the Department of Revenue online using TNTAP. You can do this at the same time you register for the Tennessee Business Tax (described above).

For additional information about the Sales and Use Tax in Tennessee, check out the Tennessee Department of Revenue’s Sales and Use Tax page.

Review the Department of Revenue’s Tax Manuals for detailed information about what taxes (and registrations) apply to your company.

Tip: Save time by hiring an expert. We recommend using TaxJar. They'll help you register for, collect, and pay sales tax.

Do I need any federal business licenses?

Most businesses in Tennessee don’t need a federal business license. However, certain industries do need federal licenses:

If your business…Contact this agency about business licenses
Transports animals, plants or biotechnology over state linesDepartment of Agriculture
Imports or exports animal products, wildlife, or products derived from wildlife (including fish)Fish and Wildlife Service
Fishes commerciallyFish and Wildlife Service
Broadcasts on radio or TVFederal Communications Commission
Makes alcohol and sells it at a retail storeTobacco Tax and Trade Bureau
Makes or sells firearms, ammunition or explosivesBureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives
Transports cargo by seaFederal Maritime Commission
Transports goods or people by airFederal Aviation Administration

Check out the Small Business Administration’s Licenses and Permits page for a full list of industries with federal license requirements.

If your business isn’t one of these special cases, then the only federal requirements are that your LLC get a Tennessee EIN Number (aka Federal Employer Identification Number) and that you file taxes.

Tennessee Business License FAQs

Tennessee doesn’t have a general business license for LLCs, so there are no fees there. However, almost every Tennessee LLC must register for the Business Tax with the Department of Revenue. That registration costs $15.

If your business has to get an occupational license or municipal (city or county) permit, the fees are hard to predict. Depending on your LLC’s location, and what type of business or industry you’re in, the fee varies.

And you might not need a business license at all!

Unfortunately, we can’t say what your LLC’s business license costs would be, because it depends on several factors and the cost of Tennessee licenses varies.

No, an LLC is not a business license. They are two completely different things.

An LLC is a type of business structure created by filing a document with the state government.

And a business license is a document that gives a person, or a company, the right to transact business. It doesn’t create an LLC.

Sometimes a new business owner chooses to operate as a Sole Proprietorship in Tennessee instead of an LLC.

Even if you’re just trying out a business idea as a Sole Proprietorship, you may still be subject to license requirements at the state and municipal levels. It just depends on what you will be doing, and where you will be operating your business.

No, the Tennessee Secretary of State doesn’t handle licensing requirements. Instead, they manage business entity formation and registration. For example, depending on business entity type, business owners file different paperwork with the Secretary of State to create their business entity.

For more information, or to determine if there is a Tennessee business license cost for your business, we recommend contacting the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance and/or your local government agency. For example, your local county or city government will have information about any local licenses.

Here are the steps to starting an LLC in Tennessee:

  1. Select a business name for your Tennessee LLC
  2. Choose your Registered Agent
  3. File the LLC Articles of Organization with the state
  4. Complete and sign an LLC Operating Agreement
  5. Get a Tax ID Number (EIN) from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS)
  6. Open an LLC bank account
  7. Check whether you need a business license or tax permits in Tennessee

Matt Horwitz
Matt Horwitz
Founder & Educator, LLC University®
Matt Horwitz has been the leading expert on LLC education for the past decade. He founded LLC University in 2010 after realizing people needed simple and actionable instructions to start an LLC that other companies weren't offering. He's cited by Entrepreneur Magazine, Yahoo Finance, and the US Chamber of Commerce, and was featured by CNBC and InventRight.
 
Matt holds a Bachelor's Degree in business from Drexel University with a concentration in business law. He performs extensive research and analysis to convert state laws into simple instructions anyone can follow to form their LLC - all for free! Read more about Matt Horwitz and LLC University.

Leave a comment or question

 Email me when I get a reply.

×