If you’re starting an LLC in Iowa, the business entity formation process is one of the first and most important hurdles. This step can be terribly ...
How to Get a Business License in Iowa
Written by: Carolyn Young
Carolyn Young is a business writer who focuses on entrepreneurial concepts and the business formation. She has over 25 years of experience in business roles, and has authored several entrepreneurship textbooks.
Edited by: David Lepeska
David has been writing and learning about business, finance and globalization for a quarter-century, starting with a small New York consulting firm in the 1990s.
Published on July 11, 2022
Updated on May 2, 2023
One of the most important elements of starting a business in Iowa is making sure you have all the requisite licenses and permits. The requirements vary by state, some of which have as many as 300 different licenses and permits.
This article is too short to list them all, but it’s crucial that you’re aware of which ones your business needs and that you follow the steps for application and put your business on the road to success.
In Iowa, businesses need certain licenses and permits to legally operate as a business. The regulatory hurdles required vary depending on the type of business, its location, and the products and services offered.
To help you launch your new business, this article lays out the most commonly needed permits and licenses in Iowa — and details the steps required to acquire them.
Why are business licenses required in Iowa?
Business licenses and permits are issued to certify that a business and its products and services are safe for the public. This explains why food businesses, for instance, require more licenses than most other business types.
Which agency issues business licenses in Iowa?
In Iowa, the Department of Revenue issues the vast majority of licenses and permits, though some are issued by the Department of Commerce and the Department of Public Health. For instance, the state commerce department issues liquor licenses, but the public health department issues licenses for health care-related businesses.
Some licenses and permits are issued by cities or counties. For example, if you live in Cedar Rapids, you need to check with that city to see if licenses or permits are required for your business by the city.
Before you apply, it’s important to know which state or local agency issues the license you need. Check the state’s guidelines here to learn more.
You could also check this SBA guide for your state’s requirements, but we recommend using MyCorporation’s Business License Compliance Package. They will research the exact forms you need for your business and state and provide them to ensure you’re fully compliant.
Steps to Get an Iowa Business License
In Iowa, the steps for acquiring specific licenses and permits vary widely, so it’s important to be aware of what you need, and how to get it.
Determine the Types of Licenses That You Need
The types of licenses you need will depend on the nature of your business. If you have a restaurant, you’ll need various food service licenses and permits. If you sell tangible goods or certain services, you’ll need a sales tax permit. If you’re in construction, you may need contractor’s licenses or fire and safety permits.
Submit Your Business License Application
You’ll apply for your licenses and permits through the relevant department. For example, to apply for a sales tax license you’ll apply through the Department of Revenue.
How much does an Iowa business license cost?
Fees for business licenses and permits vary and can range from zero for a sales tax permit to several thousand dollars for a liquor license.
In Iowa, and most US states, jumping through all the hoops to acquire the necessary licenses and permits can be exhausting. But if you want to operate your business, you’ll have to wade through all the red tape. So get started on these regulatory hurdles as early as possible and clear the way for your entrepreneurial journey to success.
How fast can I get a business license in Iowa?
Most licenses and permits are issued within a few days to a week. For example, a sales tax permit is issued immediately upon application. A liquor license, on the other hand, takes about 45 days.
Renew Your Licences When Needed
Most licenses and permits must be renewed annually. Nominal fees are usually involved.
Types of Business Licenses
Your business may need local, state, and/or federal licenses and permits, depending on your type of business. Fees for these vary, but most costs are minimal.
Federal regulations associated with starting your business include doing business as (DBA), health licenses and permits from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), trademarks, copyrights, patents, and other intellectual properties, as well as industry-specific permits.
The most common permits and licenses include:
- Business operating licenses may be required by the city and the state to allow you to operate.
- Industry-specific licenses may be required, depending on your type of business. Businesses involved in construction, childcare, plumbing, electrical, food and liquor, insurance, finance, landscaping, and architecture all require licensing, for example. In some highly regulated industries, you may require licensing from a federal agency, such as the FDA or Department of Transportation.
- Zoning permits are issued by municipalities to ensure you’re operating in an area in which you’re allowed to operate.
- Building permits verify that the building you’re operating in is up to code. Home occupation permits, which some areas require, allow you to operate a business from your home.
- DBA permits allow you to do business under a name that is different from your legally registered business name.
- Sales tax permits allow you to sell products and collect sales tax.
- An employer identification number (EIN) is required if you plan to have employees, no matter what your business entity type.
- Health licenses and permits are required for certain businesses based on industry, and you will be required to maintain health and safety standards. Environmental permits are also required for certain industries in some locations.
- Fire permits certify that your business is up to fire safety codes. Depending on your location, this may be required for all businesses, while in other areas it’s required only if you work with flammable materials.
- Sign permits may be required for your location or other signage if there are rules about sign size and location.
Again, check with local government offices in your area for specific requirements based on your location and industry.
How to Get a Business License in Iowa
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