What Business Licenses & Permits are Needed in Iowa?

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Starting a business in Iowa will mean potentially registering with a number of federal, state and local agencies.  Let’s take a look at common licenses and permits a business will register for in Iowa.

Business License – There is no general state of Iowa business license, however many cities require businesses to be licensed in order to operate. The cost and rules for business registration vary depending on location and what the business does.  Below are a few cities that have licensing requirements. 

Des Moines – The City of Des Moines requires licensing for certain businesses such as those selling alcohol, mobile vendors, pawn shops, and several more. 

Cedar Rapids A few types of businesses need to register with the Cedar Rapids City Clerk including bowling alleys, businesses selling alcohol, skating rinks, mobile food vendors and several others. 

Davenport – The Davenport Revenue Division issues business licenses to businesses operating within city limits.  Businesses selling alarm systems, food trucks, retail merchants and others will need to register.

Sioux City – Certain businesses such as those that provide body piercing, pawnbrokers, transient merchants and a few others will need to register with the City Clerk

WaterlooBusiness licenses in Waterloo are required for those that operate tree trimming businesses, pawnbrokers, and others. 

Employer Identification Number (EIN) – Many businesses will register with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for an EIN or Employer Identification Number.  The EIN is the business equivalent for a Social Security Number for an individual.  Corporations, Limited Liability Companies, Partnerships and Sole Proprietorships with employees will all need to register for one. Sole Proprietorships without employees can use the owner’s Social Security Number. 

There is no cost for an EIN and it only takes a few minutes to get.

Learn how to apply for an EIN.

Iowa Business Tax Permit – Anyone selling taxable goods or services in Iowa location must register for a Business Tax Permit.  A permit is needed for each location in Iowa and there is no charge to register.

Sales Tax Exemption Certificate – Businesses purchasing merchandise to resell will usually want to obtain an Iowa Sales Tax Exemption Certificate in order to not pay sales tax for merchandise that is being resold to customers.

Professional License – A variety of professions in the state are regulated and need to be registered before offering certain services.  A few common professions that require licensing in Iowa include; alarm installers, brewpubs, commercial kitchens, dietitians, fur dealers and many more.   Additional information, fees and licensing requirements for professions are available from the Iowa Professional Licensing Bureau.

In addition to professional licenses, businesses in a variety of industries such as food establishments, daycares, vehicle recyclers and many others require licensing.

Trade Name Registration – While not a business license, it’s common for Sole Proprietorships and Partnerships operating under a name that is different from the full name of the owner(s) to register for a Trade Name (also known as a Doing Business As or DBA) with the County Recorder’s Office in the county where the business is located.

These are a few of the most common business licenses, but there are way too many licenses and permits in Iowa for us to keep track of. Before starting your business, check with the City Hall, County Clerk, Chamber of Commerce and/or Economic Developer in your area to get more information regarding business licensing.  Additionally, there are companies like IncFile or CorpNet that can do the research to ensure you have the proper federal, state and local licenses.