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What Business Licenses and Permits are Needed in Rhode Island?

What Business Licenses and Permits are Needed in Rhode Island?

Starting a business in Rhode Island 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 Rhode Island.

Before applying for any licenses, the business entity will first need to be established. Learn more about the differences between the sole proprietorship, general partnership, corporation, and Limited Liability Company (LLC).

Related: Comparison of Business Entities

Learn more about forming an LLC in Rhode Island

Also see: Steps to starting a business in Rhode Island

Business License

There is no general state of Rhode Island business license, however, many cities require businesses to be licensed in order to operate. Rules for business registration vary depending on location and what the business does.  Below are a few cities that have licensing requirements. 

Providence – The City of Providence licenses businesses such as mobile vendors, private detectives, pawnbrokers, and several others.   

The cost of a business license in Providence varies depending on the type of business being licensed.

Cranston The Cranston Committee on Safety Services and Licenses issues licenses for businesses such as establishments selling alcohol, bowling alleys, flower vendors, antique sellers, and several others. 

Pawtucket – Business licenses in Pawtucket are only required for certain businesses such as second-hand shops, auto repair shops, mobile food vendors, businesses selling alcohol, and a few others.  


Done for you license research

Take the guesswork out of figuring out what licenses and permits are required to start your business with license research packages from IncFile and CorpNet.

For as little as $99, you can save a lot of time and know your business is in compliance with local, state, and federal requirements. 


Building & Zoning Permits

Zoning – Depending on the location of the business, it’s important to verify whether the business needs an occupancy permit or has specific zoning regulations to follow. Depending on city requirements, home-based businesses may need to apply for a home occupation permit.

Building Permit – A building permit may be needed from the city or county building and planning department if there is any construction or renovations to a facility.

Signage Permit – Some municipalities require a permit before adding signage.

Sales Tax Permit

Retailers of tangible personal property need to register for a sales tax permit (also called a seller’s permit) from the Rhode Island Division of Taxation.

Resale Certificate

Businesses purchasing merchandise to resell will usually want to obtain a Rhode Island Resale Certificate (also called a wholesale license) from the Rhode Island Department of Revenue to not pay sales tax for merchandise being resold to customers.

Professional License

A variety of occupations in the state are regulated and need to register, such as accountants, landscapers, auto body repair, brewpubs, and many more.  Additional information, fees, and licensing requirements for professions are available from the state of Rhode Island Department of Business Regulation.

In addition to professional licenses from the Department of Business Regulation, businesses in a variety of industries such as food establishments, daycares, salvage yards, and many others also require licensing.

Employer Identification Number (EIN)

Many businesses will register with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for an EIN (also referred to as a FEIN, Federal Employer Identification Number, or Federal Tax ID Number). The EIN is the business equivalent of 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

Trade Name Registration

While not a business license, it’s common for Sole Proprietorships and Partnerships operating under a business 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 City or Town Clerk’s Office where the business is located.


These are just some of the most common business licenses a new business will need to register before starting. Before starting your business, be sure to check with the Town Clerk, Chamber of Commerce, and/or Economic Developer in your area to get more information regarding business licensing.

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