What Business Licenses and Permits are Needed in Rhode Island?

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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.

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.  

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.

Rhode Island Sales Tax Permit – Retailers of tangible personal property need to register for a sales tax 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 in order to not pay sales tax for merchandise that is being resold to customers.

Professional License – A variety of professionals 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.

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 Town or City Clerk’s Office 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 Rhode Island 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.