Step 1. Name and form your business
If you haven’t already started a business, decide what type of business structure you want and file formation documents before applying for a business license. For help starting your business, check out one of our Forbes Advisor guides on starting a business, forming an LLC, and, for those who want someone else to do it for you. them, Best LLC Services. Once you’ve started your business, get your paperwork in order and make sure you have:
- A trade name
- An EIN (Employer Identification Number) or SSN (if you are a sole proprietor)
- A type of business entity (LLC, partnership, corporation, etc.)
- A business address and telephone number
- A business plan that includes expected income and expenses
- A certificate of insurance (COI) for your business insurance policy
Step 2. Apply for your Arkansas Business License
The next step to obtaining a business license in Arkansas is to apply for your local business license. These licenses are controlled at the city and sometimes county level and will allow your business to operate in each municipality where your business exists. For example, the city of Little Rock requires a general business license for all businesses in the city. To find your local government office, go to the Arkansas Local Government Portal website. Most local government websites offer online business licenses, but in some cases you may need to mail a request to the city clerk or county clerk.
Step 3. Determine what other local licenses may be applicable
Once you have obtained the general business license for your local municipality, you may also need to apply for other localized licenses or permits to legally operate your business. For example, the city of Little Rock requires specialty licenses for businesses that serve alcohol or sell tobacco products. Check with your local government through the county recorder or city clerk’s website to determine if you need other localized licenses.
Step 4. Apply for any additional statewide licenses you need
Businesses that sell or lease taxable goods or services in Arkansas will need a state sales tax permit. This permit, sometimes colloquially referred to as a vendor’s permit, allows businesses to collect sales and use tax on any tangible goods or taxable services they sell or lease. To obtain a sales tax permit, register online at the Arkansas Taxpayer Access Point.
Businesses may also need additional licenses from the Arkansas state government for certain industries or specialty occupations. Commonly licensed occupations include all businesses working in the health and wellness, food and hospitality, construction, finance, education, or alcohol sectors. For a complete list of licensed professions in the state of Arkansas and to apply for specialty licenses, go to the Arkansas Licensed Professions resource page.
Step 5. Apply for federal licenses and tax treatment (if needed)
Most small businesses will not need federal licenses or permits. However, if your business conducts federally regulated activities, you may need to obtain a federal license. Common areas of federal business licenses include:
- Sale, service, distribution or importation of alcohol
- Air, sea or land transport
- Firearms, ammunition and explosives
- Fish and wildlife, including commercial fisheries
- Mining and drilling
- Nuclear energy
- Broadcasting and television broadcasting
If you work in one of these industries, contact the appropriate federal department to find out if you need a license or permit.