Step 1. Name and form your business
If you plan to form a formal business entity such as a corporation or LLC, complete the business formation process before applying for business licenses. To help you start 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 them, the best services LLC. 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 business license in Montana
Once you’ve actually established your business, it’s time to apply for your business license in Montana. Although you may need several specialized licenses depending on the industry you work in, most cities and towns in Montana will require a general business license for all businesses. To determine if you need a general commercial license, go to the your city and or your county and find the license page. You can also contact your city clerk or county clerk by phone or email if you cannot find the information online.
Step 3. Determine what other local licenses may be applicable
Now that you have applied for a general business license, you should also check with your city or county government if you need any specific licenses for your industry or profession. Some cities may not have too many specialized licenses, for example, the city of helene only requires a general business license, a home business license for any businesses short of non-business properties, and then a separate liquor license.
However, the missoula city has additional specialty licenses such as building contractor licenses, commercial tenant licenses, medical marijuana licenses, and street vendor licenses.
Step 4. Apply for any additional statewide licenses you need
Although the Montana state government does not require any statewide business licenses or general vendor permits, it does require a number of different specialty licenses for certain industries and professions. The list is long, and companies may be required to obtain more than one license, possibly from multiple state departments or agencies.
Montana eStop Portal offers the most common business licenses for retail food, retail tobacco, beer and wine, lottery and a few other common licenses. A more comprehensive list of state-regulated business licenses can be found and requested through the Montana Department of Revenue.
Step 5. Apply for federal licenses and tax treatment (if needed)
The majority of small businesses will not need to obtain federal licenses or permits, but if your business is engaged in 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
Contact the appropriate federal department to find out if you are required to obtain a license or permit.