How to Get an Illinois Business License

A contractor who owns a contractor’s license in Illinois is using a drill.

If you’re hoping the “Land of Lincoln” is a place of business opportunity, this post is for you. Starting a business is an exciting time, but it certainly comes with a lot of questions. What do I need to do to get started? How much will it cost? How long will it take?

The state of Illinois has a handy guide to starting a business that covers ten key steps in the process. Today, I’m here to help you sort out how to get a business license in Illinois. There will be a few definitions to cover, and you will have some homework, but you should save time with this guide.

Since I’ve combed through government sites and reviewed countless PDFs, we can focus on the info you need.

The sooner we start, the closer you are to hitting your new business goals. Here we go!

Do I Need Authorization to Get an Illinois Business License?

Before we get into how to get a business license in Illinois and Illinois Business Authorizations, we have to cover the “what.” There are a few terms to understand when setting up your Illinois business:

An Illinois Business Authorization, also called a Certificate of Registration, allows you to do business in the state. We’ll review how to get this certificate, but all you need to know now is that every business needs this stamp of approval to conduct business and pay taxes.

An Illinois Business License is an occupation-specific permit that helps the state ensure you’re qualified to perform a skill. Having license requirements in place holds you accountable for your work and shows customers you’ve taken the right steps. Many businesses will need a license, but not all.

Before we go any further, I want to point out the state’s First Stop Business Information Center when you’re looking at how to get a business license in Illinois. This website and hotline exist to help you find business and regulatory info. You can call to talk to business specialists, search for requirements, and more. If you have any doubts about how to get a business license in Illinois, call the hotline at 800-252-2923 or email them at [email protected].

How To Get A Business License in Illinois

1. Apply for your authorization.

Since every new Illinois business needs a registration certificate, it’s best to tackle this first and get it out of the way. You can complete registration online, via mail, or at an Illinois Department of Revenue office. Filing everything online takes one to two days to process, instead of six to eight weeks for mail-in applications.

If you want to register online, fill out the forms on the MyTax Illinois site. If you prefer tangible forms, print the REG-1 application form here and mail it to:

Central Registration Division, Illinois Department of Revenue PO Box 19030 Springfield, IL 62794-9030

Be sure to review these schedule forms to see if any apply to your business. For example, companies selling cigarettes must complete and submit form REG-1-C in addition to the standard Illinois Business Authorization application.

2. Check what licenses are needed to start a business in Illinois.

While there are standard Illinois Business Authorization forms, the process is more varied. Whether or not you need to obtain a business license in Illinois, and what it takes to get one, depends on the type of work you do. There is a state page about business licensing, but it’s not very organized.

The best place to start your search, then, is on the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation’s site (IDFPR). This page has an alphabetical list of all the regulated professions with links to license applications and resources.

Some of the regulated industries include:

  • Architects
  • Athletic trainers
  • Counselors
  • Detectives
  • Land surveyors
  • Locksmiths
  • Salon owners
  • And many more

If you don’t find your occupation on that list, check with different state departments. For example, the Illinois Department of Public Health licenses asbestos abatement, irrigation contractors, plumbers, water well contractors, and more.

3. Visit your local government’s site to find city and county requirements.

Whether you find state license requirements for your business or not, you still should check local rules. Just as there are federal business licenses, there also are local ones. Here’s where to check if you live in one of Illinois’ five largest cities:

If you don’t live in one of these towns, look for your county and city Clerk’s websites.

4. Complete prerequisites and submit your application.

Business license applications in Illinois are straightforward, but you may need to submit supporting documentation. Here are a few examples of licensure prerequisites you might come across:

In addition to documentation and details for your prerequisites, you may need to include the following on your application:

  • Personal information such as your name, address, and birthday
  • Business details including your Illinois Business Authorization, name, and address
  • A Certificate of Insurance (COI), if applicable

Some businesses can submit license applications on the IDFPR registration site here. Other occupations, such as roofing contractors, must complete a paper application and mail it

Where do I Get my Business License in Illinois?

Just like when applying for your business authorization, you have three options:

  1. Apply online with MyTax Illinois.
  2. Apply by mail: Central Registration Division. Illinois Department of Revenue. P.O. Box 19030. Springfield, IL 62794-9030.
  3. Apply in person at the Department of Revenue Regional Offices.

How Much Does It Cost To Get an Illinois Business License?

All companies come with some startup costs, and for Illinois business owners, license fees may be a part of that. Just like the requirements and applications vary between jobs, so do the fees. Here are a few fee amounts (as of the date of this posting) to get a business license in Illinois:

You also may submit an application fee if your business requires a special schedule form for the Illinois Business Authorization. For example, cigarette distributors pay a $250 fee to set their business up with the Department of Revenue.

Insurance Requirements

Earlier I mentioned that you might need to submit proof of insurance with your application. What was that all about? Business insurance, also called general liability coverage, can protect your business in the event of accidents, third-party damage, and more. Having coverage protects both your business finances, as well as your customers’ interests.

As a result, states require some occupations to carry a policy before making their first sale. For example, roofers need at least $500,000 in general liability coverage, and asbestos contractors need at least $1,000,000 in coverage.

Even companies without a legal requirement for insurance could consider a policy. For starters, the small monthly fee could pale compared to legal fees and damages from lawsuits in the unfortunate event of an accident. Plus, insurance is great for building customer confidence. Being able to show potential clients that you’re licensed and insured shows a commitment to excellence.

If you’d like to get your insurance ducks in a row before starting your business – or while learning about how to get a business license in Illinois – use our free quote comparison tool. It takes only a few minutes to compare custom policies from top insurers, and you’ll gain peace of mind.

You can find more information about Illinois business insurance here. And if you’re looking to start a contractor business, check out our guide to getting an Illinois contractor’s’ license.

Applying for a Business License in Illinois?

Something to keep in mind as you learn more about how to get a business license in Illinois is business insurance. You may need to show proof of it to get your license.

That’s where we come in. Compare insurance quotes today.

First Stop Licensing, Next Stop Sales!

I get it — filling out a bunch of forms and taking exams can be a drudge. I can’t promise that it will be fun, but it’s worth it in the long run. By taking a few minutes today to learn, you’re setting yourself up for future success.

Once you have your Illinois Business Authorization, you can come back to our blog for more great topics like creating brand loyalty and quickly growing profits. Good luck!

Stephanie Knapp

I’m a freelance writer who has always had an interest in entrepreneurship, starting way back with lemonade stands. These days I write to help business owners with their everyday challenges and choices. When I’m not typing away, you’ll find me eating pizza, volunteering at the animal shelter, or taking too many pictures of my cats.

Stephanie writes on a number of topics such as state insurance regulations, business licenses, and small business administration.