How to Get a Tennessee Business License

Man working on laptop while looking at a smartphone.

If you’re a small business owner in Tennessee, then you may need to get a business license.

If you haven’t looked into getting your business license yet, don’t worry — we’re here to help!

We’ve taken the time to cover the basics, so that getting your state of Tennessee business license should be way more straightforward than if you were flying blind.

We’ll go over most of what you need to know, from the application process to fees and costs, and more. If you have questions about how to get a business license in Tennessee, you can likely find some of the answers here.

Do I Need a Tennessee Business License?

Technically, you don’t need a Tennessee business license to run a business, but this rule applies only if you make less than a certain amount of money.

If you earn less than $3,000 a month before taxes, then you don’t need a license. If you make between $3,000 and $10,000 a month, then you’re required to get a minimal activity license. If you make more than $10,000, then you’ll be required to get a standard Tennessee business license.

Similarly to how much you make, the nature of your work also factors into the requirements for a Tennessee business license. Depending on what your business’s products and services are, you may be required to get a license or permit from different state offices such as the Department of Health, the Alcoholic Beverage Commission, the Department of Agriculture and Industry Services, or the Department of Environment and Conservation.

Additionally, even though you may not be required to get a business license, your local municipality may require you to get a business license that’s specific to where you work. You can check the laws in your county and local municipalities here.

We recommend starting at the closest local level first, such as your city/town, and then checking the laws that apply to your county and/or region.

How to Get a Business License in Tennessee

1. Get your Tennessee small business details in order.

Getting your state of Tennessee business license could take a while if you aren’t ready with the appropriate paperwork. We recommend having the following at-hand when you are ready to apply:

  • Business name (you can register your small business here)
  • Business address
  • Owner’(s’) name(s) and address(es)
  • Main contact phone number
  • Social Security number
  • All of the above information for any co-founders (if applicable)
  • Your Employer Identification Number (EIN). Note: not all businesses will require this, but you can check if you’re required to have an EIN here.
  • Business Insurance Certificate of Insurance (COI)
  • Your current business plan
  • Any foreseen expenses and expected cash flow

You may not need all of this information to complete your Tennessee business application, but if you happen to need a piece of information, then you’ll be glad to have it

2. Navigate to your local municipality’s website.

Each county and city/town has slightly different requirements to get your state of Tennessee business license. Typically, most towns will allow the option of applying online or via mail. Check your local municipality’s website to learn about the application process for where you live and work.

For example, use the steps at the following links if you’re applying for a business license in:

3. Call if you have any questions.

If you still have questions about where to apply, you can call the Department of Commerce and Insurance Monday-Friday 8:00 a.m.-4:30 p.m. (Central time).

How Much Does It Cost for a Tennessee Business License?

Like the application process, the cost of your license depends on where you work and live.

Many business licenses begin at $15, but the costs can go up depending on your location.

You can find the cost of your state of Tennessee business license on your local municipal website

State of Tennessee Business License + Insurance Requirements

I mentioned earlier that when applying for a Tennessee business license, you may be asked to show proof of business insurance in order to get your business license.

This is certainly the case when it comes to getting a contractor’s license in Tennessee. And for good reason!

Getting business insurance for your company could help you protect you and your customers from third-party damages to property, accidents while on the job, and more. Here’s a short list of ways it can come in handy:

  • Help protect you and your company against potential civil lawsuits
  • Secure a sense of authority and trust in you for your customer
  • Help you win projects over competitors who aren’t insured

What’s more, the state or local government may require you to have some types of business insurance (e.g., workers compensation) if you have employees on either a part-time or full-time basis.

If you’re curious about the policy options and premium prices from Tennessee-based insurance providers, you can use our free quote comparison tool to find out.

Applying for an TN Business License?

You may need to show proof of business insurance to get your license.

That’s where we come in. Compare free insurance quotes for policies as low as $19.58/month.*

Getting Your Tennessee Business License Is a Big Step

There is so much required of small business owners when it comes to starting and growing your business.

You have to learn how to get the word out, who you believe is your target customer and what they need most, how to choose the best website design, and more. It would be easy to consider getting your business license as just one more checkbox on your to-do list.

But don’t skip ahead so quickly! Applying and getting a Tennessee business license is a huge step in your journey as a small business owner in Tennessee.

Yes, it takes time, money, and careful attention. But in the end, it means you’re on your way to doing whatever you do best!

Allison Grinberg-Funes

I’ve told stories since I learned to talk and written since I could hold a pen. As a small business owner myself – I’m a freelance writer and yoga teacher – I love contributing to the entrepreneurship community in different ways (including writing for Simply Business!). When I’m not drafting articles for SB, I can be found on my yoga mat, perusing an indie bookstore, and writing (with my cat nearby of course).

Allison writes on a number of topics such as small business leadership, business structures, and employee training.