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Shelby County Business License Guide

4-minute read

Chris Bousquet

Chris Bousquet

17 January 2023

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Shelby County, Tennessee ranks as the #2 most diverse, #6 healthiest, and #6 best county in the state of Tennessee for young professionals, according to research from Niche marketing.*

If you’re thinking about starting your own business in Shelby County, Tennessee, these rankings are an indicator that good things may come.

But before you dive right in with your business, you’ll first need to take care of a little business. That includes applying for and getting a business license — and then registering it with Shelby County for tax purposes.

That’s why we created this quick guide. It’ll walk you through the purpose of having — and the process for getting — a business license in Shelby County.

Let’s get to it.

What to Know About a Business License in Shelby County

One question many people ask when starting their own business is: “What is the first step in starting a business?” One of the answers to that question often is obtaining a business license. Let’s look at how to get one.

Obtaining a Shelby County, Tennessee business license.

Every state has different rules when it comes to obtaining business licenses. Some states don’t require a business license at the state level. Instead, they leave it up to the various counties within the state to issue them. Some counties then leave it up to the cities or towns within the county.

In Shelby County, Tenn., you might need a county license and a city or town license. It all depends on where your business is located.

If your business is in Memphis,TN for example, then you’re required to have a combined City of Memphis and Shelby County Business License. The cost is $30 for the combined license. The application process goes through the County Clerk’s Office.

For all other cities/towns in Shelby County (Arlington, Bartlett, Collierville, Germantown, Lakeland, or Millington), you’ll have to get two separate licenses - a city business license, and the Shelby County Business License. To obtain the city's business license, submit an application through that city’s Town Hall. The city license costs $15.

You also will need to obtain a Shelby County Business License through Shelby County’s administrative offices.

If this sounds complicated, fear not. The next section will help guide you to where you need to go so that you can find what you need.

The Shelby County Business License application.

As I just mentioned, if you plan to start a business in Memphis, you must purchase a combined City of Memphis and Shelby County Business license.

You can find more information about this in the Business Tax Division section of Shelby County’s website. Or this link will take you straight to the Shelby County Clerk Business License Application. Mailing instructions are included in the application. Questions can be directed to the Shelby County Clerk’s Office at 901-222-3059.

If you plan to locate your business in one of the other cities or towns in Shelby County, click on the appropriate link below, and it will take you to that city’s website. If the business license application doesn’t appear on the landing page, do a quick search and it should take you right to it. Phone numbers to the relevant departments are included if you’d rather call them.

  • Arlington Town Hall 901-867-2620
  • Bartlett New City Hall 901-385-6428
  • Collierville Town Hall 901-457-2280
  • Germantown City Hall 901-757-7218
  • Lakeland City Hall 901-867-2717
  • Millington City Hall 901-872-2211

Once you’ve submitted the business license application and paid the $15 fee, you will need to apply for a Shelby County License. Keep reading for how to do that.

Completing a Shelby County Business License application online.

Although applications for business licenses in the cities listed above must be filled out and either mailed or delivered in-person to the pertinent Town or City Hall (online submittal is not available), the application for a Shelby County business tax license can be filled out and submitted online.

In the click-down menu, select “Shelby” as your county. You will then be taken to a list of available online services. Select the one that says “New Business Application,” and the application will appear.

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Next Step: Business Insurance

Let’s say you applied for your local city or town business license and Shelby County tax license. Now what?

One very important step might remain: taking care of your business with business insurance. It can help financially protect your company from claims associated with accidents, property damage, mistakes, and injuries, up to your policy’s limit. These claims can be extremely costly — enough to financially ruin you and your business.

Types of business insurance to consider.

The type of business insurance you might need often depends on the type of business you own. Let’s look at a few that you might want to consider:

General liability insurance: Can provide coverage against costs associated with third-party accidents, property damage, and bodily injury.

Professional liability insurance: Can provide coverage if a customer sues your business for mistakes related to your services.

Workers’ compensation insurance: Can protect you and your business if an employee gets hurt, injured, or sick while working on the job. In Tennessee, if you employ five or more workers, full- or part-time, you are required to have workers’ comp insurance.

Understanding which option is best for you can be confusing. The good news is you don’t need to decide on your own. At Simply Business, we specialize in small business insurance, so we can help you get the coverage your business may need — and help you understand what it is you’re buying.

The process is simple. Spend a few minutes online with our handy quote tool, and we’ll get to work looking for quotes from respected insurers. After that, the next step is to choose the one that’s best for you.

Or if you’d rather speak to one of our licensed insurance agents, give us a call at 844-654-7272, Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. (ET). We’ll present available coverages so that when your business license application gets approved, you may also be good to go with insurance, and you can move forward with peace of mind.

Remember, You’ve Got This!

Starting your own business can be exciting and scary — and so many other emotions all at once.

Just remember three of the major steps needed to make it happen in Shelby County, Tennessee: Apply for your Shelby County Business License; apply for your City or Town’s Business License; find an insurance policy that suits your business’ needs — and you’ll be well on your way to opening your doors for business.

You’ve got this! Good luck!


Chris Bousquet

Written by

Chris Bousquet

I went to college to be an accountant and graduated with a degree in creative writing. Words won out over numbers, but barely. All credit goes to my parents. Had they talked about anything other than banking at the dinner table growing up—and had they never bribed me with Pop-Tarts to read books, play with my Matchbox cars and quietly exercise my imagination—who knows where my left and right brain would be today.

Chris writes on a number of topics such as legal resources, small business taxes, and social media marketing.

This content is for general, informational purposes only and is not intended to provide legal, tax, accounting, or financial advice. Please obtain expert advice from industry specific professionals who may better understand your business’s needs. Read our full disclaimer

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