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!
Before we get into the “how” of 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. 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 obtain a business license in Illinois, call the hotline at 800-252-2923 or email them at [email protected].
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.
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.
While there are standard Illinois Business Authorization forms, the process on how to get a business license in Illinois 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:
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.
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.
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:
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.
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, 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 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 $25.95/month.*Start Here >
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 how to get a business license in Illinois, you’re setting yourself up for future success.
* Monthly payment calculations (i) do not include initial premium down payment and (ii) may vary by state, insurance provider, and nature of your business. Averages based on January - December 2020 data of 10% of our total policies sold.
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.
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
*Harborway Insurance policies are underwritten by Spinnaker Insurance Company and reinsured by Munich Re, an A+ (Superior) rated insurance carrier by AM Best. Harborway Insurance is a brand name of Harborway Insurance Agency, LLC, a licensed insurance producer in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. California license #6004217.