If you're a small business owner in the state of Indiana, you know it takes a lot of planning, work, and ongoing effort to succeed in the "Crossroads of America" state.
You may even be at a crossroads yourself, when it comes to starting your business and what types of permits or registrations you may need. And we get it — it isn't easy to sift through all of the information online, so how are you supposed to feel entirely informed? We've done the research for you so you can find most everything you need in one place.
In this article, we'll review the license requirements, examples of how much the license may cost, and the steps to apply for one.
We'll be up front with you, the paperwork you need to start a business depends on:
The state of Indiana typically requires specific businesses to get licensed, like certain types of contractors, people who work in financial services, and more. You can learn if your profession requires a business license on the Indiana Business Owner's Guide, on the page regarding Special Licensing and Permitting Issues.
If you don't see your profession listed on that page, you also can check here at Indy.gov. Keep in mind that some of the professions listed require you to deliver your application in person, as they also may require giving your fingerprint to get licensed.
So what if you don't see your profession listed on either of the above-mentioned pages?
You may not be in the clear yet. While the state of Indiana doesn't require a general business license, many municipalities require a license at the county or city level. You can check with the local government where you're running your business to see if a license is required. Additionally, these requirements may change periodically so it’s best to check with your state website to be sure.
Even if it's not required by the state of Indiana or in your local area of business, we still suggest getting a business license. Securing a license for your business can:
Ready to get started? Read on to learn what goes into the process!
First, you'll need to get your Employee Identification Number, or EIN. To apply for it, head over to the IRS website. Regardless of what type of business entity you have (LLC, partnership, etc.), you'll need an EIN. This also is required for those filing taxes as a sole proprietor, unless you don't have employees.
If you think you might bring on employees for your small business one day, we suggest getting your EIN.
The state doesn't require that all occupations be licensed, but it does require business owners to be registered with Indiana’s Secretary of State. Registering may be done online, by mail, by fax, or in person in most counties, but some counties require you to apply in person.
If your business is any of the following, you'll need to register with the Secretary of State here:
If you have a sole proprietorship or general partnership, you'll need to apply to register with your County Recorder.
While the state of Indiana doesn’t have a general business license, some counties require you to have an Indiana business license. Regardless of your business entity type, after registering your business, we suggest following up with your local county to see if you need a business license or permits.
Here are relevant pages for the larger cities in Indiana:
Before applying with a specific city or county, be prepared by having all relevant information on hand if needed, such as: your EIN, business name and address, driver's license number, Certificate of Insurance (COI), etc.
If your business is registered as an LLC or Corporation, you'll need to apply via the INBiz website here.
Keep in mind that each city or county may require you to have a business license, depending on your profession or trade. They also may require you to have a professional license, which is a different license altogether. You can look into registering for a professional license with Indiana’s Professional Licensing Agency (PLA) here.
If your business sells goods/products, you'll need an Indiana Retail Merchant Certificate in order to purchase goods at wholesale prices and to collect sales tax on what you sell. This can be accessed at INbiz.com and typically costs $25; it remains valid as long as you own the business and your Federal Identification Number stays the same.
Most cities/counties will have different prices for Indiana business licenses, depending on your trade or profession. Make sure you know the cost beforehand (we'll get to that in the next section).
Once your application is complete, you'll wait for it to be processed. The wait time varies, depending on your city or county, but we suggest being prepared to wait at least two weeks.
To form an LLC in Indiana, you’ll need to file the Articles of Organization with the Indiana Secretary of State Business Services Division. It’s a legal document that officially creates your Indiana Limited Liability Company. It costs $95 if you file online and $100 if you file by mail. The process is fairly straightforward. Just follow the steps here.
Or, if you first want to learn more about the benefits of an LLC, we have them all neatly wrapped and arranged for you here.
As a business owner, it feels like random charges can pile on at random times. When it comes to getting a business license, though, remember that this is an investment worth making.
The fees for your Indiana business license will vary, depending on where you're applying and what your profession is.
Fees can start as low as $5 and go up from there — it varies, depending on your trade or profession, but the license fee is an annual cost. If your trade requires a higher license fee, be sure to build in the cost to your cash flow leading up to renewal. Additionally, these prices may change so it’s best to independently assess the fee requirements for your business periodically.
Make sure to note the date your license was registered and whether or not you'll need to renew the following year.
Depending on what your trade or profession is, you may be required to have Indiana business insurance in order to get your business license. For example, if you're a contractor in Indiana, you may be required to have general liability coverage, as well as a workers compensation policy (if you have employees) in order to get your license.
If you don't need business insurance in order to apply for a state of Indiana business license in your city/county, there are still many benefits of investing in a policy.
Here’s how a solid business insurance policy can help you:
If you're unsure if you would benefit from general liability insurance or professional liability insurance, you can use our free quote comparison tool to see what coverage options may look like for you. It’s free to compare policy options from the nation's top insurers to determine which policy could work best for you.
Phew! That was a lot. By now, you should have a good sense of why a business license would benefit your business, how to go about applying for one, and what it may cost you.
As a small business owner myself, I know that going through the processes with administrative requirements like this can be tiring, especially when you have so much else going on. But at the end of the day, securing your Indiana business license will give you peace of mind that your business is official — then you can focus on the work you really love!
* 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’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).
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.