Business License? Business Registration? What’s the Difference?

Perhaps the most common issue we at business.idaho.gov encounter when responding to inquiries from business owners is confusion between a business license and business registration. They are very different. In Idaho, business licenses are issued at the local level by cities and counties. Most cities license only a few select business activities affecting the general welfare, such as daycares, taxis, alcohol sales and eating and drinking establishments. A few cities license all business activities, including home-based ones, so be sure to check with your local city clerk’s office or visit their website.

Businesses register their name and entity type with the Idaho Secretary of State’s office before starting business or applying for other licenses and permits. All businesses operating in Idaho should be registered, but many do not need a business license. In some states, registering the business is called securing a state business license, hence the confusion. Idaho does not have a state business license.