City of Chicago business licenses: What you need to know

Dustin Johnson
By Dustin Johnson

If you’re thinking about starting a business in Chicago, one of the first things you’ll need to do is obtain a business license. This license is required by the City of Chicago for all businesses operating within Chicago’s city limits. So what exactly is a business license, and how do you go about obtaining one? In this blog post, we’ll provide an overview of Chicago’s business license structure as well as information on how to go about obtaining a Chicago Business License.

What is a Chicago business license?

A business license is generally a permit issued by a government agency that allows you to conduct business within that government’s jurisdiction. The purpose of the license is to ensure that businesses are in compliance with regulations of the government agency and to ensure that businesses operate in a safe manner.

Business licenses are issued by cities, counties, and even states. Although most government agencies within the United States issue business licenses, there are a variety of ways in which business licenses are handled.

Some government agencies simply issue a single, general business license for anyone operating a business within its boundaries. Other agencies issue specific licenses for a variety of business types. Still, other agencies have a hybrid of the two approaches, which oftentimes means obtaining a general business license as well as an additional license or supplement for certain industries.

How does Chicago handle business licenses?

Chicago’s business licenses are specific to certain industries, so the application and fees for each license will vary. Some of the more common business license types include home-based businesses, food, entertainment, and retail sales.

The business licenses are administered by the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection (BACP), which has a comprehensive list of all of Chicago’s business license types and associated information on its website.

Most of Chicago’s business licenses must be renewed every two years.

How do you obtain a Chicago business license?

Obtaining a Chicago business license involves several steps:

  1. Determine the type of license you need based on your business activity or industry.
  2. Complete a Business Information Sheet (in-person) or register with Chicago Business Direct (online). You will submit information about your business, including name and ownership, legal structure, and description of the business activities. You will also submit identification documentation as well as state and federal tax information. For some license types, you may need to submit additional documents.
  3. A zoning review is conducted in order to determine if your business activity is permitted in the zoning designation of your business location.
  4. For some license types (such as a restaurant), you may also be subject to an inspection by one or more City Departments prior to the issuance of a license.
  5. Pay any required fees. These fees vary based on business type.
  6. Wait for your license to be processed and approved.
  7. Once you’ve obtained your Chicago business license, you are ready to go! Be sure to keep track of any future renewals to ensure you are compliant!

Obtaining a Chicago business license is an important step for any entrepreneur wanting to start a business within the City of Chicago. By understanding the types of licenses available and the application process, you can ensure that your business is set up for success!

Dustin Johnson
By Dustin Johnson
Dustin Johnson is a Senior Tax Research Specialist at ComplYant. Prior to joining ComplYant, he spent over eleven years performing tax research at the world’s largest tax preparation company. Dustin holds a Bachelor of Business Administration and a Juris Doctor. Outside of work, Dustin enjoys biking and spending time with his family.

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