How to Get a Tennessee Business License (2023)

Updated on December 14, 2023

Operating legally in Tennessee requires securing a state business license, which all types of companies from LLCs to sole proprietors need. This step-by-step guide covers everything you need to know How to Get a Tennessee Business License (2023).

Understanding Business Licenses in Tennessee

A business license in Tennessee is a legal requirement for companies to operate. The license is based on your business’s gross receipts and other factors, such as location and type of business. You need a Tennessee business license if:

  • Starting a new Tennessee business
  • Opening an additional business location
  • Purchasing or merging with a TN business

How to Apply for a Tennessee Business License

1. Determine the Type of Business License Needed

  • Minimal Activity License: For in-state businesses with gross receipts between $3,000 and $100,000.
  • Standard Business License: Required for gross receipts of $100,000 or more​​.

2. Register Your Business Name

  • Sole Proprietorship/Partnership: Register with the county clerk’s office.
  • Corporations/LLCs: Register with the Tennessee Secretary of State.

3. Apply for an Employer Identification Number (EIN)

Obtain an EIN from the IRS if your business has employees.

4. Determine Local Requirements

Contact your local county or city clerk’s office for specific requirements. This is vital as requirements may differ across counties and cities.

In Nashville

  • Provide business and owner information, and a copy of the owner’s driver license.
  • The license fee is $30 within Nashville city limits and $15 outside but within Davidson County​​.

In Shelby County

  • Businesses must register with the County Clerk’s Office within 20 days of commencing operations.
  • A remittance of $15 must be submitted with each application​​.

5. Complete the Business License Application

Submit your application online or in person. For Nashville, use the Application for Business Tax License or Minimal Activity License, and for Shelby County, apply through Shelby County’s online application portal.

6. Pay the Required Fees

License fees vary depending on your business location. Ensure to confirm the exact amount during your application process.

7. Await Approval

Processing times can vary. Once approved, your business license will be issued.

8. Stay on Top of Renewals

Regular renewals are required to maintain your business license.

You’ll typically receive your license within 5-7 business days.

Maintaining Your Tennessee Business License

You must renew your license annually for $20 to stay compliant in Tennessee.

Key Takeaways

  • All TN businesses need a state certificate of registration
  • File online via the Secretary of State’s website
  • Renew yearly to operate legally

Contact the TN SOS Office for any business license questions!

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is the fee for a Tennessee business license?

A: The fee for the standard business license in Tennessee is $15-$30 annually depending on your location. Additional local fees may apply.

Q: How long does it take to get a TN business license?

A: It typically takes 5-10 business days to get your Tennessee business license after submitting a complete application.

Q: Do I need a TN business license to operate statewide?

A: Yes, you need a state-level business license even if operating across multiple counties. Separate local licenses may also be required.

Q: Can I apply for a Tennessee business license online?

A: Yes, Tennessee offers online filing for business license applications through the TN Secretary of State website. This can expedite the process.

Q: Do independent contractors need a Tennessee business license?

A: Yes, independent contractors are considered sole proprietors for licensing purposes and need to register with the state.

Q: How do I renew my TN business license?

A: Tennessee business licenses need annual renewal before the expiration date by resubmitting the application form and paying the applicable fee.

Priyank Singh

Priyank Singh, co-founder and Chief Technology Officer at Stilt, specializes in technology-driven financial solutions. He is having experience of starting FinTech Company, understanding regulations and coming up with creative solutions to solve difficult problems.