In Oklahoma, there is no general license required to start or own a business. However, for specific types of businesses and occupations, licenses, permits, or special registrations and filings may be required before opening or operating.
Common Licensing Requirements by Industry
For many businesses in Oklahoma there may be a license, permit or other filing action required to operate. If your business type is not covered here, please contact Business Customer Services at 405-815-5218.
Building and General Construction Contractors
In Oklahoma, general contractors are not required to have state licenses to perform their construction services. This includes commercial or residential buildings, roads, bridges and highways, installation of residential and municipal utilities, industrial and oil field installations and other various projects. Likewise, state licenses are not required of subcontractors who perform general construction services on projects for general contractors. Such services, normally, include areas such as: site clearing and leveling, concrete stemming, framing, carpentry, drywall, painting, guttering, sodding, fencing, etc. Also, state licenses are not required for small general contractors or subcontractors who do commercial or residential renovation, remodeling and repair construction projects.
An out-of-state contractor who obtains a construction contract in Oklahoma is required to complete a special “Non-Resident Contractor” registration with the Oklahoma Tax Commission (OTC) prior to starting a project. For contracts in excess of $100,000, a bond for 10% of the amount is required to be posted (or the deposit of a cash equivalent amount). Information regarding the special registration and possible bonding is provided in OTC’s informational document, “Packet N.” The packet can be obtained off OTC’s website.
Electrical, Plumbing and Heating & Air Conditioning Services Contractors
Although roofing contractors are not required to obtain licenses, they must register with the CIB and show that they meet certain criteria which include carrying specified amounts of liability insurance and bonding.
Public Swimming Pools and Bathing Facilities Contractors
To build swimming pools and other bathing facilities (examples: hot tubs, whirl bathtubs, etc.) for public use (in federal, state and local government-owned and operated buildings, in hotels, fitness, health and massage businesses, etc.), the construction plans must, first, be submitted to and approved by the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH).
Following OSHD’s approval, the construction plans would need to meet the local city and county requirements. Plans for private home construction of such pools and such facilities do not require approval by OSDH.
Retailing is defined as publicly selling tangible products or goods to customers from the general public for their final use or consumption. Examples of retail businesses are local stores that sell clothing, shoes, food (including grocery & convenience stores, plus restaurants), auto parts, fuel, jewelry, home appliances, furniture & accessories, hardware, etc. State laws require that retail businesses in Oklahoma must charge and collect taxes on their sales to state customers and remit these taxes to the Oklahoma Tax Commission (OTC).
A retail business may sell items that require only a general sales tax permit from OTC. Or it may sell other items, such as cigarettes, beer and motor fuels that will require special sales tax permits and additional requirements from the agency.
Owners of businesses located in Oklahoma that make online retail sales to customers in the state are also required to obtain a sales tax permit and set up an account to collect and remit sales taxes.
For business owners to obtain many of the items required from OTC, the agency has paper copies at its offices and downloadable, instructional documents or packets on its website with the needed information and application forms. For example, the Oklahoma Business Registration Packet or Packet A contains information and the forms to apply for a sales tax permit or to set up an income tax withholding account. In addition, an application for many items can also now be made online from OTC’s website and be obtained within five days, while applying by mail might take six to eight weeks. If a permit or account item is needed faster than five days, then the business owner can, physically, go into the Oklahoma City or Tulsa OTC offices to apply and obtain the needed items the same day.
For retailers to sell meat, eggs or dairy products, additional permits or licenses are required from the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry (ODA).
Restaurants and Bars
To sell prepared foods and non-alcohol beverages, a restaurant in Oklahoma is required to obtain a food establishment license, plus food handlers’ permits (for certain employees) from its assigned county health department office. The assigned county health department offices in the state can be obtained from the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH).
Selling Beer, Wine or Mixed Drinks
To sell beer, wine or mixed alcoholic drinks to customers, the restaurant owner will need to obtain applicable liquor licenses from the Alcohol Beverage Laws Enforcement Commission (ABLE). The ABLE application checklist and process also requires that the restaurant owner should first obtain a license from its applicable city or county government, as well as a general sales tax permit from OTC, plus OTC’s special permit/license for such sales.
A wholesaler in Oklahoma is generally defined as an owner or business that buys and receives merchandise or inventory at a business location in the state which is then sold and directly delivered from purchase orders to retail businesses in the state that then resell the items to the final state customers and consumers.
In Oklahoma, general wholesalers are also issued a general sales tax permit by the Oklahoma Tax Commission (OTC).
Consumer Credit Services
Businesses that extend credit to their consumer customers by allowing them to make installment payments on their purchases (examples: furniture and rent-to-own stores, fitness centers and weight loss programs) or that provide other consumer credit services (examples: home mortgage processors, pawnshops, as well as businesses who sell precious gems or buy used gold and silver jewelry) will need to obtain a license from the Oklahoma Department of Consumer Credit (OKDOCC).
Transporting businesses in Oklahoma, particularly those involved with trucking and passenger carriers for hire services, are required to obtain various licenses through the Oklahoma Corporation Commission (OCC). If the operations involve travel solely within the state, then, only Intra-state licensing and issuance of a USDOT number through OCC will be required.
If travel of a transporting business is across state lines, a registration (which will include the issuance of a USDOT number) will be required from the Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration (FMCSA).
Other Common Licenses
An auctioneer is not required to have a state license to provide auctioning services to sell general, personal and tangible property items for an owner.
However, to sell agriculture livestock at an auction, the owner of the auction is required to obtain a license from the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry (ODA).
Also, to sell real estate by auction, a licensed real estate broker will be required.
Home Health Care and Home Companion/ Sitter Services
A photography business is not required to have a state license to provide photographer services. However, to sell prints, photos or other alternate items the owner or business will be required to obtain a sales tax permit and establish an account through the Oklahoma Tax Commission (OTC) to collect and remit the tax.
Fitness & Health, Personal Trainer and Massage Businesses
In Oklahoma, state licenses are not required of owners or businesses that provide fitness & health, or personal training services. However, if the businesses sell retail support items (i.e., workout accessories, health food supplements, etc.), a general sales tax permit and account through the Oklahoma Tax Commission (OTC) will be required. Also, as advised previously, to construct or install a bathing facility (hot tub, swirl bath, etc.), the plans for these types of businesses will have to be approved by the Oklahoma State Department of Health(OSDH).
Massage Therapists are required to have a license through the Oklahoma State Board of Cosmetology.
Operating and Employer Requirements
Having employees comes with certain responsibilities with both the State and Federal government. Following the rules protects you, your business, and your employees. You may want to consult with your attorney or tax advisor about these and other responsibilities that may apply to you.
Out-of-state Registration Requirements
Before operating in Oklahoma, businesses that are organized (domiciled) in other states under formal legal structures (corporations, LLCs, and others) are normally required to register as a “foreign entity” with Oklahoma’s Secretary of State.
Income Tax and Payroll Benefit Withholdings
Employers must also set up an account and withhold and remit state unemployment taxes to the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission.
At the Federal level, business owners with employees are required to obtain the necessary forms and set up accounts with the Internal Revenue Service to withhold and pay federal income and Social Security taxes.
Workers’ Compensation Insurance
Employers are required to cover their employees in Oklahoma with Workman’s Compensation Insurance, through an insurance agent. Contact your insurance agent to learn more.