Business Licensing & Operating Requirements
In Oklahoma, there is no general license required to start or own a business. However, for specific types of businesses and occupations, specific licenses, permits, or special registrations and filings may be required before opening or operating.
Trade Name and Legal Structure
In Oklahoma, you may register the name of your business to ensure exclusive control of its use in our state. This is done with the Office of the Secretary of State. Visit their Steps to Start Your Business page to learn more about the process and get started with your registration. Some businesses even register multiple “Doing Business As” (DBA) names for different or unique portions of their larger business.
Many business operate as a Sole Proprietorship, an individual or married couple in business alone. Other business structures allow individuals to share ownership of a business and to reduce their vulnerability to personal liability from lawsuits or higher taxes. Depending on the structure your business chooses to use, you may need to file with the Secretary of State.
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.
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.
Income Tax and Payroll Benefit Withholdings
Businesses with employees must set up an account with the Oklahoma Tax Commission for withholding and remitting state income taxes from the wages and salaries paid to employees.
Employers must also set up an account and withhold and remit state unemployment taxes from the earnings of the employees 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.
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 405-815-5143.
Building and General Construction Contractors
In Oklahoma, general contractors are not required to have state licenses to perform their construction services. Such construction includes commercial or residential buildings, roads, bridges & 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, dry wall, 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.
Note that an out-of-state contractor who obtains a construction contract in Oklahoma is required, prior to starting the project, to complete a special “Non-Resident Contractor” registration with the Oklahoma Tax Commission (OTC). 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
In Oklahoma, owners of these types of construction services are required to obtain specific licenses from the Oklahoma Construction Industries Board (CIB).
Although roofing contractors are not required, technically, 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
In Oklahoma, to build swimming pools and other bathing facilities (i.e., hot tubs, whirl bath tubs, 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 just 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 on-line 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 hard copies at its offices or several 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 5 days, while applying by mail might take 6-8 weeks. If a permit or account item is needed faster than 5 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. Note that the office addresses and telephone numbers for the 2 offices are on the website.
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 & 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 Low Point Beer
In addition to its food establishment license and food handlers’ permits from the applicable county health department, in order to sell low point beer to customers, the restaurant owner will need to, first, obtain a license to make such sales from its local city or county jurisdiction. Then, in addition to a general sales tax permit from OTC, the owner will also need a special permit/license to sell low point beer.
Selling High Point Beer, Wine or Mixed Drinks
To sell high point 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, obtained 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. Thus, the first step for such sales is to get the application checklist and packet from ABLE to follow and complete.
A wholesaler in Oklahoma, generally, is 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 (i.e., from furniture and rent-to-own stores, fitness centers and weight loss programs) or that provide other consumer credit services (i.e., home mortgage processors, pawn shops, 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 an 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 home health care or a companion/home sitter business owner is required to obtain a license from the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) to provide their 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 to 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, personal training or massage 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).
How to Start a Business
Four basic steps to start your business in Oklahoma and our in-depth Start-up Guide.
Small Business Assistance
In-depth training and assistance with things like writing a business plan, getting financing and HR practices are available to entrepreneurs and small businesses.