Federal Licenses for Regulated Businesses

Federal Licenses for Regulated Businesses are important but, yYou’ll only need a federal license or permit if your business is involved in activities that are supervised and regulated by a federal agency. The types of business activities licensed by the federal government are described below.


The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) issues permits for business involved in the importation and interstate transportation of animals, animal products, biologics, biotechnology and plants.

Alcohol Beverages

Federal law requires manufacturers, wholesalers, importers and retailers of alcohol beverages to register, pay special taxes and maintain certain records with the the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB).

Alcohol and tobacco businesses above the retail level (i.e., manufacturers, wholesalers, importers, exporters, etc.) must apply for an operations permit from TTB. The federal government does not impose a fee or charge for permits.  The applicant must obtain written approval from TTB before engaging in business.

All alcohol beverage business, including retailers of alcohol beverages, such as bars, nightclubs, restaurants, and retail liquor stores should contact their state’s Alcohol Beverage Control Board for specific permit and licensing information. Also, contact your city and/or county government for additional licenses and permits that may be required.

In addition to obtaining appropriate permits, all business engaged in manufacturing, distributing and selling alcohol, including retailers, are required to pay special federal taxes. For more information on the requirements necessary to run an alcohol beverage business, visit our Food and Beverage Industry Guide.


Firearms, Ammunition and Explosives

Manufacturers, dealers and importers of firearms and ammunitions are subject to licensing standards described in the Gun Control Act, which is administered by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), the principal law enforcement agency within the U.S. Department of Justice. The ATF is responsible for regulating the firearms and explosives industries.

Licenses required to carry a concealed weapon are issued by state or local governments.

Manufactures, distributors, importers, and dealers of firearms, ammunition or explosives need to file and pay excise taxes with the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, a federal agency responsible for collecting excise taxes on firearms and ammunition to ensure that these products are labeled, advertised, and marketed in accordance with the law.

Fish and Wildlife

Businesses and organizations engaged in any wildlife related activity, including the import/export of wildlife and derivative products, must obtain an appropriate permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service.

Commercial Fisheries

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) regulates the interaction between marine mammals and commercial fisheries by issuing permits for fishing activities that would otherwise be prohibited by law.

Maritime Transportation

Mining and Drilling

The Minerals Management Service (MMS), a bureau in the U.S. Department of the Interior, is the federal agency that manages the nation’s natural gas, oil and other mineral resources on the outer continental shelf. Businesses involved in the drilling for natural gas, oil or other mineral resources on federal lands may be required to obtain a drilling permit from MMS.

Nuclear Energy

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission licenses commercial nuclear reactors and fuel cycle facilities; distribution of nuclear materials; and nuclear waste disposal facilities.

Radio and Television Broadcasting

If your business broadcasts information by radio, television, wire, satellite and cable, you may be required to obtain a license form The Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The FCC does not regulate the Internet or Internet Service Providers.

Transportation and Logistics

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