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Doing Businiess in Chicago

The Business Operator’s Guide for Starting and Operating a Business in Chicago

If You Need Inspections

Your application will be sent to the appropriate departments and inspections will be performed. (Not all businesses require inspections.) These include Fire, Building, Plumbing, Ventilation and Health. If you need Electrical Inspection, you must schedule it: (312) 744-3460. The following license classes require Electrical Inspection:

  • PPA (Public Place of Amusement) Day Care 1, 2 Massage Establishment, Audio-Video Shop, Health Care Est.-Hospital, Nursing Home Shelter
  • If your business fails its inspection, violations must be corrected. It is your responsibility to schedule reinspections: (312) 744-3438

Licenses are not issued until all inspections are passed.

License Categories:
Animal Care
Audio-Video Repair
Day Care
Filling Station
Food-Special Event
Hazardous Materials
Home Based Business
Home Repair
Junk Dealer
Limited Business
Liquor-Beer Garden
Liquor-Late Hour
Liquor-Music and Dance
Liquor-On Premise
Liquor-Packaged Goods
Massage Establishment
Massage Therapist
Motor Vehicle Repair
Parking Garage
Secondhand Dealer
Sidewalk Café
Ticket Broker
Tire Facility
Tobacco-Vending Business
Weapons Dealer

How to Register for Business Taxes:
The city of Chicago levies a variety of business taxes. You may be required to pay one or more of the following business taxes:

Airport Departure
Amusement Tax
Auto Amusement Tax
Cigarette Tax
Employers Expense
Foreign Fire
Ground Transportation
Hotel Tax
Liquor Tax
Motor Vehicle Lessor Tax
Non-Titled Personal Property Use Tax
Parking Tax
Reseller of Electricity Tax
Soft Drink Tax
Telecommunications Tax
Vehicle Fuel Tax
Titled Property Use Tax

01. Complete the tax registration form that is included in your license application.
02. You will meet with a Tax Administration Rep who will review your registration form in the license application and give you a set of appropriate tax returns.
03. It is important to remember to file your tax returns as required by ordinance with the Tax Administration Unit of the Chicago Department of Revenue.

Note: Failure to file any tax return on time could cause you to pay a penalty and could put a hold on the renewal of your license.

Direct any questions regarding taxes to the Tax Administration Unit: (312) 747-9723

How to Renew Your License
All licenses must be renewed annually, except liquor licenses, which must be renewed semi-annually. You will receive your renewal form approx. 30 days before the expiration date on your license.

How to Review — The best way to renew your license is to submit your renewal application and your check or money order by mail to the Department of Revenue:

Chicago Department of Revenue
City Hall, Room 107
121 N. LaSalle St.
Chicago, IL 60602

To renew in person, bring the renewal application together with the payment to City Hall, Room 107, Monday through Friday, 8:00 am to 5:00 pm.

Completing the Renewal Application — Your renewal application will be mailed to you approximately 30 days before the expiration of your current license. Changes in home address or phone number can be made on the form. Changes may be sent in during non renewal periods as well. If there are any changes in Officers, Business Name, or Location, you must file an appropriate change form and submit fee. Contact (312) 744-3947.

Submitting Your Payment — Check the Fee Amount on renewal application. Make check payable to Chicago Dept. of Revenue.

Is There a Hold on Your License? — A hold can be placed on the renewal of your license if the City of Chicago or the State of Illinois has evidence of unpaid debts owed to the City or the state. A hold notice would be printed on your renewal application. Direct questions to city/state agencies indicated on the renewal form. All Holds must be cleared prior to acceptance of a renewal. For quick processing, please do not wait until the last week before the deadline.

How to Resolve Licensing Problems:
The best way to obtain your license and renew it is to avoid incurring debts to the City and to pay all fees on time.

Common Problems that Occur with License Renewals:

  • NSF Hold — A hold on your license because of a non-sufficient funds check
  • Receivable Unit Hold (annual inspection) — Your business has not paid all its annual privilege, maintenace or inspection fees.
  • Law Hold — Law Department at the City of Chicago has an unsettled judgement against you.
  • State Hold — State of Illinois’ records indicate that your business is delinquent in paying Retailer’s Occupation Tax (Illinois Sales Tax).
  • City Tax Hold — Chicago Business Tax Unit in the Dept. of Revenue has records showing incomplete payment of all your business taxes.
  • Parking Ticket, Water Bills, Etc. — Such unpaid debts to City of Chicago may cause a hold on your application.
  • Streets & Sanitation Hold — You have a violation of City Sanitation code.
  • Consumer Services Hold — You have a violation in the nature of Consumer Services Regulations, ie., consumer fraud.
  • A Failed Inspection — A failed Annual Inspection or Bond Review.

Common Problems that Occur with New Licenses:

  • A Failed Inspection — It is your responsibility to reschedule inspections if you failed any. Direct all questions to the Customer Inquiry & Info Unit: (312) 744-3947.

Important: The Mayor’s License Commission and Local Liquor Control Commission must approve issuance of a retail liquor license. Notwithstanding approval of all city inspecting departments, the License Commission has authority to deny an application for liquor license for a variety of reasons, and may also fine or revoke licenses due to violations in codes or state statutes. Mayor’s License Commission & Local Liquor Control Commission: 320 N. Clark St. (Room 519) Chicago, IL 60610 (312) 744-8071.

Prepare Before Applying for Your Licnese:
Select your business structure: as a Sole Owner, Partnership, Limited Partnership, a Limited Liability Corp., or Corporation. To incorporate, you must register with the State of Illinois at the address below:

01. To Incorporate Your Business, go to:
Secretary of State
17 N. State St., Suite 1137
Chicago, Illinois 60601 (312) 793-3380

02. Apply for your Federal ID #
Federal Taxpayer Service (17th floor)
Federal Building, 230 S. Dearborn St.
Chicago, Illinois 60601 1-800-829-1040
Sole Proprietors may be able to use your Social Security Numbers. Call to check on your status.

03. Choose a Business Name
Assumed Names – County Building
118 N. Clark St. (lower level)
(312) 603-5652

If you conduct business in Illinois under an assumed name or title (a name other than your own name), file for a certificate with Cook County. (This does not apply to corporations.) Lists of current business names are available.

04. Obtain a State Tax Number
Illinois Department of Revenue
100 W. Randolph St. (7th floor)
Chicago, Illinois 60601 (312) 814-5258

Most, if not all businesses require a State Tax Number – either a Retailer’s Occupational Tax Number, or a Illinois Business Tax (IBT) Number. You may apply in person at the above address.

05. License and Tax Registration
Department of Revenue
121 N. LaSalle St. (Room 107)
Chicago, Illinois 60602 (312) 744-3947

You need a business license to operate a business location in Chicago. You will receive your license after all inspections have been approved by various departments. You must also register for applicable city taxes for your business.

Obtaining Your License:
City Hall (Room 107), 121 N. LaSalle Street

01. Obtain Application at Counter
Please obtain and complete a business license application. You may be asked to present the necessary identification and documentation:
A. Driver’s License, Voter Reg. Card or State ID.
B. Federal Employers ID # (FEIN) (for corporations or partnerships) or Social Security # (for sole proprietorships)
C. A Sales Tax # (Retailer’s Occupations Tax # or a Illinois Business Tax Number)

02. Zoning Approval
Your business location must be approved by the Zoning Department. You must visit the Zoning Department, Room 800, 8th floor, City Hall. If denied, contact the Zoning Board of Appeals, Room 806, City Hall, 121 N. LaSalle Street. If approved, return to the Registration Counter.

03. Business Account
The information provided in your application will be entered into our computer system to establish your new account and DREV number for licenses and taxes.

04. Now You Pay the License Fee
You will pay your application License Fee at the Collections Counter and receive your receipt. This is not a license. Unless you purchase a limited business license, you are not yet allowed to operate your business. Keep the receipt as your reference number when inquiring on your status.

05. If You Need a Site Inspection
Inspections (if necessary) are generally arranged for you and can take place approximately 15-20 days after the license (deposit) payment date. Use the payment receipt K#5000 series as reference.

Helpful Organizations and Phone Numbers:
(All phone numbers are 312 area code)

City of Chicago Departments:
Buildings @ 744-3438
Business Services Division @ 744-3947
Consumer Services @ 744-4006
Environment @ 744-7606
Fire @ 744-4762
Finance – Risk Mgmt. @ 747-7830
Health – Food & Dairy @ 746-8046
Health Code Enforcement @ 744-8482
Law @ 744-6900
Streets & Sanitation @ 744-4611
Taxes @ 747-9723
Water @ 744-7038
Zoning @ 744-9042

City of Chicago Department of Planning & Development:
Business Express @ 744-CITY
Business Services Division @ 747-6559
Cartography Division @ 744-4996
Community Development @ 744-0763
Finance Division @ 744-9220
Landmarks Division @ 744-3200
Policy & Research & Planning @ 744-4142
Zoning & Center Development @ 744-0763

Cook County:
Assumed Names @ 443-5652
Business Assistance @ 443-4893
Property Tax Incentives @ 443-7529

State of Illinois:
Commerce & Community Affairs @ 814-7179
Revenue – Sales Tax @ 814-5258
Small Business Hotline @ 814-3263

U.S. Department of Commerce:
Economic Development Admin. @ 353-8143
Federal Tax Service @ 1-800-829-1040
Minority Business Development @ 353-0182
Small Business Administration @ 353-0359

(Note: The information in this article is intended to be general in nature. Plan to discuss your particular circumstances with an attorney for how this might apply to you.)