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New professional privilege tax exemptions are effective June 1, 2020. Click here for more information.

Registration and Tax Requirements

One of the first steps you should take as a new business is registering for various taxes your business must pay the state.  Typically, most businesses must pay business tax and sales tax.  All business types, except sole-proprietors and general partnerships, must also register for the payment of franchise and excise taxes.  Click here to get started.  Some businesses are subject to other state taxes as well.  Visit the Taxes section of our website to  see a comprehensive listing of various state taxes. Each tax page describes who is obligated to pay that tax.

Most businesses in Tennessee also need a business license.  These are issued from each county clerk’s office and in many city recorder offices across the state.  A $15 fee is required for the initial license. The fee must be paid to the county clerk and, if applicable, the city recorder, before the license is issued. Visit our business tax page to find out more about business licenses and the payment of required annual business taxes.

Most tax returns and payments due to the state also must be electronically filed.  Visit our E-File and Pay section to learn more about these requirements.  Failing to file required tax returns and their associated payments electronically can result in penalty and interest charges.

All businesses are also encouraged to determine their federal tax obligations by visiting the Internal Revenue Service.  Businesses having complicated tax situations or business owners with limited tax experience may want to hire a tax professional for assistance. Other helpful resources for new businesses include:

  • Tennessee Smart Start Small Business Guide – Topics in this publication from the Department of Economic and Community Development include, but are not limited to: how to set up a business, responsibilities and regulations, taxes and insurance, getting funded, and business assistance and training.
  • Office of Small Business Advocate - The Office of Small Business Advocate serves as a point of contact to state government for owners of businesses with 50 or fewer employees.
  • Revenue Tax Workshops - The Department sponsors free tax workshops for new businesses. These sessions normally include business tax, sales and use tax, and issues regarding collection services from the Department of Revenue, as well as a presentation from the Department of Labor and Workforce Development on state unemployment tax. Click on the Tax Workshops link on the left for more information.

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