Guide to Irish Business Licences and Permits | Square

Guide to Irish Business Licences and Permits

Small business owners in Ireland are required by law to obtain a company registration licence. In addition to this, certain types of business will need other licences and permits to be able to operate legally.

As a legal requirement, business licences are essential. Here, you can find out more about what types of licences and permits are available, which ones you are likely to need and where you can apply for them. You can also learn more about how much these licences cost and how soon you will need to apply.

What is a business licence?

A business licence is a legal document giving you the right to operate your business legally. All businesses in Ireland, whether locally owned and run or under foreign ownership, must obtain a company registration licence before they’re allowed to operate. There are also several industry sectors and business types that require specific licences on top of company registration. You can learn more about these below.

You may also need certain types of permits alongside your licences, which will also depend on the nature of the business.

Licence vs permit

The terms licence and permit are often used interchangeably, but there are a few subtle differences between the two.

A licence is more general and typically implies competence. These are most often required in industries where there is potential for harm, such as premises selling alcohol or cosmetologists. Some licences require practical or written tests to demonstrate an acceptable level of competence before they are given.

A permit is most often specific to safety measures, such as a health permit. Most permits will only be granted after an inspection. For example, the premises for a beauty parlour must have a health permit and a business permit, while the technicians and owner must be licensed to practice.

You can find out which permits and licences you will need for your business and where to apply for them at Irish Point of Single Contact.

How to get a licence or permit for your business

You should apply for all appropriate licences and permits for your business before you open and not start taking custom until these have been officially granted. The type of business you plan to operate will determine which licences and permits you need and where you will need to go to apply for them.

All businesses, no matter what products or services they are selling, will need a Business Name Registration Licence. The process of applying for business registration is fairly straightforward:

1) Contact the Companies Registration Office to get the forms you need.
2) Complete form RBN1 for a sole trader, form RBN1A for a partnership and form RBN1B for a body corporate.
3) Submit the completed form to CRO within one month, including the registration fee.

Current fees stand at €20 for filing electronically and €40 for paper filing.

To apply for any other licences and permits, you will first need to identify which you are going to need. Visit the Irish Point of Single Contact and search for your business type. You can then click on the links to find out where and how to apply.

Where to apply along with approximate costs for some of the most common types of licence are as follows:

  • Publican’s licence – National Excise Licence Office - €250
  • Hotel licence - Fáilte Ireland - €250
  • Retailer’s off-licence – Revenue - €500
  • Estate agent’s licence – Property Services Regulatory Authority - €1,000/company, €100 per employee

Types of business licence

Depending on the industry in which your small business operates, there may be several additional licences and permits required (or there may be none).

These include:

  • Restaurants and food premises
  • Anyone serving alcohol or selling tobacco
  • Pharmaceutical companies
  • Telecommunications, including radio and television
  • Oil and gas
  • Premises or websites offering real-money gambling
  • Information technology
  • Transportation

Licences are also required for road occupation, and for any business operating within the hospitality industry not covered above. All hospitality businesses in Ireland must obtain a registration permit, which is typically valid for one year and will require annual renewal.

Food service businesses

The food service industry is one of the most highly regulated. Anyone selling food for public consumption has to get a number of licences and permits, submit to regular inspections and adhere to high standards of hygiene and safety. This is true even with home businesses, such as selling home-made cakes online.

Alcohol and tobacco

The sale of restricted products such as alcohol and tobacco is also highly regulated. Licences and permits are required for sale and consumption, both on and off the business premises.

Gaming sector

The gaming sector in Ireland remains restricted. Only lotteries and specific types of real-money gaming are legal. Anyone wishing to operate any form of gaming business must apply for a licence from the Revenue Commission, which must then be approved by the District Court.


Businesses in the transportation sector in Ireland are required to apply to Road Transport Operator Licensing for a community licence.

How to grow your small business 

Once you have the required licences and permits to begin operation, Square can help you grow your small business with handy tools. These include an Online Store, letting you expand your reach to customers everywhere; Square Reader for taking card payments on the go; and Square Terminal for processing and managing all your payments in one place.

With Square hardware and software at your disposal, you will be able to offer your customers a variety of simple payment options and manage those payments from anywhere, leaving you free to concentrate on creating a great customer experience.

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