Maryland business license

How to Apply for Business Licenses and Permits in Maryland

Our business license report can help you determine what licenses and permits you need to start a business in Maryland.

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If you’re starting your own business, we hope you’re ready for lots of paperwork. Maryland law requires many businesses to file business formation paperwork before they operate, and nearly all businesses need some kind of permit or license (if not multiple) to run legally. Don’t let this paperwork get in the way of your business success. This article and our Business License Report service can help you get it done easily.

What is a business license?

Business licenses and permits help the local, state, and federal government audit your business activities and ensure that you’re following important rules. Like most business owners, you’ll likely need some kind of permit or license to conduct business in Maryland. Some states, cities, and counties require you to have a general business license to operate in any way, while other license and permit requirements depend on your industry, location, or business purpose. This might sound like a mixed bag of requirements, and it is. There isn’t one central place to find out all licenses and permits you need, so you have to put in some elbow grease to research and determine all the requirements that apply to you. 

Step 1:  Search for any necessary Maryland general business licenses

A general business license is a license that every business in a jurisdiction needs to legally operate. If your state requires general business licenses, you have to have one, regardless of what kind of business you run. Maryland and its counties don’t require general business licenses, but that doesn’t mean you’re off the hook for obtaining business licenses and permits. You’ll likely still have to apply for some kind of license to do business in Maryland.  

Don’t confuse getting a business license with registering your business. Business entities that are required to register with the Maryland Department of Assessments and Taxation do so to receive the liability protections and tax advantages that entity offers. But, this is just formation. You also need to check to see if you need any business licenses to legally operate in the state.

If you plan on starting a limited liability company (LLC) or a corporation, we can help you with registering your business. Our Maryland LLC formation and Maryland corporation formation services give you the tools you need to start your business the right way. 

Step 2:  Obtain applicable federal licenses for your Maryland business

There can be many entities that need to grant you permission to do business, including the federal government. The amount of licensing you need to obtain at the federal level depends on your industry. Generally, the following types of businesses require licenses or guidance from the following federal agencies:

  • Agricultural businesses that require movement of animals, animal products, and biological organisms across state lines need licensing from the United States Department of Agriculture.
  • Businesses that manufacture, import, or sell (wholesale or retail) alcoholic beverages need licensing from the Alcohol Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, and/or the Local Alcohol Beverage Control Board.
  • Businesses that maintain aircraft, fly aircraft, or transport goods and/or people by aircraft need licensing from the Federal Aviation Administration.
  • Businesses dealing with firearms, ammunition, and explosives need licensing from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.
  • Businesses dealing with wildlife-related activities or wildlife-related products need licensing from the United States Fish and Wildlife Service.
  • Commercial fisheries need licensing from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries Service.
  • Businesses dealing with ocean transportation and shipment need licensing from the Federal Maritime Commission.
  • Businesses that deal with mining and drilling of natural gas, oil, or mineral resources on federal lands need licensing from the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement.
  • Certain businesses that deal with nuclear energy or nuclear materials need licensing from the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
  • Broadcasting businesses using radio, television, satellite, wire, or cable need licensing from the Federal Communications Commission.
  • Businesses that deal with the operation of oversized and/or overweight vehicles receive guidance regarding state permits from the United States Department of Transportation.

Completing the licensing process can be a mixed bag and can require you to reach out to many agencies at the state, local, and federal levels. And as you can see, there are a lot of different federal agencies that might require you to obtain a license. It’s important to think about all the characteristics of your business and whether they fall under the purview of one or more of the above-listed agencies. 

Step 3:  Check for Maryland permits and licenses

Although the state of Maryland doesn’t have a general business license requirement, there are a lot of specialized business licenses that could apply to you. Common state licenses that apply to a lot of businesses include: 

  • Professional licenses
  • Licenses for commercial harvesting
  • Construction licenses and permits
  • Professional licenses
  • Air quality permits
  • Child care licenses
  • Salon licenses

The list above is a small sample of what state licenses you might need. You can search for what kinds of state licenses you need by using the resources at onestop.md.gov. It’s important that you don’t let this search function be the totality of your business licensing research because it only covers your Maryland state business license needs. The federal government and your local government might also have licensing requirements for your business. 

Step 4:  Check your Maryland city or county for local licensing

Our government has many levels, and so do many licensing laws. You’re likely to find a lot of licensing requirements your business must fulfill at the local government level. Your county and city have a lot to say about the commercial activities you conduct in their areas. While not necessarily the same in all Maryland counties, typical local licenses you might need include:

  • Liquor licenses
  • Restaurant licenses
  • Plumber and gas fitter licenses 
  • Construction licenses
  • Laundry licenses 
  • Cigarette licenses
  • Garage licenses

This isn’t an exhaustive list, and different counties can have different requirements. Also, local licensing requirements aren’t always easy to find. If you don’t know what local business licenses you need, you can contact your county or the Clerk of Circuit Court in your county to find out.

Step 5:  Search for applicable Maryland professional licenses

Sometimes you or your business associates need professional licenses to conduct business. State boards usually regulate and oversee professional licensing. Among the professions licensed in Maryland are:

  • Architects
  • Agents
  • Appraisers
  • Electricians
  • Barbers
  • Certified Public Accountants
  • Foresters
  • Plumbers
  • Lawyers
  • Healthcare professionals 
  • Engineers 
  • Cosmetologists

Once again, this list isn’t exhaustive and some professional licensing boards have their own websites. You need to keep up with your professional licensing and the licensing of your associates to run a legal business that offers your professional services. 

Step 6:  Obtain any other necessary Maryland business licenses and permits

Business licensing requirements can be pretty involved and far-reaching. It’s important to use every reasonable resource at your fingertips to make sure your licensing and permitting needs are covered. Other kinds of licenses and permits you might need include:

  • Zoning permits
  • Environmental permits
  • Signage permits
  • Sales tax licenses
  • Tobacco tax licenses

A license requirement that’s likely to hit a lot of businesses is the sales tax license requirement. Businesses that sell goods have to have a sales and use tax license. You apply for your sales and use tax license through the Comptroller of Maryland. Depending on the circumstances, you can apply online, by fax, or by mail. 

Certain businesses also need to apply for an Employer Identification Number (EIN) through the IRS. Businesses that need an EIN include:

  • Businesses with employees
  • Corporations 
  • Partnerships
  • LLCs with more than one member
  • Businesses that file tax returns for employment, firearms, tobacco, excise, or alcohol 
  • Businesses that withhold taxes on non-wage income paid to non-resident immigrants
  • Businesses that have Keogh plans
  • Businesses involved with certain types of organizations

Also, sometimes an application for a Maryland business license requires you to provide an EIN. 

Step 7:  Apply for Maryland home-based business licenses

Thanks to the entrepreneurial spirit and advances in technology, a lot of people are running businesses out of their homes. Do state or local laws have something to say about that? Likely, yes. There can be a lot of specific requirements a home-based business has to fulfill to legally run. Typical licenses, permits, or approvals you might need for a home-based business include:

  • Local licenses granting permission to conduct a home-based business
  • Permits regarding signage for your business
  • Special exceptions from the local government for larger home-based businesses
  • Sales and use tax licenses
  • Approvals from homeowners’ associations (HOAs)

Depending on where you live, your local government might have a serious interest in keeping your neighborhood feeling like a neighborhood. Your local government might see your home-based business as a disruption to the neighborhood feel. Because of this, many counties and towns have rules about how many outside employees a home-based business can have, how often it can have commercial visitors, and how much of the home the business can use for its purposes. There can also be rules about parking, storage of business supplies, and what kinds of deliveries the business can receive. It’s important to reach out to your county and town government to help make sure you get the proper authority to run your home business.

And don’t forget about any residential covenants that might be in place. If your HOA is a stickler about getting their approval for a home-based business, you need to talk to them about your business plans. A home-based business can be a great way to make a living, but you need to have all of your business ducks in a row before you wade into the home-business waters. 

Step 8:  Maintaining your Maryland business licensing

Maybe you’ve asked all the right questions and obtained all the right licenses and permits. Is there anything left to do? Yes. You’ll likely need to renew most (if not all) of your licenses and permits on a regular basis. Failure to renew your licenses and permits on time can be a quick way to get your business penalized or shut down. You don’t want to take those chances with your hard work and goals. Let us help with our Worry-Free Compliance service to help you stay on track.

Compliance worries? Let us help with your Maryland business license requirements

As you can see, running a business can come with a lot of obligations. But you shouldn’t feel discouraged because we offer services that can make fulfilling your business obligations effortless. Let us do the research and determine all the specific business license requirements for your business and send them to you in one simple report. Sounds easy, right? It is. We want you to have the confidence to start the business of your dreams, and our Business License Report service can help you get there.

Disclaimer: The content on this page is for information purposes only, and does not constitute legal, tax, or accounting advice. If you have specific questions about any of these topics, seek the counsel of a licensed professional.

FAQs

  • Do all Maryland businesses need a license?

    Although Maryland business license requirements aren’t the same for all businesses, it’s unlikely that a Maryland business won’t need at least one business license to operate legally.

  • Can you sell things without a license in Maryland?

    In many cases, no. While some businesses can apply for a sales and use tax exemption certificate, businesses that sell goods need to have a sales and use tax license.

  • Is it legal to run a business from home in Maryland?

    It can be. You need to know the city and county rules for running a home-based business in your area, as well as HOA rules and covenants. You might also have to ask for permission from government agencies and housing associations before you conduct business.

  • What kind of license do I need for an online business in Maryland?

    Your business license requirements for an online business depend on a lot of factors, including the nature of your business, where you conduct your business, the number of employees you have, etc. It’s important to reach out to federal, state, and local government agencies to determine your specific obligations.

  • Do I need a license to collect sales tax in Maryland?

    Yes, in many cases you need a sales and use tax license to sell things. Depending on your situation, you might be able to apply for a sales and use tax license exemption certificate from the Maryland Comptroller.

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