Business License Requirements for the State of Maryland

The license you need will depend on the nature of your business

Open For Business
Image (c) Tetra Images / Getty Images

Many types of businesses in Maryland are exempt from having to obtain business licenses to operate. Only certain types of businesses that are regulated by state law must be licensed. 

Businesses That Require Licenses 

Businesses that must usually obtain licenses from their local Clerk of the Court include auctioneers, hawkers, peddlers, billiard parlors, chain stores, any store where cigarette or tobacco products are sold, commercial garages, operators of console machines, construction firms, junk dealers, laundry establishments, music or jukebox vendors, other vending machine companies, pinball machine owners/vendors, plumbers, gas fitters, restaurants, storage warehouses, traders and traders' shows, and those engaged in wholesale dealer-farm machinery.

The business must be physically located in Maryland for licensing rules to apply. 

The type of license or licenses required can depend on the exact nature of the business, and you may require more than one. You can contact your local Clerk of the Court or call the State License Bureau at 410-260-6240 to find out if your particular business requires a license. You can also search by your industry for licensing information on Maryland's Business License Information System online.

Some counties require licensing in addition to state licenses. Your local Clerk of the Court can tell you if your county is one of them. 

Special Licensing 

If you are planning to operate a bank, credit union, consumer loan company, mortgage company, sales finance company, or a collection agency, you'll need special licensing. Call the  at 410-230-6100 for licensing information. 

The Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation details additional requirements for employers.

If you need a professional or occupational license, call the Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing toll-free at 888-218-5925. You'll most likely need this type of license if you're in real estate, or if you're a plumber, pilot, engineer, electrician or locksmith, among other professions.

Child care providers and assisted living facilities also require their own special licensing.

Maryland does not make any particular distinction between brick-and-mortar businesses and online businesses. The nature of your business will determine the type of licensing you need regardless of whether you operate and/or sell merchandise from a land-based facility or on the Internet. 

Nonprofit organizations that obtain tax exempt status from the Internal Revenue Service do not require business licenses in Maryland.  

Penalties for Failing to Obtain a License 

The statute of limitations on licensing investigation and penalties for failure to obtain and file a business license is four years in Maryland. 

How to Get the Necessary Licenses

Maryland makes it relatively easy to make sure all your licensing requirements are met. The Department of Commerce offers the Maryland Business Portal online that will walk you through all the steps necessary to register your business with the state, whether you're just starting out or you're relocating into the area. The DOC also offers licensing links on its webpage to take you through the licensing process. County-level licensing links are included. 

The site will also help you set up your required tax accounts with the state of Maryland.

To find your local chamber of commerce to help you with local business questions and support, visit List of Chambers of Commerce in Maryland.