How to Apply for a Business License in Maryland

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Swyft Filings is committed to providing accurate, reliable information to help you make informed decisions for your business. That's why our content is written and edited by professional editors, writers, and subject matter experts. Learn more about how Swyft Filings works, our editorial team and standards, what our customers think of us, and more on our trust page.

Polina Solovyeva
Written by Polina Solovyeva
Written byPolina Solovyeva
Updated October 17, 2023
Edited by Carlos Serrano
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Starting a new business in the State of Maryland is exciting. Before officially opening your doors, don’t forget to obtain appropriate business licenses to keep your business in good standing. For many business owners, figuring out what type of licenses they need can be confusing, so follow this step-by-step guide to get all the information you need.

Maryland Business License: Key Takeaways

  1. Most businesses in Maryland require federal, state, and local licenses, depending on their nature and location. 

  2. Maryland has no general business license requirement, though state and federal license requirements vary by industry.

  3. Failing to obtain and maintain proper licenses can result in fines or business dissolution.

Navigate Maryland Business Licensing with Ease

Ensuring you have the right business licenses and permits is crucial. Let us manage the complexities for you, so you can stay focused on what you do best — running your business.

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What Is a Business License?

A business license is a legal document that gives your small business the right to conduct certain business operations. Most companies in the state of Maryland will need some business license — or several of them. 

What licenses you need depends on the nature of your business activities and your location. You may need to obtain a permit from the federal government, a state license, or a local business license. You may also need all three of them. 

Remember that registering a business entity, such as a limited liability company, or filing for a DBA or a sole proprietorship is not the same as applying for a business license. First, you must form your company with the Maryland Secretary of State and apply for appropriate licenses and permits. 

Get Your Maryland Business License in 7 Steps

Business license requirements can be confusing for many business owners. From state licenses to occupational tax certificates and zoning permits, there are multiple moving pieces to keep track of. Read on to determine what business licenses you need to keep your business compliant. 

Step 1: Apply for Maryland General Business Licenses

Some states require all businesses operating on their territory to apply for a general business license regardless of what they do. This is not the case in Maryland. There’s no general business license requirement, and whether or not you need a state license depends on the industry your small business is in. 

Your local government — your city, county, or municipality — may have a general business license requirement. In this case, you’ll need to apply for a general business license at the local level. 

Step 2: Apply for Federal Licenses for Maryland Businesses

If your new business is in one of the industries regulated by the federal government, you’ll need to apply for a federal business license. 

There are currently 11 industries that require federal licenses:[1]

  • Agriculture

  • Alcoholic beverages

  • Aviation 

  • Firearms, ammunition, and explosives

  • Fish and wildlife

  • Commercial fishing

  • Maritime transportation

  • Mining and drilling 

  • Nuclear energy

  • Radio and television broadcasting

  • Transportation and logistics

Contact the federal agency responsible for your industry to obtain an appropriate federal license for your business. For example, contact the Department of Agriculture if you’re in agriculture. Contact the Department of Transportation if you operate an oversized or overweight vehicle. You can get more federal business license information here

Remember that obtaining a federal license doesn’t fulfill state and local licensing requirements. Business owners may still need to apply for additional licenses at the state and local levels. 

Step 3: Search for Maryland Permits and Licenses

Maryland doesn’t have a general license requirement. Still, depending on the nature of your business, you may be required to obtain an industry-specific state license or a professional license. For example, if your business operations involve alcoholic beverages, you’ll need to get an appropriate kind of alcohol license. 

Maryland Business Express has created a helpful Maryland OneStop Portal to get additional information about the state business licenses you may need.[2] Examples of the licenses on the list include: 

  • Construction license and building permits

  • Business insurance licenses

  • Beauty salon permits

  • Broker license

  • Interior designer certification

Make sure to research what state licenses you need to get carefully. You must obtain proper business licenses to avoid paying steep fines or even closing down your business. 

Cumberland Maryland, Church, City, town

Step 4: Search for Local County or City Maryland Business Licenses

Your business will likely need to obtain additional licenses at the local level. You may need a general or professional license, a business tax certificate, a building permit, a sales tax permit, a zoning ordinance, or other documentation from your city, county, or municipality. 

For example, Baltimore requires antique dealers, employment agencies, dance academies, and junk dealers to hold a business license. You may also need a food permit, a liquor license, or a street vendor permit.[3]

The city of Germantown is another example of a municipality with extensive business licensing requirements. You need to obtain a permit or a license if you’re involved in selling alcohol, running an entertainment business, or providing a food service. See here for a complete list of required licenses and permits in Germantown.[4

Sometimes, finding local licensing requirements online can be challenging. When in doubt, contact your local government authorities, such as the Clerk of the Circuit Court or your local tax office. 

Step 5: Search for Maryland Professional Licenses

Professions with extensive education or formal training credentials typically require a professional license. Lawyers, doctors, and plumbers are examples of professionals who often need to obtain an occupation-specific business license. 

Refer to the Maryland OneStop Portal to learn more about professional licensing requirements. Typically, your profession should have a state board that can issue you a professional state license. For example, you can contact the Maryland Board of Acupuncture or the Board of Occupational Therapy.  

Remember that you may need to obtain both state and local professional licenses. 

Step 6: Apply for a Maryland Home-Based Business License

If you’re running your new business from home, you may need a particular type of business license called a home occupation license. 

There’s no state-level home occupation license requirement in Maryland. Instead, home-based small businesses are regulated at the local level. Depending on your city or county, you may need to obtain a general business license, a zoning permit, or a special home-based license. Contact your local Clerk’s office to learn more about any specific requirements. 

Step 7: Maintain Your Maryland Business License

It’s crucial to maintain your business licenses and permits in good standing. In most cases, business owners in Maryland must renew their licenses and other paperwork, such as occupational and business tax certificates, annually. 

If you don’t want to spend time renewing your business licenses and permits, Swyft Filings can help. We’ll file all the necessary paperwork with federal and state agencies to keep your business licenses current. 

Maryland State House, in Annapolis, at dusk

Apply for a Maryland Business License Online

Obtaining a business license in Maryland is more complicated than it sounds. New business owners need to investigate federal, state, and local laws and regulations to determine what business licenses they need to apply for. You’ll likely need multiple business licenses, and getting confused is easy. 

Swyft Filings can help you determine what licenses you need and handle all your paperwork. Whether you operate in a regulated industry or run your business from home, we’ll carefully research your small business's licensing requirements and file your business license applications correctly and efficiently. 

Stay Compliant in Maryland Without the Hassle
  • Focus on Your Business: Dive into your passion while we handle the intricacies of acquiring the necessary local, state, and federal business licenses and permits.

  • Simplify Your Paperwork: Complete our straightforward questionnaire, and we’ll handle all the required filings for you, accurately and promptly.

  • Stay Compliant: Avoid the risks and severe repercussions of non-compliance. We’re here to ensure your business remains in good standing.

Begin My License Application Today


How do I get a business license in Maryland?

You may need to obtain federal, state, or local licenses to keep your Maryland business in good standing. Research your business’s licensing requirements and file applications with the appropriate government agencies. 

Does Maryland require a general business license?

No. You don’t need a general business license, but you may still need to obtain state or local licenses depending on the nature of your business. 

Can you sell things in Maryland without a license?

In most cases, you’ll need to obtain a trader’s license from the Clerk of the Circuit Court and open a sales tax account with the Maryland Department of Assessments and Taxation before you can start selling things in Maryland.[5

Do I need a special license for an online business in Maryland?

No special license is required to operate an online business in Maryland. However, depending on the location of your business, you may need to apply for a general business license or a zoning permit. 

Can I collect sales tax in Maryland without a license?

You typically need a license to collect sales tax in Maryland. You can learn more about the regulations on the Comptroller of Maryland’s website

How much does a Maryland business license cost?

License fees can vary greatly depending on the type of license you’re applying for. For example, a mortician can expect to spend between $300-$1,000 on the necessary permits in Maryland. 

What’s the penalty for not having a business license in Maryland?

Not complying with business license requirements in Maryland can seriously affect your business. You may be required to pay fines or stop your business operations. 


  1. US Small Business Administration. “Apply for licenses and permits.” Accessed June 5, 2023.

  2. Maryland OneStop. “Portal.” Accessed June 5, 2023.

  3. City of Baltimore. “Baltimore City Licenses & Permits.” Accessed June 5, 2023. 

  4. Montgomery County Business Center. “Licenses and Permits.” Accessed June 5, 2023.

  5. Maryland Courts. “Frequently Asked Questions - Business Licenses.” Accessed June 5, 2023. 

Originally published on September 22, 2023, and last edited on October 17, 2023.
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