Business Licensing in Maryland

If you’re planning to start a business, you can handle many of the associated startup tasks online, through the Maryland Department of Commerce website. You can register your business, establish tax accounts, register your trade name, and get a Federal Employer Identification Number. Then you’ll need to get the appropriate license or licenses to legally operate a business, and those requirements may vary depending on where you plan to locate your business.

Business licensing can be complex. Maryland recognizes 19 business categories, from Accommodation and Food Services, to Waste Management and Remediation Services. And within each of those 19 categories, there may be several sub-categories, each of which has distinct licensing requirements.

Planning to open a gas station? You’ll need to review 18 types of state licenses. You may not need all of those licenses, but it’s important to understand all the rules that apply to your type of business, as well as how much you might have to pay for the proper licenses.

Beyond state licenses, you may need county licenses, too – and figuring out what rules apply to you can be confusing. For example, there are several different liquor license classifications, and those classifications may vary by county. In Frederick County, there are three different license classifications, a consumption permit, and three separate endorsements for Sunday sales, tastings, and catering businesses.

Home-Based Businesses

People who operate home-based businesses may not realize that they might need to apply for a home occupation permit, in accordance with county, city and/or municipal zoning ordinances. For example:

  • In Anne Arundel County, an operator of a home business must apply for a Zoning Certificate of Use and undergo a home inspection.
  • In Carroll County, a zoning permit is required for operation of a home office, although a permit might not be required for simple jobs, like craft or art occupations; the zoning board may conduct a hearing to determine whether a business meets the test of “home occupation” and therefore requires a permit.
  • In Frederick County, different rules apply, depending on the impact of the business; a no-impact home business has a limited number of work-related vehicle visits, has no non-resident employees, can be operated in any type of residence, and does not require a zoning certificate; a minor-impact business may have up to one non-resident employee, is restricted to certain types of dwellings, and requires a zoning certificate.

Self-employed individuals run the risk of committing an infraction, if they don’t have the appropriate licensing and permits. That’s why it’s wise to consult an attorney when establishing a home-based business. Aside from providing advice about licensing, an attorney can help new business owners understand what tax forms they need to file and how to plan for individual tax payments.

Business Types

Licensing requirements vary depending on the type of business you operate and its structure. Businesses may be structured as sole proprietorships, partnerships, corporations, limited liability companies, cooperatives, or S-corporations.

Some people who want to own a business choose to buy an existing business, or open a franchise location, rather than handle all of the start-up requirements of a new business. Franchises are common in the fast food industry, with local operators managing stores but the brand name providing corporate structure, guidance, products, and support.

No matter what type of business you plan to operate, talk to an attorney to make sure you’ve covered all of your legal requirements.

Lusk Law, LLC specializes in assisting new business owners, helping to avoid litigation when possible and ready to actively represent our clients in court when litigation is necessary. Our experienced attorneys have provided legal counsel and representation to business owners in Frederick County, Howard County, Baltimore County, Baltimore City, Carroll County, Washington County, and Anne Arundel County, as well as other counties in Maryland. With over a decade of experience in representing start up and small businesses, we’re ready to offer a consultation concerning your business. Please call us at 443-535-9715 or fill out our contact form if you have any questions about this topic.

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