How to Get a Business License in Massachusetts - How to Start my LLC

How to Get a Business License in Massachusetts

Written by:

Carolyn Young has over 25 years of experience in business in various roles, including bank management, marketing management, and business education.

Reviewed by: Sarah Ruddle

For over 15 years, Sarah Ruddle has been a noteworthy leader in the business and nonprofit world.

How to Get a Business License in Massachusetts

How to Get a Business License in Massachusetts

A crucial step in starting a limited liability company (LLC) in Massachusetts is acquiring all the necessary licenses and permits. Depending on your business, you may need them at the federal, state, and local levels. 

Without them, you could face major penalties and even business closure. This guide lays out all you need to know to ensure full compliance in Massachusetts.

Which Department Issues Business Licenses and Permits?

In most states, several agencies and departments issue licenses and permits depending on industry and location. For example, the Division of Professional Licensure in Massachusetts issues most licenses, while the Department of Revenue issues some. 

The Revenue Department issues sales tax permits; apply online at the MassTaxConnect website.

Federally, different departments oversee different industries. As a result, licenses and permits are generally industry-specific, except for health permits from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

If you run a farm, you may need a U.S. Department of Agriculture license. If your business sells fireworks, you must register with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. Most industries, however, do not require licensing at the federal level. 

The Small Business Association (SBA) has put together a handy guide that details which licenses and permits are needed for various types of businesses. 

Common Business Licenses and Permits

Here are some common licenses and permits you may need.

Federal Licenses

If a federal agency regulates your industry, you’ll need a license from that agency. Federal agencies that may require you to be licensed include:

  • Department of Agriculture
  • Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau
  • Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives
  • Department of Transportation

State Licenses

Common licenses at the state level include:

  • Industry-specific licenses for certain professions and industries, such as construction, plumbing, electrical, childcare, food handling, liquor, architecture, and finance
  • Health licenses and permits
  • Doing business as (DBA) permits if you’re doing business using a name other than your LLC name
  • Sales tax permit

Local Licenses

At the municipal or county level, you may need the following:

  • Building and zoning permits
  • Health licenses and permits
  • Fire permits
  • Sign permits

How to Obtain a Business License in Massachusetts

In Massachusetts, a general business license is not required, but you’ll need other licenses and permits. 

  1. Unless you’re operating as a sole proprietorship or partnership, you’ll need to register your business entity with the state, usually as an LLC or a corporation. 

You can do so online with the Secretary of State

  1. You’ll need to register for sales tax on the  MassTaxConnect website if you sell goods or services.
  2. Other licenses require applications with specific departments. For example, in Massachusetts, if you run a business that sells alcohol, you’ll need an alcoholic beverages license. For this, you’ll apply with the Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission.
  3. Check with local governments for required licenses and permits at the local level. 

How Much Does a Business License Cost in Massachusetts?

License and permit fees vary. A sales tax permit, for instance, costs nothing in Massachusetts, while forming an LLC costs $500. A retail alcoholic beverages license application costs $200. 

Do Licenses and Permits Have to Be Renewed?

Some licenses and permits in Massachusetts require annual renewal. For example, a sales tax permit does not expire, but most professional licenses must be renewed annually, as do alcoholic beverage licenses.  

Check with issuing departments for renewal requirements for other licenses and permits.

In Closing

Obtaining licenses and permits is a critical step when starting an LLC in Massachusetts, so make sure you check with state and local government offices and fully comply with their requirements. If you operate without the proper licenses and permits, you could face steep fines or even the closure of your business. 

If you’re unsure of state or local regulations and need help, consult a business attorney, as proper licensing is an absolute must.