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How to Get a Business License in Massachusetts
Written by: Coralee Bechteler
Coralee is a business writer with experience in administrative services, education, and software testing.
Edited by: David Lepeska
David has been writing and learning about business, finance and globalization for a quarter-century, starting with a small New York consulting firm in the 1990s.
Updated on May 2, 2023
How to Get a Business License in Massachusetts
- Why are business licenses required in Massachusetts?
- Which agency issues business licenses in Massachusetts?
- Steps to Get a Massachusetts Business License
- Types of Business Licenses
One of the most important elements of starting a business in Massachusetts is making sure you have all the requisite licenses and permits. The requirements vary by state, some of which have as many as 300 different licenses and permits.
This article is too short to list them all, but it’s crucial that you’re aware of which ones your business needs and that you follow the steps for application and put your business on the road to success.
In Massachusetts, businesses need certain licenses and permits to legally operate as a business. The regulatory hurdles required vary depending on the type of business, its location, and the products and services offered.
To help you launch your new business, this article lays out the most commonly needed permits and licenses in Massachusetts— and details the steps required to acquire them.
Why are business licenses required in Massachusetts?
Business licenses and permits are issued to certify that a business and its products and services are safe for the public. This explains why food businesses, for instance, require more licenses than most other business types.
In Massachusetts, all businesses seeking to sell goods or services must register with the Department of Revenue.
Which agency issues business licenses in Massachusetts?
In Massachusetts, the Department of Revenue issues the vast majority of licenses and permits, though some are issued by the Division of Professional Licensure and City Clerk Offices. For instance, the state’s Department of Environmental Protection issues operating permits, while the Registry of Motor Vehicles issues truck driver permits.
Some licenses and permits are issued by cities or counties. For example, if you live in Boston, you need to check with that city to see if licenses or permits are required for your business by the city.
Before you apply, it’s important to know which state or local agency issues the license you need. Check the state’s guidelines here to learn more.
You could also check this SBA guide for your state’s requirements, but we recommend using MyCorporation’s Business License Compliance Package. They will research the exact forms you need for your business and state and provide them to ensure you’re fully compliant.
Steps to Get a Massachusetts Business License
In Massachusetts, the steps for acquiring specific licenses and permits vary widely, so it’s important to be aware of what you need, and how to get it.
Determine the Types of Licenses That You Need
The licenses your business needs to conduct business will reflect the general type and nature of your business. In order to sell goods and services, you’ll need a sales tax permit. DBA forms, also known as Doing Business As forms, could also be necessary.
Each business will require certain licenses and specific permits, so it’s important to review state requirements and verify that your business is properly licensed. For instance, if you run a house painting business, the associated licensure is required.
You can look through Massachusetts’ Citizens’ Guide to State Services for more information, or call the number below.
Submit Your Business License Application
Depending on the license you’re applying for, the relevant department you’ll be filing with will vary. For example, most businesses need a sales tax permit to run their business. Sales tax permits can be filed online using the state’s MassTaxConect service at no cost.
How much does a Massachusetts business license cost?
Sales tax permits in Massachusetts don’t cost anything, but other business licenses and permits do have an accompanying fee. Since businesses in various cities of Massachusetts have different licensure requirements, they also have different associated fees. For instance, business certificates in Boston cost $65, while the cities of Worcester and Springfield charge $50 for certificates.
Depending on the business license you’re seeking, costs vary. For instance, a fortune teller license only costs $50, while a general alcohol license costs $3,500.
In Massachusetts, and most US states, jumping through all the hoops to acquire the necessary licenses and permits can be exhausting. But if you want to operate your business, you’ll have to wade through all the red tape. So get started on these regulatory hurdles as early as possible and clear the way for your entrepreneurial journey to success.
How fast can I get a business license in Massachusetts?
You can expect most business license applications to be processed within seven days. For example, the state will likely process sales tax permits within just two days.
Renew Your Licences When Needed
In Massachusetts, some licenses require renewal while others do not. For example, sales tax permits don’t expire in Massachusetts.
But again, renewal requirements vary, especially in cities. For instance, businesses in the city of Boston need to renew their business certificate every four years with the City Clerk.
You can monitor the status of various licenses through your MassTaxConect account, but it’s also wise to write calendar notes and reminders about license renewal dates.
Types of Business Licenses
Your business may need local, state, and/or federal licenses and permits, depending on your type of business. Fees for these vary, but most costs are minimal.
Federal regulations associated with starting your business include doing business as (DBA), health licenses and permits from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), trademarks, copyrights, patents, and other intellectual properties, as well as industry-specific permits.
The most common permits and licenses include:
- Business operating licenses may be required by the city and the state to allow you to operate.
- Industry-specific licenses may be required, depending on your type of business. Businesses involved in construction, childcare, plumbing, electrical, food and liquor, insurance, finance, landscaping, and architecture all require licensing, for example. In some highly regulated industries, you may require licensing from a federal agency, such as the FDA or Department of Transportation.
- Zoning permits are issued by municipalities to ensure you’re operating in an area in which you’re allowed to operate.
- Building permits verify that the building you’re operating in is up to code. Home occupation permits, which some areas require, allow you to operate a business from your home.
- DBA permits allow you to do business under a name that is different from your legally registered business name.
- Sales tax permits allow you to sell products and collect sales tax.
- An employer identification number (EIN) is required if you plan to have employees, no matter what your business entity type.
- Health licenses and permits are required for certain businesses based on industry, and you will be required to maintain health and safety standards. Environmental permits are also required for certain industries in some locations.
- Fire permits certify that your business is up to fire safety codes. Depending on your location, this may be required for all businesses, while in other areas it’s required only if you work with flammable materials.
- Sign permits may be required for your location or other signage if there are rules about sign size and location.
Again, check with state and local government offices for specific requirements based on your location and industry.
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