Frequently Asked Questions - Business Licenses
Does every business need a license?
No. Licenses should be issued only to those businesses that are required to be licensed by the state. Requesting an unnecessary license only creates extra paperwork and hampers timely service to businesses that need assistance. To determine if you need a license, contact your local Clerk of the Circuit Court or call the State License Bureau at 410-260-6240.
What types of businesses require a license?
Businesses located in Maryland may need to obtain one or more of the following licenses from their local Clerk of the Court: auctioneer; billiard table; chain store; cigarette; commercial garage; console machine; construction firm; hawkers and peddlers; junk dealers; laundry; music box (juke box); pinball; plumber and gas fitter; restaurant; special cigarette; storage warehouse; trader's; trader's show; vending machine; and wholesale dealer-farm machinery.
What are the fees for the Trader's License?
Trader's license fees are based on the average commercial inventory that a business owns. The fees increase as the inventory values increase. Currently, the fee amounts range from $15 to a maximum of $800 ($2,125 in Baltimore City).
What 's the difference between a Trader's License and a Trader's Show License?
A trader's license applies to a trader or vendor in a fixed location. A trader's show license is designed for traders who rent space temporarily from a promoter and derive less than 10 percent of their gross annual income from show events.
What should construction businesses remember?
Builders are required to obtain a construction license, in addition to any registration required under the Maryland Home Builder Registration Act. Construction companies building new homes or entering into contracts to sell new homes should contact the Home Builder Registration Unit of the Maryland Attorney General's Office at 410-576-6573.
Are out-of-state construction businesses working in Maryland required to obtain a special license?
Yes. They may be required to obtain a nonresident construction license, which entails a $60 fee in Baltimore City and a $50 fee in the 23 counties in Maryland.
What about nonprofit organizations?
Nonprofit organizations are not required to obtain a license. However, their nonprofit status must be certified by the IRS. For more information about IRS certification of nonprofits, visit the IRS website.
What should auctioneers keep in mind?
The licensing requirements that affect auctioneers depend on whether the auctioneer is holding inventory or merely providing a service.
What kinds of services are available from the State License Bureau?
The State License Bureau can answer questions, provide helpful brochures and offer other assistance in special cases. They can provide the Clerks of the Court access to important data, including information provided by the Maryland Department of Assessments and Taxation. They can also provide important data to local government finance officials, helping them to expedite license clearances. In addition, agents from the Comptroller's Field Enforcement Bureau can resolve cases involving bad checks issued to local governemnts. For more information, contact the State License Bureau at 410-260-6240.
If I'm the new owner of a business, am I liable for any delinquencies incurred by the previous owner?
No. A new owner is not liable for the delinquent licenses of a previous owner. Our law enforcement agents will pursue these delinquent matters with the previous owner.
What if a business fails to remit required license fees to the local Clerk of the Court?
The Clerk of the Court Office will notify the State License Bureau. Agents from the Field Enforcement Bureau will then contact the delinquent business and confiscate the business license, if necessary, to resolve the matter.
How far back can state officials investigate a delinquent license matter?
The staute of limitations for delinquent licenses is four years.
Where can customers report a complaint about a business?
Any person who might have received a poor product or unsatisfactory service from a business should contact the Maryland Attorney General's Office Consumer Protection Division at 410-528-8662. Complaints can also be referred to the Better Business Bureau.
What should I remember about license renewals?
The state and local agencies listed below must verify that an applicant renewing a license has paid all state taxes due - or made a satisfactory payment arrangement - before the license can be renewed:
- Comptroller of Maryland
- Clerks of the Circuit Court
- Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation
- Department of Health and Mental Hygiene
- Motor Vehicle Administration (excluding driver's licenses and vehicle registration renewals)
- Department of Natural Resources
- Department of the Environment
If you hold a license issued by one of these agencies, you should file any necessary tax returns and pay all taxes due without delay. If you wait until license renewal time to resolve a tax liability, your renewal may be delayed.
About the FED
Field Enforcement Division
The Field Enforcement Division is responsible for enforcing the State's revenue laws relating to alcoholic beverages, tobacco, motor fuels, business licenses and the sales and use tax. Enforcement agents combat the illegal smuggling of untaxed cigarettes by conducting investigations, arresting violators and making sure retail businesses are licensed properly and complying with recordkeeping regulations.
Enforcement agents and field inspectors also combat the illegal alcohol trade by investigating instances where licensed or unlicensed individuals elect to sell untaxed or illegally obtained products, or defraud consumers by altering the contents of expensive liquor with less expensive brands and selling it at the higher price. Field inspectors also monitor the transportation and storage of motor fuel, and verify that retail locations are complying with regulations governing pricing, labeling and registration. Fuel samples are also collected and tested at the division's Petroleum Testing Laboratory in Jessup to ensure problem is corrected. The inspectors and enforcement agents work together to identify unlicensed fuel sellers, unregistered IFTA motor carriers and users who illegally use untaxed, dyed fuel in their highway vehicles.
Comptroller of Maryland - Tip Lines
If you sell items other than produce or seafood at a roadside or a temporary location, and the items are subject to the Maryland sales and use tax, you must display a transient vendor license when making sales. This does not apply to exhibitors at fairs, trade shows, flea markets and individuals who sell by catalogues, samples or brochures for future delivery.
The transient vendor license is free and valid for 90 days, up to the expiration date printed on the license. To obtain a transient vendor license, you must have a Maryland sales and use tax license. You may apply for a sales and use tax license online or you may apply by contacting Taxpayer Service. You may also need to obtain a local license (such as a trader's license) from the Clerk of the Circuit Court in the jurisdiction in which you do business. A renewed transient vendor license will be mailed to you approximately two weeks before the expiration date of the license, as long as your sales and use tax account remains open, you are not delinquent in the payment of any state taxes and you have the appropriate local license from the jurisdiction in which you do business. If you do not receive a new license before the expiration date, contact Taxpayer Service at once. If the reissue of your transient vendor license has been delayed because of other tax problems, these problems must be resolved before a replacement license will be issued.
Maryland law not only requires that you display the enclosed license but also that you separately state and charge the sales and use tax on each taxable sale you make. If you fail to do either, any law enforcement officer in the state may issue an immediate stop sale order and/or institute misdemeanor charges. Upon conviction, a fine of up to $2,500 may be imposed.
A peddler or hawker who sells goods while traveling from place to place by foot or vehicle must obtain a peddler's license from the appropriate Clerk of the Circuit Court in order to sell or offer to sell any goods in Maryland.
A peddler's license is not required for:
- The sale of fish or oysters in their natural and unpreserved condition, or
- The sale of perishable fruits or vegetables in their natural condition, or
- Licensed merchants or traders in Allegany County who have maintained regular places of business for at least five years.
There are other locals laws and statutory exemptions in the State Peddler's License Law that affect peddlers and hawkers. For more information, contact the State License Bureau or the Clerk of the Circuit Court in the county where your business will be conducted.
The legal requirement for the peddler's license can be found in the Business Regulation Article of the Annotated Code of Maryland, Title 17, Subtitle 9.
Starting a New Business in Maryland
To make it easier to start a new business in Maryland, the Comptroller's Office offers convenient online services to help you set up a tax account, obtain the right licenses (you cannot obtain a business license for Calvert County online), and learn about available tax credits.
The Taxpayer Registration Assistance Center (TRAC) offers you on-the-spot help to determine the tax registrations you need, complete the appropriate forms and understand basic Maryland tax requirements.
The online Combined Registration Application (CRA) makes it easy to apply for many of the business tax accounts that you need, including an employer withholding account, a sales and use tax license and many more. You can also download the application and fax or mail it to the Comptroller.
Each of the Comptroller's taxpayer service offices offers personal assistance for new business owners. At any of our locations you can apply for licenses, set up tax accounts, and ask questions relevant to your business.
The Comptroller's online Business Tax Tips brochures explain how to prepare a sales and use tax return, what business records you should keep and a host of other important topics for new business owners.
The State License Bureau is responsible for monitoring and enforcing the use of business licenses in Maryland and can help determine if you are required to register for a local business license.
Maryland Business License Information System (BLIS) website has spared thousands of companies the aggravation of looking for business license information and services in dozens of different places. The BLIS website reflects the joint effort of several Maryland state agencies working to consolidate information for new business owners.
Unless you are a grower or manufacturer, you may not offer for sale, sell or otherwise dispose of any goods within Maryland, without first obtaining a trader's license from the Clerk of the Circuit Court and opening a sales tax account. Business entities must register and qualify with the Maryland Department of Assessments and Taxation. A private individual may conduct a public sale of personal effects on his or her own property without a trader's license, provided that no more than one sale is conducted for a period not to exceed 14 consecutive days in any one calendar year.
The license year runs from May 1st through the following April 30th. The legal requirements for the trader's license can be found in the Business Regulation Article of the Annotated Code of Maryland, Section 17-1804.
Chain Store License
If you operate two or more retail stores under the same general management or ownership in Maryland, you must have a chain store license. However, the term "store" does not include an automobile service station where the principal business is the sale or distribution of motor fuel.
When you apply for the chain store license, you must pay a fee to the appropriate Clerk of the Circuit Court in addition to the fee paid for a trader's license.
The legal requirement for the Chain Store License can be found in the Business Regulation Article, Annotated Code of Maryland, Sections 17-1805 and 17-1809.
Under the Maryland Home Builder Registration Act, any person or business that builds new homes or enters into contracts to sell new homes must be registered with the Home Builder Registration Unit of the Maryland Attorney General's Office. For more information, contact the Registration Unit at 410-576-6573.
Any person or business organization must obtain a construction license from the appropriate Clerk of the Circuit Court on an annual basis if the person or organization agrees to do any of the following:
1. Perform work on or in any building or structure, requiring the use of paint, stone, brick, mortar, wood, cement, structural iron or steel, sheet iron, glavanized iron, metallic piping, tin, lead, electric wiring or other metal, or any other building material.
2. Perform any paving or curbing on sidewalks or streets, public or private property.
3. Excavate earth, rock or other material for foundations or any other purpose.
Additional Construction License Information:
Storage Warehouse License
If you keep a storage warehouse in Maryland where goods are stored for a fee, you must obtain a storage warehouse license from the appropriate Clerk of the Circuit Court.
The legal requirement for the Storage Warehouse License can be found in the Business Regulation Article, Annotated Code of Maryland, Sections 17-1202 and 12-1203.
Vending Machine License
Every person who sells or offers goods for sale through a vending machine in the state of Maryland must obtain a vending machine license from the Clerk of the Circuit Court in the county where the machines are located. The license fee is $2.50 for each vending machine.
A vending machine license is not required if the following items are offered for sale:
- Cigarettes - Special laws govern the sales of cigarettes through a vending machine. For more information, contact the State License Bureau or the Clerk of the Circuit Court in the county in which the vending machine will be located.
- Paper cups
- Paper or cloth towels
- Postage stamps
- Sanitary napkins
- Toilet seat covers
The license year is from May 1st through April 30th.
The legal requirements for the vending machine license can be found in Title 17, Subtitle 19 of the Business Regulation Article, Annotated Code of Maryland.
A promoter may not allow an exhibitor to participate in a show if the exhibitor has not submitted a photocopy of a valid Trader's License or an Exhibitor's Affidavit (available from any Clerk of the Circuit Court or the State License Bureau) prior to the show. Unless a show is promoted by one of the exempt entities listed below, an exhibitor DOES NOT need to obtain a trader's license if:
1. The show is promoted by:
-a church as defined in section 5-301 of the Corporations and Associations Arrticle;
-any government agency or unit;
-an amateur radio organization
-an antique vehicle, machine and equipment organization;
-a volunteer fire department or rescue squad;
-a model train collectors' association;
1. Has not participated in more than three shows during the previous 365 days.
An exhibitor who has a valid Trader's License for a fixed place of business in Maryland does not have to obtain another Trader's License, provided the exhibitor presents a photocopy of the license to the promoter prior to the show.
The photocopy of a Trader's License or an Exhibitor's Affidavit must be conspicuously displayed during the show. Within seven days after the conclusion of the show, a promoter must foward all Exhibitor Affidavits to the Comptroller of Maryland, State License Bureau, P.O. Box 2397, Annapolis, MD 21404-2397.
If an exhibitor does not meet the requirements outlined above, the procedure for handling temporary licenses is still in effect. A promoter or exhibitor who fails to comply as required by law shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviciton, may be fined up to $100.00 or imprisoned for up to 30 days. The legal requirement for the Exhibitor's Affidavit can be found in the Business Regulation Article of the Annotated Code of Maryland, Section 17-1804.
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