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What Business Licenses & Permits are Needed in Massachusetts?

What Business Licenses & Permits are Needed in Massachusetts?

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What Business Licenses & Permits are Needed in Massachusetts?

What Business Licenses & Permits are Needed in Massachusetts?

Starting a business in Massachusetts will mean potentially registering with a number of federal, state, and local agencies. Let’s take a look at common licenses and permits a business will register for in Massachusetts.

Before applying for any licenses, the business entity will need to be established. Learn more about the differences between the sole proprietorship, general partnership, corporation, and Limited Liability Company (LLC). Corporations and LLCs will register with the Massachusetts Secretary of the Commonwealth.

Related: Comparison of Business Entities

Learn more about forming an LLC in Massachusetts

Also see: Steps to starting a business in Massachusetts

General Business Licenses

There is no general state of Massachusetts business license, however, many cities require businesses to be licensed in order to operate. Rules for business registration vary depending on location and what the business does. Below are a few cities that have licensing requirements.

Boston – All businesses need to apply for a Business Certificate with the Boston City Clerk‘s Office. This certificate needs renewed every four years.

The filing fee for a Boston Business Certificate is $65.

Worcester – The City of Worcester requires a Business Certificate for any business operating within the city limits. The filing fee for the certificate is $50.

Springfield – All businesses operating in Springfield’s city limits need to register with the Springfield City Clerk for a Business Certificate. The cost of a Business Certificate is $50 and is good for four years from the date of filing.

Lowell – A Business Certificate is required for any company operating in the city limits of Lowell. In addition to the Business Certificate, businesses with employees will also need to file a Workers’ Compensation Insurance Affidavit.

New Bedford – The City Clerk‘s Office issues Business Certificates for all businesses operating within the New Bedford City limits.

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Building & Zoning Permits

Zoning – Depending on the location of the business, it’s important to verify whether the business needs an occupancy permit or has specific zoning regulations to follow. Depending on city requirements, home-based businesses may need to apply for a home occupation permit.

Building PermitA building permit may be needed from the city or county building and planning department if there is any construction or renovations to a facility.

Signage Permit Some municipalities require a permit before adding signage.

Massachusetts Sales Tax Vendor Registration

Businesses selling products and some services will need to register for a Sales Tax Permit with the Department of Revenue.

Resale Certificate

Small businesses purchasing merchandise to resell will usually want to obtain a Massachusetts Resale Certificate in order to not pay sales tax for merchandise that is being resold to customers.

Occupational License

 A variety of occupations in the state are regulated and need to be registered before offering certain services. A few common professions that require licensing in Massachusetts include; plumbers, cosmetologists, electricians, home inspectors, and many more. Additional information, fees, and licensing requirements for professions are available from the Massachusetts Division of Professional Licensure.

In addition to professional licenses, businesses in a variety of industries such as food establishments, daycares, and many others require licensing.

Employer Identification Number (EIN)

Many businesses will register with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for an EIN (also referred to as a FEIN, Federal Employer Identification Number, or Federal Tax ID Number). The EIN is the business equivalent for a Social Security Number for an individual. Corporations, Limited Liability Companies, Partnerships, and Sole Proprietorships with employees will all need to register for one. Sole Proprietorships without employees can use the owner’s Social Security Number.

There is no cost for an EIN, and it only takes a few minutes to get.

Learn how to apply for an EIN

Doing Business As (DBA) Registration

While not a business license, it’s common for Sole Proprietorships and Partnerships operating under a name that is different from the full name of the owner(s) to register for a DBA certificate with the Town Clerk‘s Office in the county where the business is located.

These are some of the most common business licenses, but there are far too many licenses and permits for us to keep track of. Before starting your business, be sure to check with City Hall, County Clerk, Chamber of Commerce, and/or Economic Developer in your area to get more information regarding business licensing.

What Business Licenses & Permits are Needed in Massachusetts?

What Business Licenses & Permits are Needed in Massachusetts?

Greg Bouhl

Greg Bouhl

Welcome! My name is Greg Bouhl, and I am a serial entrepreneur, educator, business advisor, and investor.

StartingYourBusiness.com is here because of the many clients I worked with who made decisions based on inaccurate and outdated information.

Starting a business is hard, but here you will find the practical tools, resources, and insider tips to help you successfully start a business.

If there is a question about starting a business or help finding a resource, I'm here to help!

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4 Responses

  1. Soon and very soon I will be starting a T shirt business from my apartment here in Massachusetts. I will be selling them on line . Do I need a Permit or
    a license to do this ? And do I have to pay State and Federal tax ? Please contact me soon and let me know just what I need to do

    1. Hi Basil

      First off, you will need to form your business entity. The sole proprietorship is the easiest and least expensive, but if the business is sued, the owner is personally liable. I’m not an attorney, nor giving legal advice, but it would seem your legal risk could be pretty low selling shirts online. Learn about the different entities here – https://startingyourbusiness.com/comparison-of-business-entities/

      Next, looking at licenses, typically, an online business requires fewer licenses than one with a physical storefront. The types of licenses will vary depending on your location, but to start with, I would look at:
      – Local business license – Not all cities require one for a home-based business, so check with City Hall, County Clerk, Chamber of Commerce, and/or Economic Developer in your area to get more information regarding business licensing.
      – Sales tax permit – Since you are selling a taxable product you will need to get a Sales Tax Permit from the Department of Revenue. Learn how to register – https://startingyourbusiness.com/how-to-register-for-a-sales-tax-permit-in-massachusetts/.

      Be aware that a business may have to register for a sales tax permit in each state. Requirements vary, but most require registration once exceeding 200 transactions or $100k in sales per year to their residents.

      Regarding taxes, you will need to pay state and federal tax on the profits of the business. The complicating factor is what legal structure you go with. This article may help give you some answers – https://startingyourbusiness.com/home-business-taxes/

      Hope this helps. Let me know if you have any other questions!

  2. I want to start a home improvement business ,I do work on the weekends because i work full time. I’am a union carpenter
    and i don’t know what license i need
    thank you for your help Carlos R

    1. Hi Carlos – In addition to the general steps to starting a business in Massachusetts – https://startingyourbusiness.com/massachusetts/, a home improvement contractor will need to be registered through the state – https://www.mass.gov/home-improvement-contractor-registration-and-renewal. In addition, many cities also require a permit before making alterations to a building. Depending on the work you are doing, you would want to check with the city where the homeowner’s house is located before starting work.

      Hope this helps! Let me know if you have any other questions.


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