What Business Licenses & Permits are Needed in Massachusetts?

Last Updated on

Quick Reference

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.

Business License – 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 cost of a Boston Business Certificate is $65.

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

Springfield – All businesses operating in the city limits of Springfield 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.  

Employer Identification Number (EIN) – Many businesses will register with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for an EIN or Employer Identification 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.

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 – 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.

Professional License – A variety of professions 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.

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 with the Town Clerk’s Office in the county where the business is located.

These are a few of the most common business licenses, but there are way too many licenses and permits in Massachusetts for us to keep track of. Before starting your business, check with the City Hall, County Clerk, Chamber of Commerce and/or Economic Developer in your area to get more information regarding business licensing.  Additionally, there are companies like IncFile or CorpNet that can do the research to ensure you have the proper federal, state and local licenses.