Massachusetts Business License Requirements for an LLC

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A Massachusetts business license gives your Limited Liability Company (LLC) permission to operate in a certain location or within a specific industry.

While we can’t walk you through any applicable license applications step-by-step, we do provide helpful resources like:

  • information about state licensing rules
  • instructions for researching municipal licenses

And if you want to just hire a company to do the research for you, we have a recommendation below.

Massachusetts Business License Requirements

Business License

After you form a Massachusetts LLC, you may need to obtain a business license or permit.

Your requirements are determined by the industry you are in and where your Massachusetts Limited Liability Company is located.

Because of the large number of industries and all of the municipalities in Massachusetts, it’s not possible for us to explain them all. However, you can use the search tools below, call your local municipality, or hire a company for help.

Need to save time? We recommend hiring MyCompanyWorks (for $99) to handle the business license research for you.

How to get a Business License in Massachusetts

You can obtain a business license in Massachusetts by applying with the relevant licensing or regulatory agency. The agency you apply with will depend on where your business is located and what business activities it engages in.

The business license application typically requires basic information, such as your LLC name, EIN Number, business address, and contact information. Many also include a questionnaire that asks about your business activity.

There are three main licensing jurisdictions:

  • State licensing
  • Local licensing, such as county, city, township, etc.
  • Federal licensing

Does Massachusetts Require a Business License?

That depends on where your business is located, and what it does.

There are two types of state-level business licenses:

  • a general business license
  • and an occupational license

Massachusetts General Business License

Some states have a general license requirement, which means all businesses operating in those states must have the license, regardless of what they do.

But good news: Massachusetts doesn’t require a general license to do business in the state.

Meaning, your Massachusetts LLC doesn’t need a general state business license. But depending on what type of business you run, your LLC might need an occupational license.

Massachusetts Occupational License

Most states have occupational business license requirements. This means a license or permit may be required depending on what your business does or what your occupation is. For example, if you sell used cars, or run a hair salon, you may need an occupational business license. But a license may not be required for other types of businesses.

Start here: Is a license issued by an Occupational Board or the OPSI? Some business licenses are issued by a specific Occupational Board, and others are issued by the Office of Public Safety and Inspections (OPSI). This list will connect you with the correct agency or board.

This page about Professional Licenses and Permits will also help you determine if your Massachusetts business needs an occupational license or permit, and which agency to contact about applying for the license. This list includes more industries/professions than the Occupational Boards and OPSI chart above.

If neither of those pages has a listing for what your LLC does, read through the Licenses Offered by OCABR Agencies. The Massachusetts Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation (OCABR) is a collection of 5 government agencies that issue business licenses.

And here’s a list of all the boards and offices that are part of the Massachusetts Division of Occupational Licensing (which is part of the OCABR). You can find contact information and license requirements through these links.

You can also contact the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation with questions.

Note: Massachusetts business licenses are not issued by the Secretary of the Commonwealth (aka the Secretary of State). The Secretary of the Commonwealth is responsible for business entity administration, for example Limited Liability Company formation.

How much is a Massachusetts Business License?

Massachusetts doesn’t have a general business license at the state level, so there are no fees there.

However, your business may need a state-level occupational license or municipal-level license or permit to operate. The filing fee for these licenses will vary depending on where you’re doing business and what industry you’re in. To be honest, we can’t predict your specific Massachusetts business license cost.

For example, licenses issued by a county that contains a large city are usually more expensive than licenses in less populated, rural counties. And licenses for regulated industries, like child care facilities, are usually more expensive than generic business licenses.

But your LLC might not need a license or permit at all. So your Massachusetts business license cost could be $0.

See LLC Cost in Massachusetts to learn about all the possible LLC fees.

Municipal Business License

Municipal business licenses can be issued by the city, town, county, parish, township, borough, etc. We refer to all of these as a “municipality” to keep things simple.

There are two types of municipal business licenses:

  • general business license
  • industry-specific license

For example, if a municipality has a general business license requirement, all businesses operating in that municipality must have the license, regardless of what they do.

And if a municipality has industry-specific business licenses, a license or permit may be required depending on what your business does. For example, if you operate a food truck, or run a daycare, you may need an industry-specific municipal business license. Or if you’re purchasing or leasing real estate, you may need a zoning permit.

But a license may not be required for other types of businesses, like making wedding invitation templates or offering marketing consulting.

You can contact your municipality to check on their local licensing requirements. You can find your municipal government’s website using this resource from the Massachusetts Municipal Association: List of City and Town Websites.

Massachusetts Sales Tax License

If you sell products to consumers in Massachusetts, you may need to collect sales tax and file a Sales and Use Tax Return.

If your business activities are subject to sales and use tax, your LLC must register with the Department of Revenue.

Note: This requirement will apply whether you sell products online or in a physical location in Massachusetts.

For additional information about the Sales Tax License, use the Mass.gov Sales and Use Tax for Businesses page. This has links to all the information and instructions about the sales and use tax license.

Tip: Save time by hiring an expert. We recommend using TaxJar. They'll help you register for, collect, and pay sales tax.

Do I need any federal business licenses?

Most businesses in Massachusetts don’t need a federal business license. However, certain industries do need federal licenses:

If your business…Contact this agency about business licenses
Transports animals, plants or biotechnology over state linesDepartment of Agriculture
Imports or exports animal products, wildlife, or products derived from wildlife (including fish)Fish and Wildlife Service
Fishes commerciallyFish and Wildlife Service
Broadcasts on radio or TVFederal Communications Commission
Makes alcohol and sells it at a retail storeTobacco Tax and Trade Bureau
Makes or sells firearms, ammunition or explosivesBureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives
Transports cargo by seaFederal Maritime Commission
Transports goods or people by airFederal Aviation Administration

Check out the Small Business Administration’s Licenses and Permits page for a full list of industries with federal license requirements.

If your business isn’t one of these special cases, then the only federal requirements are that your LLC get an Massachusetts EIN Number (aka Federal Employer Identification Number) and that you file taxes.

Massachusetts Business License FAQs

Massachusetts doesn’t have a general business license for LLCs, so there are no fees there.

If your business has to get an occupational license or municipal (city or county) permit, the fees are hard to predict. Depending on your LLC’s location, and what type of business or industry you’re in, the fee varies.

And you might not need a business license at all!

Unfortunately, we can’t say what your LLC’s business license costs would be, because it depends on several factors and the cost of Massachusetts licenses varies.

No, an LLC is not a business license. They are two completely different things.

An LLC is a type of business structure created by filing a document with the state government.

And a business license is a document that gives a person, or a company, the right to transact business. It doesn’t create an LLC.

Sometimes a new business owner chooses to operate as a Sole Proprietorship in Massachusetts instead of an LLC.

Even if you’re just trying out a business idea as a Sole Proprietorship, you may still be subject to license requirements at the state and municipal levels. It just depends on what you will be doing, and where you will be operating your business.

No, the Massachusetts Secretary of the Commonwealth doesn’t handle licensing requirements. Instead, they manage business entity formation and registration. For example, depending on business entity type, business owners file different paperwork with the Secretary of the Commonwealth to create their business entity.

For more information, or to determine if there is a Massachusetts business license cost for your business, we recommend contacting the Massachusetts Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation and/or your local government agency. For example, your local county or city government will have information about any local licenses.

Here are the steps to starting an LLC in Massachusetts:

  1. Select a business name for your Massachusetts LLC
  2. Choose your Registered Agent
  3. File the LLC Certificate of Organization with the state
  4. Complete and sign an LLC Operating Agreement
  5. Get a Tax ID Number (EIN) from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS)
  6. Open an LLC bank account
  7. Check whether you need a business license or tax permits in Massachusetts

Matt Horwitz
Matt Horwitz
Founder & Educator, LLC University®
Matt Horwitz has been the leading expert on LLC education for the past decade. He founded LLC University in 2010 after realizing people needed simple and actionable instructions to start an LLC that other companies weren't offering. He's cited by Entrepreneur Magazine, Yahoo Finance, and the US Chamber of Commerce, and was featured by CNBC and InventRight.
 
Matt holds a Bachelor's Degree in business from Drexel University with a concentration in business law. He performs extensive research and analysis to convert state laws into simple instructions anyone can follow to form their LLC - all for free! Read more about Matt Horwitz and LLC University.

4 comments on “Massachusetts Business Licenses and Permits”

Disclaimer: Nothing on this page shall be interpreted as legal or tax advice. Rules and regulations vary by location. They also change over time and are specific to your situation. Furthermore, this comment section is provided so people can share their thoughts and experience. Please consult a licensed professional if you have legal or tax questions.

  1. I applied a LLC is just for renting an in-law suite out of my house. Do I need to get Business Licenses and Permits in MA? Please advise. Thanks!

    Reply
    • Hi Jess, we are not sure as we don’t consult regarding business licenses or permits. You’ll need to contact your city or county to check, or hire a company to do the research for you. The company that we recommend is IncFile. Hope that helps.

      Reply
  2. I’m forming a llc with 3 non US residents, we each plan to hold 25% share, can I get a liquor license in the state of mass. I read I (US citizen) have to own more than 50% share to get the license. Is there a way around this before forming our llc. Thank you

    Reply
    • Hi Maria, we can’t comment on the specifics of licenses. You may want to speak with the Massachusetts Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission and/or reach out to an attorney. Thanks.

      Reply

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