Maine Business License

Written by: Nik Ventouris

Last updated:

Maine Business License

Thinking of launching your business in Maine? One of the first steps you’ll need to take after registering your business is obtaining the required business licenses — which will relate to your niche and industry.

In this Maine Business License guide, we’ll break down whether a business license is a requirement for you, explain how you can go about applying, and outline how much this should generally cost you.

Let’s get started.

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Do I Need a Business License in Maine

In Maine, businesses are required to obtain various licenses and permits at the local, state, and federal levels. Here’s a general breakdown:

Type of Business

Below, we’ve detailed common ways in which your business type can dictate the licenses you’ll be required to obtain, as well as specific examples of these:

  • Business Tax Registration: If your business plans to sell tangible personal property or certain services in Maine, you may need a sales tax identification number or seller’s certificate (also known as a sales tax license). This permits you to collect sales tax from customers, which you’ll then remit to the State of Maine
  • Professional Licensing: For certain professions or trades in Maine, specialized licenses might be necessary. Professions like plumbing, electricians, or real estate agents, for example, all require licenses. For more information, you can have a look at the Maine Department of Professional and Financial Regulation website, which provides details on the vast range of professional licenses the state administers
  • Environmental Permits: Businesses in Maine that have the potential to impact the environment might need dedicated permits. For example, operations that might alter coastal sand dune systems or significant wildlife habitats should consult Maine’s Department of Environmental Protection for the right permits

However, this is not the only factor influencing the exact combination of licenses you’ll need — the location of your business within Maine plays an important role as well.

Location

In this section, we’ve provided a succinct overview of the potential licenses and permits that your business may need due to local, state, and federal requirements:

  • Local: Different towns and cities in Maine have their own set of rules when it comes to licenses and permits. This means that you’ll need to get in touch with your local town office — or have a look at its website — in order to understand your local requirements. In Portland, for instance, specific activities like operating a food truck, organizing an event, or establishing a massage therapy center all require a local business license
  • State: Maine oversees numerous activities at the state level, including but not limited to seafood harvesting and real estate operations. If your venture relates to a state-regulated activity, you will most likely need to obtain a state license (e.g., from the Maine Department of Marine Resources, Maine Real Estate Commission, etc.)
  • Federal: While this will generally not apply to most businesses, it may be applicable to you if your business is in a sector that’s federally regulated. Some of the most common business activities that require a federal license include those within the alcohol, aviation, firearms and explosives, radio and television broadcasting, and transportation industries

Since the exact permits and licenses your business will need are entirely unique to your situation, you’ll have to conduct thorough research into your own local, state, and federal regulations to smoothly launch your business.

Alternatively, many entrepreneurs opt to leverage the expertise of third-party services to handle this on their behalf.

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How to Get a Business License in Maine

In order to get your business license(s) in Maine, you will need to complete the following steps:

  • Form Your Business
  • Obtain an Employer Identification Number (EIN)
  • Apply for the Required Licenses and Permits

Let’s take a look at each step in more detail below.

Step 1: Form Your Business

Before setting out to obtain a business license in Maine, it’s pivotal that you first choose an appropriate business entity. Sole proprietorships, general partnerships, and corporations are all common choices, however it’s often seen as the most advantageous for small businesses in Maine to register as a Limited Liability Company (LLC). Here are a few reasons for why:

  • Limited Liability: Members are protected from personal liability for business debts, safeguarding personal assets
  • Tax Benefits: LLCs typically enjoy a pass-through tax treatment, avoiding the double taxation that corporations are subjected to
  • Management Flexibility: LLCs allow for flexibility in management structure, either being member-managed or manager-managed based on the preferences outlined in the certificate of formation
  • Ease of Formation: With the Maine Secretary of State providing forms that meet the minimum state law requirements and the option to file online, setting up an LLC is relatively straightforward

Many small business owners opt to avoid the tricky process of forming an LLC by instead leveraging the help of third-party LLC formation services.

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Step 2: Obtain an EIN

The second step you’ll need to complete before applying for your business license is to obtain your EIN. This is a unique nine-digit number assigned by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to businesses in the United States so that their financial transactions can be identified and tracked.

An EIN is often necessitated when applying for various permits and licenses as it allows local and state governments to ensure your business is operating within the confines of the law. You can obtain it in a number of ways:

  • Online: You can apply for your EIN on the IRS’s official website by using the EIN Assistant. You should be granted your EIN shortly after completing this application
  • By Fax/Mail: After completing Form SS-4, you can apply for an EIN by submitting it to the IRS via mail or fax
  • By Phone: International applicants and businesses located outside US Territories are required to call the IRS at (267) 941-1099 to obtain their EIN — which they should receive during this call

Note: If you are a sole proprietor, you will be able to use your Social Security Number (SSN) instead (as long as you do not have employees).

Step 3: Apply for Licenses and Permits

After settling on the appropriate structure for your business and initiating the application for your EIN, the next step is to focus on securing the necessary licenses and permits to operate legally within your locale and industry.

  • Local Licenses: In order to apply for the local license(s) your business may need, you will likely need to consult your local county office’s online website. This will generally include information that relates to your business’s sector, as well as how to go about applying (e.g., through a PDF form, online portal, etc.)
  • Statewide Licenses: How you go about applying for your statewide licenses will depend on your industry. For example, as a real estate agent, you can apply for your licenses through Maine’s Real Estate Commission Applications & Forms website
  • Federal Licenses: While the federal government doesn’t mandate licenses for general business operations, if your business falls under any government-regulated category, such as agriculture, fishing, firearms, and alcohol sales, it may be required to obtain additional federal licenses or permits

Note: For an in-depth understanding of specific licenses or permits relevant to your venture, consult Maine’s online Business Answers service.

Step 4: Renewal of Licenses and Permits

Most Maine business licenses will need to be renewed annually in order to remain valid.

Having said that, we recommend reaching out to the agency that issued your business license(s) if you are unsure about your business’s renewal requirements, as incorrect renewals can lead to serious penalties (e.g., fines, termination of your business, etc.).

If you believe that you will struggle to obtain this information yourself, you can also use a third-party service or a professional attorney instead. This can save you a significant amount of time for a relatively low opportunity cost.

If you’re interested in finding out more about this process, see our article on How to Get a Business License.

How Much is a Business License in Maine

Your total business license cost in Maine can vary considerably depending on both: the nature of your business, and its operating industry. This is because this will affect which — and how many licenses — you’ll need.

For instance, in the City of Portland, all business licenses come with a $45 application fee. If you’re applying for multiple licenses simultaneously, you only need to pay this fee once. Renewing these licenses annually also incurs a renewal fee of $35.

Furthermore, if you intend to operate as a sole proprietor or a partnership in Portland, a DBA (doing business as) license may be required, which carries a fee of $10.

If you’re interested in proactively knowing the exact amount that you’ll be required to pay, we recommend reaching out to your local and state licensing bodies for more information. Alternatively, you can choose to work with a third-party service that handles this process for you for a small fee.

Maine Business License FAQ

How much does it cost to start a small business in Maine?

This will depend on several factors, such as your specific industry and exact location within Maine. This is because the state does not have a general business license, so each business will be subject to different Maine business license requirements (i.e., local permits.) which can carry separate fees. See our Maine Business License article for more information.

What license is best for a small business?

This will ultimately depend on your industry; there is no one-size-fits-all answer. Interested in finding out more? Check out our How to Get a Business License article. Alternatively, you can have a look at Maine’s department of Economic & community Development website for more business answers.

How long does it take to register a business in Maine?

Registering a business in Maine typically takes about one-two weeks. The exact timeframe may vary based on factors like business type and any required permits. Keep in mind that this process can vary depending on your location within Maine and specific circumstances.

How do I get a vendor license in Maine?

To secure a Mobile Vendor License in Maine, you should ensure your food comes from an approved, licensed source, and follow the necessary temperature control, storage, handling, and labeling requirements. The license fee is $20 annually. Once you’ve met all guidelines, you can apply for the license using the application form available on the Maine government’s website.

For all related articles, have a look at our How to Get a Business License page.