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FORTUNE Small Business:

Do you need a business license?

Check out these resouces to find out what paperwork and permits you need for your business.

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Ask FSB
Get small-business intelligence from the experts. Here's a chance for YOU to ask your pressing small-business questions, and FSB editors will help you get answers from the appropriate experts.
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(FORTUNE Small Business) -- Dear FSB: I'm starting a small business in building services. I'm already operating in two small locations. My first service has been to clean the offices in these buildings on a trial basis for the owner, who has other properties. The owner says he really likes my work. The owners of the buildings I've been working in know that I don't have a business license and that I'm trying out this type of business for the first time. I know that the next step is to get a business license but after that, what next? Help.

- David A. Simpkins, District Heights, Md.

Dear David: Actually, you may not need a license, according to Sonia Stockton, central regional director of the Maryland Small Business Development Center Network (MSBDC), a partnership between the U.S. Small Business Administration and the University of Maryland, College Park, that provides counseling and support to entrepreneurs across the state.

Whether or not you need a business license will depend on what other types of services you plan on offering.

"Cleaning businesses have different requirements than say, a doctor or a massage therapist, who do need business licenses," Stockton says. If you want to offer further maintenance services, check the requirements online at the State of Maryland's Business License Information System. The state's Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation also outlines requirements for different types of businesses.

You do need to get a federal tax identification number from the IRS, says Stockton, and then register with the state. She recommends visiting the MSBDC's website to investigate the different types of legal entities you can register as and the advantages and disadvantages of each in the state of Maryland.

As far as next steps, the MSBDC's website features an easy-to-use, interactive tool called Smart Start that generates a customized action plan for your business. The SBA offers a wealth of information about starting and managing a business, as well as information about how the association can connect you with local counseling at sba.gov/smallbusinessplanner/start/index.html.  To top of page

Does your service require a business license? Tell how you procured one.
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