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Maine Business License Basics

Maine Business License Basics

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Maine Business License Basics

Starting a small business in Maine often means registering with several federal, state, and local agencies. Let’s review common Maine business license registrations so your business starts off right.

Related: Guide to starting a business in Maine 

Setting Up the Business

Sole proprietorship: In Maine, a sole proprietorship is an unincorporated business owned by a single individual. The owner has complete control over the business but is personally liable for all debts and obligations. No formal registration is required, making it the simplest and most common form of business structure.

General partnership: A general partnership in Maine is an unincorporated business owned by two or more individuals who share management responsibilities, profits, and losses. Partners have unlimited personal liability for the partnership’s debts and obligations. No formal registration is required, but a partnership agreement is recommended to outline the partners’ roles and responsibilities

Corporation: A corporation in Maine is a legal entity separate from its owners, providing the owner’s (shareholders) limited liability protection. Corporations are the most complex business structure to set up and have specific administrative requirements. 

Limited Liability Company (LLC): An LLC in Maine combines aspects of sole proprietorships and corporations, offering flexibility in management and taxation. Owners, called members, have limited personal liability for the LLC’s debts and obligations, but they aren’t as complex as corporations. 

Related: Comparison of Business Structures

What Licenses Do Maine Businesses Need?

With the business structure out of the way, we can begin looking at the different types of registrations businesses in Maine may need. There isn’t a standard business license, as requirements vary depending on where the business is located and what it does. Here is a general overview of the different registrations your business may need.

Business Licenses

There is no general state of Maine 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.

  • Portland: Many businesses operating in Portland’s city limits will need an inspection or approval from zoning, building inspection, and fire department approval. In addition, there are a few regulated businesses in Portland, including breweries, massage therapists, mobile food vendors, and several others. Regulated business licenses require a $45 filing fee. Contact the Business License Administrator for more information.
  • Lewiston: The Lewiston City Clerk requires licensing for certain types of businesses, a few of which include; junkyards, bowling alleys, flea markets, roller skating rinks, and a few others.
  • Bangor: Business licensing is required only for certain businesses in Bangor, Maine. A few licensed businesses include caterers, businesses selling alcohol, marijuana cultivators, pawnshops, and more.
  • Auburn: Several types of businesses operating in Auburn require a business license from the City Clerk. Regulated businesses include; food service operations, tattoo artists, pool halls, and a few others.
Take the guesswork out of figuring out what licenses and permits are required to start your business with license research packages from Bizee and LegalZoom.

For as little as $99, you can save a lot of time and know your business is in compliance with local, state, and federal requirements. 

Assumed Business Name 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 Maine Trade Name (also known as a Doing Business As, DBA, or Trade Name) with the Municipal or Town Clerk’s Office in the county where the business is located.

Building & Zoning Permits

Zoning: In Maine, zoning laws are regulated by local governments, so check with your local planning board or code enforcement office to ensure your business activities will comply with the zoning district. In some areas, home-based businesses may require a conditional use permit or home occupation permit.

Building Permit: A building permit is required for most construction, alterations, or additions to structures in Maine.To obtain a permit, submit plans, specifications, and an application to your local code enforcement office.

Signage Permit: Most local governments in Maine regulate the size, location, and type of business signage. Before installing any signs, check with your local code enforcement office or planning board for specific requirements and to obtain a sign permit.

Maine Business Tax Number

Any business that sells taxable products and services or has employees needs to register with Maine Revenue Services. This will allow a business to register for a Maine Sales & Use Tax License, Service Provider Tax, and/or Withholding Taxes.

Resale Certificate

Businesses purchasing merchandise to resell will usually want to obtain a Maine 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 Maine include; forestry, electricians, door-to-door home repair sellers, landscape architects, and many more. Additional information, fees, and licensing requirements for professions are available from the Maine Department of Professional and Financial Regulation.

In addition to professional licenses, certain businesses such as food establishments, daycares, salvage yards, and others require licensing.

Employer Identification Number (EIN)

The Maine Employer Identification Number (EIN), also known as a Federal Tax Identification Number, is a unique nine-digit number assigned by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to businesses operating in Maine. It is used for tax filing and reporting purposes, similar to how an individual uses a Social Security number. Companies can apply for an EIN through the IRS website or by submitting a paper form.

Next Steps

These are some of the most common business licenses a new business in Maine will need to register for. While it’s a good start, there are so many different licenses that may be needed. Double-check with the City Clerk’s Office, Chamber of Commerce, and/or Economic Development office in your area before opening your doors.


  • Greg Bouhl

    With over two decades as an entrepreneur, educator, and business advisor, Greg Bouhl has worked with over 2,000 entrepreneurs to help them start and grow their businesses. Fed up with clients finding and acting on inaccurate and outdated information online, Greg launched StartUp101.com to be a trusted resource for people starting a business.

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Maine Business License Basics

Maine Business License Basics

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