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How to Register a Business in Maryland – Thorough Guide for 2024

How to Register a Business in Maryland
(Last Updated On: May 14, 2024)

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Embarking on a business venture is an exciting journey filled with potential, but the task of officially registering your enterprise may seem daunting, especially for newcomers to entrepreneurship. However, with proper guidance and resources, navigating the registration process in Maryland can be smooth and efficient.

In this comprehensive guide, we provide a detailed, step-by-step roadmap to assist you in registering your business in Maryland. Additionally, we offer valuable tips and resources to simplify the process further. Whether you’re a new entrepreneur or an established business seeking registration, this guide breaks down the procedure into seven manageable steps.

Recognizing the potential complexities involved, we’ve curated a selection of top-notch business registration services like Northwest Registered Agent to provide support every step of the way. Let’s begin the journey of registering your business in Maryland together!

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How to Register Your Business in Maryland in 7 Simple Steps

Undertaking the business registration process in Maryland can be a smooth endeavor when you’re familiar with the proper steps. Utilize this methodical 7-step approach to successfully register your Maryland-based business in a timely manner.

Step 1: Identify Your Business Structure

The ideal business structure for your Maryland-based company depends on the nature of your business and your growth ambitions. Several incorporated and unincorporated business types are available for consideration. The following is a brief overview of each structure and its associated requirements.

Please note that only certain business structures necessitate registration with the Maryland Secretary of State, such as those requiring incorporation.

Sole Proprietorship

In Maryland, a sole proprietorship is the most straightforward business structure, wherein the owner and business are considered the same legal entity. The owner is personally accountable for the business’s debts and obligations. Setting up a sole proprietorship is relatively simple and has few legal and administrative requirements. In Maryland, you do not need to register a sole proprietorship with the state, but you may need to obtain local permits or licenses.

General Partnership

A general partnership is a business owned by two or more individuals who share the profits and losses. Each partner is personally liable for the business’s debts and legal obligations. In Maryland, you do not need to register a general partnership with the state, but you may need to file a “Maryland Trade Name Certificate” (DBA) in the county where your business is located.

Limited Partnership (LP)

In Maryland, a limited partnership consists of one or more general partners who manage the business and assume unlimited personal liability and one or more limited partners who contribute capital but have limited liability. To establish an LP in Maryland, you must file a “Certificate of Limited Partnership” with the Maryland State Department of Assessments and Taxation.

Limited Liability Company (LLC)

An LLC is a flexible business structure that offers the limited liability protection of a corporation while maintaining the tax benefits and simplicity of a partnership. In Maryland, you must file a “Certificate of Formation” with the Maryland State Department of Assessments and Taxation and create an Operating Agreement to outline the company’s management and ownership structure.

Corporation

A corporation is a separate legal entity from its owners (shareholders) and provides limited liability protection. Two types of corporations exist in Maryland:

  • C-corporations
  • S-corporations

To establish a corporation in Maryland, you must file “Articles of Incorporation” with the Maryland State Department of Assessments and Taxation. Corporations necessitate more formalities, such as creating bylaws, issuing stock, and holding regular board and shareholder meetings.

Choose the business structure in Maryland that best suits your needs based on liability protection, taxation, and management requirements. Consult with a legal or business professional if you need assistance in making this decision.

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Step 2: Select a Unique Business Name

When it comes to business operations in Maryland, three principal strategies can be employed to establish your company’s name: registration of a formal legal entity name, obtaining a trademark, or registering a legal name while operating under a distinct one. Since naming rules vary from state to state, it’s essential to familiarize yourself with the specific requirements in Maryland.

The path you take to name your business in Maryland will be contingent upon your entity’s unique needs and circumstances.

It may be beneficial to use all three strategies to ensure total exclusivity of your business name, but choosing just one of these is also a viable option. It’s not obligatory, but keeping the same name across all registration procedures could be advantageous.

Let’s delve into each of the naming strategies in Maryland:

Businesses in Maryland are required to register a legal entity name that will be used by the state for identification purposes. It’s crucial that these names are unique to prevent any duplication with other businesses.

Naming laws in Maryland include regulations pertaining to company suffixes (such as LLC, LP, or Corp) and mandate that the name reflects the nature of the business being registered. You can verify name availability through the Maryland Department of Assessments and Taxation’s business database.

Trademark

A trademark in Maryland represents intellectual property protection for a business name or logo at the national level. Before securing a name or logo, it’s crucial to perform a thorough trademark search in the USPTO database to ensure it’s not already in use.

Registration of a trademark prevents others from using the same or a similar name or logo for identical or similar goods or services, thereby providing nationwide protection. However, registering a trademark does not automatically provide universal rights to use the name or logo.

Doing Business As (DBA)

In Maryland, you can register your business under an official name and operate under another one. This is known as a Doing Business As (DBA) name. To use a DBA, you need to file a Trade Name Registration Form with the Maryland Department of Assessments and Taxation. DBA names are subject to federal trademark laws, but they do not have to be unique at the state level.

By thoroughly understanding these naming strategies, you can successfully register your business name in Maryland and protect your brand identity.

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Step 3: Consider Taxes and Other Costs in Maryland

Maryland LLCs are taxed as pass-through entities, meaning that the income and losses of the LLC are passed through to the individual members. This means that the members of the LLC are personally liable for the debts and obligations of the LLC, but they also benefit from the tax advantages of pass-through taxation.

There are two types of taxes that Maryland LLCs may be subject to:

  • State income tax: Maryland LLCs are subject to state income tax on their net income. The state income tax rate for LLCs is 5.75%
  • Sales tax: Maryland LLCs may be subject to sales tax on the sale of goods and services. The sales tax rate in Maryland is 6%

In addition to state taxes, Maryland LLCs may also be subject to federal taxes. The federal taxes that LLCs may be subject to include:

  • Self-employment tax: LLC members who are active in the management of the LLC may be subject to self-employment tax. Self-employment tax is a tax that’s paid on the net earnings from self-employment. The self-employment tax rate is 15.3%
  • Federal income tax: LLCs that are not taxed as S corporations are subject to federal income tax on their net income. The federal income tax rate for LLCs is based on the income of the LLC and the number of members

It’s always best to consult with a tax professional to determine the specific tax implications of forming and operating an LLC in Maryland.

To simplify the registration process, commercial entities in Maryland can rely on internet-based services like ZenBusiness. ZenBusiness offers a comprehensive range of services aimed at facilitating entrepreneurs in launching their businesses. This includes filing with the Department of Assessments and Taxation, procuring an Employer Identification Number (EIN), and crafting an operating agreement. 

Furthermore, they render continuous compliance support to ensure businesses remain in good standing in accordance with state laws.

Step 4: Register and Acquire Licenses and Permits in Maryland

To operate your business in Maryland, obtaining the necessary licenses and permits is important. Here are the key requirements:

Tax Registration: If you plan to sell goods in Maryland, you need to register for a sales and use tax license with the Comptroller of Maryland. If you have employees in Maryland, you must also register with the Comptroller for employer withholding. To simplify the process, you can use the online combined registration system.

EIN: If your business has employees or is taxed separately from you, you must obtain an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS. Even if it’s not required, there are often business-related reasons to get an EIN. For example, banks may ask for an EIN to open a business account, and other companies you work with might require it for payment processing. You can apply for an EIN online through the IRS website, and there is no filing fee.

Regulatory Licenses and Permits: These are necessary for various areas such as health and safety, the environment, building and construction, and specific industries or services. To obtain state-issued regulatory licenses and permits, you can register through Maryland Business Express. For information about local licenses and permits, visit the websites of the cities or counties where you’ll be conducting business.

Professional and Occupational Licenses: These licenses are required for individuals working in specific fields. You can find a comprehensive list of state-issued professional and occupational licenses at the Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing.

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Step 5: Open a Bank Account For Your Business in Maryland

Once you have obtained your EIN, it’s crucial to establish a business bank account in Maryland.

The laws governing LLPs, LLCs, and corporations necessitate the opening of a business bank account. However, sole proprietors and unincorporated partnerships are not legally obligated to maintain separate personal and business accounts.

Opening a business account in Maryland is a straightforward process that entails visiting a local bank and completing the necessary paperwork. It’s prudent to conduct thorough research and compare the rates and advantages offered by different banks before finalizing your choice.

Even if you operate as a sole proprietor or unincorporated partnership in Maryland, it’s advisable to have a dedicated business bank account to ensure a clear separation of personal and business finances. This proactive measure will save you from potential complications in the future if you decide to incorporate your business.

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Step 6: Protect Your Intellectual Property in Maryland

When starting a business in Maryland, it’s crucial to consider protecting your valuable intellectual property (IP) based on the type of company you’re establishing.

For instance, most businesses strive to ensure that their name and logo cannot be copied and used by other entities. Depending on whether your business involves the sale of goods or the provision of services, you may also want to safeguard the design of your products or the original works (e.g., writing, designs, or music) that you create. 

Maryland offers several methods to achieve this, and it’s beneficial to initiate the required applications promptly to prevent unauthorized use of your IP.

File a Trademark with Bizee

Trademark

In Maryland, a trademark refers to a recognizable symbol, phrase, word, or design that distinguishes a product or service from similar offerings in the market.

To obtain legal protection, trademarks must be registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). The registration process typically takes four to six months to complete. Once registered, the trademark is safeguarded nationwide, and legal action can be taken against unauthorized use.

In Maryland, businesses can protect their trademarks by registering them with the USPTO. This not only helps protect their brand and reputation but also provides legal recourse against any unauthorized usage of the trademark.

In Maryland, original works of authorship, such as literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and certain other intellectual works, are protected by copyright law. This encompasses written content, software, web content, films, sound recordings, images, and other forms of creative expression.

Upon creating a new work in Maryland, copyright protection is automatically granted to the creator. As the owner of exclusive rights to distribute, reproduce, create derivative works, and sell intellectual property, you have the legal authority to control the use of your work.

However, registering your copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office is an option for additional legal protection and evidence of ownership. Registering your copyright in Maryland can help safeguard your work against infringement and provide a means to enforce your rights in court, if necessary.

Patent

If you invent a new product or piece of machinery in Maryland, securing a patent is essential. A patent grants the holder exclusive rights over an item, preventing others from making, selling, or importing the patented item for a specified period.

The patent process is intricate and can take up to five years to complete, so it’s advisable to start early if you have a unique invention you wish to protect. Patent applications are submitted to the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).

By protecting your intellectual property in Maryland, you can safeguard your brand, products, and creations, ensuring your business maintains a competitive advantage and continues to thrive.

File a Trademark with Bizee

Step 7: Set Up Your Payment Infrastructure in Maryland

For your Maryland-based business to promptly serve customers upon registration, it’s essential to have a reliable, seamless mechanism for accepting payments.

There are various payment processing services that offer user-friendly interfaces and simple integration with your website or point-of-sale (POS) system. Prominent options include Square, Stripe, and PayPal. These systems are versatile and easy to set up and personalize to align with your business goals.

These payment processors allow you to accept a diverse range of payment methods, such as credit and debit cards, ACH transfers, digital wallets like Apple Pay and Google Pay, and others. By opting for a reliable payment processing service, you can allow customers to pay via their preferred methods through a secure platform, ensuring a smooth transaction experience for both you and your clients.

Aside from selecting a payment processor, you should also address your sales tax compliance in Maryland. This involves acquiring a Maryland Sales and Use Tax License from the Comptroller of Maryland, allowing you to collect sales tax on taxable goods and services.

Once your payment infrastructure is set up, your Maryland-based business will be well-positioned to serve customers and generate revenue securely and efficiently. Following these steps will guide you toward the successful establishment of a legally compliant business in Maryland.

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Maryland Entrepreneurs: Discover the Top 5 Business Registration Services

For Maryland entrepreneurs seeking to register a business, a multitude of business registration services are available to facilitate the process. These services provide diverse solutions to ensure businesses are launched and maintained according to state and federal regulations. 

The following are the best business registration services for Maryland entrepreneurs:

ZenBusiness

Zenbusiness logo

ZenBusiness, one of the best LLC services, specializes in business formation, registered agent services, annual report filing, and more. With cost-effective pricing and comprehensive packages, they offer personalized support and resources to help businesses remain compliant and grow. Their user-friendly website and efficient process make registering a business in Maryland straightforward for entrepreneurs.

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Swyft Filings

Swyft Filings logo

A prominent business registration service, Swyft Filings provides fast and easy business formation, including LLC formation, incorporation, and compliance. They offer personalized assistance and a wealth of resources to help businesses navigate the formation process and remain compliant with state and federal regulations. With a user-friendly website and affordable pricing, Swyft Filings simplifies the registration process for entrepreneurs.

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Tailor Brands

Tailor Brands is an online branding and design service that aids businesses in developing a professional and cohesive brand identity. They offer comprehensive branding packages that include logo design, business card design, and social media branding. Tailor Brands also provides a suite of design tools and resources, allowing businesses to create and customize their own branded assets.

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Northwest Registered Agent

Northwest Registered Agent, an online business registration service, excels in registered agent services, compliance management, and document filing. They have an excellent reputation for quality and unmatched customer service, offering personalized support to help businesses remain compliant with state and federal regulations. Northwest Registered Agent provides an array of business formation services for LLCs, corporations, and nonprofits.

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Bizee (Previously Incfile)

Bizee, an online business registration service, offers quick and economical business formation services. They offer diverse packages that include registered agent services, compliance management, and document filing. bizee platform is user-friendly and streamlined, simplifying the business registration process. They also provide ongoing support and resources to help businesses remain compliant and grow.

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Each of these business registration services offers unique benefits and features to assist Maryland entrepreneurs in registering their businesses. By researching and comparing these services, entrepreneurs can identify the one that best satisfies their specific needs, ensuring an efficient and smooth registration process.

Business Registration Laws in Maryland

Business registration laws in Maryland are governed by the Maryland Department of Assessments and Taxation (SDAT). If you plan to start a business in Maryland, you’ll need to comply with certain registration requirements. Here are some key points to consider:

  • Business Entity Types: Maryland recognizes various types of business entities, including sole proprietorships, partnerships, limited liability companies (LLCs), and corporations. You’ll need to choose the entity type that best suits your business structure and goals.
  • Name Reservation: Before registering your business, you can reserve a name with the SDAT to ensure its availability. This step is optional but recommended if you want to secure a specific business name.
  • Certificate of Formation/Articles of Incorporation: Depending on the entity type you choose, you’ll need to file the appropriate formation documents. For LLCs, you’ll file a Certificate of Formation, while corporations must file Articles of Incorporation. These documents provide essential details about your business, such as its name, registered agent, purpose, and organizational structure.
  • Registered Agent: All Maryland business entities are required to have a registered agent with a physical address in the state. The registered agent is responsible for receiving legal and official documents on behalf of the business.
  • Trade Names: If you plan to operate your business under a name that’s different from your legal entity name, you must register a trading name (also known as a “doing business as” or DBA name) with the SDAT.
  • Licenses and Permits: Depending on the nature of your business, you may need to obtain additional licenses and permits from other state agencies or local authorities. The requirements vary based on the type of business and its location.
  • Employer Identification Number (EIN): Most businesses need to obtain an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). You can apply for an EIN online through the IRS website.
  • Taxes: Businesses in Maryland are subject to various taxes, including income tax, sales and use tax, and employment taxes. You should review the tax obligations for your specific business type and consult with a tax professional for guidance.

It’s always advisable to consult with a qualified attorney or professional familiar with Maryland business laws to ensure compliance with all relevant requirements. The SDAT website (dat.maryland.gov) is also a valuable resource for detailed information and forms related to business registration in Maryland.

Alternative Business Registration Methods in Maryland

Here are some alternative business registration methods that may be applicable in Maryland:

Online Registration

The Maryland SDAT offers online business registration services through its Maryland Business Express portal. This allows you to complete the necessary forms and submit them electronically. It’s a convenient and efficient method for registering your business.

Mail or In-Person Registration

If you prefer not to use the online method, you can register your business by mailing the completed forms or submitting them in person to the Maryland SDAT office. You can obtain the necessary forms from their website or request them by mail.

If you find the registration process complex or want professional guidance, you can consult with an attorney or a business formation service to assist you in registering your business. They can handle the paperwork and ensure compliance with all necessary requirements.

Business Formation Services 

Some business formation service providers offer assistance with business registration in Maryland. These services can handle the administrative tasks and paperwork on your behalf, simplifying the registration process.

Expedited Services 

The Maryland SDAT offers expedited processing services for business registrations. This may be beneficial if you need your registration to be processed more quickly.

It’s important to consider the specific requirements and regulations based on your chosen business structure (e.g., sole proprietorship, partnership, LLC, corporation, etc.) when exploring alternative registration methods in Maryland. 

For the most accurate and up-to-date information, It is recommended to visit the official website of the Maryland Department of Assessments and Taxation or consult with legal professionals familiar with Maryland business registration processes.

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Benefits of Registering Your Business in Maryland

Registering your business in Maryland comes with several benefits, including:

  • Access to Incentive Programs: Maryland offers various incentives for businesses such as grants, tax credits, and low-cost loans. These are aimed to stimulate economic development, create jobs, and attract businesses to the state. Examples include the Maryland Job Creation Tax Credit, the Biotechnology Investment Incentive Tax Credit, and the Cybersecurity Investment Incentive Tax Credit.
  • Legal Protection: Registering your business can provide legal protection for your personal assets. If your business is set up as a limited liability company (LLC) or a corporation, your personal assets would generally be protected from any business debts or liabilities.
  • Business Credibility: Being registered increases your business’s credibility with potential customers, suppliers, and investors. It shows that your business is legitimate and that you’re serious about your commitments.
  • Business Name Protection: When you register your business in Maryland, your business name is protected in the state. This means that no other business can register the same name, which can be important for branding purposes.
  • Access to the Courts: Registering your business in Maryland gives you the ability to sue or be sued in the state’s courts. This could be important if you have disputes that need to be settled legally.
  • Easier to Raise Capital: Investors often prefer to invest in a legally registered business. Furthermore, some banking services, like business loans or lines of credit, might only be available if your business is formally registered.
  • Streamlined Compliance: Maryland offers online resources to help manage your business and stay up-to-date with taxes and regulations. The state’s e-File service, for instance, makes it easier to handle sales and use tax returns.

Remember, while these benefits are compelling, registering a business also comes with certain responsibilities. You’ll need to maintain good standing with the state by filing annual reports, paying necessary taxes, and meeting other compliance requirements. 

Before you register your business, you might want to consult with a business adviser, accountant, or lawyer to understand all the implications.

Do You Have to Register Your Business in Maryland? Unravel the Mystery Here

Without a doubt, the bulk of businesses conducting operations in Maryland must register with the state. The specific registration protocols are determined by the sort of business entity, the business’s character, and other diverse elements. Routine forms of registration consist of obtaining a Maryland Sales and Use Tax Permit, registering a Maryland Limited Liability Company (LLC) or Corporation, and securing professional permits or licenses specific to certain fields.

Conducting an in-depth examination of the specific prerequisites for your enterprise and meeting all registration duties is vital to stave off potential legal or financial backlashes.

How to Register Your Business in Maryland – Frequently Asked Questions

What Must I Prepare to Get a Business Off the Ground in Maryland?

In Maryland, individuals planning to start a business must select a business name, decide on the optimal legal structure, and submit the necessary forms to the Maryland Secretary of State. The specifics might vary based on the business type, but in most cases, they’ll need to file Articles of Incorporation or Certificate of Formation, appoint a registered agent, and acquire any relevant licenses or permits.

Can You Break Down the Costs Involved in Setting up a Company in Maryland?

The cost of registering a company in Maryland varies depending on the legal structure and the type of filing. For a domestic LLC, the filing fee for a Certificate of Formation is $100. If you’re incorporating a Maryland corporation, the filing fee for Articles of Incorporation is $120. It’s important to note that there may be additional fees for other filings and permits required for your business in Maryland. 

It’s advisable to consult the Maryland Department of Assessments and Taxation or seek professional guidance to obtain a comprehensive understanding of the registration costs in Maryland.

Is It Possible for a Foreign National to Launch a Business Operation in Maryland?

Absolutely, foreign nationals can launch a business operation in Maryland as long as they satisfy all necessary legal stipulations. Foreign business owners may be required to acquire suitable visas or work permits, and they may have to register their businesses with additional state and federal bodies.

Is It Required for Me to Register My Online Business in Maryland?

In Maryland, you may be obliged to register your e-commerce business with the state based on the nature of your business and the scope of your online commercial activities. While not necessary for sole proprietorships and partnerships, corporations and LLCs will typically need to register. Additionally, acquiring certain permits and licenses, such as a sales tax license from the Comptroller of Maryland, might be necessary.

It’s highly recommended to consult with a proficient attorney or accountant to identify the specific requirements for your business in Maryland. Their assistance can help you understand the intricate business regulations within the state, ensuring you maintain compliance with all pertinent laws and regulations.

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Bottom Line on How to Register Your Business in Maryland

Ensuring compliance for your Maryland-based business is essential for adhering to state regulations. While it might seem daunting initially, following the necessary steps diligently can establish a solid groundwork.

You’ll need to choose a business name and legal structure, fulfill Maryland Secretary of State requirements, submit required documents, and obtain relevant licenses and permits for your industry and location. Utilizing a service like Northwest Registered Agent can streamline this process and ensure all obligations are fulfilled.

Properly registering your business in Maryland proactively shields you from potential legal and financial challenges and positions your enterprise for success.

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Read about how to register a business in any US state:

About the author

Dr. Gabriel O'Neill, Esq., a distinguished legal scholar with a business law degree and a Doctor of Juridical Science, is a leading expert in business registration and diverse business departments. Renowned for his academic excellence and practical insights, Dr. O'Neill guides businesses through legal complexities, offering invaluable expertise in compliance, corporate governance, and registration processes.

As an accomplished author, his forthcoming book is anticipated to be a comprehensive guide for navigating the dynamic intersection of law and business, providing clarity and practical wisdom for entrepreneurs and legal professionals alike. With a commitment to legal excellence, Dr. Gabriel O'Neill, Esq., is a trusted authority dedicated to empowering businesses within the ever-evolving legal landscape.