Business Licenses

Many businesses must be licensed through the office of the Clerk of Circuit Court. Whether a business must obtain a license from the Clerk depends upon the nature of the business, and can sometimes be a quite complex question. If you are considering opening a business in Cecil County, or have questions about the licensing requirements for your existing business, please contact the office of the Comptroller of Maryland at 410-260-6240 or 1-866-239-9359, Monday-Friday, 8:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. (or send email inquiries to [email protected]). Once you have confirmed with the Comptroller’s Office that you require a Cecil County, Maryland business license you may contact the Circuit Court Clerk's Office at (410) 996-5380 regarding how to obtain your license. Please note that we can not provide any legal advice or be responsible for determining the type of license you should purchase. The hours to obtain a business license from the Clerk of Court is 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Learn about the types of business licenses.

Licenses available are:

  • Traders
  • Construction Firm (Commercial work only – no home improvement)
  • Restaurant
  • Vending Machines
  • Cigarette and Special Retail Cigarette
  • Cigarette Vending Machine
  • Cleaning, Dying, Pressing & Laundry
  • Storage Warehouse
  • Garage
  • Outdoor Music Festival
  • Junk/Scrap Metal Dealer
  • Out-of-state Contractor (Commercial work only – no home improvement)
  • Vape Shop Vendor
  • Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems Retailer
  • Micro Market

If you have more than one business location, you are considered a chain store, and must obtain a chain store license in addition to your traders and any other necessary licenses.

The license year runs from May 1st through the following April 30th.

Persons Required to Obtain a Traders License
A person or business organization other than a grower, maker or manufacturer may not offer for sale, sell or otherwise dispose of any goods within Maryland, without first obtaining a license from the Clerk of the Circuit Court.

A private individual may conduct a public sale of personal effects on his or her own property without a license, provided that no more than one sale is conducted for a period not to exceed 14 consecutive days in any one calendar year.

When you display and sell goods at a show, you are not required to obtain a trader's license if:

1. The show is promoted by:

  • A church as defined in Section 5-301 of the Corporations and Associations Article;
  • Any government agency or unit;
  • An amateur radio organization;
  • An antique vehicle, machine and equipment organization;
  • A volunteer fire department or rescue squad;
  • A model train collectors' association; or

2. If the exhibitor gives to the promoter an Exhibitor's Affidavit stating that the exhibitor:

  • Gets less than 10% of annual income from selling like goods at the show; and
  • Has not participated in more than three shows during the previous 365 days; or,

3. If the exhibitor at an antique show, coin show, or collector show gives to the promoter an Exhibitor's Affidavit stating that the exhibitor:

  • will display and sell at the show;
  • receives less than 10% of the exhibitor's annual income in the state from selling the kind of goods that the exhibitor will display and sell at the show; and
  • has not participated in more than 3 antique shows, coin shows or collector shows in the state during the previous 365 days.

An exhibitor who has a valid Trader's License for a fixed place of business in Maryland does not have to obtain another Trader's License provided the exhibitor presents a photocopy of the license to the promoter prior to the show.

Any individual or business seeking a traders license must obtain a Sales and Use Tax Number prior to applying for the license.  See information regarding same below in the section entitled “Before applying for a business license”.


Traders license fee is based on the wholesale value of your retail inventory. Please refer to the following chart for the fees. All licenses include a $2.00 issuing fee for each type of license.

Traders License Fees - All Counties Excluding Baltimore City

Inventory AmountFee
0 - 1,000$15
1,001 - 1,500$18
1,501 - 2,500$20
2,501 - 4,000$25
4,001 - 6,000$30
6,001 - 8,000$40
8,001 - 10,000$50
10,001 - 15,000$65
15,001 - 20,000$80
20,001 - 30,000$100
30,001 - 40,000$125
40,001 - 50,000$150
50,001 - 75,000$200
75,001 - 100,000$250
100,001 - 150,000$300
150,001 - 200,000$350
200,001 - 300,000$400
300,001 - 400,000$500
400,001 - 500,000$600
500,001 - 750,000$750
750,001 and Over$800


Vape Shop Vendor / Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS) Retailer Licenses
Effective October 1, 2017, pursuant to Maryland House Bill 523, any person or business selling Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems or is a Vape Shop Vendor must obtain a specific license for same. Please see the Comptroller of Maryland's website for information on who needs which license, and for answers to frequently asked questions regarding each license.

Persons Required to Obtain a Construction License
Any person or business organization must obtain a construction license from the Clerk of the Circuit Court on an annual basis if it does work on new or commercial properties only.   Any work performed on existing or residential property is considered home improvement, and requires licensing with the Maryland Home Improvement Commission.  A contractor or subcontractor who holds a license under the Maryland Home Improvement Law is NOT required to hold a construction license issued by the Clerk of the Circuit Court.  If an applicant uses a county construction license for any home improvement work, they may be subject to fines up to $5,000 and two (2) years imprisonment.

Construction and Home Improvement Licenses
Home Builder Registration
Home Improvement Licenses

Out-of-state Contractor License
If you are a contractor located outside the State of Maryland and are performing new or commercial construction work in Cecil County, Maryland, you must obtain an out-of-state contractor license.  This license should be obtained from the County where the first job of the license year is located.  Once the license is obtained, it is good throughout the State of Maryland for the entirety of the license year (May 1- April 30).  These licenses are not renewable so a new license must be obtained each license year.  In order to obtain this license, you must first register your business with the Maryland State Department of Assessments and Taxation.   You may access their website using the SDAT link below under “Before Applying for a Business License” or reach their office at (410) 767-1340 for additional information on the registration process.   Once you have obtained your SDAT number, you can email the licensing department at [email protected] and we will send you a return email with the additional information necessary to process your license, to include the complete address of the job location in Cecil County.  If you are out of state and performing any work on existing or residential property, you must get a home improvement license from the Maryland Home Improvement Commission (see link above), regardless of whether you hold a valid home improvement license in another state – there is no reciprocity in Maryland. 


A “home occupation” business is a business conducted by the resident, which is incidental and secondary to residential occupancy and does not change the residential character of the property. Home occupations may require a special exception; factors that the Cecil County Board of Zoning Appeals will consider include:

  • Home occupations are conducted on the same property as the residence and do not change the residential character of the property.
  • No type of advertisement for the home occupations shall be carried out on the property, except one (1) unlighted sign identifying the home occupation, limited to three (3) square feet in size.
  • No goods for sale or rent shall be stored on the property in a manner as to be seen from off the premises.
  • Parking is provided in accordance with Article XIV of the Cecil County Zoning Ordinance.
  • No equipment or process shall be used which creates noise, vibration, glare, fumes, odors, or electrical interference detectable from adjoining properties.

Please contact the Cecil County Department of Land Use and Development Services at (410) 996-5220 with any questions that you may have related to zoning provisions that may apply to your home occupation business. 

Before applying for a business license
Any new business in Cecil County should complete the following steps before its license is issued.

  • If sole proprietor, you must register as such with the Maryland State Department of Assessments and Taxation. You can apply online. Download instructions and forms required. If a sole proprietor, you do not require a Federal or Employer Identification Number from the IRS – you can use your Social Security Number. Read more.
  • Register your business and establish the legal entity with the Maryland Department of Assessments & Taxation; phone: (410) 767-1340).
    Download instructions and forms required for creating or starting a new business in Maryland (Department of Assessments & Taxation).
  • Obtain a Federal Employer Identification Number from the IRS.
  • File your combined registration form with the Comptroller of the Treasury to establish your sales and use tax account. Visit the Comptroller's website to file the form on-line or call 410-260-7980 (Select “Register a Business in Maryland – Combined Registration Application”) . Once you apply for a sales and use tax account, you will receive a long confirmation number. Please wait until you receive your 8 digit sales and use tax number before applying for your business license.
  • Register the trade name of your business with the Maryland Department of Assessments & Taxation.
    Download the instructions for trade name application and the form (Maryland Department of Assessments & Taxation).
  • Learn about state and county licenses through the Maryland Business Resources website.
    For current applicable fees call the License Department for assistance. The number is 240-777-9460.
  • If you are opening a restaurant or other business that serves food, you will need to contact the Health Department at (410) 996-5550 for inspection and certification. Please note that the Clerk’s Office will require a copy of any certification you receive from the Health Department enabling you to operate.
  • If your business is located in new or renovated construction, the Clerk’s Office will require a copy of any occupancy permit issued.
  • Please make sure you contact the County Government Building regarding any zoning requirements. Their office is located at 200 Chesapeake Boulevard, Elkton, Maryland, and you can reach them via telephone at 410-996-5220. Please note that proof of zoning approval is required from anyone seeking a traders license within county limits. If your business is located within a town limit, you should also contact that town’s office to determine if there are any additional requirements before opening up your business.

Please note:  the Clerk’s Office can NOT put a business name on a business license until such time as that name has been registered in some fashion (Corp, Inc., LLC, Trade name) with the State Department of Assessments and Taxation.

How to Apply for a Business License
There are three ways to obtain a business license from the Clerk of the Circuit Court

  • Apply online
  • Apply by Email, mail or fax
  • Apply in person

Apply Online
You can apply for a business license through Maryland Business Express Online. The site also allows you to search the licensing system of the Maryland Judiciary for issued licenses as well as provide you with the ability to apply and edit your Maryland business licenses online. Please note you can not renew your license online.

Apply by Mail, Email or Fax
Download the Business License Worksheet form. The form is a fillable PDF which allows you to type directly into the document. You must have Adobe Reader version 5.1 or higher to use the fillable function. To download a free copy or upgrade to a newer version, visit the Adobe web site. Adobe Reader does not allow you to save the information you input into a form. Print an extra copy of the completed application form before exiting.
Mail the completed form to Clerk of the Circuit Court, Attn: Business License Department, 129 East Main Street, Elkton, Maryland 21921, or fax to the Business License Department at 1-800-569-0648. Email requests to [email protected].

Apply in Person
The business license can be obtained at the Business License office, 129 East Main Street, Room 108, Elkton, Maryland, between the hours of 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. It is recommended that new business owners contact our office by telephone or email prior to attempting to apply in person to ensure they have all information necessary to obtain a license.

License Renewal

All licenses expire on April 30th regardless of when during the year it was purchased. All renewal licenses are effective on May 1st. The license cost is prorated in most cases if you start your business at a different time of the year. Please note that applications for renewal are mailed out to each license holder in mid-late March of each year, and that you can not renew an existing business license online. If your mailing address changes prior to this time, please contact our office so we can update your account. Failure to do so may result in a delay in receiving your renewal application documents and late fees. Once you receive your renewal documents, please review the application to determine if your business has any outstanding issues with the local finance department, the Maryland State Department of Assessments and Taxation, the Comptroller of Maryland and/or any town office (they will be highlighted). Please note that if you mail in your application without first resolving those issues, your renewal documents will be returned to you. Likewise, if your application is not signed, or you do not return the completed and signed worker’s compensation certification (regardless of employees) your renewal documents will be returned to you. This could delay your renewal and result in penalties. Please note that penalties will accrue effective June 1st on delinquent licenses, and will continue to accrue each month if we do not receive your renewal documents. If you are submitting your renewal after June 1st, please contact our office prior to mailing to determine the amount of any penalties. If you wish to renew via fax or email, you can submit your signed renewal documents (application and worker’s compensation certification) to our office at 1-800-569-0648 or [email protected] and pay by credit card (Mastercard, Visa or Discover) utilizing our credit card authorization form.

Displaying a License

Please be sure to display the license, not the application, in plain view. Failure to do so may result in fines and/or penalties.

Business Closure

If your business closes or moves out of the county and you no longer require our license, please contact our office as soon as possible so your account can be properly updated, and you do not receive delinquent notices and/or accrue penalties.

Maryland Laws Concerning Business Licenses

For Maryland laws concerning business licensing, including license fees see Maryland State Law Library (Maryland Codes, Title 17. Miscellaneous State Business Licenses and Title 16. Cigarette License). See below for specific Maryland Codes relevant to each licensing:
Traders: Subtitle 18. Traders and Chain Stores, §17-1801–16.
Cigarettes: Title 16. Cigarette Licenses, §16-101–508.
Construction (new homes and commercial construction only): Subtitle 6. Construction, §17-601–03.
Vending Machines: Subtitle 19. Vending Machines, §17-1901–07.
Dry Cleaners: Subtitle 11. Dry Cleaners, §17-1101–03.
Storage Warehouses: Subtitle 12. Storage Warehouses, §17-1201–04.
Garages: Subtitle 8. Garages, §17-801–03.

For more information on business licenses and opening a Maryland business, please visit the following sites:

If you have any questions about obtaining a business license in Cecil County, please contact the Business License Department of the Clerk of the Circuit Court at 410-996-5380.