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I am a minor living in the state of Massachusetts and I am interested in getting a "doing business as" / Business certificate. I am already doing business in my town (online sales), however, I wanted to get an official business registration for tax / other related purposes.

Earlier, I called my Town Clerk's office (they are the ones that take in / manage business certificates) and at first they said minors could not start a business. This prompted research into Massachusetts state law and I got a call back from the Town Clerk themselves who told me there were two issues with me getting a business certificate:

  • Minors could not be notarized.
  • Minors cannot enter a legal agreement. (They gave an example of if you were doing babysitting for a customer, you could not be held contractually liable because you are a minor).

The Town Clerk also stated herself that the state of Massachusetts had nothing in their laws regarding businesses (sole propreitorships) that there was an age requirement.

The first point of theirs is simply not true and I have found several sources saying it's perfectly fine in most states (Massachusetts included) but that they recommend the Notary explain what the minor is signing. Furthermore, later when I talk with the Town Clerk, they state that they (they also provide Notary services) would not notarize the document because I am a minor.

My response for their second point was that the town had no jurisdiction about business to business or business to customer contractual relations and that their only job was to recognize the business.

Today, I went to a Notary Public and got the form for my town (for a Business Certificate) notarized with my signature. I met every requirement outlined by the Business Certificate. After going to the Town Clerk's office, they presented me with an email from another Town Clerk who cited the Age of Majority for Massachusetts. Their argument was that because the town considers the Business Certificate to be a "legal document" and because as a I minor I am not fully legally capable of entering into an agreement, they could not and would not accept my completed Business Certificate. My general reply to that was that I was not agreeing to anything in the business certificate rather that I was simply notifying the town that I was doing business in it.

Even when I suggested that I get my parent to be an officer as well (I really do not want to have to do this), the Town Clerk stated that they would probably deny that too since I am listed as an officer and a minor cannot be held liable. However, the Town Clerk said that they would have to check with the Town Council.

In the mean time, is there anything I can do? The state does not restrict any age ranges to start a business and it is just my town that is causing a problem.

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If you are correct that the local government has no legal basis for refusing you a Business Certificate (and I'm not saying they do or don't), you can apply to a court of competent jurisdiction for a writ of Mandamus. This is an order of the court that basically tells the government to do the job the law requires of them.

  • Well part of my question is do they have a legal basis? Can they consider a business certificate a legal document thus block minors from getting one because they don't want to be party with an agreement with a minor? – Rob Gates Feb 26 at 1:14

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