How to get a business license in california

Some of the local areas refer to the business license as a general business license while some refer to it as a business tax certificate. If you do business in more than one city, you’ll need a separate business license for each location. The State requires additional licenses or permits, like a Seller’s permit, or follow regulatory mandates. Do your research before starting your business.

The Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz) provides a central hub on information about starting or relocating businesses to California. The Office of Small Business Advocate (OSBA) can also help provide more information to businesses.

Why is a Business License in California Important?

You cannot do business in the State of California without having the appropriate business license or business tax certificate for the city or county you are operating in.

Types of Business Licenses in California

General Business Licenses

These are your basic licenses, referred to interchangeably as a business license or a business tax certificate. Depending on your jurisdiction, you can submit your application via the internet, by postal mail, or in person. The fees for a license will depend on the jurisdiction as well, but it is usually a flat rate, a gross sales percentage, or a combination of the two. You will need to provide your owner and business name and address, contact information, the business type and structure, federal tax ID number, number of employees, and predicted yearly sales. Different jurisdictions tax different business types at different rates, so if you have the option of choosing where you will locate your business, do your homework.

Licenses for Regulated Professions and Industries

These are licenses in addition to general business licenses, used for compliance with other licensing, environmental or regulatory and administrative laws. Check out the California Government Online to Desktops (CalGOLD) to search a database of regulated professions and industries. Additionally, if you sell or lease merchandise, you must get a Seller’s permit, which can also be done online.

Fictitious Business Name Statement

In other cases, you will need to use a fictitious name statement, also known as a ‘doing business as’ (D.B.A) if you are running a business under a company name other than its legal name. So, for example, if your dog-walking company is registered as ‘Company X’, but uses ‘The Bone Ranger’ for marketing, websites and uses this name in the community, it must apply for and renew its DBA with the county in which it operates.

How to Get a California Business License

The good thing is, getting a license is actually pretty easy. Visit the city hall or city offices where you will be doing business or check the city’s online pages. You may be able to download and print the business license application forms to mail in or hand deliver. You may even be able to apply for the license and pay your fee online for some cities. Fresno and Sacramento are two of the cities where you can apply online.

Before you apply for the business license be sure you have the following on hand:

Business name and address

The mailing address for the business if it is different from the physical location

The business phone number

What type of business you have, whether a corporation, limited liability company, sole proprietorship, or partnership

The employer identification number from the Internal Revenue Service

The seller’s permit number, which is required before you get a business license if you are selling goods anywhere in California

The names, addresses, phone numbers, and driver’s license numbers of all of the owners

What type of business you will be conducting

The number of employees you will be hiring

How much you expect to make annually

Some cities charge a fixed fee for the business license while others base the fee on your annual sales.

Should I Start a Business in California?

Whether you should start a business in California depends on your considerations. Despite a relatively high level of taxation and regulation, California has created some of the largest and most successful companies in the world from its founder’s garages.

Companies based in the state do better than competitors in other states when you compare performance measures.

From 2011 through 2015, California businesses did better than the S&P 500 by 23 percent.

Several industries made California Number 1 in business including healthcare, energy, consumer staples, biotech, and specialty pharma.

As of the first quarter of 2015, 26 of the 122 U.S.. companies in the Bloomberg America’s Clean Technology Index were based in California. All of the companies were publicly traded; and their spending averaged 25 percent of their sales – about $118 million – for research and development.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I need additional licenses for certain types of businesses?

Yes. Some businesses require that you have additional licenses. These may include hairdressers, plumbers, accountants, restaurants, and other types of services. You can find the licenses you need by visiting CalGold.

You may also visit each city’s website to see if they have a list of special permits or licenses needed. For example, you can find such a list for Sacramento on their website. Keep in mind that different levels of government might have different requirements – always check each county, city, and the California requirements for the type of business you run.

Are there special permits I have to purchase at the State level?

Yes. Several types of businesses must obtain a permit at the state level, regardless of what you need for the local level.

I am filling out the application for my general business permit and it is asking for a seller’s permit.

If you are selling products in California, you must have a seller’s permit. You can apply for a seller’s permit online.

Legal Questions

If you have questions about starting a business in California or getting a California business license and permit(s), post your legal needs on UpCounsel. UpCounsel accepts only the top 5 percent of lawyers to its site. Lawyers on UpCounsel come from law schools such as Harvard Law and Yale Law and average 14 years of legal experience, including work with or on behalf of Google, Menlo Ventures, and Airbnb.

Of course you do! In California, if you operate ANY type of business you need a general California city business license. This even applies to California small businesses and home-based businesses, or a business that does not make very much money. While there is no California state busienss license, if you are in business in any city in California, no matter how small, you need to apply for a business license in your city.

Do I get a business license from the city, county, or state in California?

General business licenses in California are governed by each individual city where you do business (or county in unincorporated areas of California). They are also called by different names, even though they are cities in the same State! Some cities in the State of California call them a business license, others call them a California business tax certificate. For example, if you have a restaurant business in Anaheim and then open another restaurant in San Diego, you will need a business license in Anaheim and a business tax certificate in San Diego, but they are really both the same thing. The reason for this is that each city in California is allowed to charge fees for any business located in its jurisdiction as a tax collection mechanism and also as a way to track economic development statistics. So, if you are going to open several business locations you need a business license in every city in California where you open a location with employees. For most businesses, the problem with filing for a business license and paying the fees in multiple locations is not a problem. This would most likely apply to franchises and large retail chains.

However, do not be confused about the general business license required by each city, and the other types of licenses applicable to businesses that are required by counties and the State of California. Several county and California state licenses are required for different types of trades and businesses in order to protect the public health and safety, such as gun dealers and tattoo artists. Some cities require these types of licenses too. These types of licenses are IN ADDITION to the general business license required by the city. The state of California may also have different State of California business licenses that you will need to get in addition to the city general business license, such as a Seller’s Permit from the California State Board of Equalization. For more general information about county and state business licenses, go to our main business license page by clicking here.

How do I get a California business license?

You need to fill out a business license application that you can obtain from your city’s offices or city hall. Most California cities have business license forms that you can download, print and mail or hand-deliver to the city office and require you to pay a fee, usually between $50 and $100, but often depends on the size of your business (how many employees you have). This is usually not a common factor, as most businesses in California are small businesses. If you need a small business license California cities often have special small business license or home-based licenses or permits. Many larger cities now allow you to apply for a business license online! Therefore, getting a business license in California is relatively easy. While most cities do not have a California business license verification search or California business license lookup service online, they do allow you to apply for a new business license over the Internet. Visit your city’s business license website by choosing your city from the list below.

What information do I need to fill out the State of California business license application?

Every city has a different business license forms and California busienss license requirements, however, most of them are very similar. You can expect to be asked the following information:

  • Business Name
  • Business Address
  • Mailing Address (if different from the main address)
  • Phone Number
  • Type of Business (LLC, Corporation, Partnership, or Sole Proprietor)
  • Federal Tax ID Number (Employer Identification Number or EIN) obtained from the IRS (If you are a sole proprietor, this is your social security number)
  • Sellers Permit Number (If you sell goods in California you will need this before getting a business license)
  • Each individual owner’s name, address and phone number
  • Driver’s license number
  • Type of Business to be conducted
  • Number of Employees
  • Expected Annual Sales

In many cities, there is an annual fee that is required to be paid every year. For some cities, the fee is fixed, but for others it depends on your sales revenues. This makes it more expensive to do business in one city versus another, but normally the fee is only a small percentage of sales. Many cities allow you to pay by credit card, but most still require a written check. The city will usually mail you some type of license or certificate with a California business license number within a few weeks.

Click the link to your city below to apply for a business license

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Find out how to improve your knowledge and increase your earning potential by getting an online business degree. Click here to find the program that’s right for you.

Search by State

To find more information about a business license in your state choose the state below.

This site is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal, financial or tax advise. The information on this site should not be relied upon as an official source of information and should be independently verified.

You can obtain a California business license online.

We provide the information and resources you’ll need to get federal, state, and local licenses and permits for your small business, including the seller’s permit.

Recommended: Visit our How to Start a Business guide for more help with planning, starting, and maintaining your business.

How to get a business license in california

California Business License:

Hire a Professional Service

For a small fee, you can hire someone else to research and file for licenses that your business might need.

How to Get a Business License in CA

You can get a business license online by applying with the correct licensing or regulatory agency for your business.

Business licensing requirements generally depend on your business’s activity and location (zoning requirements).

There are three main licensing jurisdictions:

  • State
  • Local
  • Federal

State of California Business Licensing

The main state-level permit or license in California is the seller’s permit.

You must obtain a seller’s permit if you:

  • Are engaged in business in California
  • Intend to sell or lease tangible personal property that would ordinarily be subject to sales tax if sold at retail.

Visit the Department of Tax and Fee Administration to obtain a seller’s permit.

Additionally, businesses in certain professions or industries need specific licenses or permits. The CalGold website will tell you which licenses and permits your business needs. The California Business Portal also provides information on professional licensing.

Local California Business Licensing

In California, most businesses need to obtain a business license at the county or city level for tax purposes. An exception to this is some unincorporated areas of counties.

In addition, you may need other licenses or permits from your local government depending on your business activity or location.

If your business has locations in multiple cities or counties, then you may need a business license in your primary location and a business tax certificate in any other counties where you do business.

The CalGold website will tell you which types of licenses and permits you need depending on your location.

Steps for Obtaining a Business License in California

California Seller’s Permit

You can register for a California seller’s permit online. You will need to create an account to log in to the website.

Apply for a California Seller’s Permit

Apply Online With the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration

Fee: None

Other California Business Licenses

The processes for getting other California licenses and permits vary by profession and region. The CalGold website provides contact information for the relevant state and local government offices.

Renewal

The California seller’s permit does not need to be renewed. Check with the relevant state or local government office for the renewal requirements of any other license or permit your business may have.

Federal Business Licenses and Permits

You can get a business license by applying with the correct licensing and regulatory agency for your business. Business licensing requirements depend on your business’s activity and location (zoning requirements).

If your business conducts activities that are regulated by the federal government, you will need to apply for the appropriate business license or permit.

Choose a business activity below to learn how to apply:

Recommended: Consider having a professional service help you research and apply for business licenses and permits.

CA Business License FAQ

What is a business license?

A business license is a permit issued to businesses by a government office that allows the business to operate in a particular area. They can be issued by federal, state, or local governments. There are typically different licensing requirements for different businesses and different locations.

What are the types of business licenses?

There are many types of business licenses. These include licenses at the local, state, and federal levels, licenses related to sales tax and other taxes, and specific licenses for various professions. There are also environmental licenses, zoning permits, and more.

Is there a national business license?

Most businesses don’t need a federal business license, but some industries, including broadcasting, investment advising, and drug manufacturing, do have federal regulations and licenses.

Is an EIN the same as a business license?

No. An employer identification number (EIN) is issued by the IRS to identify and keep track of businesses, but it does not license them to operate.

Is an LLC considered a business license?

No. An LLC is a type of business structure. While you are required to register as an LLC, it is not a business license.

What licenses do I need to open a business in California?

Most businesses will need some sort of California business license. Most California counties and cities require businesses to have a local license, and many businesses will need a seller’s permit.

What is a seller’s permit?

A seller’s permit is the common name for a license or permit that allows you to sell products or services.

How much does a California business license cost?

There is no registration fee for a California seller’s permit. The cost of other licenses or permits varies.

How do I get a California business license?

You can register for a California seller’s permit online with the Department of Tax and Fee Administration. To get a local business license, contact your local government office.

Do I have to renew my California business license?

The California seller’s permit does not need to be renewed. Check with the relevant state or local government office for the renewal requirements of any other license or permit your business may have.

When starting a new business, there are many important decisions to make and many rules and procedures that must be addressed. While there is no single source for all filing requirements, the following steps have been developed to assist you in starting your business.

Step 1

It is helpful to begin with a business plan. A business plan is a blueprint of every aspect of your business. Sales, Marketing, Advertising, Promotion and Location are just some of the categories to consider when creating a plan. Go to the U.S. Small Business Administration website to find a tutorial on how to create a business plan.

Step 2

If you would like help deciding on a location for your business, contact the California Business Investment Services unit of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GO-Biz). The California Business Investment Services unit provides tailored site selection services for businesses, real–estate executives, and site selection consultants.

Step 3

Choose a business structure. A brief overview of the following types of legal business structures available in California can be found on our Entity Types website:

Step 4

Step 5

Most businesses require licenses or permits in order to operate. Please click on each of the resources below to determine if your business requires any licenses or permits.

Disclaimer: The information and links to various websites, including various non–governmental sites, are provided for your convenience. The information on this website is constantly updated; however, there may be omissions or additional requirements not represented here. This is unintentional and does not exempt any individual or institution from complying with the laws and regulations of the State of California and the federal government. Inclusion of links to other websites is not an endorsement of those sites by the California Secretary of State, the State of California or the federal government.

The requirement to obtain a seller’s permit applies to individuals as well as corporations, partnerships, and limited liability companies. Both wholesalers and retailers must apply for a permit.

If you do not hold a seller’s permit and will make sales during temporary periods, such as Christmas tree sales and rummage sales, you must apply for a temporary seller’s permit. Such permits are normally issued to selling operations lasting no longer than 90 days at one location.

What does engaged in business mean?

You are engaged in business in California if you:

  • Have an office, sales room, warehouse, or other place of business in this state (even if the location is only temporary).
  • Have a sales representative, agent, or canvasser operating in this state.
  • Receive rental payments from the lease of tangible personal property in this state.

There are other activities that may qualify a selling operation as being engaged in business in California. Due to the various rules that apply, you should contact our Customer Service Center to determine if you must obtain a permit.

What is meant by ordinarily subject to sales tax?

In general, retail sales of tangible personal property in California are subject to sales tax. Examples of tangible personal property include such items as furniture, giftware, toys, antiques, clothing, and so forth.

In addition, some service and labor costs are taxable if they result in the creation of tangible personal property. For example, if you make a ring for a specific customer, you are creating tangible personal property. Therefore, the total amount you charge for the ring (including the charge for labor) would be taxable. This would also be the case if the customer provided the materials for making the ring.

However, labor costs for making repairs (resetting a diamond, for example) are not taxable since they do not result in the creation of tangible personal property. You are only repairing or reconditioning existing property.

Likewise, labor charges to install or apply property which has been sold is not ordinarily subject to sales tax (note: the labor charge should be stated separately on the bill).

There are many rules governing what is taxable. You are encouraged to contact our Customer Service Center.

How do I apply for a permit?

The CDTFA has a secure, convenient, fast, and free way to register online for a permit. The system guides you through the process and will assist you with the types of permits you may need for your business.

If I apply for a permit, what information is needed to complete an application?

You will be asked to furnish the required information when registering for a permit.

If you have a business partner, or if the business is managed by corporate officers or limited liability company managers, members or officers, those persons will also be asked to furnish some of the required information.

Is information regarding my account subject to disclosure?

Yes. While most of the information you provide to the CDTFA is confidential, some is subject to public disclosure, such as the information on your seller’s permit and the closeout date of your business, if applicable. Under certain conditions, your account information, including underreporting and outstanding liabilities, may be shared with the other government agencies.

Do I need more than one permit?

If you have more than one place of business (located on different premises), you may need a separate permit for each location. In some instances it is possible to obtain a consolidated permit for multiple business outlets. At the time you apply for a permit, be sure to provide information for all business locations so that the CDTFA will issue the correct type of permit.

Is there a fee charged for a seller’s permit?

No. However, the CDTFA may require a security deposit to cover any unpaid taxes that may be owed if, at a later date, the business closes. The amount of the security will be determined at the time you apply.

If I am no longer in business, can I keep my seller’s permit?

Your permit is valid only as long as you are actively engaged in business as a seller. If you are no longer conducting business, you should return your permit to the CDTFA for cancellation. For more information please see Buying, Selling, or Discontinuing a Business. Likewise, the CDTFA may cancel your permit if it finds that you are no longer engaged in business as a seller.

Should I tell the CDTFA if I change my business address or mailing address?

Yes. If your business information or address has changed, you may complete a notice of business change form or contact our Customer Service Center.

Seller’s permit or prepaid MTS account holders should fill out the Notice of Business Change form (CDTFA-345) and follow the instructions.

Special Taxes and Fees Department account holders should fill out the Notice of Business Change form (CDTFA-345-SP) and follow the instructions.

State-Assessed Property Tax assessees should contact the State-Assessed Properties Division at 1-916-274-3270, to report a change of business information or address.

If the ownership of my business changes, do I need to let you know?

Yes. Whenever you buy, sell, or discontinue a business, you will need to contact the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration (CDTFA).

If I am a spousal partner and divorce or withdraw from the partnership, do I need to notify the CDTFA?

Yes. This is considered the same as a change of ownership and must be reported. You must let us know in writing that you are no longer involved in the operation of the business. A legal separation or divorce decree awarding the business to one spouse, without notification to the CDTFA of the change, is not sufficient notice.

Is my seller’s permit the same as a business license?

No. You should contact your city and/or county business license department to obtain a separate business license. To locate the department, check the government pages of your telephone directory (for example, look for the terms license or business license under City Government Offices and County Government Offices).

Should I be registered to pay other taxes?

Check with other state, federal, and local taxing and licensing authorities about any registration requirements they may have (for example, do you need to be registered with the Franchise Tax Board or the Employment Development Department).

The Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz) offers extensive information on state, local, and federal permit requirements. For a listing of their assistance centers, visit their website at http://business.ca.gov/. See also California’s Tax Information Center, http://www.taxes.ca.gov.

You may want to consult a tax professional for assistance with other agencies’ requirements.

Are my business records subject to audit?

Yes. Your records may be audited to determine whether you have paid the correct amount of tax. The audit may determine that you owe tax, that you are entitled to a refund, or that you have paid the correct amount. In general, you may be audited in three-year intervals, at the time you close out your permit, or in connection with an audit on another permit you hold. Audits may also be initiated as a result of information received from outside sources.

How to get a business license in californiaApril 23, 2020 Update: Needless to say, the Coronavirus has dramatically affected economic conditions in California and every other state too. Nevertheless, business owners are still filing for licenses and permits, authorities are still requiring them, and Business Licenses, LLC is still assisting customers with Business License Compliance Packages for California. Business Licenses, LLC�s partners are indeed sponsoring free BLCPs for many qualifying business owners.

December 10, 2020 Update: With 40,000,000 residents, California is the biggest state in America and one of the biggest headaches for business owners who need to obtain a business license. There are more food establishment permits issued in the state than there are people living in most U.S. territories.

A California business license is standard in The Golden State, but it may only be the beginning. In addition to navigating the requirements for how to get a business license in California, a Qualified Purchasers Tax is also required for many businesses, especially if their gross profits exceed $100,000. The unique requirements may vary from one location to another and it often takes time to unwind the complex rules.

This may be especially true of independent contractors. They have additional challenges since nearly every city in the state requires contractor licenses for anybody performing work within their city limits. This is true for nearly every type of contract work, regardless of complexity. The takeaway is simple; do your research with a company that understands all the intricacies of Califonia business licenses.

If you’re incorporating an LLC, a small business specialist would like to speak with you. Now’s the time to help protect your assets by opening a business bank account. This smart practice of keeping your personal and business finances separate may help limit your personal liability. Act now and receive up to $450 from Bank of America.

Explore Local Business License Requirements in California

Explore your local licensing authority requirements by clicking on your county in the list below. You can further drill down to your city to better understand all of your business license and permit requirements. Don’t forget that if you’re providing services in more than one jurisdiction in California, you will need to review your business license requirements in every city/county in which you’re doing business.

How Many Business Licenses in California Do You Need?

The number of business licenses in California that you will need will depend upon a number of unique factors. Within which city/county will you operate your business? What business activities will you be conducting? How heavily regulated is your industry? Etc. To put it in perspective, we ran the following queries through our own business license research tool. Here are some authentic results:

A pet store in Los Angeles, CA may require up to 11 business licenses and/or permits, including a local Los Angeles pet shop license. That license definitely requires an Application for a Permit.

Get Requirements for Your California Business License

No matter how large or small your business is, Business Licenses, LLC can provide you with all you need to get a business license in California. We also can provide you with the California business license requirements that are specific to your industry. We support every industry from food service to irrigation, telecommunications to gun sales, insurance to pharmacy, home healthcare to real estate.

Professional Help for Getting Business Licenses in California

Beyond discovering and comprehending requirements for how to get a business license in California, many organizations spend valuable time on the application process itself. Business Licenses, LLC provides professional assistance for collecting all of your California business license requirements, filling in the paperwork, and submitting them to the proper authorities in California. A Business Licenses, LLC expert will talk with you and complete the California business license applications on your behalf, regardless of complexity. We will then submit your California business license applications online (wherever possible) or send you forms that are ready for you to sign, date, and drop in the mail.

For immediate assistance, please call the Palmdale Business Support Center at 661-247-8384. A specialist will be available to assist you in processing your application and payment over the phone. Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Applying online is quick and easy!

You can apply for a business license online from the comfort of your home or office. Please visit: Palmdale.HdLGov.com. Available 24 hours a day.

You may also, Download an application at cityofpalmdale.org/BLApp, or request an application to be mailed to you by calling 661-247-8384. Scan and email your completed form to [email protected], or mail your completed form to:

City of Palmdale
Business Support Center
8839 N. Cedar Ave #212
Fresno, CA 93720

Payment is not required until your application has been approved. You will receive an email or call verifying the receipt of your application. After the license fees are paid, a business account number will be issued. Additional information may be required. A business license will be mailed or emailed to you once the process is completed. Upon receipt of your business license, the City of Palmdale municipal code requires it be posted in a conspicuous place at your place of business.

The City of Palmdale Business Support Center can assist you with your renewal over the phone today at 661-247-8384. Please make sure to have your account number available if possible.

Renewing online is quick and easy!

You can renew your business license online from the comfort of your home or office. Please visit: Palmdale.HdLGov.com. If you do not have your account and pin number, please contact our Business Support Center.

Scan and email your completed form to [email protected] If you did not receive a form by mail please contact our Business Support Center. A specialist will be happy to mail or email a form to you immediately, or mail your completed form to:

City of Palmdale

Business Support Center
8839 N. Cedar Ave #212
Fresno, CA 93720

After the business license fee is paid, a business license will be issued to you by mail or email. Additional information may be required. Upon receipt of your business license, the City of Palmdale municipal code requires it be posted in a conspicuous place at your place of business.

In addition to the General Business License, the following business types also need to submit a permit application for their unique business.

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