Do you need a California (CA) business license?
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 Sellerís 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
CLICK THE LINK TO YOUR CITY BELOW TO APPLY FOR A BUSINESS LICENSE
How do I get a California business license?
You need to fill out a business license application
that you can obtain from your cityís 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:
Mailing Address (if different from the main address)
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 ownerís name, address and phone number
Driverís 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.
Disclaimer: 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.