Apply For A Business License California - CA

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 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

Alameda Alhambra Anaheim
Antioch Apple Valley Arcadia
Bakersfield Baldwin Park Bellflower
Berkeley Buena Park Burbank
Camarillo Carlsbad Carson
Cerritos Chico Chino
Chino Hills Chula Vista Citrus Heights
Clovis Concord Corona
Costa Mesa Cupertino Daly City
Davis Diamond Bar Downey
El Cajon El Monte Encinitas
Escondido Fairfield Folsom
Fontana Fountain Valley Fremont
Fresno Fullerton Garden Grove
Gardena Glendale Hawthorne
Hayward Hemet Hesperia
Huntington Beach Huntington Park Inglewood
Irvine La Habra La Mesa
Laguna Niguel Lake Forest Lakewood
Lancaster Livermore Lodi
Long Beach Los Angeles Lynwood
Merced Milpitas Mission Viejo
Modesto Montebello Moreno Valley
Mountain View Napa National City
Newport Beach Norwalk Oakland
Oceanside Ontario Orange
Oxnard Palmdale Palo Alto
Paramount Pasadena Petaluma
Pico Rivera Pittsburg Pleasanton
Pomona Rancho Cucamonga Redding
Redlands Redondo Beach Redwood City
Rialto Richmond Riverside
Roseville Sacramento Salinas
San Bernardino San Buenaventura (Ventura) San Diego
San Francisco San Jose San Leandro
San Marcos San Mateo San Rafael
Santa Ana Santa Barbara Santa Clara
Santa Clarita Santa Cruz Santa Maria
Santa Monica Santa Rosa Santee
Simi Valley South Gate South San Francisco
Sunnyvale Temecula Thousand Oaks
Torrance Tracy Turlock
Tustin Union City Upland
Vacaville Vallejo Victorville
Visalia Vista Walnut Creek
West Covina Westminster Whittier
Yorba Linda    

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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.


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