Do I Need a California Business License?

Any business owner must obtain a general business license in the city where their business is located. Some cities in California refer to this as a business tax certificate. The process of obtaining a business license in California varies depending on the occupation and location of your business. The State of California does not require or issue a statewide commercial operating license, but it does regulate certain industries and professionals, such as doctors, lawyers and accountants.

If you're unsure of where to locate your business, contact the California Business Investment Services unit of the Governor's Office of Economic Development (Go-Biz). This unit offers customized site selection services for businesses, real estate executives, and site selection consultants. Additionally, you'll need to obtain a California State Employer Identification Number (EIN) for tax purposes and other state and federal documents to identify your business. The process of obtaining all of your California business licenses can be complex, as you may be dealing with multiple jurisdictions and agencies.

The California CalGold online resource from the Governor's Office of Business and Economic Development provides guidance on the types of permits your type of business may need. Typically, you pay a fee to get a local business license in California, but some cities exempt very small businesses from paying fees. Every county in California has its own rules and regulations, so check with your local city or county government office to determine what state licenses your new business might need. The California Government Online to Desktops offers CalGold Business Permit Assistance, which is a database of regulated industries.

Some businesses need to obtain special licenses and permits from the state, but most only need a general business license from their local county and perhaps their city. Small businesses represent 99.8% of all businesses within the state and employ 48.8% of the state's workforce, making them a vital part of the Golden State economy. If your business activities are regulated by the federal government, you must apply for and obtain appropriate federal business licenses and permits.

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