California Business License: A Complete Step-by-Step Guide to Getting a Business Licence

California Business License

Do you own or operate a business in California? You’ll almost certainly need a California business license.

But here’s the thing: obtaining a business license might be difficult because the process differs based on where you live in the city (or county). And because of these distinctions, it can be tough to know exactly what you need to do to obtain your company license.

That is why we performed all of the legwork for you!

We looked at how to apply for a California business license, as well as the necessary information you need to know about applying for a California business license.

So, if you’ve ever wondered how (or even where) to apply, the solution is right here.

What is a Business License?

Business licenses are government-issued permits that allow individuals or businesses to conduct business in certain geographic locations. It is the federal, state, and municipal government’s authorization to create a business. Many licenses, registrations, and certifications are frequently required to operate a business in a single place.

The right licenses required to legally operate will be determined by our company’s business activity and geographical location. Additional licenses and permits may be necessary depending on the number of employees and the type of business ownership (corporation, LLC, or sole proprietorship).

Failure to comply with licensing, permit, and tax registration requirements can result in costly penalties or the loss of legal protection for business owners.

Learn more: How to Get a Business License: Step-by-Step procedure including Cost of Application

Business Licenses and Permits in California

To run a business in California, you’ll need a variety of licenses and permissions, depending on your business’s activity and location. Some of the most prevalent registrations are:

Business Licenses:

Although there is no statewide business license in California, several cities do require a business license in order to operate.

Sellers Permit:

The California Department of Tax & Fee Administration will require most firms to apply for a Seller’s Permit.

Professional Licensing:

In California, many services, such as auto repair businesses, cosmetologists, and pest treatment, require licensure. While this isn’t a license for the business, it is necessary for it to operate.

When Do You Need a Business License?

It’s only natural that if you run a company in California, you’ll require a business license.

But what if you only want to sell a few items from the comfort of your own home? What if you work on the side or freelance?

Even in those situations, you’ll almost certainly need to apply for a California business license.

Because the state needs a license to identify your firm, calculate your annual taxes, protect the public, and hold you accountable for any legal claims brought against you, a license is required.

Your company could be out of compliance in a variety of ways if you don’t have a CA license. Both the city and county administrations, for example, could:

  • Enforcing fines and penalties
  • Prevent your company from expanding into new areas.
  • Lock up your current location.
  • Plus a lot more

And that’s just looking at it from the government’s standpoint. When it comes to running your company, having a business license can help you:

  • Assist customers in believing you’re a reputable company.
  • Give you a sense of trustworthiness and professionalism.
  • Make it easier for you to market your company.

And there’s more!

Now that you understand why you need a business license, let’s get to the point: the actions you need to do to obtain your California business license.

Also read: SMALL BUSINESS LICENSE: Best Practices & Procedures in the US (Detailed Guide)

How to Get a Business License in California: A Complete Step-by-Step Guide

  • Get your business details in order
  • Visit the website of the city where you’ll apply for your California business license
  •  Follow your city’s specific application instructions
  • Submit your application and your fee
  • Expect your CA business license soon

 Get your Business Details in Order

We recommend having the following information on hand when you’re ready to apply for your California business license:

  • business name
  • Federal Tax ID or EIN, OR
  • Social Security number (if you’re a sole proprietor)
  • A Business entity (sole proprietorship, partnership, LLC, etc.)
  • personal address and phone number
  • business’s address and phone number (if different from above)
  • driver’s license number
  • seller’s permit number, if you sell goods
  • business plan, including anticipated revenue and expenses
  • Your Certificate of Insurance (COI) for your business insurance policy

>. Visit the website of the city where you’ll apply for your California business license.

Business licenses, also known as business tax certificates in California, are issued by local governments. If you live in an unincorporated region, you’ll probably have to apply for a business license at the county level.

Visit the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development’s website to find out where you may apply. To apply for a job, enter your location and business type on the local website.

>. Follow your city’s specific application instructions

Here’s where things get a little complicated, depending on where your company is located in the city or county. Some businesses will be able to apply for a business license online, while others will need to request a business license application be mailed to them.

Some cities even require that you take the application and apply for a business license in person at the city’s Revenue Division once you receive it.
Because every city is unique, it’s critical to pay attention to the finer points.

>. Submit your application and your fee

Each city’s approach to calculating your business licensing fees is likely to be different. The cost of a California business license varies, however it is usually determined by:

  • Number of employees
  • Annual revenue

Your CA business license price could be based on a flat rate if your company is new or you don’t have enough revenue yet.

>. Expect your California business license soon

In most cases, your State of California business license will be authorized within 45 days.

If you have any issues regarding a denied application, call the number listed on the website where you applied.

Your business license may be valid for a day, a quarter, or a full calendar year, depending on the type of business license you apply for.

One thing to keep in mind: if you have multiple sites in California, you’ll almost certainly need to file for a separate business license in each city. So, depending on how many sites you have, you may require additional resources.

Also read: How to get a business license in Texas: Step-by-Step Guide

What Happens If You Operate a Business Without a License in California?

Failure to get a Business License is a crime under Title 7 of the County of Los Angeles Code. Failure to comply with Title 7 regulations will result in fines and even legal action.

California Business License Cost

The cost of a business license in California is calculated in a variety of ways. Typically, you’ll be presented with one of the following two options:

You may be charged a percentage of your annual sales and the number of employees you have, OR you could be charged a flat fee.

A one-time license cost will be levied.

If you’re charged a flat license cost (which normally happens if your company is tiny), you should expect to pay between $50 and $100, depending on where you live.

Business License California Lookup

In a few states, all enterprises must get state business licenses in addition to any local licenses that may be required. Fortunately, California isn’t one of them.

However, California, like all other states, has licensing and/or certification requirements for a variety of business operations and occupations that necessitate considerable training or expose customers to potential hazards. These are some of them:

  • Medical professionals
  • Lawyers
  • Accountants
  • Building contractors and other construction-related occupations
  • Barbers and cosmetologists
  • Architects and engineers
  • Real estate brokers and salespersons, and
  • Private investigators and other security services

Business License California Renewal

The seller’s permit in California does not need to be renewed. Check the renewal requirements of any additional licenses or permits your company may have with the relevant state or local government office.

Registering a California Fictitious Business Name for Sole Proprietorships & General Partnerships

If you’re a California sole proprietorship or general partnership doing business under your full first and last name, such as AA AA, there’s no need to file a DBA, but if you’re doing business under a trade name/business name like AA AA Service, Mr AA, or something similar, you’ll need to file a Fictitious Business Name Filing (Doing Business As). The Fictitious Business Name Statement must be submitted to the county clerk’s office where the business is located.

What Documents Must a small Business Keep?

Sales slips, paid bills, invoices, receipts, deposit slips, and canceled cheques are examples of supporting papers. These documents include the data that you must record in your books. These documents should be kept since they support the entries in your books and on your tax return.

What do you Need to Form a LLC in the California?

Articles of Incorporation and a Statement of Information are the two documents needed to incorporate a limited liability company in the Golden State of California. Within 90 days after filing your Articles of Incorporation in California, you must submit a Statement of Information as a periodic filing.


A business license makes you “official” in the eyes of the state and offers up a world of opportunities for you and your company.

After all, if you’re a licensed firm, your clients may feel more at ease doing business with you. It can also prevent you from being fined or facing legal action if you are not in accordance with state licensing standards.

So, while the application procedure may take some time, getting your California business license is well worth it!

FAQs on California Business License

What is a business license?

A business license is a licence provided by a government entity to a business that authorizes it to operate in a specific area. Governments at many levels can issue them, including the federal, state, and local levels. Different types of licenses are usually required for different businesses and areas.

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

The majority of firms will require a California business license. Most counties and towns in California require businesses to obtain a municipal license, and many will also demand a seller’s permit.

How much does a California business license cost?

A California seller’s permit has no registration charge. Other licenses and permits have different prices.

How can i renew my California business license?

It is not necessary to renew the California seller’s permit. Check with the relevant state or local government office to see whether any other licenses or permits your company holds need to be renewed.

What is a seller’s permit?

The term “seller’s permit” refers to a license or permit that allows you to sell goods or services.

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