You can obtain a California business license online. We supply the resources you will need to get national, state, and local licenses and permits for your California business entity, including the seller's permit which is the general business license.
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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.
Licensing requirements rely on where your business is based (zoning requirements) and on what services you provide.
For example, a restaurant may need a special business license to sell food along with a national food handler's permit.
There are three main licensing jurisdictions:
State of California Business Licensing
The general business license in California is the seller’s permit also known as a business tax certificate or business operating license.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Local Business Licenses
In California, most businesses, including small 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 to legally operate from your local government or local county clerk depending on your business activity or location.
If your limited liability company (LLC) or other legal entity has locations in multiple cities or counties, then you may need a business license in your primary business address and a business tax certificate in any other counties where you do business. Each location may require different local licenses.
The CalGold website will tell you which types of licenses and permits you need depending on your location.
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:
Firearms, ammunition, and explosives
Fish and wildlife
Radio and television broadcasting
Transportation and logistics
Visit our review of the best licensing service providers to learn more about the different professional services that can help you research and apply for business licenses and permits.
LegalZoom offers ongoing legal support and an affordable package to help you quickly apply for all the licenses required to legally operate your business.
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 process for any other license or permit your business may have. Building permits need to be renewed annually.
What is a business tax certificate?
A business tax certificate, also known as a seller's permit, is a document that allows businesses to collect sales tax from customers. It is issued by an appropriate state or local government agency and provides evidence of the business’s compliance with various taxes. Businesses need this certificate in order to conduct business legally in their jurisdiction.
What is a fictitious business name statement?
A fictitious business name certificate is a legal document that provides proof of registration for a company or individual conducting business under an assumed name. It verifies the business name and owner, which must be filed with local government offices in order to establish a legitimate presence in the marketplace. Filing this certificate helps protect consumers from fraud and ensures owners are legally protected while operating under the new alias.