A California business tax certificate is a necessity to operate any form of business in the state. This even applies to both home-based and small businesses. These business licenses are obtained at the city level, so it is important to file with your city whenever starting a new business, no matter how small. You may hear these licenses referred to by different terms such as:

  • California business tax certificates.
  • Business License.
  • Business tax certificate.

It is important to note that you will be required to obtain this documentation for each city that you open your business in. So for those who plan on opening several locations throughout the state, you will be required to obtain a license or certificate for each city.

These licenses also differ from business licenses granted by the county and state that allow you to conducted business in a specific area or for a specific product. Licenses held by companies such as gun dealers and tattoo artist will also have to have additional licenses regarding health and safety. These are required at the state level but also can be required by the county and the city.

How to Obtain California Licenses

In most cities in the state, you will have the ability to download, complete, and pay your fee for these licenses online. Fees average $50 to $100 and mainly depend on the size of your business based on the number of employees.

Most of the businesses in California will qualify as a small business with even special small business licenses and home-based business licenses in many states. To find the required forms to file your license you can perform a lookup on your city's website. You will be required to apply for your license within 15 days of starting your business. If you do not comply, you could be subject to fees and penalties. Licenses can take a couple of weeks to receive.

Business Tax Registration Certificate

If you plan to form as an:

You will need to incorporate your business with the state before filing for your business tax registration certificate. You will also need to decide on the location of your business and determine any issues that may arise with zoning. Failure to have a location before filing for your certificate will result in the need to refile once the location is obtained.

Before filing for your certificate, you will have to make sure that your desired business name is not under use by any other business in the state. After choosing your business name, you will need to obtain your free Employment Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS. This number will serve as your tax identification and will be required for hiring employees.

If the goods you plan to sell will be subject to California state sales tax, you will need to register your business with the State Board of Equalization. Once you obtain a valid seller's permit, the state of California does not require it to be renewed. Failure to obtain a seller's permit can result in fines up to $5,000.

Registering Your Business

You can register your business in person with the Office of Finance or online. To register, you must be ready to provide:

  • Your federal Employment Identification Number.
  • The description of the activities your business will participate in.
  • Your legal business name.
  • The type of business you have chosen.
  • The start date of your business.
  • Your businesses mailing address.
  • The contact information for your business.
  • You sales tax number.
  • Any permits or licenses linked to the goods or services you plan to sell that may require additional paperwork.

Obtaining Your Business Tax Registration Certificate

After registering your business and completing your application, you will be issued your Business Tax Registration certificate. If you file for your certificate online, you will be given a temporary certificate that can be print and displayed at your business certify you are compliant. You should receive the permanent certificate within four weeks of the date of application.

Once obtained, you will need to use the number on this certificate to pay your city taxes each year. A notice will be sent every December with instructions on how to file.

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