How To Get A California Business License


Doing business in California can be lucrative, but there are some hoops you’ll need to jump through to make it happen. The state is famous for its regulatory environment in which people are asked to register their companies and business names before they can enter the marketplace. Taking the appropriate steps is important, as it will allow you to effectively do business without the worry of tax consequences down the road. How do you get a business license in California? Here’s a short overview of the process.

Start at the Governor’s Office online business portal
Seeking to increase interest in business development in the state, the Governor’s Office has put together a series of state level resources for those who want to get started. Known as GO-Biz, these resources can allow you to apply online for a general business license for the state of California. This process is usually quite easy. It requires you to have information like your Social Security number, tax ID number, and suggested places of business. This state level portal will also guide you to local resources you’ll need to complete the process of registering.

Local registration for local businesses
If you want to do business in the state of California, you’ll need to register locally in the city or county where you plan to do business. If you want to open up a shop in San Diego, you’ll have to register for a license there. Some cities refer to their license as a business tax certificate, which gives them the right to tax you. What you’ll pay for this pleasure depends on where you’re doing business. Some cities charge a flat fee up front. Others charge a percentage of sales. You’ll need to look into the specifics for every city where you want to open a location. If you plan to start a business with multiple locations, then you’ll need to register in every single city where you plan to do business.

Some cities, including Sacramento, have an online system that allows you to register quickly and easily. Other cities have only an in-person system where you have to register at the county clerk’s office. You’ll want to explore each county to see its requirements for business registration.

Dealing with regulated professions
Some professions, including those that require bonding, will have special rules that must be followed. Others, like opening up a restaurant, have additional procedures that you’ll need to go through in order to effectively operate. The California Government Online to Desktops (CalGOLD) is an excellent resource to guide you on additional requirements for those different professions.

Doing business under a different name
You may also be required to file a form if you plan to do business under a different name than the official name of your company. Imagine, for instance, you own the ACME Restaurant Group. You want to open up the San Diego Fish House, which will be operated by your parent restaurant group. In this instance, you’d need to file a fictitious business name statement to clear up that discrepancy.