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7 Easy Steps to Getting a Business License in California

Do you want to start a business in California and need a license? f YES, here are 7 steps to getting a business license in California and confirm its validity. In order to start a business in the state of California, you will need to first get a license in the city where you intend to locate your business.

It does not matter if the business makes very little profit or millions of dollars, if it is a very small business or a very large one; you will still need to register it. In some counties in California, a business license may be referred to simply as a “business license” or as a “business tax certificate.” Here are the steps you need to take in order to get a business license in the state of California.

7 Easy Steps to Getting a Business License in California

1. Locate the Appropriate Business Permit Office

In order to get started on your pursuit for a business license, you will need to visit The California Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development website which maintains a web-based permit assistance program called CalGold to assist business owners with identifying and finding the appropriate permit office they must contact.

Once you are in the website (, you will need to select a city or county where you will be conducting business as well as the business type in order to find the local agency responsible for issuing business permits. After selecting this information, click the “search” icon. In order to search for a business type, you can either enter the business type in the box or click “view all” and scroll through a list.

Click the business types that apply. After clicking the search button, a list of possible “Permits & Licenses” will come up. The second entry should state “Business License-Business Tax Certificate.” Use the information on the right side to determine where and how to contact the appropriate licensing office. The address, phone number, fax, and website should be listed.

2. Apply for the Business License

Armed with the information you got from CalGold, you should visit the appropriate business license department in person, or visit their website for additional information. Some offices will have their forms online. For instance, the city of Alameda provides an online PDF of its business license application, which you may print off and complete before mailing in.

On the other hand, cities like San Diego, allow businesses the option of applying for a business tax certificate online or via U.S. mail. When you get the form, you will have to complete it with accurate information. Each form will require different information, but most commonly you will be asked to provide the following:

  • business name
  • business address
  • contact information (mailing address, phone number, email, website address)
  • type of business (whether LLC, partnership, etc.)
  • Federal Tax ID number (FEIN) or Social Security Number (SSN)
  • names and addresses of each individual owner
  • expected annual sales
  • number of employees

3. Make the necessary payment

You will have to pay a fee to apply. The fee will depend on the size of your business and the number of people you employ. The fees usually range from $50-100.

4. Get any additional license (if applicable)

Depending on the nature and type of business, you may be required to get additional licenses. For instance, if your business is a car wash, then you need to obtain a “Car Washing and Polishing Registration Certificate” from the Division of Labor Standards. In the same vein, if you plan on selling or leasing products, then you must obtain a Seller’s Permit, which you can obtain online by accessing the California State Board of Equalization.

Other common licenses businesses need include: An Alcoholic Beverage License and a Sales and Use Permit (restaurant), a Barbering and Cosmetology License (Beauty Salon), Produce Dealers License (Grocery Store), and Vehicle Dealer License (Automobile Dealer). To find out if your business falls under the category of business that require additional licenses, you visit the search results under “Permit & Licenses” on CalGold.

What to Do If your Application for a License Gets Denied

If your application for a license gets denied, the very first thing to do is to understand the reason why it was denied. Here are some reasons why a municipality may deny an application for a business license:

  • There is a misrepresentation in the application.
  • The applicant has a Conviction of crime in the past five years which illustrates a trait inconsistent with carrying on a business or activity.
  • Failure to correct objectionable conditions.

If your application is denied, then you may be able to appeal that decision. Go to the county clerk’s office and ask to file a notice of appeal. In most municipalities, there is a time limit for you to appeal a denial of application.

For the hearing of your appeal, you will need to appear before the city council or any other such body. You can present witnesses, though the hearing will probably not be held according to technical rules of evidence. The decision of the city council is usually final. There is no other forum to bring an appeal.

How to Check If a Business License is Valid in California

Doing business in California is very easy, however, you need to put things in place to achieve more. If you plan to do business with anyone and you are in doubt about their business license, then you can check its authenticity. Here are some of the ways to check if a business has a valid license;

Please note that you will need some basic information about the business that you wish to search for, such as its name. Knowing the license number can also help make your search more accurate.

  • Go to the website of California’s Department of Consumer Affairs

There is no better way to search for a business name than to scan the list to find the appropriate type of business. For example, you may check business licenses of acupuncturists, cosmetologists, home improvement contractors and other professionals.

  • Click on the link

Right beneath the type of business that you select, it will take you to a license and registry. Search for all of those particular types of businesses. This means that you will search to see similar businesses so that you can ascertain if you will find the business name you are looking for.


Fill in the form to the best of your knowledge. For example, if you know the license number, type it in the appropriate search box. If you only know the business name, type this in the appropriate search box. You also may sort the results by city and county.

  • Click and Find

Click on the “Find” button at the bottom of the form after you have filled it in. Scan through the results to verify the California business license that you are looking for. If you do not find it, go back to the form and ensure that you typed the information accurately. If you do all these and take all the steps, then you will get results. There you have it the step by step guide on how you can search to see is a business license is valid in California.