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Business Licenses FAQsBusiness Licenses

If you need further business license assistance, you are welcome to contact our staff at the Finance Department located on the first floor of City Hall at 735 Anacapa Street, Santa Barbara, CA 93101.

Are there any restrictions on where I do business?

Every business must meet zoning and building requirements to ensure that its business category and site are compatible BEFORE SIGNING any leases contact our Zoning Department for further information. (Located at 630 Garden St.)

Change of ownership, what should I do?

Change of ownership will require a new Business License Tax Certificate. Proof of ownership, escrow papers etc will need to accompany the new application. Open date is the date the ownership took affect.

Commercial business locations

Check with the City’s Community Development to determine what building modifications, if any, may be necessary for your business type. Usually, a fire inspector will visit your business in order to verify that your building or tenant area meets Fire and Building Code requirements and will issue your business location.

Do I need a D.B.A. or Fictitious Business Name?

Yes. If your business name is anything other than your surname or has more than one owner.  Contact the County of Santa Barbara Hall of Records.

Do I need a license if I work out of my home?

Yes. Businesses operated from the home also require payment of a business license tax. The City’s Zoning Ordinance regulates the type of business operations that may be done in the home.

How can I obtain a copy of a prior year business license permit?

The City is not able to reprint prior business license certificates. If you wish to document proof of business history, you may request this by mail or the owner may come in person to our office.  Allow 5 business days for processing.

I already have a Business License and want to open an additional business location do I need to apply for another Business License?

Yes, for each location, door entrance, and separate cash register, you are required to have a separate Business License Tax Certificate.

How long is this license good for?

Your license is good from the "Open Date" to the following year; for a twelve (12) month period.

How much will the Business License cost?

That depends on the type of business and its location. View the description section of the application for your type of business, then see the corresponding business tax rates on the following page for payment amount. Submit this amount with your application. Contact Finance staff for further assistance.

I am no longer in business, what steps do I need to take?

If you are no longer conducting business, please send notice to: City of Santa Barbara Business Licensing PO Box 1990 Santa Barbara, CA 93102, provide the business name, address, certificate number and the date you stopped conducting business in the City. Please provide contact information, should we have any questions. 

  • If you hold a state license with a local address, it will need to be inactivated in order to close the local business license. This also applies to business entities on file with the Secretary of State (Corp/LLC).
  • If you sold your business, please provide the escrow closing date and the new owners name, address, phone number.
  •  If you are moving away, and plan to return to Santa Barbara to work with your clients, a valid City of Santa Barbara business license tax certificate is required.

This information can be faxed to Business License: (805) 897-1978, documentation is required.

Attention: we do not automatically cancel your license if we don’t hear from you. We assume your payment is late and continue to send Billing Notices. Eventually your business name is placed on our delinquent list. So, please let us know, in writing, if you want your license canceled.

I conduct business in several cities. Can I get just one license to do business in ALL of them?

Unfortunately, no. Each city has its own business license tax requirements and you must have a business license from the jurisdiction business is being conducted in.

I have a business complaint or suspicious business activities where can I report it?

  • Illegal Activity: Police Department (805) 897-2300
  • County Health Dept. food & drink establishments (805) 681-4900
  •  Better Business Bureau (805) 963-8657
  •  Zoning and Building Code enforcement line (805) 897-2676

I have a change to my Mailing or Business Address what should I do?

Written notification should be mailed to:

City of Santa Barbara - Business Licensing
PO BOX 1990
Santa Barbara, CA 93102

Be sure to provide contact information in case staff has questions. If you would like to make changes in person come to the Finance Dept counter located at 735 Anacapa Street. Picture ID is required when making changes in person.

I have a County of Santa Barbara Business License, that should cover the City’s jurisdiction?

No, any person who conducts business in the City must obtain a City of Santa Barbara business license tax certificate. The County of Santa Barbara is responsible for jurisdictions not Incorporated, such as Isla Vista, Montecito, Santa Ynez and Summerland.

I have a State License (Real Estate, construction contractors, etc). Does this exempt me from City of Santa Barbara business license?

No. The City business "license" and your State license serve entirely different purposes. The regulatory licensing of certain trades rests entirely with the State of California. The City of Santa Barbara does not regulate, in any way, these industries. If your relationship to you employer is that of an "independent contractor" or you are self-employed and working in the City, you need to pay the City business tax.

I have this neat idea for a great sign!

Please check with the Community Development Department before using or installing ANY type of sign: wall, window, banners, even balloons. Temporary signs require review and approval prior to issuance of permits and installation.

I operate a Mobile Service are there any business restrictions?

Yes, be sure to contact Community Development to get restriction information. Code reinforcement is upheld by Law Enforcement.

I receive rents from Commercial and/or Residential properties; do I need a business license?

Yes, property owners receiving rent are required to obtain a business license tax certificate. An owner with 3 or more residential units and/or owns commercial property need to file for a business license based on rents received.

I wanted to confirm a Business license, how can I do that?

Business license lookup link  or you may contact our staff at (805) 564-5346.

I would like to sell hot dogs from a mobile cart or drive an ice cream truck through the streets of Santa Barbara, where can I go for a permit?

The Municipal Code does not allow street vending within the City of Santa Barbara.

My business is just starting, what gross receipts do I use?

A new business is taxed using "estimated" gross receipts amount from the start of business to the next 12 months. The following license year renewal cost will be based the gross receipts as reported to the I.R.S. for Federal Income Tax purposes.

My Business uses a Post Office Box in the City to receive mail, but it operates or is based outside the City. Do I need a business license for this?

Yes. Municipal Code says that if you represent business conduct at an address in the City, that is prima facie evidence of business conduct, therefore requiring a business license. The City requires businesses who use a Post Office box or a Commercial Mail Receiving Agency (CMRA) using a City of Santa Barbara address to obtain business licenses.

We are a Non Profit Status Business what steps are we required to take if conducting business within the city limits?

Any Business conducted in City of Santa Barbara is required to have a Business License. Please complete the application and attach a copy of your Federal approval for Non-Profit status 501-C-3 form to be exempt from the business license tax.

What about selling food?

If selling or preparing food, a Health Permit is also required from the County Environmental Health Department, in addition to the business license tax certificate. **All food preparation vendors are required to have a County of Santa Barbara Health Permit onsite. For more information call (805) 681-4900.

What exactly are "gross receipts"?

Gross receipts are what you receive such as cash, credit, and/or property taken in lieu of cash payments for the goods or services that you sell.

  • But my business does not generate any gross receipts.
See description of business, on the application, for the corresponding letter code to determine your Business License Tax, if you need assistance, please contact Finance staff.

  • But, I don't make much money. It’s a very small business.
Even if you conduct business on a part-time, limited, or hobby-related basis, you are required to obtain a current business license. Note: if your business earns zero gross receipts, it is assumed you are conducting business, until you notify the City of its closure. Contact Finance staff if you have any further questions or concerns.

What if I also conduct business in the unincorporated area of the County of Santa Barbara?

You will need a Santa Barbara County business license to conduct business in any unincorporated area of Santa Barbara County. Check with the County’s Tax Collector’s Office (805) 568-2933.

What is a Business License Tax Certificate?

A Business License Tax is an annual tax you pay each fiscal year for doing business within the incorporated area of the City of Santa Barbara (City). The City's municipal code requires that you obtain a license PRIOR to conducting any business activity within the City - even if your business is located outside the city limits or you have a business license from another city. The Business License Tax Certificate, is evidence only that your tax has been paid. Other permits may be required to open your business. A separate tax certificate is required for each type of business at the same location or for each branch location. Receipt of a Business License does not constitute an endorsement of the business, nor does it grant permission to conduct business at any place prohibited by the City's Zoning Ordinances or any other Federal, State, or Local regulation.

What is Parking Business Improvement Assessment (PBIA)?

Information regarding PBIA is located in our Business License Tax Application.

When do I need a Seller's Permit?

Every business intending to sell tangible goods – wholesale or retail, commercial or home based, sales or repair oriented – requires a California Seller's Permit. To apply, contact the Board of Equalization, State Dept. of California at www.boe.ca.gov.

Who is required to have a business license?

Any person who conducts business in or is based from the City must obtain a business license tax certificate. Conducting business in the City without a license can result in penalties, notice of violations, citations, and finally, court action.

Why am I receiving a billing from the Downtown Improvement District (DT or OT assessment)?

Information regarding Downtown Improvement District is located in our Business License Tax Application.

Why must I pay a tax to do business in the City?

By City Code, the tax imposed through the taxing power of the City is solely for the purpose of obtaining general revenue. Business taxes help pay for city services like roads, fire and police, and other community services.

Will the City notify me when to renew my license?

Yes. However, it is your responsibility to obtain a current tax certificate whether or not a renewal notice is received. Penalties are assessed for delinquent accounts, regardless of whether you receive a renewal notice or not. If you do NOT receive a notice by the expiration date of your Business License Tax Certificate, please be sure to contact the Finance Department immediately.

Last Updated: Sep 23, 2013