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Finance Department
Finance Department

Essential Business License Information & Requirements

All businesses operating in the City of Berkeley are required to have a current business license for each location. If you are opening a new business, buying an existing business, or transferring a business to your ownership, you must apply for a new business license under your name. The following information provides an overview of the City's Business License requirements.


New Business License Applications

Mail your completed application, including a check for the applicable fees to:
Finance Department
Revenue Collection
1947 Center Street, 1st Floor
Berkeley, CA 94704 

If you prefer to complete the application in person, you are welcome to visit the Customer Service Center located at 1947 Center Street, 1st Floor.  The hours of operation are Monday to Thursday, 8:30AM to 4:00PM.

Please visit How to Obtain Your New Business License for specific information and procedures.


Rental Properties Located in Berkeley

All owners of commercial rental property, or residential property with three or more dwelling units on any parcel, are required to obtain a business license. If property with three or more units is totally owner occupied, the owners must still submit an annual business license stating the property remains owner occupied. In addition, any person who provides lodging for longer than 14 days for five or more persons, must maintain a current business license.

Home-based Businesses

Any business operating from a home in Berkeley, including internet and mail order businesses, requires a business license and Zoning approval from Current Planning at the Permit Service Center. A business that entails heavy foot or vehicle traffic, as well as certain other conditions, may be prohibited in a residential neighborhood.

  • For more information, contact Current Planning staff at (510) 981-7410

 

Street Artist-Vendor Screening

Any new street artist/vendor must go through a screening process; once approved, a business license is required.  Please review the check list for requirements.  For more information, contact Customer Service at 510-981-7200.

 

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Contractors

All contractors doing business in Berkeley must have an active business license before applying for a building permit.  If in the future you are no longer doing business in Berkeley, you must complete and file a closing business statement.

Businesses Located Outside of Berkeley

If you do not have or maintain any kind of physical presence in Berkeley in the course of your business activities, you may still need a Berkeley business license. Contact Customer Service for further information about requirements at (510) 981-7200.

Closing Business Statement

You must complete and file a closing business declaration if you are conducting business in Berkeley and close a location or transfer ownership; or if in the future you are no longer doing business in Berkeley. Contact Customer Service for more information. 

Business License Exemptions

Organizations operating wholly for the benefit of charitable purposes, and those exempt from filing information returns under 26 U.S.C. § 6033 (a) (2) are exempt from payment of business license taxeson gross receipts, but is required to pay the $26 fee per BMC 9.04.230 (c).  A charitable organization must receive and maintain a current business license, and is subject to an annual renewal and statement affirming its status as a charitable organization, based on the criteria in this chapter, by February 1st of each year. 

Non profits located in the Downtown Business Improvement Districts (DBID) must pay the DBID fee based upon Earned Income – defined as gross revenue from ticket and product sales, and fees for service, not including grants, government contracts, contributions, or loans (7.93.030) received from all business activities within the City during the preceding fiscal year.

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Renewals for Businesses Already Licensed

Business licenses expires on December 31 of each year and renewals are due and payable on the first day of January of each year. A renewal notice is sent out as a courtesy to all active business license holders in the City’s database at least 30 days before the expiration date. However, if you do not receive this annual reminder, you are still responsible for the timely filing of your business license renewal, which is due to the Finance Department by January 1, with a grace period until February 28. 

If full payment is not received/postmarked before March 1, a 10% penalty of the outstanding tax balance is added.  If full payment is not received/postmarked before April 1, an additional 40% penalty of the outstanding tax balance is added.  Interest at the rate of 1% per month on the amount of fees and penalties continue to accrue until the balance is paid in full

Please download and complete the appropriate renewal form below. 

If you would like to pick up or return a completed form, visit the Customer Service Counter at 1947 Center Street, 1st Floor.  The hours of operation are Monday to Thursday, 8:30AM to 4:00PM.Please visit Business License Renewal Information & Assistance for more information.


Useful Information & Contacts for Your Business License

The City of Berkeley has various requirements and regulations for operating a business. It is your responsibility to maintain all necessary approvals, permits, and licenses, and to pay all taxes and fees associated with your particular business.

Become familiar with Berkeley Municipal Code (BMC), BMC Section 9.04* on Business Licenses and Regulations. Copies of the BMC are at all branches of the Berkeley Public Library, and you may also access the BMC and Zoning Ordinance on the City’s website. The BMC is an excellent source of information on business licenses, definitions of terms, business classifications, business license tax rates, and allowable deductions to gross receipts.

See also:


  Frequently Asked Questions About Business License  

General Questions

  1. What is a business license?
    A business license is proof that a business license tax has been paid.  It does not, by itself, authorize the conduct or continuance of any business, nor does it avoid the need to obtain any required zoning permits, building permits, health permits, toxic code requirements, or fire inspections.   

    Generally, business licenses are effective January 1 to December 31 of the same year and need to be renewed annually.

  2. What is a business license tax?
    The business license tax is a revenue tax required by all businesses operating, directly or indirectly, in the City of Berkeley.  The business license tax is not a regulatory permit.  The City’s business license tax is generally assessed on a business’ gross receipts generated within Berkeley in a calendar year.  Similar to income tax, the annual license tax is based on the prior year’s receipts.  

  3. Do I need a business license?
    All persons or businesses conducting business within the City of Berkeley, directly or indirectly, are required to have a current business license and pay an annual license tax. 

  4. Can I apply and renew my license online?
    At this time, the City of Berkeley does not accept online payments for business licenses.  In order to process your application or renewal form, mail your application or renewal form, including a check for the applicable fees made payable to:

    Finance Department 
    Revenue Collection
    1947 Center Street, 1st Floor
    Berkeley, CA 94704

    If you prefer to complete the application or renewal form in person, you are welcome to visit the Customer Service Center at 1947 Center Street, 1st Floor.  The hours of operation are Monday to Thursday, 8:30AM to 4:00PM.

  5. I have a valid business license in a different city. Do I still need one for Berkeley?
    Yes, you are required to have a City of Berkeley business license if you are, directly or indirectly, operating in the City of Berkeley.
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 Business License Application Questions

  1. How do I apply for a new business license?
    Fill out a business license application which can be found at: New Business License Application.

    Mail your completed application, including a check for the applicable fees to:
    Finance Department
    Revenue Collection
    1947 Center Street, 1st Floor
    Berkeley, CA 94704 

    If you prefer to complete the application in person, you are welcome to visit the Customer Service Center located at 1947 Center Street, 1st Floor.  The hours of operation are Monday to Thursday, 8:30AM to 4:00PM.
  2. Do I need to do anything other than complete the application form and remit the license tax?
    Depending on your business type, additional licenses from other agencies may be required before you submit your business application to the City of Berkeley. 

    A Fictitious Business Name Statement may be required if the business name differs from the owner’s name. The City of Berkeley does not issue fictitious business names.  For more information, contact the County of Alameda at 510-272-6363 located at 1106 Madison Street, Oakland, CA or refer to the attached link:  County of Alameda - Fictitious Business Name Filing.

    State licenses are required for various business types, such as, but not limited to, building contractors, barbers, automotive repair dealers, and retailers.  Check with the California State Department of Consumer Affairs at 800-952-5210 or California Department of Consumer Affairs to confirm you have the required state license, if applicable. 

    In addition, if a business is operating within Berkeley’s limits, various city departments’ requirements and regulations apply.  It is the business’ responsibility to obtain all necessary approvals, permits, licenses, and to pay all taxes and fees associated with the business.  Payment of the business license tax does not constitute zoning, building, fire, health, or toxic review/approval. 
     

    Businesses may need to contact one or more of the following City offices for more information:  
    Business License City Offices

  3. What’s the status of my business license application?
    Depending on your type of business, the application process takes a few days to several weeks to complete the review and approval process. 

    If you answered “yes” to any of the business questions (relating to building permits, tobacco, serving food/drink to the public, provide a swimming pool or spa to the public, or handling hazardous materials) or if your business is located in Berkeley, several departments may need to review your application before a license can be issued. 

    To find out the status of your application, call (510) 981- 2489.

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 Renewal Questions
  1. I didn’t receive a renewal form in the mail.  Can you re-send one to me?
    Renewal forms are available online.
     
  2. How do I find my tax rate? 
    Tax rates are listed at the following link: Business Licenses: Classifications & Tax Rates.

  3. I have multiple locations, how do I report my gross receipts?
    A separate business license is required for each location.  The gross receipts from each location should be reported accordingly on separate business license renewal forms.

    For more information about gross receipts, refer to the Berkeley Municipal Code (BMC) Section 9.04.025, Gross Receipts.  The BMC can be found at the following link: http://www.codepublishing.com/CA/Berkeley/

  4. How can I claim gross receipt deductions? 
    If your business has a tax code C (Construction contractor), M (Manufacturing), or P (Professional/semi-professional), you may deduct certain costs.

    For tax codes C and P, allowable deductions include amounts paid to subcontractors to perform a job within the City.  To claim deductions, you must attach a letter that lists subcontractors qualified for the deduction.  Include the subcontractor’s business name, address, contractor number (if applicable), Berkeley business license number, and the amount paid to the subcontractor. 

    For tax code M, allowable deductions include the value of raw materials (including the cost of energy) or the value of the partially completed product at the time it enters the manufacturing process within the City.

  5. What’s the status of my renewal?
    Generally, renewals are processed within 15 days from the postmarked date.  

    During our peak season (February to April), renewals are generally processed within 30 days from the postmarked date. 

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  Payment Options 
  1. What type of payments do you accept?
    For walk-in/in-person payments at the Customer Service Counter located at 1947 Center Street, 1st Floor, we accept payment by cash, check, debit card, or credit card (Visa or MasterCard).  The hours of operation are Monday through Thursday, 8:30AM to 4:00PM.

    To pay by mail, make checks payable to City of Berkeley and send to:
    Finance Department
    Revenue Collection
    1947 Center Street, 1st Floor
    Berkeley, CA 94704  

  2. Can I pay online, by email, by phone, or fax my credit card payment?
    No, we do not accept payments online, by email, by phone, or fax.

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  Changes to Business
  1. I moved my business to a different location in Berkeley.  How do I update my business license?
    The Zoning Division in the Planning Department must approve your new business location.  

    You may request an address change online https://aca.cityofberkeley.info/Community/. 

    If you would like to apply in person, visit the Permit Service Center, 1947 Center Street, 3rd Floor. The hours of operation are Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday: 8:30AM to 4:00 pm; Tuesdays, 8:30AM – 2:30PM. 

    After receipt of the approved zoning certificate, provide a copy to the Finance Department:

    - E-mail: buslic@cityofberkeley.info 
    Mail: Finance Department, Revenue Collection, 1947 Center Street, 1st Floor, Berkeley, CA 94704 
    - In-person (Monday through Thursday, 8:30AM to 4:00PM) : 1947 Center Street, 1st Floor    

     
  2. How do I update my mailing address?
    Send a request with your business license number and new mailing address to:

     - E-mail: buslic@cityofberkeley.info, or 
     - Mail: Finance Department, Revenue Collection, 1947 Center Street, 1st Floor, Berkeley, CA 94704.

  3. I changed my business name, do I need a new business license?
    You will need a new business license if the federal identification number (FEIN) or the social security number (SSI) has changed.

    If the federal identification number (FEIN) or the social security number (SSI) has not changed, send a request with your business license number and new business name, including the Fictitious Business Name Statement, if the business name differs from the owner’s legal name.  The request to change the business name must include the following:

    •Business license number
    •The requestor’s name, title, and contact information
    •New business name  
    •Previous business name

    - E-mail: buslic@cityofberkeley.info, or
    - Mail: Finance Department, Revenue Collection, 1947 Center Street, 1st Floor, Berkeley, CA 94704.
    - In-person: Customer Service Counter, 1947 Center Street, 1st Floor; Monday to Thursday, 8:30AM to 4:00PM.

  4. The ownership of my business has changed, but the Federal Employer Identification Number (FEIN) did not change.  Do I need to do anything? 
    While a new business license is not needed, you will need to send a signed letter on official company letterhead which states the following: 
     
    Business license number
    The requestor’s name, title, and contact information 
    Names of new owners
    Names of previous owners
     
    The letter may be submitted to the City in the following ways: 
     
    - Mail: Finance Department, Revenue Collection, 1947 Center Street, 1st Floor, Berkeley, CA 94704.
    - In-person: Customer Service Counter, 1947 Center Street, 1st Floor; Monday to Thursday, 8:30AM to 4:00PM.

  5. The ownership of my business has changed, and the Federal Employer Identification Number (FEIN) or Social Security number is different.  Do I need to do anything? 
    Yes, the following actions must be taken: 
     
    The former owner is required to complete and submit a Closing Business Declaration Form and pay the applicable fees.  
     
    The new owner is required to complete a New Business License Application Form and pay the applicable fees.  
     
    Send the completed forms and the applicable fees, to the Finance Department, Revenue Collection at 1947 Center Street, 1st Floor, Berkeley, CA  94704.  
     
    If you would like to submit these forms in person, visit the Customer Service Center located at 1947 Center Street, 1st Floor.  The hours of operation are Monday to Thursday, 8:30AM to 4:00PM.
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   Business Closure Questions
  1. I’m closing my business, how do I inform the City of Berkeley?
    Complete a Closing Business Declaration Form which can be found at: Closing Business Declaration Form.

    Or, if you received a Business License Renewal Form, you may close your business by completing the entire form.

    Fees are based on your gross receipts from January 1 to the end of business operation in the same calendar year. 

    Upon completion, mail either form along with payment to:
    Finance Department
    Revenue Collection
    1947 Center Street, 1st Floor
    Berkeley, CA 94704 

    Upon receipt of the form and payment, the Finance Department will close your business license for the City of Berkeley.  

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    Miscellaneous
  1. How can I obtain a list of all active City of Berkeley business licenses?
    Visit the City of Berkeley’s Open Data Portal (https://data.cityofberkeley.info/) where you can download or view a list of all businesses with an active City business license.  

    The database is updated daily and provides non-confidential, public data.

  2. I received the City of Berkeley business license vehicle decals.  Where can I park my car and for how long? 
    The vehicle decal allows you to use the yellow curb for up to 20 minutes and you must be actively loading and/or unloading.

    For additional information, see the below excerpt from the City of Berkeley’s Parking Enforcement & Restrictions page Parking Enforcement & Restrictions - City of Berkeley, CA

    Yellow Curbs: Curbs marked by yellow are for commercial use and are for loading and unloading merchandise or materials. These zones are enforced from 7:00 AM to 6:00PM, Monday to Saturday except when otherwise designated by appropriate signs. Some metered parking spaces may be yellow zones during certain hours.  In order to use a yellow zone for up to (20) twenty minutes drivers must have any one of three requirements: 

    i. A City of Berkeley Business license decal affixed to the left rear bumper of the vehicle,

    ii. A marked commercial vehicle with logo or lettering, or

    iii. Commercial plates issued by Department of Motor Vehicles.   

    Drivers must be actively engaged in loading or unloading.  Non- commercial vehicles may load or unload passengers only for up to three minutes at a yellow curb.

  3. Can I get a parking permit for my business?
    Businesses with a current business license that are within a designated Merchant Permit Range may purchase 1 permit annually for the period March 1 – February 28.  Permits are issued year round. 

    For more information, go to the following link: RPP: Merchant Parking - City of Berkeley, CA


For further information on the Business License process, please contact or visit:

*Note: For access to the Berkeley Municipal Code (BMC), links will take you to the City’s BMC site where you can browse the BMC in .pdf format, or search the BMC using Records Online. Search tips are available from the BMC site.

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Finance Department, 1947 Center Street, Berkeley, CA 94704
Questions or comments? Email: finance@cityofberkeley.info Phone: (510) 981-7200
(510) 981-CITY/2489 or 311 from any landline in Berkeley
TTY: (510) 981-6903
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