How to Get a California Business License

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Before setting up a business in California you must fulfill all the licensing requirements to operate in the state. Depending on the type of work you do and where you do it, you could need more than one license. You may need to register your business name, obtain a sales tax license and obtain professional licensing. The licensing requirements aren’t complicated, but you’ll need to fill out all the required paperwork, provide the information requested and pay the fees. Once you’ve satisfied all these requirements, you’ll be ready to do business in California.

Name Approval

You must register the name of your business with the state of California. The California Department of Insurance oversees this process and may not approve your name if it conflicts with another business name, uses certain unacceptable words, is viewed as deceptive or uses certain words improperly. You must provide both your real name and the name of the business. If the business uses a fictitious name -- that is, a name other than your name -- you’ll receive a DBA approval. DBA stands for “doing business as.”

Sales and Use Tax License

If you sell items or offer services that are taxable under California law, you must obtain a seller's permit. This authorizes you to collect sales tax and remit the tax to the state. Even if you don’t engage in taxable sales, if your business takes in $100,000 or more in gross receipts each year you must open a use tax account with the state. Complete the required form either online or in person and pay the required fee. The California State Board of Equalization oversees sales and use tax permits.

Professional Licensing

If you are a professional, such as a medical doctor, nurse, beautician, barber, real estate agent, insurance agent, teacher, security guard, dentist or psychologist, you must have a professional license valid in the state of California. The state board that oversees your profession will tell you the licensing requirements, which usually include paying a fee and passing a written test, or providing proof of certification in your profession from another state. The California Department of Consumer Affairs can direct you to the proper professional board in the state.

Local Licensing

Depending on the town or county where your business operates in California, you may need additional licensing. For example, you may need a DBA permit from the county and a sales tax permit from the county or city. You can learn all the licensing requirements for your location by entering your location and the type of business you want to operate in the online form available at the CalGold website. (