FAQ

How can I determine what type of Business License I need?
You need a General Business License if your business is located in the unincorporated area of Sacramento County, unless your business is exempt from licensing requirements. Certain business activities require a Special Business License if they are conducted in the unincorporated area, even if the business is based outside our jurisdiction. These activities include, but are not limited to: buying and/or selling concealable firearms or gunpowder, antiques, used auto parts, motorcycles and/or motorcycle parts, metal, second hand or used items; mobile businesses such as mobile auto repair, car washing or detailing, mobile food vendor; auto dismantling or repossessing; home repair, landscaping, and/or cleaning services; taxi; towing service; massage; pawn broker or junk dealer; rubbish hauling; adult-related activities such as escort or introductory service; or figure modeling. 

Do I Need a License for an Online (internet) Business?
Even if your business has no physical presence and exists solely as an Internet storefront, all regulations that apply to offline businesses also apply to your business. You will need a General Business License.

Your business may also require a Special Business Licenses based on the type of products you sell or activities you engage in, regardless of whether the business is in a physical building or an online venture. These products/activities include, but are not limited to: buying and/or selling concealable firearms or gunpowder, antiques, used auto parts, motorcycles and/or motorcycle parts, metal, second hand or used items; adult-related activities such as escort or introductory service; or figure modeling.


Is there a license required to sell tobacco products?
Sacramento County requires all businesses that sell tobacco and tobacco-related products, including pipes and other paraphernalia, to obtain a Tobacco Retailer License. The license will be issued by the Department of Finance, and businesses will be subject to annual inspections by the Environmental Management Department for correct signage and storage of tobacco products. In addition, the Sheriff conducts undercover purchase attempts using minors as decoys. The license term is one year. The License is not transferable between owners and is issued to each location where tobacco products are sold.


Can I obtain a business license for a marijuana-related business?
The Sacramento County Zoning Code does not permit marijuana-related businesses. Business Licenses will not be issued. To learn more, visit the Marijuana Dispensary webpage.


How do I apply for a Business License?
Note: All applicants are encouraged to contact the Department of Planning and Community Development at (916) 874-6221 to determine if the business activities at the proposed business site are allowed under the current zoning code before submitting an application and paying the fee.

There are several ways to apply for a license. You can apply in person at our public counter at 700 H Street, Room 1710, Sacramento, CA 95814, Monday-Friday 8:00 a.m. to 4:45 p.m., phoning the Business License Unit 24-hour automated phone system at (916) 874-6644 and requesting an application by mail, by clicking below for a printable form, or by following the link to our online application process:

Printable Business License Application  (print and fill in) 

Online Business License Application

All sections of the application must be completed. Any blank line or unanswered question will cause the application to be rejected and will delay the process.

What are the fees and what is the term of a license?  

Effective January 1, 2013 a State Mandated $1.00 Surcharge will be assessed on all New and Renewing Business Licenses and Permits, as required by Government Code 4467.  
 
 

Application Fees

General Business License*
  Fee depends on activities conducted​
$146 valid for 3 years
or
$166 valid for 3 years​
Special Business License​

$166 valid for 1 year 

Employee Permit (stand alone)
Employee Permit (with Special)​

$166 valid for 1 year

$11​

Fingerprinting for Special License or Employee Permit
(one time cost)​
$32.00 for the business owner, and $59.00 for partners, spouses, or other owners
listed on the license (Collected by Sheriff's Department in the form of Visa, Mastercard, debit card with a Visa or Mastercard logo, or money order. No personal checks or cash accepted.)​
Tobacco Retailer License​

$306 valid for one year 

 *The fee is determined based on answers to questions in Section II of the application.
Renewal Fees
General Business License*
  Fee depends on activities conducted​

$115

or
$146                                                                                                              

 
Special Business License​ $156​
Employee Permit​

$156  

Tobacco Retailer License​

$306 

  

A $18.00 late renewal fee will be added to any license renewal received after the expiration date.

Applications submitted by mail or in person must be paid with cash, check, or money order made payable to Sacramento County. No credit or debit card payments are accepted by mail or at the public counters.

Applications submitted on-line may be paid by VISA, MASTERCARD, DISCOVER OR AMERICAN EXPRESS credit or debit cards. Note: A convenience fee of $4.95 will be charged by the credit card vendor for these payment methods.

No Refunds - Fees are charged to cover the cost of the review process and are not refundable.


How long does the approval process take?
Review and investigation of the license application usually takes between two and three weeks for a General Business License, and by ordinance no more than forty-five days.  Special Business Licenses take longer due to submitting fingerprint records to the Department of Justice, but by ordinance no more than ninety days. Upon approval, license(s) will be mailed to the applicant.  If a license is denied, the applicant will receive written notice and be provided an opportunity to appeal the decision.

Are licenses transferable to another person, location or type of business?
General Business Licenses and Tobacco Retailer Licenses may not be transferred to another person, location or type of business.

Special Business Licenses and Employee Permits may not be transferred to another person or type of business, but the business location may change.

 
Once I file an application, is the information available to the public?
Yes, all information on the Business License application is public record. 

How can I find out if someone has a Sacramento County Business License?
Please contact the Business License Unit at (916) 874-6644 or come to our office during regular business hours. Staff will assist you or you may use the public computer terminals at our counter.

What are the restrictions to doing business out of my home?
Please see the Sacramento County zoning code Home Occupation Standards.  In addition, there are restrictions on the preparation of food, storage of hazardous materials, and other regulations to protect the community and ensure quality of life in neighborhoods.

Please see our publication, Getting Down To Business, a Guide to Doing Business in Sacramento County

What are some Planning/Zoning Code Requirements for businesses at commercial locations?
Some commercial and industrial business activities may require a use permit prior to operating. Those businesses include, but are not limited to: 

Auto Dismantling
Auto sales 
Temporary concession stands
Public dance
Public Storage
Outdoor festivals/flea markets
Palm reading/fortune tellers​

Hospitals
Hotels, motels
24-hour convenience markets
Drive thru windows
Gas stations
Private social centers
Arcades/gaming centers

All commercial and industrial businesses are required to meet certain Development Standards (i.e. landscaping, parking, fencing, setbacks, etc.). Your license may be subject to denial if the property is not in compliance with these standards.

Businesses are allowed promotional displays such as banners against the building, flags, pennant flags or search lights upon the issuance of a Temporary Use Permit. Time limits of the use shall not exceed thirty (30) days within the first one-hundred eighty (180) days of business and other existing businesses shall be limited to one period not exceeding ten (10) days within a given year.

If you have any questions regarding zoning compliance, Home Occupation Standards, Use Permits, Temporary Use Permits or Development Standards please contact the Department of Planning and Community Development at (916) 874-6221 prior to submitting a business license application. Or, to read more about these requirements, go to our Links page and click on Planning Department. 

Who issues Day Care Licenses?
The County's Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) oversees County day care licensing. See our Links page or contact DHHS at (916) 875-2808. 

How can I lodge a complaint against a business?
The issuance of a Sacramento County Business License does not assess or guarantee the owner/operator's business practices, quality of workmanship or other consumer protection related matters. See our Links page.

If you think a business is operating without a proper Sacramento County Business License, you may contact the County's Complaint Center at 875-5656. 

What else do I need to start a business in Sacramento County?
Please see our publication, Getting Down To Business, a Guide to Doing Business in Sacramento County


What are the Home Occupation Standards?

ZONING CODE OF SACRAMENTO COUNTY
 Section 305-201 - HOME OCCUPATION STANDARDS
 (Referenced as a Condition on your General Business License)

It is the intent of the following criteria to reduce the impact of the home occupation to the degree that its effects on the neighborhood are undetectable from normal and usual residential activity.
a) No more than two (2) occupants of the dwelling shall be engaged in home occupation on the subject property. In the event of a partnership or corporation, at least one of the members must be a resident of the subject property.
b) Off-site employees or partners are permitted so long as they do not report for work at subject property.
c) The use of the dwelling for the home occupation shall be clearly incidental and subordinate to its use for residential purposes. The home occupation may be conducted in the principal dwelling or accessory structures on the subject property provided that the area does not exceed 20 percent of the habitable floor area of the principal dwelling.
d) There shall be no mechanical equipment or operation used which creates or makes dust, odor, vibration or other effects detectable at the property line. Noise level at the property line shall not exceed 65 dBA.
e) There shall be no products sold on the premises except artist's originals or products individually made to order on the premises. Products which are not "artist's originals" or "individually made to order" may be constructed on-site, using equipment normally found in a residence; however, these products may only be sold at a permitted commercial location.
f) There shall be no display of products produced by occupants of the dwelling which are visible in any manner from the outside of the dwelling unit.
g) The use shall not generate pedestrian or vehicular traffic beyond that which is normal in a residential district nor in any case requires the parking of more than two additional vehicles at any one time.
h) There shall be no storage of material or supplies out-of-doors.
i) There shall be no remodeling or construction of facilities especially for the home occupation which changes the external appearance of the residence from a residential to a more commercial appearing structure when viewed from the front of the building.
j) There shall be no visible evidence of the conduct of such home occupation outside the structure other than one sign if permitted within the zone (see Section 335-05).
k) Deleted
l) No process is used which is hazardous to public health, safety, morals, or welfare.
m) Visitors, customers, or deliveries shall not exceed that normally and reasonably occurring for a residence, including not more than one business visitor an hour and eight a day, and not more than one delivery of products or materials a week.

n) No more than one home occupation shall be permitted per residence.
o) Storage of hazardous materials is limited to below those thresholds as established by the local Fire Districts which do not require any special permits or licenses. (Amended 6/95) 

Questions about these Home Occupation Standards should be directed to the Planning and Community Development Department. Their phone number is (916) 874-6221.

Some of the above information is in PDF format
which can only be viewed using the Adobe Acrobat® Reader.