About Business Licenses

Online Business License Application
Marijuana Dispensaries and marijuana-related businesses

 See FAQs for details

Sacramento County regulates businesses operating in the areas of the County not located within city limits (the unincorporated area of the County) to promote improved enforcement of ordinances that protect the public and prevent nuisances and neighborhood disturbances. The license is not a business tax and is not based on business revenue.

There are several types of business license:

General Business Licenses - The County regulates businesses with a physical location in all areas of the County that are not within the incorporated cities of Sacramento, Folsom, Isleton, Galt, Citrus Heights, Elk Grove, and Rancho Cordova (the "unincorporated area").  All businesses based in commercial locations or homes require a General Business License.  In addition, certain business activities may require a Special Business License or a Tobacco Retailer License. A General License is issued to a business after a review of the business activities to be conducted at the specific location (street address) and the land use zoning of the property location. All businesses based in the unincorporated area require a General Business License except for the following, which are EXEMPT:

  • Financial Institutions - banks, savings and loans, and credit unions as defined by the Business and Professions Code, except that check-cashing businesses do require a General Business License.
  • Residential Facilities - apartments, rooming houses, duplexes and other facilities for long-term stays (over 30 days), residential care homes for adults or children and family day care.
  • Churches - to the extent the facilities are used for religious purposes or restricted to members of the congregation.  A General Business License is required for a church-run or church-located school, child care facility, thrift store, etc.
  • Libraries - public and private.
  • Agriculture - includes growing of crops or raising livestock, except that a General Business License is required for any enterprise that combines product from multiple farms.

If you believe your business should be exempt from a County business license please contact our office.  You may be required to complete an application to document your activities.

Special Business Licenses are required for individuals performing certain business activities within the unincorporated area of Sacramento even if the business is based outside the unincorporated area (within a City or outside Sacramento County).  The Sheriff's Department approves Special Business Licenses after a background review of the owners.  All owners, partners, and spouses listed on the license must be fingerprinted and photographed at the Sacramento County Sheriff's Identification Bureau after the application is processed by our office.  If you apply online you will receive a response email with fingerprinting instructions.  The most common activities that require a Special Business License include, but are not limited to, handyman, landscaping/gardening, housekeeping, towing, rubbish hauling, massage, and mobile food vending.  In addition to Special Business Licenses, employees who engage in certain activities will require an Employee Permit.

Tobacco Retailer Licenses are required for businesses in the unincorporated area that sell any tobacco products and/or tobacco paraphernalia (such as pipes, papers, rolling machines, and e-cigarettes).  This license is required in addition to other County business licenses, and is in addition to the State of California tobacco retailer registration.  The purpose of the program is to encourage responsible tobacco retailing and to discourage violations of tobacco-related laws, especially those that prohibit or discourage the sale or distribution of tobacco products to minors.

 
Some businesses will require either a General Business License or Special Business License; other will require both. Please read the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) section of this website and, if you have additional questions, contact the Business License Unit at (916) 874-6644 to determine individual license requirements.
 
Operating a business without the required Sacramento County Business License(s) is a misdemeanor, which is punishable by a fine of up to $500.00 and six (6) months in jail.  In addition, operation without a valid business license may result in criminal and/or civil action against you or the property owner to compel you to cease operation.