Who Needs a San Diego Business License?

The city of San Diego requires anyone who intends to operate a business within city limits to first obtain a business license, also known as a Business Tax Certificate. The requirement to obtain a San Diego business license extends to those operating a business out of a private home. It also includes people operating a business on their own and not working through a corporation as well as businesses that have launched but have not yet earned a profit. The city enforces a strict 15-day deadline to file for a business license after starting the business. Those who do not comply face fines and other penalties.

Information Required When Applying for a San Diego Business License

The first thing new business owners need to determine when applying for a business license is their company structure. If not operating individually as a sole proprietor, the business owner must have already filed legal paperwork to form a limited liability company (LLC), corporation, partnership, or other applicable entity type. Other information required to apply for a San Diego business license includes:

  • The name and current contact information of the principle owner of the business. If the business has already incorporated, the application for a license must include the full legal names of each officer along with his or her social security number. The city government of San Diego does not release this sensitive information to the public unless presented with a subpoena.
  • Social security number for sole proprietors or the tax identification number, also called employer identification number, for business owners structured as a different type of entity. Business owners can apply for the latter online at the website of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
  • The estimated number of employees for new businesses or the average number of employees over the past 12 months for existing businesses expanding to San Diego.
  • Seller’s permit number for any business that plans to sell any type of tangible goods and not only services.

New business owners should keep in mind that San Diego city government may require additional permits based on the type of business and goods or services sold. For example, a business operating within city limits that does not meet current zoning requirements for a specific location must obtain a Conditional Use Permit. Another example is the Police Card Registration that any vendor selling goods on the street must obtain from the San Diego Police Department.

Obtaining a business license can be time-consuming and stressful. Business owners might wish to consider outsourcing the work to a company experienced with preparing and filing business licenses on behalf of their customers. This can reduce errors that slow down the time it takes to receive official licensing.