Do I Need a Business License in the Los Angeles Area?

There is much confusion around the licenses and permits that businesses in and around Los Angeles need. There are many different types of licenses and permits that may be required. For an overview, see our guide Do I Need to Register My Business?

One requirement for just about every business, in almost every city in California, is to get a local business license. The formal name for the business license is sometimes the “Business Tax Registration Certificate,” or BTRC, or some variation of this, as it is primarily the way the city taxes businesses. The annual tax or fee is usually a flat amount of $50-$150 and/or a percentage (around 1-3%) of revenue.

Here is some information about business licenses in select cities in the Los Angeles area:

City of Los Angeles: called Business Tax Registration Certificate; taxed based on gross income (first $100K exempt from tax) (more info below)

Burbank: called Business Tax Registration; flat tax. If you have a home-based business, you must have an inspection by the city, and you may not have any business guests on your premises (such as clients or customers)

Glendale: called Business Registration Certificate (home based businesses can get a Home Occupation Permit instead)

Santa Monica: called Business License; minimum $75; $40K or less exempt from tax; more info here

Unincorporated area of Los Angeles County, or city of Santa Clarita, Malibu, or Westlake Village: contact the Los Angeles County Treasurer and Tax Collector.

For other cities, check with your local government about business licenses (see here if you are not sure which city you are in).

FYI: there is no such thing as a general “California business license.”

What is considered “doing business” in Los Angeles?

You are generally considered to be doing business in the city of Los Angeles if your business is physically located within city limits (see What City Am I in?). If you do not have a physical location, but you live in the city of LA and work from home or a co working space, you likely qualify.

Do freelancers or independent contractors need a business license in LA?

Yes. Freelancers and independent contractors are essentially their own business. See our Guide to Freelancer Law for more.

If I get a business license, is that all I need?

Not necessarily. You may also need a professional license particular to your profession or activities. See our Guide to Professional Licenses.

How do I get a business license for the city of Los Angeles?

There are 2 options for obtaining a business license in the city of Los Angeles:

1. Submit the guided online form: This method gives you a temporary business license right away.

2. Fill out the regular form and email or mail it.

Related Pages

See more about business law at our Guide to the Law for Entrepreneurs and Business Owners.


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