Business Licenses and Permits

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Business License Tax Certificate

Doing business in the city limits of Santa Cruz requires a City of Santa Cruz Business License Tax Certificate. Application must be submitted on or before the day you start business. The business license tax is not refundable nor transferable. Payment of the Business License Tax Certificate does not relieve the applicant of any regulatory provisions, including, but not limited to City Ordinances. Check this list of city streets to see if your business is located within city limits.  

Cannabis Business Tax

As approved by the voters of the City of Santa Cruz on November 4, 2014 and November 8, 2016, any and all Cannabis businesses operating in the City are required to pay the City's Cannabis Business Tax. Pursuant to Chapter 5.07 of the City of Santa Cruz Municipal Code and Ordinance No. 29262, the Cannabis Business Tax is currently set at 7% of gross receipts (the maximum rate is 10%) and only two Cannabis businesses are allowed in the City. Payment of the Cannabis Business Tax in no way authorizes or legalizes business activities that are otherwise unlawful in the City of Santa Cruz. For further information on the Cannabis Business Tax, see the City’s Ordinance.

Non-Profit Status
Charitable and non-profit organizations are exempt from the business license tax. Please attach, to the completed application, a copy of the letter from the Internal Revenue Service or the California State Franchise Tax Board as evidence of your current tax exempt status.

For more information on obtaining a Non-Profit or Tax-Exempt status, contact either:

Registry of Charitable Trusts, Secretary of State, Sacramento
Telephone: (916) 445-2021 or (916) 653-3365
Website: www.caag.state.ca.us/charities

IRS Tax-Exempt Status Information
www.irs.gov/charities/index.html

Occupancy Permit-Planning Requirements
If you are starting a business in the City of Santa Cruz or conducting business here, check with the City Planning Department for any required permits or approvals.

City Admission Tax and Entertainment Permits
If your business will have live music, dancing, or other forms of entertainment and an admission is charged, you may be subject to the admission tax. Live music, dancing, etc. requires an Entertainment Permit. Contact the Finance Department at (831) 420-5070 for information. More information about the Admission Tax.

For more information contact the City Police Department at (831) 420-5840.

City Transient Occupancy Tax 
If your business is a hotel, inn, motel, bed and breakfast, or other lodging where living accommodations are provided for periods of less than thirty days, you may be subject to the Transient Occupancy Tax. Contact the Finance Department at (831) 420-5070 for information. More information about the Transient Occupancy Tax.

Other Permits and Fees:

Starting A Small Business? 

If you're unsure of the permits and licenses that you'll need for your business, the Economic Development Department can provide additional help. They have also set up OpenCounter, an online small business permitting portal which will use your planned use and location to inform you of specific requirements and fees you may be responsible for as a small business owner.

Disclaimer: 

The information presented here has been prepared and provided to you for information purposes only. It does not supplant the laws, regulations, and procedures governing licenses, permits, and taxes of the City of Santa Cruz. In the event of changes in those laws, regulations, or procedures, the laws, regulations, and procedures are binding and take precedence. For the specific wording of the law, you are strongly urged to get a current copy of the municipal code section that you are interested in.

Revenue Division email - revenue@cityofsantacruz.com