BUSINESS LICENSES

OVERVIEW:
All individuals, partnerships, corporations, and sole proprietors conducting business within city limits are required to file a business license with the City on an annual basis. In accordance with Sonoma Municipal Code 5.04, "it is unlawful for any person to transact and carry on any business, trade, profession, calling or occupation in the city without first having procured a license from the city...".  This includes subcontractors, independent contractors, non-profits and home-based businesses in the city. Issuance of a business license should not be construed as authorization to conduct a business, unless the business complies with all federal, state and local regulations. The City of Sonoma business license period is January 1 through December 31 of each year. All annual licenses are due and payable in advance on the first day of February. For new businesses within the city, the business license tax is due prior to the opening of the business. City Municipal Code sets the business license tax as a flat rate and not on a gross receipts basis. For most businesses, not all, the license is an annual fee plus an additional charge based on number of employees.

APPLICATION/RENEWAL PROCESS:
New Application - You can start a new application a few different ways: in person, online, or via mail. The actual process to apply for a business license only takes a few minutes. No payment will be required until your application has been reviewed and accepted. You will receive an email or letter verifying the receipt of application. After the business taxes are paid a business license account number will be issued. A certificate will be mailed to you once the process is completed.
This process may also include the City Planning Department (for zoning, signing, home occupation, use, etc); the City Public Works Department (issues involving utilities); Fire Department (clearance for fire codes) and/or the Police Department (security issues). Please allow sufficient time for approvals prior to start of business. Depending upon the complexity of the business, some applications may require additional processing time.
Renew An Existing License - All you'll need to renew online is proper payment and the online renewal PIN # which is located in the upper right hand side of your 2020 business license renewal notice. Upon receipt of your license certificate, the City of Sonoma's municipal code requires it be posted in a conspicuous place at your place of business.

Click here to renew online!

APPLICATION/RENEWAL PAYMENT OPTIONS:
The City of Sonoma offers online options for all business licenses. Payments may be made by Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Discover or Electronic Check. You also have the ability to start the application process in person at City Hall or via USPS mail. Failure to renew a license tax when due will result in a penalty equal to 10% of the license tax on the first day of each month after the due date until paid.

ONLINE SERVICES:
The City of Sonoma is pleased to now offer the ability to apply for and/or renew a business license completely online! You can also pay a balance due, update your business's main contact information, and search for other businesses that are licensed with the City of Sonoma. In addition, you can sign up for an online account so that you can access and manage your accounts from one page without needing an access PIN #.

STATE MANDATED CASp FEE:
All businesses, including subcontractors, non-profits, home-based and out-of-state businesses, are subject to the $4 state mandated fee. (California Senate Bill 1186 required the one dollar ($1.00) State Disability Access Education Fee for all business license applications and renewals from January 1, 2013 until December 31, 2017. Assembly Bill 1379 increased the state mandated fee to $4.00 from January 1, 2018 until December 31, 2023.) The fee will go towards increasing disability access and compliance with construction-related accessibility requirements and to develop educational resources for businesses in order to facilitate compliance with federal and state disability laws, as specified.

REFUND/TRANSFER POLICY:
Business license taxes are nonrefundable and nontransferable.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS:
What is a business license?
A business license is a permit issued by a government agency that grants you the right to operate a business within their geographical jurisdiction.

Where can I obtain a business license application?
Applications can be picked up in person at City Hall (No. 1, The Plaza, Sonoma, CA 95476) or downloaded from the City's website. You also have the option of fully applying online. Once you've submitted an application online, you will receive an email with instructions on how to complete payment.

Who needs to apply for a business license?
Any one who plans on conducting business within the City of Sonoma is required to apply prior to starting business.

How much do I have to pay?
The business license fee is based on the type of business. Please refer to the full business license fee schedule for a full list of fees. Business Licenses are valid from January 1 through December 31 of each year. Businesses that start operating after July 1 are prorated. To avoid penalties, license fees must be paid by February 1 of each year.

How long will it take to get my license?
Once a complete application/renewal is received and payment has been processed, the hard copy business license will be mailed to you in about 2 weeks.

How long is my license valid for?
Business Licenses are valid from January 1 through December 31 of each year. Businesses that start operating after July 1 are prorated.

Do I have to pay the State Mandated Fee?
Yes. All businesses are required to pay the annual state mandated fee. On September 12, 2012, Governor Brown signed Senate Bill 1186 (SB 1186) into law. SB 1186 is intended to increase disability access, encourage compliance with construction-related accessibility requirements, develop education resources for businesses, and facilitate compliance with Federal and State disability laws. From January 1, 2013, and until December 31, 2017, cities and counties were required to collect a State mandated fee of $1.00 from "any applicant for a local business license or equivalent instrument or permit, and from any applicant for the renewal of a business license or equivalent instrument or permit." Assembly Bill 1379 was passed on October 11, 2017 which extends the assessment of the fee indefinitely and also the State mandated fee from $1.00 to $4.00 from January 1, 2018 until December 31, 2023. The fee will go towards increasing disability access and compliance with construction-related accessibility requirements and to develop educational resources for businesses in order to facilitate compliance with federal and state disability laws, as specified.

When do I renew my license?
Business Licenses must be renewed annually. The City mails courtesy renewal notices in December for the following calendar year. It is the business's responsibility to ensure their license is renewed on an annual basis prior to the due date.

Am I penalized for not renewing on time?
To avoid penalties, license fees must be paid by February 1 of each year. If payment is received after the delinquent date with a l ate or missing postmark - the payment will be considered late, penalties will be added and a balance due email will be sent to you.

Last year I had five (5) employees but only three and a half (3.5) full time equivalent (FTE) employees, which number do I use to calculate my business license tax?
The annual business license tax shall be based upon the average number of persons employed during the previous calendar year (SMC 5.08). In this scenario, five employees would be used to calculate the business license tax.

I only deliver goods to customers within the City of Sonoma, how do I calculate my business license tax?
For each motor vehicle used for the delivery of goods, wares merchandise, or tangible property within the City of Sonoma from a supply or stock outside of the City, the business license tax shall be calculated according to the following:

  1. Delivery for redistribution or resale: $44.00 for each vehicle
  2. Delivery of construction materials to job sites: $60.00 for each vehicle
  3. Delivery of goods to homes: $67.00 for each vehicle

Do I need to pay per employee and per vehicle if I deliver to customers in the City of Sonoma and provide services?
No, businesses are not required to pay both business taxes. If services are provided, then the business tax would only be calculated based upon the services, not delivery.

For example: a business delivers furniture to a new restaurant, assembles, and installs the furniture. The business license tax would be calculated based upon category “A” / “B”, which is determined using the average number of persons employed during the previous calendar year.

I had an active business license in 2017, didn’t renew for 2018 because I did not do business in the City of Sonoma, but now need a license for 2019. Do I still have to pay for a 2018 license?
If the City does not have evidence of notification from you and records indicate your license was not inactivated,  then you must pay for the 2018 business license, including penalties before you can obtain a license for 2019.

I live in the City of Sonoma and work out of my home providing services to customers remotely. None of these customers a located in the City of Sonoma. Do I still need a business license? If so, is there a specific category for home business?
Yes, you do need a City of Sonoma Business License. Even though you are not serving local customers, your business is operating within the City of Sonoma.

There is no specific category for home businesses, so you would select the classification / category that is applicable to the services you provide.

I operate a business out of my home, do I only need a business license, or do I need a special permit?
If you are doing any kind of business out of your home, you must obtain a home occupation permit from the City of Sonoma Planning Department. Additional information can be found at .

How do I get a fictitious business name?
This would be done through the County of Sonoma. Additional information and forms can be found at https://sonomacounty.ca.gov/CRA/Clerk-Recorder/Fictitious-Business-Names/.

HELPFUL LINKS:
City of Sonoma Business License Application
Sonoma Municipal Code, Chapter 5.08
Sonoma Chamber Business Directory
For additional information, visit our business Start-Up page.
For fictitious name statements, contact the Sonoma County Clerk at (707) 565-3800.
For sales tax or resale numbers, contact the State Board of Equalization at (707) 576-2100.
New business assistance is available from the Sonoma Valley Chamber of Commerce.

Under Federal and State law, compliance with disability access laws is a serious and significant responsibility that applies to all California building owners and tenants with buildings open to the public. You may obtain information about your legal obligations and how to comply with disability access laws at the following agencies:

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