Business License Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
WHAT IS A BUSINESS LICENSE?
A business license is an annual non-regulatory licensing fee levied by individual California cities and counties for the privilege of conducting business within a particular city or county jurisdiction. Business license fees are due and payable prior to commencing business within a particular city or county. The fees assessed are intended to raise revenue for the general operating requirements of individual cities and counties. City of Santa Ana business license revenue is used to pay for Police, Fire, and Safety expenses as well as other general operating costs of the City.
WHO IS REQUIRED TO HAVE A BUSINESS LICENSE?
City law states that no person shall engage in business or transact and carry on a business, trade, profession, calling or occupation in the city without first having procured a license from the city to do so or without complying with any and all applicable provisions of the City of Santa Ana Municipal Code relating to business licensing. A separate license is required for each separate type of business conducted at the same location and for each separate branch or business property location. Frequently Asked Questions for:
- Businesses Located and Operating In the City of Santa Ana
- Businesses Not Located In the City of Santa Ana
WHAT IS A CERTIFICATE OF OCCUPANCY AND WHO IS REQUIRED TO HAVE ONE?
Every business, including temporary or itinerant businesses, operating from commercial premises within the City is required to obtain a Certificate of Occupancy for their commercial location and comply with any and all applicable provisions of the City of Santa Ana Municipal Code relating to Zoning and Building & Fire Safety. For information on Certificate of Occupancy requirements please contact the Planning Agency at (714) 647-5804. - Planning & Building Agency
WHAT IS A HOME OCCUPATION PERMIT AND WHO IS REQUIRED TO HAVE ONE?
Every business operating from residential premises within the City is required to obtain a Home Occupation Permit and comply with any and all applicable provisions of the City of Santa Ana Municipal Code relating to home-based businesses. Home businesses must apply for and receive an approved Home Occupation Permit before they apply and pay for their Business License. The Planning Agency approves these permits. For information on obtaining a Home Occupation Permit please contact the Planning & Building Agency at (714) 647-5804.
HOW DO I APPLY FOR A CITY OF SANTA ANA BUSINESS LICENSE?
Owners, partners, corporate officers or the authorized representatives of corporate officers may apply for a business license by coming in person to City Hall and obtaining and completing the appropriate application, or they may contact the business tax office by telephone to have the applications mailed, emailed, or faxed.
WHAT ARE THE PENALTIES FOR FAILURE TO OBTAIN A BUSINESS LICENSE PRIOR TO COMMENCING BUSINESS?
Any business which operates a business without first obtaining a valid City of Santa Ana Business License may be liable for a penalty of 50% of the current year’s license fee, plus any prior year’s unpaid license fee for the preceding 36 months.
IS MY REGULAR CITY OF SANTA ANA BUSINESS LICENSE TRANSFERABLE?
A business license is not transferable. It is the responsibility of the owner or operator to advise the Business Tax Office of ownership changes, relocation or termination of business.
HOW DO I CONTACT THE BUSINESS TAX OFFICE?
The City of Santa Ana Business Tax Office is located at 20 Civic Center Plaza, First Floor City Hall Ross Annex. Parking is available in the Civic Center Plaza, off Santa Ana Blvd. between Ross Street and Flower Street. Parking fee is $2.00 per each half-hour. Office hours are 8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday (please note that Santa Ana City Hall is closed on alternate Fridays; please refer to the city's main web page for closed dates and holidays observed) Telephone number is 714-647-5447 Fax number is 714-647-5304 and email address is BusinessTax@santa-ana.org.
HOW CAN I OBTAIN INFORMATION ON A BUSINESS LICENSED TO DO BUSINESS IN THE CITY OF SANTA ANA?
The Business Tax staff can verify if a business has an active business license as well as the business name, type of license, business start date, business telephone number and location over the telephone (due to legal restrictions additional information may not be provided). Requests for additional information must be made in writing. The City of Santa Ana charges a fee of $12.89 per uncertified written verification. A certified copy may be requested for $20.16. Written requests must specify the intended purpose for the inquiry of the information (i.e., small claims court filing, loan application verification, etc.). Mail written requests to: City of Santa Ana Business Tax Office (M 15), P.O. Box 1964, Santa Ana, CA 92702. Enclose a check or money order payable to the City of Santa Ana.
You may also research a business’ report with the Better Business Bureau at their website at www.bbb.org. To learn about consumer rights, visit the Department of Consumer Affairs’ website at www.dca.ca.gov
HOW DO I START A BUSINESS? - Before You Apply
The details of your business operation will determine the type of Federal, State, County and City licenses, permits, certificates and approvals you will require prior to commencing business. Information on these various requirements are provided below with appropriate internet links.
For additional information about City of Santa Ana business licensing requirements, contact the Business Tax Office at (714) 647-5447. To inquire about City of Santa Ana zoning requirements for the type of business and its planned location, contact the Planning & Building Agency at (714) 647-5804.
Business license application forms are available at:City of Santa Ana Business Tax Office
20 Civic Center Plaza – Ross Annex 1st Floor
Santa Ana, CA 92701
(Please call the business tax staff at (714) 647-5447 to discuss your businesses’ requirements – application forms can be mailed, faxed, or emailed (BusinessTax@santa-ana.org) upon request)
Fictitious Name or Doing Business As (DBA)
Fictitious Names and DBAs are one in the same. If you propose to use a fictitious business name, contact the Orange County Clerk’s Office and a local newspaper to schedule a publication of notice. Fictitious name statements are filed with the Orange County Clerk’s Office, located at 560 N. Broadway Street, (Building 12 in the Santa Ana Civic Center) Santa Ana, California 92701. To contact the Orange County Clerk’s Office, call (714) 834-2889 or visit their web page at: www.ocgov.com. For more information on California Fictitious Name filing requirements, please see the California Business and Professions Code (Sections 17900-17930) at http://www.leginfo.ca.gov
Sales Tax Permit
If you sell tangible personal property, you are required to obtain a Seller's Permit (Retail Sales Tax Number) from the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration (CDTFA), formerly part of the State Board of Equalization (SBE) for the purpose of collecting and reporting sales tax to the State of California. To obtain a Sellers' Permit, contact the CDTFA at 1(800) 400-7115 or you can apply in person at one of the local district offices. Click here to obtain a listing of local district offices www.boe.ca.gov/info/phone.htm. The nearest California Department of Tax and Fee Administration office to Santa Ana City Hall is located at 16715 Von Karman Ave. #200 Irvine, California 92606 - (949) 440-3473.
Federal Employer Identification Number
If your business is organized as a corporation or partnership, or if you engage or plan to engage employees, you will need a Federal Employer Identification Number (FEIN) for the purpose of withholding FICA taxes and Social Security taxes. To obtain an FEIN, contact the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) at (800) 829-1040 or download an application for an Employer Identification Number at www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/fss4.pdf. The nearest IRS office to Santa Ana City Hall is located across the street from the Orange County Superior Courthouse and the address is 801 W. Civic Center Dr., Santa Ana CA 92701.
State Employer Identification Number
If your business is organized as a corporation or partnership in the State of California, or if you engage or plan to engage employees in the State of California, you will need a State Employer Identification Number (SEIN) for the purpose of withholding State Income Tax, Disability and Unemployment Insurance. To contact the State Employment Development Department - Division of Audits, call (714) 288-2601 or visit their web page at www.edd.ca.gov.
State Franchise Tax Board
If you intend to have employees within the State of California or to obtain a Form 540 for estimating State Withholding Tax for yourself, contact the Franchise Tax Board (FTB) at (800) 852-5711 or visit their website at www.FTB.ca.gov.
Alcoholic Beverage Control Licenses
If you plan to sell or serve alcoholic beverages contact the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board (714) 558-4101 or visit their website at www.abc.ca.gov.
Liability and Workers’ Compensation Insurance
To obtain information regarding Liability and Workers’ Compensation Insurance requirements, contact your insurance agent. You may also wish to visit the California Department of Insurance’s website at www.insurance.ca.gov.
The following permits, licenses and/or identification numbers must be obtained prior to making application for a Santa Ana Business License:
Fictitious Business Name - DBA (if applicable)
Formerly part of the State Board of Equalization, A California Department of Tax and Fee Administration "Resale Number" (if applicable)
Social Security Number (if sole owner without employees)
California Driver's License Number or California Identification Number
Federal Employer Identification Number (if corporation, partnership, or if employer)
State Licensed Contractor's License Number and Classification (if applicable)
Do you know in what zone your business will be located? Is this business permitted in this zone? Are permits required? Contact the Planning & Building Agency at (714) 647-5804.
Home Occupation Business
Every business conducted from a home in the City of Santa Ana must have BOTH a City of Santa Ana business license and Home Occupation Permit. Home Occupation Permits are obtained from the Planning & Building Agency. An approved Home Occupation Permit must be submitted with your business license application.
Preparation or Sale of Food
If your establishment intends to prepare and/or sell food of any type, you must complete an application for a County of Orange Health Permit. The Orange County Health Care Agency can answer questions regarding your permit by calling (714) 667-3600 or visiting their website at http://www.ochealthinfo.com/.
Sale of Firearms or Ammunition
If you intend to engage in the sale of firearms or ammunition, you will be required to obtain a City of Santa Ana Firearm License and a City of Santa Ana Business License. In addition, a Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms (ATF) permit and a California Department of Justice (DOJ) permit are required. Contact the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms at (714) 347-9100 or visit their website at https://www.atf.gov/content/Firearms/firearms-industry for information on obtaining a federal permit for information regarding a California Department of Justice (DOJ) permit visit their website at http://www.caag.state.ca.us/firearms/dlrfaqs.htm.
Advertising, Handbill Distributor, Solicitors Advertising
Advertising, Handbill Distributor, Solicitors Advertising pamphlets may be distributed in this city after a license has been obtained. Under no circumstance may advertising materials be placed in or on a parked vehicle; or, a mailbox, mail slot or receptacle unless postage is paid and delivery is made by the U.S. Postal Service.
The City of Santa Ana has a sign ordinance. If you plan to install a new sign or make changes in a sign that has been installed previously, please contact the Planning/Zoning Department.
Display of Business License
All business licenses must be displayed on the premises. For those not having a fixed business address, the license (or decal card) must be physically carried on the person and presented upon request.
Business License Transfers
A Regular business license is not transferable. It is the responsibility of the owner or operator to advise the Business Tax Office of ownership changes, relocation or termination of business.
Renewal of Business Licenses
Once you have obtained a business license, a renewal will automatically be forwarded to the mailing address of record approximately thirty (30) days before your expiration date. If you do not receive a renewal notice before the expiration date of the business license, please contact the Business Tax Office.
Failure to receive a renewal notice does not relieve the business owner of his/her responsibility in renewing the business license nor is it grounds for waiving any late penalties or interest due.
Renewal Filing Extensions
You may make a written request for a thirty (30) day extension to file and pay for any annual business license renewal. Requests must be in writing and must be signed and dated. Requests may also be submitted via email and must include a signature block in lieu of a signature. Requests must be received on or before the stated due date or must carry a post-mark date of not later than the stated due date. (See Writing Us About Your Business License Account below).
Change of Business Address in the City
To process a change of business address, advise the Business Tax Office and request an amendment form to file an address correction or business address change.
Cancellation of Business License
To cancel an existing business license, advise the Business Tax Office in writing that you have ceased or will cease business or have or will sell your business or income property. Be sure to provide your businesses license account number and the date business has or will cease; you must sign your written notification. You may make your cancellation notification by simply completing the Cancellation of Business License statement found on the back of your official Business License or on the back of your Renewal Notification or your Notice of Business License Tax Due. Requests may also be submitted via email and must include a signature block in lieu of a signature.
Refund of Business License Fees
Business License fees are nonrefundable except when overpaid or paid in error. A processing fee is charged to cover administrative costs.
Law Enforcement Review
Business license applications received for the following categories will be referred to the Police Department for regulatory review and approval if required:
- Pawn Shop
- Weapons-related businesses
- Bingo Permits
- Adult Book Stores
- Dating or Escort Services
- Pool/Billiard Rooms
- Alcoholic Beverage Locations
- Tow Trucks-Private Property
- Tattoo Parlors
- Modeling Services
- Check Cashing
- Adult Theaters
- Dancing Places/Dancing Halls
- Massage Parlors
- Massage Therapy
Write to us about your Business License Account if you wish to write to us regarding your business license account, please be sure and supply your name, address and the business license number.