Business Licenses and Permits


Business License Tax Certificate

If you are doing any business in the city limits of Santa Cruz you are required to have a City of Santa Cruz Business License Tax Certificate. Apply for the certificate on or before the day you start business. The business license tax is not refundable and not 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 you business is located in the city limits.  

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

IRS Tax-Exempt Status Information

Occupancy Permit-Planning Requirements
If you are starting a business in the City of Santa Cruz or conducting a business here, you need to 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. Contact the Finance Department at (831) 420-5070 for information. More information about the Admission Tax.

Live music, dancing, etc., require an Entertainment Permit.
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.


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 -