Business License Tax Certificates

Anyone doing business in Seattle must have a Seattle business license tax certificate. In addition to the helpful information on these pages, the Office of Economic Development's Grow Seattle program offers resources and assistance for starting and growing a business in Seattle.

How do I apply/renew?

  • Online – Apply, renew and manage your account online. You should receive your business license tax certificate in one to two weeks.
  • In person – Visit the business licensing office on floor 42 of the Seattle Municipal Tower, 700 Fifth Ave. You can complete an application, pay the fee and in most cases immediately receive your business license tax certificate.
  • By mail – Download a Seattle business license tax certificate application. Then fill it out and mail it to us along with your payment. You should receive your business license tax certificate in one to six weeks.

Lost your license tax certificate?

If you lost or misplaced your business license tax certificate, contact us at 206-684-8484 or tax@seattle.gov. We will mail you another hard copy. Or you can visit us 8 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday-Friday, on the 42nd floor of the Seattle Municipal Tower, 700 Fifth Ave., to get a copy of your business license tax certificate.

Who needs a business license?

Most businesses operating in Seattle are required to have a Seattle business license tax certificate. You need a license tax certificate for:

  • Retail sales and services
  • Wholesale
  • Providing professional or personal services
  • Manufacturing

Less common business types, like home-based businesses and nonprofits, usually require a business license tax certificate as well (see more below). Only the business owner is required to get a license tax certificate; employees do not need to get individual license tax certificates. If you are unsure whether or not you need a Seattle business license tax certificate, please contact us at tax@seattle.gov or 206-684-8484.

Effective 2019: Any person or business whose annual value of products, gross proceeds of sales or gross income of the business in the city is equal to or less than $2,000 AND does not maintain a place of business within the city shall be exempt from the general business license tax certificate requirement. The exemption does not apply to regulatory license requirements or activities that require a specialized permit.

For details and legal explanations of business license tax certificate requirements, see the Seattle business tax rules.

Regulatory endorsements

The City of Seattle regulates taxis, adult entertainment, towing companies and some other business types. These businesses require both a standard business license tax certificate and a regulatory endorsement added to the license tax certificate. For more information, see businesses that require a regulatory endorsement.

Licensing information for specific business types

  • Businesses based outside Seattle – If your business is based outside Seattle and you do business within the city, then you must have a Seattle business license. In other words, you need a license for where you conduct business; not just for where you're located.
  • Subcontractors – Subcontractors need a Seattle business license even if the contractor who they are working with already has one. The license is valid only for the legal owner listed on it.
  • Nonprofits – If you raise funds in Seattle, whether as a for-profit or nonprofit organization, you must have a Seattle business license.
  • Online-only business – Contact us if you have questions about licensing for online-only businesses. You may need a Seattle business license if your business originates from Seattle or has servers within city limits.
  • Home-based business – Businesses based in a Seattle home usually need a Seattle business license. Contact us if you have questions about licensing for home-based businesses.
  • Street/sidewalk vending – In addition to a regular Seattle business license, to operate a vending service you may need a street use permit, which is issued through the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT). For more information, see SDOT's Vending Permits page.

How much will my license cost?

All business license tax certificates expire on Dec. 31 and must be renewed annually.

In 2016, City Council adopted Ordinance 125083, creating a new fee structure for the Seattle business license tax certificate. The new fees will be implemented over 2017-2019 as follows:

Annual Seattle Taxable Revenue

Annual Fee / Prorated Fee*

2017 2018 2019
$0 - $19,999** $55 / $27.50 $55 / $27.50 $55 / $27.50
$20,000 - $499,999 $110 / $55 $110 / $55 $110 / $55
$500,000 - $1,999,999 $480 / $240 $480 / $240 $500 / $250
$2,000,000 or more $1,000 / $500
$2,000,000 - $4,999,999 $1,000 / $500 $1,200 / $600
$5,000,000 or more $2,000 / $1,000 $2,400 / $1,200
Branch locations $10 per location $10 per location $10 per location

*If you start your business in the second half of the year, July 1 or after, your license tax certificate fee for the first year will be reduced by half.
**Effective 2019: Any person or business whose annual value of products, gross proceeds of sales or gross income of the business in the city is equal to or less than $2,000 AND does not maintain a place of business within the city shall be exempt from the general business license tax certificate requirement. The exemption does not apply to regulatory license requirements or activities that require a specialized permit.

Penalties

The expiration date for all Seattle business license tax certificates is Dec. 31. We must receive your business license tax certificate renewal payment before Dec. 31. This table shows late-payment penalties:

Payment received

Penalty

By Dec. 31 None
In January None
In February $10
After February $20

Summary of 2016 license tax certificate fees

In 2016, the yearly cost for a Seattle business license tax certificate is $110 in most cases. The fee for small businesses with total revenues of less than $20,000 in a year is $55. Total revenue includes income generated from business activity in Seattle and all other business locations. If you start your business in the second half of the year, July 1 or after, your license tax certificate fee will be reduced by half. If you have more than one business location in Seattle, you must pay an additional $10 per year for each additional branch location.

If you no longer do business in Seattle and need to cancel your business license tax certificate, please tell us in writing. Just letting your business license tax certificate expire does not cancel your license tax certificate.

To cancel your license tax certificate, complete the online form below. Or send us an email or letter with the following information:

  • your name and phone number
  • customer number
  • legal name of the business
  • date business closed

You must file your final tax return and pay any outstanding taxes within 10 days of closing your account.

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