Who needs a business license?

Most businesses operating in Seattle are required to have a Seattle business license. You need a license 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 as well. Only the business owner is required to get a license; employees do not need to get individual licenses. If you are unsure whether or not you need a Seattle business license, please contact us.

To apply for a Seattle business license, see get a business license.

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

Regulatory endorsements

Taxis, adult entertainment, towing companies and some other business types are regulated by the City of Seattle. These businesses require both a standard business license and a regulatory endorsement added to the license. 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). Requirements for vending businesses vary based on what and where you are selling. For more information, see SDOT's Street Use Vending Permits page and download the Vending in Public Spaces brochure.