All persons engaging in business activity in the City of Seattle are required to obtain a business license. The license is for the privilege of engaging in business. In addition, most businesses that engage in business with The City of Seattle are required to obtain a business license.* This applies whether or not the business engages in other business activity within Seattle. See definition of “Engaging in business” at Seattle Municipal Code (SMC) Section 5.30.030.
Prior to January 1, 2008, businesses who had contracts with the City of Seattle or fulfilled purchase orders for the City were required to obtain a business license and pay business license tax whether or not they ever entered into the city to conduct business activities.
As of January 1, 2008, this is no longer a requirement. Businesses engaged in business activities with the City of Seattle will only need to get a business license and pay the business license tax if they engage in business activity within the city limits. Entering Seattle to solicit business, deliver goods in your own vehicle, attend bid conferences and similar activities will require a business license. If a taxpayer never enters Seattle to conduct business activities but only conducts business through the mail, via the internet, or at the Skagit or Boundary Dams, then no Seattle business license is required, nor is any business license tax owed.
* There is an exception for a business with a City contract under $5,000 and which is otherwise not required to obtain a Seattle business license.
To obtain an initial Seattle business license, the business owner completes the business license application (instructions for completing the application) and submits it with a payment of $90 (or $45 for the first-year license if you start your business after June 30). A business owner may instead apply for a business license online.
Seattle business licenses are issued for a calendar year, and must be renewed each year by December 31. Licenses are $90 per year. Branch licenses (for additional business locations) are $10 per year per branch location. Small businesses (with worldwide gross income and/or value of products of $20,000 or less in the current calendar year) pay $45 for the annual license fee ($22.50 if the business is started after June 30). If the worldwide gross exceeds the $20,000 threshold during the calendar year, the business will be required to pay the balance for $90 license fee.
If your business premises will be located within the city limits and you are uncertain about zoning restrictions, please contact the Department of Planning and Development at (206) 684-8850.
Regulatory license are listed on a business license as an additional endorsement. Examples of regulatory licenses include taxicab licenses, alarm-monitoring company licenses, and adult entertainment licenses. For a list of Seattle regulatory licenses, click here.
Regulatory licenses have separate application and renewal forms. Businesses will be required to provide additional information concerning the type of business the licensee is operating. Persons requiring a regulatory license are also required to maintain a Seattle business license.
If you need a particular regulatory license, please contact us.
Location of Offices:
Department of Finance and Administrative Services
The office is open weekdays 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Telephone: (206) 684-8484
The material in this site is intended for general informational purposes only. While it is current at the time of publication, changes to the Seattle Municipal Code (SMC) or state law may invalidate some of this information. In the event of a conflict between this guide and the SMC, the SMC prevails.