Business License & Taxes - Frequently Asked Questions
What's a business license tax?
Seattle's business license tax is composed of the annual business license and gross receipts tax (B&O tax). The business license tax supports general government services, generating approximately $80 million a year.
Who has to pay business taxes?
Every person, firm, association or corporation who does business within the Seattle city limits is subject to the business license tax. Any business whose annual taxable gross revenue (gross receipts less allowable deductions) is less than $100,000 is not required to remit a tax payment. The business must still file an annual tax return to verify that no tax is due.
On what is the business license tax levied?
Tax is levied on all gross receipts, though some deductions and exemptions are provided under the Seattle Municipal Code.
Who is required to have a City of Seattle business license and file tax returns?
Anyone "engaging in business activities" within Seattle is required to obtain a Seattle business license whether or not a place of business is maintained within the city limits. Licensed businesses are sent either an annual or quarter business license tax return. You must file your return even if no tax is due. See definition of "Engaging in business" at Seattle Municipal Code 5.30.030.
How can I get a business license and how much does it cost?
Just submit an application to the City, with your payment of $90 (or $45 for the first year license if you start your business during the last six months of the calendar year). The license is issued for a calendar year, and must be renewed every year by December 31 for $90. Branch licenses for additional locations cost $10 per year per branch location.
When do you send out tax forms and when are they due?
Those who pay business taxes annually will receive their forms near the end of the year and the return is due by the following January 31. Tax forms are sent to quarterly taxpayers near the end of each quarter and the returns are due approximately 30 days later:
Monthly returns are due on the last day of the month following the reporting period. Penalty will be added if not received by the due date, even though no tax is due.
The forms must be completed and returned on or before the due date. A return is not considered filed until both the return and payment are received.
How do I file my tax return?
You can now file for a new business license or branch business license online, through the Seattle Electronic Filing System (SELF). The City of Seattle also offers online tax filing and payment options for the business license tax (which includes the new square footage tax) and occupational utility tax. If you have yet to take advantage of this convenient system, please register now using your customer number and an obligation number. Once registered, you can utilize this system to renew your business license, update addresses and phone numbers as well as change your business trade name.
For those who prefer not to file electronically, the City mails all active accounts a tax return about 30 days before the tax return is due. The tax return you receive is bar coded with your customer number and the specific period covered by the return. If you did not receive a tax return, please call us at (206) 684-8484 or send a request via e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or fax (206) 684-5170. Include your customer number in any communication. You can also request a tax form here.
Record all gross revenue from your business activities in column B of the tax return. Some items may be excluded from gross receipts. In addition, there are a number of allowable deductions.
What happens if I don't file a tax return or pay any taxes due by the due date?
You will owe the City additional penalties and interest if tax returns are not filed and any resultant taxes are not paid by the due date. Penalties and interest are charged as follows:
City of Seattle
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.