Business License Tax Certificates

Anyone doing business in Seattle must have a Seattle business license tax certificate. In addition to obtaining a business license tax certificate, business owners must renew this certificate each year by Dec. 31. You can apply and renew online at FileLocal, or you can do so via mail or in person.

How do I apply/renew?

  • Online – Apply, renew, manage your account information, file tax returns and pay taxes online through FileLocal. Before you begin the online process, please be sure to obtain a UBI number from the state of Washington if your business is legally required to have one. If you determine that your business is not legally required to have a UBI number, and you are operating as a sole proprietor, you may create a business account on FileLocal by clicking on "Skip UBI Question," then selecting "Enter UBI Later." This will allow you to proceed with your application. If you are applying for or renewing a license in the current year, you should be able to print it immediately.
  • 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.
  • 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.

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 tax certificate?

Most businesses operating in Seattle are required to have a business license tax certificate. Even if you are starting a new business and have not become profitable yet, you must apply for a business license tax certificate and renew it annually. You need a license tax certificate for:

  • Retail sales and services
  • Wholesale
  • Providing professional or personal services
  • Manufacturing
  • Home-based businesses
  • Nonprofit organizations

Please note that only the owner is required to get a business 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, short-term rentals, adult entertainment, towing companies marijuana businesses and several other business types. These businesses require both a Seattle 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 some 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 tax certificate. 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 tax certificate 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 non-profit organization, you must have a Seattle business license tax certificate.
  • Online-only business – Contact us if you have questions about licensing for online-only businesses. You may need a Seattle business license tax certificate 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 tax certificate. Contact us if you have questions about licensing for home-based businesses.
  • Street/sidewalk vending – In addition to a regular Seattle business license tax certificate, you may need a street-use permit to operate as a street vendor in the City of Seattle. A street-use permit 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

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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