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Business License FAQs

Who is Required to Register?

Generally, all businesses operating in or soliciting business in the corporate city limits of Tacoma are required to be registered and licensed with Tacoma.  You need to register with Tacoma if you are located in Tacoma, solicit or conduct business in Tacoma, whether directly or through a representative, or do business with the City of Tacoma through contracts.  If you are unsure whether or not your business is required to register, please contact License Info customer service at (253) 591-5252.

Do You Rent or Lease Property Located in the City of Tacoma?

Tacoma Municipal Code requires that you obtain a valid business license to rent or lease property in the City of Tacoma.  The license requirement is effective as of January 1, 2004.  To obtain a business license contact the Tax and License Division at (253) 591-5252.   There is no tax liability on this income and there is no requirement for a Home Occupation license.

When Are You Required to Register?

A license is generally required at the point a business holds itself out to the public (that is, it makes its goods or services available for sale or use).  Merely considering opening a business does not require an individual to license.  However, if an individual undertakes substantial steps to engage in business, such as manufacturing an inventory of goods for later sale, sufficient business activity has taken place and a license would be required even though the goods themselves have not yet been sold.

How much does the business license cost?

On November 22, 2016, the City Council passed a revised schedule of license fees, including a new tier for businesses that have an annual gross income of more than $250,000. The table below outlines the business license fees effective January 1, 2017 and the prior year's fees.

Gross Income Thresholds

2016 License Fee

2017 License Fee

Under $12,000

$25

$25

$12,000 - $250,000

$90

$110

Over $250,000

$90

$250


Businesses will be sent a renewal license request in December of each year. You will have until January 31 to pay the renewal fee without penalty. Payments must be postmarked by January 31. Postmark is the USPS postal date or the office receipt date if not mailed through the USPS. The postmark date is not an office postage meter date. No penalties are assessed for administrative business license fees. 

What do the Business License Fee and Business and Occupation Tax Pay For?

Revenue from the license fees and taxes are deposited into the City's General Fund. The moneys are used to pay for essential City services such as public safety officers, street maintenance and Fire.

What is a Home Based Business?

Individuals who own or operate a business from a residence inside the City are required to obtain a City of Tacoma Business License and a Home Occupation License to legally operate.  The Home Occupation license is required regardless of the amount of revenue the business generates and whether or not the business is a part-time or full-time enterprise.  The Home Occupation license fee is a one time only fee of $75, as long as you do not change the nature of your business activity.  If you change they type of services or goods you are providing for your business, you will be subject to another application and processing fee of $75.  If you are planning to open your own home-based business, please download a Conditional Home Occupation Agreement.

What is the Definition of Gross Income?

Gross income is all business income from activity both within and outside the City of Tacoma, regardless of your businesses physical location. This applies to world-wide business income as well.

Does Licensing and Paying Tax with the State Department of Revenue Take Care of my City of Tacoma Obligations?

Registering with the Washington State Department of Revenue does not relieve a business of its obligation to register and license with the City.  The City's business requirements are in addition to any State and other jurisdictional requirements.  Licensing with the City does not release you from any Federal, State, and local regulations.

When working in Tacoma, file under location code
#2717 on your State of Washington, Department of Revenue Excise Tax return.

How Do I Apply for a License?

Visit the Application for Certificate Registration and Licensing page for the appropriate forms.
If you need further assistance, contact the Tax and License Department via email
or by calling (253) 591-5252.