• City of Tacoma QA
  • City of Tacoma OpenData


New Business License FAQ

When am I 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.  More information about when a business meets the nexus for licensing and tax can be found on the nexus page.

Is there a minimum threshold before a business is required to register with the City? 
Yes, if your business is located outside of Tacoma and your annual gross income generated in Tacoma is less than $2,000, no registration is required.  


Does Tacoma offer a reduced license fee for nonprofit businesses?

Tacoma has a reduced business license fee for organizations with a 501(c)3 nonprofit designation from the IRS. To qualify for the reduced license fee, the organization should be current with state and federal nonprofit requirements and filings, and provide proof of its 501(c)3 status to the Tax & License office upon registration. To learn more about starting or operating a nonprofit business, visit Nonprofits | WA Secretary of State.


Are rental property owners required to be registered and obtain a City license?

Yes.  The activity of renting or leasing real property is considered engaging in business activity and requires an annual rental business license fee.  Register online at FileLocal.


What do the license fees pay for?

License fee revenues are deposited into the City’s General Fund, which help fund essential City services such as police officers, fire fighters and street maintenance.  


What is the definition of Gross Income?

Gross income is worldwide business income from activity both within and outside the City of Tacoma, regardless of your businesses physical location.


If I am registered with the State of Washington Department of Revenue, do I still need a City of Tacoma business license?

Yes.  If you are registered with the State of Washington Department of Revenue, you are still obligated to register and license with the City.  City business license requirements are in addition to any State and other jurisdictional requirements. 


How do I apply for a license?

Go to FileLocal to apply online now. Applications can also be mailed or submitted in person.  More information can be found at New Businesses


What is considered a home occupation or home based business?

If you own or operate a business from a residence inside the City you are required to apply for a Home Occupation License in addition to the general registration and licensing requirements. 


A Home Occupation license is required even if the business activity is conducted at another location than the residence (i.e. construction, massage therapy) and regardless of the amount of revenue the business generates or 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.  Go to Specific Business Activity to download the application. 


What if I change the business activity of my home occupation after my Home Occupation license is approved?

If you change the type of services or goods you are providing in your home business, the City will need to review and approve the activity.  A new Home Occupation application is required to be submitted with a $75 fee.  You can download the application at Specific Business Activity.   


Does the City of Tacoma assess a local Business & Occupation tax? 

Yes.  More information can be found on the Business & Occupation Tax page.


As a farmer, am I required to apply for a business license? 

A business license is not required if the farming activity is within the definition below. In addition, a farmer is exempt from a Home Occupation license and Door-to-Door Solicitor license. 

"Farmers, gardeners, or other persons selling, delivering, or peddling any fruits, vegetables, berries, eggs, or any farm produce or edibles raised, gathered, produced, or manufactured by such person as outlined in RCW 36.71.090".