Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

There are many things you should consider when starting a business. The following are answers to questions that are most frequently asked regarding requirements for starting a business, other related permits and licenses and different agency responsibilities.

What is a business license?

A business license is an annual tax for doing business within the incorporated area of the City of San Leandro. The San Leandro Municipal Code requires that you obtain a license when you conduct any business activity within San Leandro - even if your business is located OUTSIDE city limits or you have a business license from another city.

Who is required to have a San Leandro business license?

Any person who conducts business within San Leandro city limits or is based in San Leandro must obtain a business license on or before the date the business commences. Conducting business in the city without a license can result in penalties, violation notices, citations and court action.

If I own rental property(ies), do I need a business license?

Yes, all rental properties, whether commercial or residential, are required to have a business license.

Why must I pay a tax to do business in the City?

By City Ordinance, the tax imposed by the City is used solely for the purposes of obtaining general revenue. Business taxes help pay for City services such as public works, police, senior and children's programs as well as other community services. These services benefit businesses, business owners and the general public.

How long is the license good for?

All licenses are valid until December 31 of each year. You will receive a renewal notice in the mail with a return envelope for payment. You can also come to City Hall to make your payment at the Cashier's Office.

What if I have more than one business or more than one location?

If you own more than one business, a separate business license is required for each type of business and for each location.

I just purchased this business. Can I use the business license from the previous owner?

No. A business license cannot be transferred or re-assigned. As a new owner, you need to apply for a business license in your name.

What if I close or sell the business?

Business licenses are NOT automatically canceled. We need to hear from you. You may send written notification or come in person to City Hall. Please be prepared to provide the date the business closed or sold and the name of the new owner, if applicable.

What if my San Leandro-based business also conducts business in the unincorporated area of San Leandro?

A City of San Leandro business license is not required for the unincorporated area of San Leandro; however, a county permit may be required. If you have questions, please call the Alameda County Business License Department at (510) 670-6400.

I conduct business in several cities. Can I get just one license to do business in all cities?

No. Each city has its own business license requirements and most California cities have a business license tax ordinance. Each city has its own tax rate, structure and requirements. Check with the appropriate city or county for their rules and regulations.

Will the City of San Leandro notify me when it is time to renew my license?

Yes. In December, the City will mail out renewal notices to businesses; however, it is your responsibility to renew the business license on time even if the renewal notice is not received. Penalties are assessed for delinquent accounts, regardless of whether you received a renewal notice.

What happens if I pay late?

The penalty for a delinquent license is 50 percent of the business license fee or $50.00, whichever is greater, for the first 30 - 90 days overdue. Delinquencies of 90 days or more will be charged 100 percent of the business license fee or $100, whichever is greater.

What if I want to move the business?

Always check with the City's Planning Division to verify that the new location is zoned properly for the intended use and whether a "Use Permit" or another type of approval is required. You must notify the City's Finance Department whenever you change your address, phone number, business activity or ownership information.

Must I apply in person or can I do it by mail?

You must apply in person if your business will be physically located within San Leandro city limits and you are applying for a new business license or a change of address. If your business is not located in the city, you may apply by mail. Renewals can also be completed by mail. If you renew by mail, double check your business classification and your rate fee calculation prior to sending in your application and payment. Please make sure that you sign the application. Errors delay the process. If you are not sure of your calculations, please call the City's Business License Hotline at (510) 809-3133.

Are there any restrictions on where I do business?

Every business must meet zoning requirements to ensure that the business activity and site are compatible. BEFORE SIGNING any lease or rental agreement, we suggest that you check with the City's Planning Division to make sure your business activity is appropriate for the area's current zoning designation and that it will not require a public hearing or special parking considerations. Call (510) 577-3325 for additional information.

What about commercial business locations?

Check with the City's Permit Center to determine if any building modifications are necessary for your business. Call (510) 577-3420 for additional information.

For new businesses, a fire inspector will visit your business in order to verify that your building or tenant area meets Fire and Building Code requirements.

Do I need a license if I work out of my home?

Yes. Businesses operated out of the home require a business license and a Home Occupation Permit and must comply with the City's Zoning Ordinance. The Zoning Ordinance regulates types of home-based businesses and the manner in which they may operate. Prior to starting a home-based business, owners must obtain a Home Occupation Permit, which includes specific conditions of agreement.

Do I need a seller's permit?

Every business intending to sell tangible goods - wholesale or retail, commercial or home-based, sales or repairs - requires a California Seller's Permit. To apply, contact the State Board of Equalization.

State Board of Equalization
1515 Clay St., Suite 303
Oakland, CA 94612
(510) 622-4100

Do Nonprofit Organizations need a business license?

Yes. All nonprofit organizations conducting business within San Leandro city limits are required to obtain a San Leandro business license. However, the business license fee is waived upon presentation of proof from the California Secretary of State or the Internal Revenue Service stating that the business has a nonprofit status. If the organization is located in San Leandro, a completed zoning application is also required.

California Secretary of State
1500 11th Street
Sacramento, CA 94518
(916) 657-5448

I am paid on a "1099" basis with my employer (not as an employee); do I need a business license?

Yes, if you are not an employee, you are considered an independent contractor. Providing services to, or on behalf of, a business may constitute an employee/employer relationship or an independent contractor relationship, depending on the nature of work and the degree of control involved. Determining the relationship between you and your employer (or employee) can sometimes be confusing. However, if you are not paid as an employee, you are considered an independent contractor and are required to have a business license.

What if my business has employees?

You will need to obtain a federal employer identification number (EIN) as well as a state employer identification number. Contact the IRS for your federal EIN and the Employment Development Department for their requirements regarding state withholding requirements, disability and unemployment insurance. Both federal and state employer identification numbers are required for your business license application.

Employment Development Department (EDD)
(888) 745-3886 or (510) 577-2395

Internal Revenue Service (IRS)
1031 Clay St.
Oakland, CA 94612
(800) 829-1040

Do state-licensed contractors also need a San Leandro business license?

Any person licensed as a contractor by the State Contractor's Board must obtain a business license if they are (1) conducting business within San Leandro city limits; or (2) based in San Leandro, whether conducting business inside or outside of the city.

What about selling food?

If selling or preparing food is a part of your business, you must apply for a health permit from the Alameda County Environmental Health Department in addition to obtaining a business license.

Environmental Health Services
1131 Harbor Bay Parkway
Alameda, CA 94502
(510) 567-6700

I have a wonderful idea for a great sign!

Check with the City's Planning Division before using or installing ANY type of sign, flag or banner, even balloons. Permanent and temporary signs require review and approval prior to issuance of permits and installations.

Posting signs, handbills, or flyers on any utility pole, traffic pole, fence, tree, mailbox or other public structure is prohibited.

I want to leave handbills at homes to advertise my business. Is that covered by the business license?

No. A separate advertising permit is required in addition to the business license. Please contact our office at (510) 809-3133 before distributing any handbill or flyer.

Distribution of handbills or flyers on car windshields is always prohibited.

How do I know which classification/category fits my business?

If you aren't sure which category best fits your business, call the City's Business License Office at (510) 809-3133. We will ask you a few questions about your business and determine the proper category.

Certain types of business activities require additional steps in the licensing process. Call the Business License Office for more detailed information if you are involved in any of the following business activities:

  • Solicitors/Peddlers
  • Dance Halls
  • Bingo Games
  • Firearms Sales
  • Massage Therapy
  • Taxicab Companies
  • Fortune Telling
  • Christmas Tree/Pumpkin Patch
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