Business License

Frequently Asked Questions

You need a General Business License if your business is located in the unincorporated area of Sacramento County (not in the boundaries of the cities of Sacramento, Folsom, Isleton, Galt, Citrus Heights, Elk Grove, or Rancho Cordova), unless your business is one of the very few that are exempt from licensing requirements. 

Certain business activities also require a Special Business License if they are conducted in the unincorporated area, even if the business is based outside our jurisdiction. 

These activities include, but are not limited to: ​

  • Adult-related activities such as escort or introductory service; or figure modeling. 
  • Buying and/or selling concealable firearms or gunpowder, antiques, used auto parts, motorcycles and/or motorcycle parts, metal, second hand or used items.
  • Home repair, landscaping, and/or cleaning services; taxi; towing service; massage; pawn broker or junk dealer; rubbish hauling.​
  • Mobile businesses such as mobile auto repair, car washing or detailing, mobile food vendor; auto dismantling or repossessing.

You need a General Business License if your short-term rental is located in the unincorporated area of Sacramento County (not in the boundaries of the cities of Sacramento, Folsom, Isleton, Galt, Citrus Heights, Elk Grove, or Rancho Cordova).  

You are also required to obtain an annual short-term rental (also known as a vacation rental permit) from the Office of Planning and Environmental Review​.

Even if your business has no physical presence and exists solely as an Internet storefront, all regulations that apply to offline businesses also apply to your business. You will need a General Business License if you are based in the unincorporated area.

Your business may also require a Special Business Licenses based on the type of products you sell or activities you engage in, regardless of whether the business is in a physical building or an online venture. 

These products/activities include, but are not limited to: buying and/or selling concealable firearms or gunpowder, antiques, used auto parts, motorcycles and/or motorcycle parts, metal, second hand or used items; adult-related activities such as escort or introductory service; or figure modeling.

Sacramento County requires all businesses that sell tobacco and tobacco-related products, including pipes and other paraphernalia, to obtain a Tobacco Retailer License. 

The license will be issued by the Department of Finance, and businesses will be subject to annual inspections by the Environmental Management Department for correct signage and storage of tobacco products. In addition, the Sheriff conducts undercover purchase attempts using minors as decoys. 

The license term is one year. The License is not transferable between owners and is issued to each location where tobacco products are sold.  Tobacco products and paraphernalia must be sold via a storefront business.  Home-based tobacco businesses are not allowed.

The Sacramento County Zoning Code does not permit marijuana-related businesses. Business Licenses will not be issued. 

To learn more, visit the Ca​​nnabis in the Unincorporated ​County webpage.

Note: All applicants are encouraged to contact the Department of Planning and Environmental Review via email at to determine if the business activities at the proposed business site are allowed under the current zoning code before submitting an application and paying the fee.

There are several ways to apply for a license:

All sections of the application must be completed. Any blank line or unanswered question will cause the application to be rejected and will delay the process.

State law​ m​​andates a $4.00 surcharge on all New and Renewing Business Licenses and Permits, as required by Government Code 4467. ​​

The surcharge is included in the Application F​ees (Includes the $4.00 State F​​ee)

General Business License 

$182 valid for 3 years

Special Business License​

(requires fingerprinting - -see below)

$216 valid for 1 year  

$114 valid for 1 year if massage provider (NOT establishment) with CAMTC certification.  This is the fee for either a new application or a renewal application.

Employee Permit (stand alone)

(requires fingerprinting -- see below)
Employee Permit (with Special)​

$216 valid for 1 year  


Fingerprinting for Special License or Employee Permit
(one time cost)​

$32.00 for the business owner, and $74.00 for partners, spouses, or other owners
listed on the license (Collected by Sheriff's Department in the form of Visa, Mastercard, debit card with a Visa or Mastercard logo, or money order. No personal checks or cash accepted.)​

$74 for Taxi drivers.

Tobacco Retailer License​

$359 valid for 1 year  

 *The fee is determined based on answers to questions in Section II of the application.

Renewal Fees (Includes the $4.00 State Fee)

General Business License
  Fee depends on activities conducted​

$138 This renewal is generally for home-based businesses

$175 This renewal is generally for commercial locations

Special Business License​


Employee Permit​


Tobacco Retailer License​


  • ​An $18.00 late renewal fee will be added to any license renewal received after the expiration date. If a license has been expired longer than 90 days, the license will be closed and the business owner will be required to reapply for a new license.
  • Applications submitted by mail must include a check or money order made payable to Sacramento County. Applications in person at our counter may be paid with cash, check, money order, or credit/debit card.  Use of a  credit/debit card will incur a convenience fee charged by our payment processor.
  • Applications submitted on-line may be paid by credit/debit cards. A convenience fee will be charged by the credit card payment processor for these payment methods.
  • No Refunds - Fees are charged to cover the cost of the review process and are not refundable.

Review and investigation of a completed license application may take up to 45 days for a General Business License.  An application is considered completed when all required information and fees have been submitted.  

Special Business Licenses take longer due to submitting fingerprint records to the Department of Justice, but by ordinance no more than ninety days. Special Business Licenses are not deemed complete until the applicant completes fingerprinting at the Sheriff's Department.  

Fingerprinting is required to be completed within 5 business days after filing an application.  Upon approval, license(s) will be mailed to the applicant.  

If a license is denied, the applicant will receive written notice and be provided an opportunity to appeal the decision.

General Business Licenses and Tobacco Retailer Licenses may not be transferred to another person, location or type of business.

Special Business Licenses and Employee Permits may not be transferred to another person or type of business, but the business location may change.

Personal information such as home address and personal telephone numbers listed on an application will not be released without a subpoena. 

However, the same information on a Fictitious Business Name Statement is public information.

​Please contact the Business License Unit at (916) 874-6644 (call center hours are 9am to 4pm weekdays), or come to our office during regular business hours. 

Staff will assist you or you may use the public computer terminals at our counter.

​Please see the Sacramento County zoning code Home Occupation Standards.  In addition, there are restrictions on the preparation of food, storage of hazardous materials, and other regulations to protect the community and ensure quality of life in neighborhoods.

Tobacco licenses will not be issued for a home-based business.

Please visit Doing Business in Sacramento County​ ​for guidelines and additional information​.​

Some commercial and industrial business activities may require a use permit prior to operating. Those businesses include, but are not limited to: 

  • 24-hour Convenience Markets
  • Arcade/Gaming Centers
  • Auto Dismantling
  • Auto Sales
  • Drive thru Windows
  • Gas Stations
  • Hospitals
  • Hotels/Motels
  • Outdoor​ Festivals/Flea Market
  • Palm Reading/Fortune Tellers
  • Private Social Centers
  • Public Dance
  • Public Storage
  • Temporary Concession Stands

​All commercial and industrial businesses are required to meet certain Development Standards (i.e. landscaping, parking, fencing, setbacks, etc.). Your license may be subject to denial if the property is not in compliance with these standards.
Businesses are allowed promotional displays such as banners against the building, flags, pennant flags or search lights upon the issuance of a Temporary Use Permit. Time limits of the use shall not exceed thirty (30) days within the first one-hundred eighty (180) days of business and other existing businesses shall be limited to one period not exceeding ten (10) days within a given year.

If you have any questions regarding zoning compliance, Home Occupation Standards, Use Permits, Temporary Use Permits or Development Standards please email the Department of Planning and Environmental Review via email at prior to submitting a business license application. Or, to read more about these requirements, go to our Links page and click on Planning Department. 

The State of California issues day care licenses. See our Links page for contact information.  Depending on the size of your day care you may still need a General Business License to operate in the unincorporated area. 

The issuance of a Sacramento County Business License does not assess or guarantee the owner/operator's business practices, quality of workmanship or other consumer protection related matters. See our Links page.

If you think a business is operating without a proper Sacramento County Business License, you may contact the County's Complaint Center at 311​

Please visit Doing Business in Sacramento County​ ​for guidelines and additional information​.​

Zoning Code of Sacramento County

 Section 305-201 - Home Occupation Standards
(Referenced as a Condition on your General Business License)

It is the intent of the following criteria to reduce the impact of the home occupation to the degree that its effects on the neighborhood are undetectable from normal and usual residential activity.

  • No more than two (2) occupants of the dwelling shall be engaged in home occupation on the subject property. In the event of a partnership or corporation, at least one of the members must be a resident of the subject property.
  • Off-site employees or partners are permitted so long as they do not report for work at subject property.
  • The use of the dwelling for the home occupation shall be clearly incidental and subordinate to its use for residential purposes. The home occupation may be conducted in the principal dwelling or accessory structures on the subject property provided that the area does not exceed 20 percent of the habitable floor area of the principal dwelling.
  • There shall be no mechanical equipment or operation used which creates or makes dust, odor, vibration or other effects detectable at the property line. Noise level at the property line shall not exceed 65 dBA.
  • There shall be no products sold on the premises except artist's originals or products individually made to order on the premises. Products which are not "artist's originals" or "individually made to order" may be constructed on-site, using equipment normally found in a residence; however, these products may only be sold at a permitted commercial location.
  • There shall be no display of products produced by occupants of the dwelling which are visible in any manner from the outside of the dwelling unit.
  • The use shall not generate pedestrian or vehicular traffic beyond that which is normal in a residential district nor in any case requires the parking of more than two additional vehicles at any one time.
  • There shall be no storage of material or supplies out-of-doors.
  • There shall be no remodeling or construction of facilities especially for the home occupation which changes the external appearance of the residence from a residential to a more commercial appearing structure when viewed from the front of the building.
  • There shall be no visible evidence of the conduct of such home occupation outside the structure other than one sign if permitted within the zone (see Section 335-05).
  • Deleted
  • No process is used which is hazardous to public health, safety, morals, or welfare.
  • Visitors, customers, or deliveries shall not exceed that normally and reasonably occurring for a residence, including not more than one business visitor an hour and eight a day, and not more than one delivery of products or materials a week.
  • No more than one home occupation shall be permitted per residence.
  • Storage of hazardous materials is limited to below those thresholds as established by the local Fire Districts which do not require any special permits or licenses. (Amended 6/95) 

Questions about these Home Occupation Standards should be directed to the Department of Planning and Environmental Review. You may contact them via email at: