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Office of the City Treasurer

Business Tax Frequently Asked Questions

Do I need a Business Tax Certificate?

City of San Diego Municipal Code Section 31.0121 states that no person shall engage in any business, trade calling, or occupation until a certificate of payment is obtained. Self-employed persons and independent contractors are also required to pay the Business Tax. 

Issuance of the certificate does not authorize the conduct of any illegal or unlawful business or any business activity for which a license or permit is required by state law, county ordinance or the San Diego Municipal Code, including but not limited to police, health, zoning, planning, building or engineering permits, or state contractors licenses and the like. The issuance of a Business Tax Certificate shall not relieve an owner or operator from obtaining any licenses or permits that may be necessary under other provisions of law for employees or for operation of the business. 

Businesses will be required to self-certify that the business is allowed in the zone that applies to the property where the business activity will be conducted.  Businesses may use the following on-line resources to perform self-certification:

Visit Development Services Department's Zoning web page for more information.

Is a separate Business Tax Certificate required for each business location?

Yes. San Diego Municipal Code section 31.0130 requires a separate Business Tax Certificate for each branch establishment or business location within the City of San Diego’s jurisdiction.

Can I pay my Business Tax balance online?

Yes, you can pay the balance for an existing account online.  You will be requested to provide the associated Account Number and PIN which is available on your billing statement and can also be obtained by contacting the Business Tax Program at 619-615-1500

How can I make a change to my existing Business Tax account?

Updates to your account can be made online. You will be requested to provide the associated Account Number and PIN which is available on your billing statement and can also be obtained by contacting the Business Tax Program at (619) 615-1500.

Updates to your account can also be requested by emailing or mailing your request to: 

Office of the City Treasurer
Business Tax Program
PO Box 122289
San Diego, CA 92112-2289

Do I need to display my Business Tax Certificate?

Yes. Any person or entity engaged in business at a fixed place of business shall keep the certificate posted in a conspicuous place upon the premises where such business is conducted. Any person engaged in business in the City of San Diego, but not operating from a fixed place of business, shall keep the certificate issued to him or her at all times while engaging in such business.

How do I transfer my Business Tax Certificate?

A Business Tax Certificate is not transferable in the case of a change of ownership. The new business owner must apply for a new Certificate. If this is not a change of ownership but merely an amendment to an existing Corporation or Limited Liability Company name, please provide a copy of the amended Articles of Incorporation or Articles of Organization along with proof of FEIN. You may contact our staff at (619) 615-1500 or by email

I conduct business in several cities. Can I get one Business Tax Certificate to do business in ALL of them?

No. Each city has its own Business Tax requirement and you must have a certificate from the jurisdiction business is being conducted in.

Do I need a Business Tax Certificate if I work out of my home?

Yes. Businesses operated from the home also require payment of a Business Tax Certificate.

I do a small amount of consulting and all my clients are located outside the City. Does this require a Business Tax Certificate?

Yes. If your consultancy is based from a location in the City, a Business Tax Certificate will be required for that location. The number of clients and where they are located does not have any bearing on whether a Business Tax Certificate is required since the requirement applies to your business.

Will a renewal notice be sent by The Office of the City Treasurer?

Although The Office of the City Treasurer does issue renewal notices as a courtesy to businesses, the Office of the City Treasurer is not required to send a notice or bill to any person. Failure to send such notice or bill shall not affect the validity of any fee or penalty due hereunder, or the duty of such person to pay required taxes.

To receive your billing statement electronically, businesses may register for the Business Tax Program’s Electronic Billing (E-Billing) service.  Through this service, businesses can opt to receive renewal reminders via text, email, or both options. For questions regarding the service, contact the Business Tax Program at (619) 615-1500.

Do I need a Seller's Permit?

If you sell tangible personal property, you are required to obtain a Seller's Permit from the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration (CDFTA) for the purpose of collecting and reporting sales tax to the State of California.  To obtain a Seller's Permit contact the CDTFA at (800) 400-7115, visit the CDTFA website for online registration information. You can also apply in person at 15015 Avenue of Science, suite 200, San Diego, CA 92128.