Getting a Business License in the City of Seattle

Anyone operating a business in the city of Seattle needs to acquire a business license in order to do so. A city of Seattle business license is also a tax certificate.

For most businesses, a city of Seattle business license will cost $110 per year. However, the city does have a fee structure for its business licenses. The fees for a business license break down this way:


Annual Taxable Revenue from Business

Annual Fee/Prorated Fee

2017 2018 2019
$19,999 and below $55/$27.50 $55/$27.50 $55/$27.50
$20,000 to $499,999 $110/$55 $110/$55 $110/$55
$500,000 to $1,999,999 $480/$240 $480/$240 $500/$250
$2,000,000 to $4,999,999  $1,000/$500 $1,000/$500 $1,200/$600
$5,000,000 and up $2,000/$1,000 $2,400/$1,200
Cost per branch location $10/location $10/location $10/location

This guidance for fees was decided by the city, which adopted this pricing structure in 2016 via Ordinance 125083.

Application for a City of Seattle Business License

The city of Seattle offers multiple ways to apply for a business license:

  • Online: Businesses can apply online via this website.
  • In person: The business licensing office is located on floor 42 of the Seattle Municipal Tower downtown. It is possible to apply for a license in person by going to this location, completing a business license tax certificate application and paying the applicable fee. Most people will receive their license immediately.
  • By mail: Those who wish to apply by mail must first download the business license tax certificate application, then fill it out and mail it to the city Finance & Administrative Services Department at P.O. Box 34214, Seattle, Wa., 98124-4214.

Before applying for the license, you can learn more about how to get a license or find help by going here.

Licensing certificate processing times can vary depending on how you go about applying.

  • Online: Processing takes 1 to 2 weeks
  • In person: Same day, generally
  • By mail: 1 to 6 weeks

The city can also help if a business license is lost or misplaced. People who lost their license can contact the Finance & Administrative Services Department to get mailed a hard copy, or they can visit the office at the Seattle Municipal Tower to get a copy of the license.

Renewing your Seattle Business License

It is possible to renew a Seattle business license via the same methods one would apply for a license. It is possible to easily renew a license online through the city’s website.

The city also has support and resources in place to support local businesses.

When it comes to licenses, the city advises that every business in the city requires a license. Renewal is also a requirement for Seattle businesses, including businesses with multiple branches. In such a case, each branch of the business would need to obtain and then renew a business license in order to operate.

The city also offers financial support for people trying to start a business in the city. The city has two avenues for business financing: New Markets Tax Credits and the Grow Seattle Fund.

The New Markets Tax Credits program intends to provide financing for businesses in low-income areas. The financing can range from $5 million to $20 million per project. There is an application process required to get this financing.

The Grow Seattle Fund aims to help small businesses grow by offering long-term, below-market rate financing. These loans can finance things like working capital, machinery and equipment purchases, tenant improvements, and real estate acquisition. The funding available from this fund ranges from $100,000 to $5 million and specifically targets businesses that have a history of profitable operations.

There are also community lenders available, including: Business Impact Northwest, Craft3, Mercy Corps Northwest and Rainier Valley Community Development Fund.

How a Seattle Business License Impacts your Taxes and Tax Return

People operating a business in the city of Seattle have to pay taxes on those businesses. The sections of the Seattle Municipal Code that apply to businesses are: 5.40 Admission Taxes, 5.45 Business License Taxes, 5.52 Gambling Taxes and 5.60 Sales and Use Taxes.

Trying to navigate the municipal code alone can be daunting, however. The city offers a Guide to Seattle’s Business License & Taxes. The city allows business owners to pay their business taxes online or even by phone.

The benchmark for paying taxes on a business in Seattle is an annual gross revenue of $100,000 or more. However, even if a business makes less than $100,000 or doesn’t operate for the past year, the owner still has to report any revenue to the city.

For those businesses making at least $100,000 in revenue, they have to pay the tax rate on that revenue. The rate can change from year to year. In addition, the Seattle city taxes are separate from any state or federal taxes.

On the state level, Washington as a state does not impose any corporate tax, though there is a Washington state Business & Occupation Tax. Business owners may also owe federal taxes on their Seattle business.

Taxes on a business are separate for an individual’s taxes. The taxes have to be paid on the income of the business itself.

Lookup Business Licenses in the City of Seattle

The Washington state Department of Revenue has a website where it is easy to look up businesses in the state by name, tax registration number, permit number and/or city. It is also possible to search specifically for business licenses issued in the state (though the search is not specific to the city of Seattle). Business owners can also update their information through the website.

Tax information on a business can only be released with the permission of the taxpayer and via a request to the Department of Revenue. Such records are often confidential and therefore require a special request.

Those having particular difficulty finding information can email the Department or call them at 1-800-647-7706.

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