Getting a Business License in the City of Seattle
The 2020 guidelines and fees for acquiring a business license in the city of Seattle are released. Any entity who wishes to operate a business with the city limits must be licensed.
Generally businesses pay a $113 fee to procure the license necessary, and the fee increases for business with more annual revenue. (See table below)
While the business license fee for most business has remained steady over several years, the fee WILL increase in 2020.
Annual Taxable Revenue from Business
Annual Fee/Prorated Fee
|$19,999 and below||$55/$27.50||$55/$27.50||$55/$27.50||$56|
|$20,000 to $499,999||$110/$55||$110/$55||$110/$55||$113|
|$500,000 to $1,999,999||$480/$240||$480/$240||$500/$250||$511|
|$2,000,000 to $4,999,999||$1,000/$500||$1,000/$500||$1,200/$600||$1,277|
|$5,000,000 and up||$2,000/$1,000||$2,400/$1,200||$2,455|
|Cost per branch location||$10/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.
For business that began after the beginning of the 2nd half of the year of July 1st, the business fee is reduced by fifty percent. There is also a new rule as of 2019 that any person or business whose annual value of products, gross proceeds of sales or gross income of the business in the city is equal to or less than $2,000 AND does not maintain a place of business within the city shall be exempt from the general business license tax certificate requirement. The exemption does not apply to regulatory license requirements or activities that require a specialized permit.
How to Apply for Seattle Business License
In the city of Seattle, there are several different ways to go about applying for a business license.
Online businesses are encouraged to apply through this website.
In person:The business licensing office can be found on floor 42 of the Seattle Municipal Tower, 700 5th Ave, Seattle, WA 98104. You may 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 should 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.
You can find further assistance, or more information on requirements for licensing on the Seattle.gov website.
The amount of time you’ll wait between the time you apply, and the time you get your license can vary greatly. The quickest way is, believe it or not, to show up in person at Seattle Municipal Tower. You can usually expect to receive your license then and there. If applying online, expect a wait of up to two weeks, and if applying via snail mail, look forward to a wait of up to six weeks.
The city of Seattle makes it easy to replace a lost or misplaced business license and to renew licenses as well. 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. It is also quite simple to renew business licenses online, in person or through the mail by repeating the same steps needed to get an initial business license.
Seattle Business Licenses And Your Taxes
If you operate a business in Seattle, you must pay taxes on revenue earned through that business. 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. The city understands that navigating the municipal tax code can be a daunting prospect. That’s what it has it offers a Guide to Seattle’s Business License & Taxes that helps address many of the most common roadblocks business owners encounter when it comes to paying taxes. The city also allows business owners to pay their business taxes online or even by phone.
The threshold for paying taxes on a business in Seattle is $100,000 in annual gross revenue. Revenue still has to be reported even if the business makes below that threshold, or doesn’t operate for a year. The tax rate can be expected to change from year to year, and it is understood that separate from taxes paid at the state and federal levels, taxes on business revenue must also be paid to the city of Seattle. On the state level, Washington as a state does not impose any corporate tax, though there is a Washington state Business & Occupation Tax. Business taxes are of course, separate from personal income taxes.
Archived Information for 2019 and Prior:
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 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.
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.