City of San Carlos - Frequently Asked Questions


Frequently Asked Questions

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Business Registration - Frequently Asked Questions


01. What is a business registration?

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

02. Who needs a business registration?

You need a business registration in the City of San Carlos if:
  •    You are conducting any kind of business for profit or for your livelihood within the City of San Carlos
  • You have a fictitious business name certificate
  • You have a State Board of Equalization resale permit
  • You have a home based business
  •    You are advertising your business in San Carlos, either in print or digital media
03. How do I get a business registration?

Follow the steps listed below to obtain a business registration:

You may obtain a business registration application at:

City of San Carlos City Hall at 600 Elm Street.
The counter hours for the Finance Division are 9 am - 12 pm and 1 pm - 5 pm, Monday - Friday.
You may also receive an application by mail, fax or from the City website.

  • Always check with our Planning Department to ensure that your business is permissible in the location you are considering, this includes home occupations.
  • You may apply online at  for In Town Businesses
  • You may apply online at  for Out of Town Businesses
  • Fill out the application/form completely.
  • Pay the required fee (see fee schedule)  and return it along with your completed application to City Hall. Appropriate permits and/or approvals from Planning, Building, PD & other departments may need to be secured before your business may start. The application should be processed within 2-4 weeks. Business registration fees are non-refundabl
04. Do I ned a business registration to sell pumpkins or Christmas trees once a year?

Yes, a business registration is required for a temporary business location to sell any vegetables, fruits or Christmas trees. Before a registration is issued the Planning Department will review all applications.

05. I am a solicitor/ peddler, what must I do?

It is unlawful for any person to engage in commercial solicitation within the City without both a valid solicitation permit issued by the San Carlos Chief of Police and a valid business registration issued by the City. If you intend to go door to door to solicit funds or sell a product, you first must go to the PD and obtain an application for a solicitor's permit (which includes a background check.) After receiving approval from PD, you must obtain a business registration from City Hall and pay the business registration fee (see fee schedule for Seasonal and Specialized). Solicitors must also review & comply with the “Do Not Knock” registry available on the city website or via the City Clerk.

06. I want to do massage therapy in San Carlos. What do I need to do?

You can apply using the Massage Business Registration Application . Additional documents are required for massage registrations, so please refer to the city website for further information You must submit all documents and pay the requisite business registration and zoning fees. Massage applications are routed and approved by the Planning and Police Departments. Failure to submit all requested documents will result in delay of processing the application.

07. Once I've applied for my business registration and paid the fee, how long before I receive the actual business registration?

It usually takes a few weeks to process the completed application. The business registration will be mailed to the mailing address you indicate on the application when complete. For applications that require additional City review (Massage, Solicitation, etc.) the time frame can be several weeks.

08. What is the fee to get a replacement copy of a business registration?

The fee for a new copy of an existing registration is listed in the City fee schedule.

09. What is the fee for changes to an existing business registration?

If the ownership changes, the business registration is not transferable and you will need to apply for a new business registration and pay the appropriate fees. There is no charge to change a mailing address or business name on a business registration. If your business address is changing, it will require new zoning clearance and payment of zoning clearance fees.

10. How long does my business registration last?

Your business registration is a non-refundable annual tax. The business registration needs to be renewed annually. You will receive a courtesy renewal notice 30 days before its expiration; however, it is the business owners’ responsibility to renew the business registration on time, regardless of a renewal notice. Penalties are assessed for delinquent accounts, regardless of whether a renewal notice was received.

11. What happens if I pay late?

The penalty for a delinquent registration is 20% of the business registration fee applied every month being late until 100%.

12. What if my business is in my home?

You are still required to obtain a business registration if your residence is in San Carlos city limits. Check with Planning Department to ensure that your business is permissible from your home.

13. Can I start my business as soon as I pay the fee?

No. All the appropriate permits and/or approvals from Planning, Building, Police and/or any other City department may have to be secured before your business can start. All federal, state, county and city laws, ordinances and regulations must be complied with as well.

14. 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 Department to make sure your business activity is appropriate for the area's zoning and it will not require a public hearing or special parking considerations. Call (650) 802-4263 for additional information.

15. I have a wonderful idea for a great sign!

Check with the Planning Department 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.

16. How do I obtain a Fictitious Business Name?

The City does not issue Fictitious Business Names. You must file a Fictitious Name registration or a "doing business as" (dba) with the County of San Mateo if you are using a name other than your own. Contact the County Clerk's office at (650) 363-4712 or visit their website. The fictitious business name should be filed before applying for a business registration with the City.

17. How can I pay for the business registration fee?

All new business registration applications must be accompanied by a check, cash, credit card (Visa/MC only) or money order payment. Please make the check payable to City of San Carlos and submit the fees and application in person or via mail, to City of San Carlos, Finance Division, 600 Elm Street, San Carlos, CA 94070.

18. What if I have a mobile food truck?

Mobile Food Facilities (MFF) headquartered outside of San Carlos shall pay a flat fee of $193. MFF’s who are headquartered outside of San Carlos and wish to purchase a limited-term registration certificate can obtain a 6 month registration for $114.00

19. I just purchased this business. Can I use a business registration from a previous owner?

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

20. What do I need to do if my business is a nonprofit organization?

If your business is a nonprofit organization, it is exempt from the registration fee. However, tax-exempt organizations are required to provide proof of their nonprofit status in order to receive a business registration. They must provide a copy of a statement from the California Secretary of State or the Internal Revenue Service stating that the business has a nonprofit status.

21. Do state-licensed contractors also need a San Carlos business registration?

Any person licensed as a contractor by the State Contractor's Board must obtain a business registration if they are (1) conducting business in the City of San Carlos; or (2) based in the City, whether conducting business in or outside of the City.

22. Can I use my registration to do business in another city?

No. This registration is for doing business in the incorporated area of the City of San Carlos only. If you plan on doing business in another city, you must contact them in order to obtain their requirements for a business registration.

23. What do I need to do to close my business?

Business registrations are NOT automatically canceled. When a business is sold, closed, or moved out of San Carlos, the business registration must be inactivated. You may send written notification or come in person to City Hall. Please be prepared to provide the date the business is closed or sold and the name of the new owner, if applicable.

24. Who can I contact with additional questions?

The Finance Division (650) 802-4213 or