Starting a Business in San Mateo County

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We wish you every success in your new business!

In order to open for business, you will need to contact the appropriate government agencies, file statements, pay taxes and follow various regulations.

No two businesses are exactly alike and therefore no single place exists where you can obtain all the applications, requirements, permits, licenses or fill out the forms. That’s why we’ve put together this resource guide  

Please know that in some instances, you may wish to seek the assistance of an attorney or an accountant.

Starting a Business in San Mateo County

Six Steps to Starting a Business

STEP ONE – Start with a Business Plan

The U.S. Small Business Administration has a tutorial on how to create a business plan for all aspects of your business such as market analysis, financing, sales, marketing, advertising, and choosing a location. Visit www.sba.gov for more information.

STEP TWO – File for a Fictitious Business Name

Filing a Fictitious Business Name (FBN) Statement creates an accurate, easy-to-find record of who is responsible for the conduct of the business. You may obtain forms and assistance from the San Mateo County Assessor-County Clerk-Recorder’s Office, Clerk’s Division (555 County Center, 1st floor, Redwood City). Forms are also available online. The Clerk’s staff has information about requirements and can assist applicants with these steps.

STEP THREE – Choose a Business Structure

Select a business entity type. See www.sos.ca.gov/business for a brief overview of the principal types of legal business structures available in California. Consult with an attorney and an accountant before determining your type of business entity.

STEP FOUR – Obtain a Business License from the City where you will be doing business

Usually you can purchase a business license from the City Clerk’s Office in City Hall. If your business is located in unincorporated San Mateo County, you can call the Tax Collector’s Office at 650.599.5989 for more information about obtaining a county business license.

STEP FIVE – Obtain Tax and Employer Identification Numbers

The IRS, the State Board of Equalization, the Franchise Tax Board and the Employment Development Department agencies collect state and federal payroll taxes, state sales taxes and corporate income taxes. Filing requirements are different for each agency. For more information, go to www.sos.ca.gov/business/tax-information.htm.

STEP SIX – Check your resources to determine what requirements your business may need to operate

See the following for a partial list of recommended sources to help you get started.

Resources

CalGOLD – CALIFORNIA GOVERNMENT ONLINE

The CalGOLD website is designed to help business owners find the appropriate permitting information for the type of business that they plan to open. The website contains the names, addresses and telephone numbers of the state, local and regional agencies that issue the permits and licenses a business may need, as well as links to web sites.

CALIFORNIA BUSINESS PORTAL

The California Business Portal is sponsored by the California Economic Development Partnership. A number of resources are provided, including public and private sources, state and federal agencies, and local private non-profit organizations.

SECRETARY OF STATE’S BUSINESS PROGRAMS DIVISION

The Business Filings section processes applications for incorporations, limited partnerships, non-profits, and other businesses. Apostilles can only be obtained from the Secretary of State’s Office by mail or in person. Once you choose a business structure (Step 4), you will file your papers with the Secretary of State’s Office. This website contains information on the fees associated with filing as well as downloadable application forms. The Secretary of State’s Office maintains more than two million records for business entities in California including a searchable database of those businesses.

SMALL BUSINESS ADMINISTRATION

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) is an independent agency of the federal government that counsels, assists, and protects the interests of small business. It’s mission is to help Americans start, build and grow businesses. The SBA offers advice on getting loans, grants, licenses, tax identification numbers, business planning and more.

CITY INFORMATION

Many cities require business licenses, building permits or have other rules. Click here for detail on how to reach each city in the County.

Unincorporated San Mateo County 650.599.5989
Only certain types of businesses are required to obtain a business license to operate in the Unincorporated Area of San Mateo County. 

AGENCIES TO CONTACT FOR OTHER REQUIREMENTS

The organizations listed below may have rules and regulations that apply to businesses that operate within their jurisdiction, are industry specific, or both.

FEDERAL AGENCIES

ALCOHOL AND TOBACCO TAX AND TRADE BUREAU NATIONAL REVENUE CENTER

www.ttb.gov | 877.882.3277

The TTB handles the federal permit applications, collects alcohol, tobacco, firearms and ammunition excise taxes, and regulates this industry.

INTERNAL REVENUE SERVICE (IRS)

www.irs.gov | 415.553.8990, 800.829.4933
The IRS issues federal tax identification numbers to corporations, partnerships or businesses with employees.

U.S. FOOD AND DRUG ADMINISTRATION (FDA)

www.fda.gov | 888.463.6332
The FDA regulates products sold in the U.S., issues product approvals and recalls and monitors products on the market for public safety.

STATE AGENCIES

BOARD OF EQUALIZATION

www.boe.ca.gov | 800.400.7115, 415.356.6600
The Board of Equalization issues Sellers Permits and Resale Numbers to wholesalers and retailers that sell or lease tangible personal property.

CA DEPT. OF ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGE CONTROL – ABC

www.abc.ca.gov | 415.577.3660
This Office issues licenses to San Mateo and San Francisco County business seeking permission to sell alcoholic beverages.

CA DEPT OF HEALTH SERVICES, FOOD & DRUG BRANCH

www.cdph.ca.gov | 916.650.6500
The California Food & Drug Branch issues permits to food manufacturers and wholesalers.

CA DEPT OF SOCIAL SERVICES – COMMUNITY CARE LICENSES

www.ccld.ca.gov | 650.266.8800

Day Care Business 650.266.8843
Residential Care Business 650.266.8800
This Office issues licenses to Day Care and Residential Care businesses in San Mateo County.

CA CONTRACTOR’S STATE LICENSE BOARD

www.cslb.ca.gov | 800.321.2752
The Contractor’s State License Board licenses and regulates contractors in 43 license classifications.

FRANCHISE TAX BOARD (FTB)

www.ftb.ca.gov | 800.852.5711
The FTB is responsible for administering two of California’s major tax programs: Personal Income Tax and the Corporation Tax.

COUNTY AGENCIES

HEALTH DEPARTMENT

Agriculture, Weights & Measures
728 Heller St.
Redwood City, CA 94064

www.co.sanmateo.ca.us/agwm | 650.363.4700

Business owners with commercial weighing or measuring devices (scales, gas pumps,etc.) or retail price scanner systems must register with the County Sealer of Weights and Measures. Devices and scanner systems are inspected periodically for accuracy.

ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH

2000 Alameda de las Pulgas, Suite 100
San Mateo CA 94403
650.372.6200 | www.smhealth.org/cupa

Environmental Health issues permits to businesses that prepare or sell food to the general public, store hazardous materials, generate hazardous or medical wastes, practice body art, or operate a public swimming pool.

PLANNING AND BUILDING DEPARTMENT

455 County Center
Redwood City CA 94063
Planning: 650.363.4161, Building: 650.599.7311
www.co.sanmateo.ca.us/planning

BUILDING DIVISION
Issues building permits to owners and/or licensed contractors for property located in the unincorporated area of the county when different types of construction or landscaping is undertaken.

PLANNING DIVISION
Determines if a business use meets the zoning requirements in an area, if a special Use Permit is required and if other zoning requirements apply to the business and/or the property.

SAN MATEO COUNTY ORDINANCE CODE
http://municipalcodes.lexisnexis.com/codes/sanmateo
See Title 5: Business Regulations

TAX COLLECTOR’S OFFICE
555 County Center, First Floor
Redwood City CA 94063
650.599.5989
The San Mateo County Tax Collector issues business licenses for certain kinds of businesses that are located in the County’s unincorporated area.