Make It Tacoma
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Frequently Asked Questions

1. How do I get financing to start a new business?

The majority of start-up funding comes from the owner’s pockets or through small loan agreements with family and friends. Other options may include business loans from commercial banks or microenterprise organizations. For more information, please visit our financing your startup page.

2. What free resources are available to start my business?

The City of Tacoma offers a range of services for start-up businesses including business coaching, industry information, marketing tips, and business workshops. We can also connect you with other business assistance organizations in Tacoma that offer business plan review, financial projections, and operational information. For more detailed information, go to City of Tacoma services for startups page.

3. Where should I locate my business in Tacoma?

Before you sign on the dotted line when it comes to commercial lease or rental agreement, it’s important to research the location of your new business. You want to be sure it’s zoned appropriately for the type of business you have in mind. You will also want to consider locating your business closest to your potential customers. The City of Tacoma staff has access to this information and can help provide you customized demographic data–for free. For more detailed information, go to our location page.

4. Do I need a City of Tacoma business license?

Yes, all businesses operating or doing business in the city limits are required to be registered and have a City of Tacoma business license, regardless of gross income. This includes home-based businesses, nonprofit organizations, sidewalk vendors and seasonal event vendors. You’ll find more information on our licenses and requirements page.

5. What is the cost for a City of Tacoma business license?

Currently the business license fee is $90 per year. In 2012, businesses with gross income* under $12,000 annually will pay a reduced business license fee of $25. You’ll find more information on our licenses and requirements page.

6. Do I need a City of Tacoma regulatory license in addition to a business license?

If your business engages in specific activities, a regulatory license will be required to operate in the City of Tacoma, in addition to a business license. To find out if your business requires a regulatory license, visit the licenses and requirements page.

7. What is the turnaround time for obtaining a City of Tacoma license or permit?

Business License: Business licenses are typically issued the same day if you come in person to the office. If the application is sent via email or regular mail, please allow for a turnaround time of 15-25 business days for new business license depending upon the time of the year.

Regulatory License: If your business has activity that is regulated and requires a regulatory license, please allow 10 business days for approval.

8. Are there other licenses and permits required other than the City of Tacoma?

Yes. Each business (architect, restaurant, day spa, night club) operating in Tacoma may have different licensing requirements before it can open its doors. To find out what government agencies you will need to contact for your particular business, go to the State of Washington Business Licensing Guide Online page.

8. I’m planning on running my business out of my home. Is a license or permit still needed?

Yes, any individual who owns or operates a business from a residence inside the city is required to obtain a City of Tacoma Business License and a Home Occupation Agreement (HOA) to legally operate. The Home Occupation Agreement is required regardless of the amount of revenue the business generates and whether the business is a part-time or full-time enterprise. The Home Occupation license fee is a one-time fee of $75, as long as you do not change the nature of your business activity. If you change the type of services or goods your business is providing, you will be subject to another application and processing fee of $75. To obtain a license, visit the City of Tacoma Tax & License Division.

9. I am considering beginning a non-profit organization. What do I need to get started?

Once you have decided on a name for your non-profit organization, register it with the Secretary of State. This process involves standard requirements such as having a board of directors, a “charter” or adopted bylaws, and a physical address. Then when you apply for a City of Tacoma business license, you will be asked for a copy of your non-profit registration certificate. The next steps involve registration with the Internal Revenue Service as “tax-exempt”.

12. What do Business License fees and Business & Occupation taxes pay for?

Revenue from license fees and taxes are deposited into the City’s General Fund. The funds are used to pay for essential City services including Police, Fire and Streets.

13. How do I contact the City of Tacoma Tax & License Office for questions about starting my business?

The City of Tacoma Tax & License Customer Service Desk is located at the Tacoma Municipal Building, 747 Market Street, Room 212, Tacoma, WA 98402. Monday – Friday 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Telephone: 253.591.5252. Email:

14. What kind of taxes will I be obligated to pay?

You should consult with a reputable tax accountant to determine your tax obligations. To get started, go to our understand your tax obligations page.

15. What type of insurance is required for a business?

Every business’ insurance requirements are different. To find out what your specific needs are ask a professional. You may find a partial list of qualified insurers in the area at this page: insurance providers.