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Licenses + Requirements

Confused about what licenses and permits you need to open your business? Then you’ve come to the right place! To make sure that all your paperwork is in order, you will want to check with federal, state and local agencies for their individual requirements. The information below should get you started on the right path.

Minimum Requirements:
At a minimum, you are likely to need the following licenses to open your business:
– a federal Employer Identification Number (EIN)
– State of Washington Unified Business Identifier (UBI) Number
City of Tacoma Business License

1. Federal Requirements

A federal Employer Identification Number (EIN) is required by most businesses. It’s free. You can register for an EIN with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Visit the IRS EIN registration page.

2. State of Washington Requirements

Most businesses operating in Washington State will be required to complete a State of Washington Business License and obtain a Unified Business Identifier (UBI) number. Not sure if you need a State business license? Find out by visiting the State’s Frequently Asked Questions page. For step-by-step instructions to start your business in Washington State, go to Access WA, the State of Washington’s online headquarters for business information.

State of Washington UBI Number and Business License Application
All businesses that need to be registered with the State of Washington must have a Unified Business Identifier (UBI) number. This nine-digit number registers you with several state agencies and allows you to do business in Washington State. To apply for a UBI number, complete the State of Washington Business License Application. Note: You will need to decide on a business structure (sole proprietor, corporation, etc.) before starting a State of Washington business license application. Once your business license is processed, you will receive additional information, such as how to handle sales tax, business and occupation taxes, or how to set up employee quarterly reports forms. Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about business license application.

Additional State of Washington Licensing Requirements
In addition to a State of Washington Business License, you may also be required to obtain additional licenses. The State of Washington’s Business Licensing Service Guide is an online, interactive system that provides customized information about business requirements and agencies to contact. This website should be your first stop when trying to figure out what additional licenses are required for your business or profession.

3. Pierce County Requirements

The State of Washington’s Business Licensing Service Guide can provide you detailed information on what requirements are needed for by state, county and city agencies. Please note: All food establishments operating in Pierce County must be licensed or permitted by Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department (TPCHD) unless specifically exempted by code. For information on the food plan review process and permits, contact the TPCHD directly.

Tacoma Pierce County Health Department
Food and Community Safety Program
3629 South D Street MS: 414
Tacoma, WA 98418
Phone: 253.798.6460
Website: www.

4. City of Tacoma Requirements

Tax & License Division
747 Market Street, Room 212, Tacoma WA 98402
Hours of Operation: Monday to Friday 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Phone: 253.591.5252
Fax: 253.591.5512

City of Tacoma Business License
Doing business in Tacoma, whether it’s for a one day special event, a nonprofit organization, a sidewalk vending cart or a brick-and-mortar business operating 365 days of the year, requires a City of Tacoma business license. For more information, visit the Tax & License Frequently Asked Question page. To apply for a business license, complete the City of Tacoma Application for Registration and Licensing.

  • Annual Business License Fee (Jan. 1 – Dec. 31st): $90
  • Annual Reduced Business License Fee*: $25

*In 2012, businesses with gross income under $12,000 annually are eligible for an annual reduced business license fee. Gross income is all business income from activity both within and outside of the City of Tacoma, regardless of physical business location.

Once registered with the City of Tacoma, you will be sent a renewal form, along with your tax return at year-end. You can also renew your business license online.

City of Tacoma Regulatory License
If your business engages in any of the activities found on this page a regulatory license will be required to operate in the City of Tacoma, in addition to a business license. Click on each business type for more detailed information. Regulatory license fees vary by business type.

City of Tacoma Home Occupation License
Will you be operating your business out of your home? If so, you will need to complete a home occupation license, in addition to a business license and/or regulatory license. Home Occupation License Fee: $75. Check our home based business page for details.

Sidewalk Vending License
Sidewalk vending carts are allowed in certain areas of the city. Check our sidewalk vending page for additional information.

City of Tacoma Building Permits
As a new business owner in Tacoma, you should always check with the City’s Planning and Development Services Department to make sure that you have the correct building and sign permits for your physical location.


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Biz Spotlight:

Diane Hagen

State Farm Insurance

In Business Since 2008
Number of Employees 3

Diane Hagen had been a State Farm team member for 20 years when she was presented with the opportunity to have her own office in Tacoma. Without thinking twice, she seized the moment and opened her office in Tacoma’s 6th Avenue Business District in January of 2008.

Diane grew up in Tacoma but has lived in Olympia with her husband for more than 20 years. When people ask why she would open a business in Tacoma and make the commute her response is, “That’s where I grew up and it’s where I belong.” Diane loves the fact that Tacoma is like a “hidden city”, often falling in the shadow of Seattle but full of potential. 

Never having owned a business before, Diane found the process of applying for a license with the city to be very simple. Another big help to Diane in the early phase of starting her business was the support she received from the neighborhood business district association. From the moment she opened her doors, the 6th Avenue Business District Association “took me under their wings and into the 6th Avenue family,” says Diane.

Diane says the best part of owning her own business is being able to hire others. Her office has three employees as well as a part-time university student in the summer. “It feels good to help others, to provide a living wage and insurance for other people.”