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Business Tax and License for Business Owners and Landlords

Application Process
Business Tax Application Process Flow
Apply, Pay, or Renew Online
On-Line Business License Application, Renewal, or Payments for Business Owners and Landlords
Business Tax Calculator
The City of Oakland has developed this tool to help business owners estimate their City of Oakland Business License Tax.

Who needs a Business License?

  • Anyone operating or doing business in the City of Oakland is required to file and pay an annual business tax.
  • Anyone renting property (residential, commercial and industrial) in the City of Oakland is required to file and pay an annual business tax.
  • If your business is located outside of the City of Oakland, but doing business within the city, you have to pay for the business tax certificate.
  • If your business is located within the City of Oakland, but does business outside the City, you have to pay for the business tax certificate. However, you may apportion your gross receipts. Apportionment Guidelines are available under Director of Finance Tax Rulings 7, 8, 9 or 10. More information about the apportionment guidelines you can visit the City of Oakland Apportionment Information
  • Non-Profits: If you are a non-profit Federal or State of California tax-exempt organization, you may be exempt from payment of the business tax. You must submit a copy of your letter of determination from the Internal Revenue Service or from the California Franchise Tax Board confirming the exemption from income tax. Please note that even if you are exempt from income tax you are still required to register and pay the registration fee.
  • Family Daycare Homes: If you are a licensed by the State of California Department of Social Services as a family daycare provider, and maintaining a State license permitting fourteen or fewer children in your own home, then you are exempt from obtaining a City of Oakland business license and payment of the business tax.
  • Renting property: All property owners in Oakland who wish to rent out their property must file and obtain a business tax certificate. The tax you will pay is based on your annual gross rental income. If the property is residential or mixed use, you must also complete the New Rent Adjustment Program Fee Application (RAP). If the property is 100% commercial/industrial, it is not necessary to complete this (RAP) application.
  • Renting a room: All persons who rent or sublet rooms must obtain a business tax certificate.

What you need to know before you apply:

If you do business or own any kind of rental property (residential, commercial and industrial) in the City of Oakland, you will need to file and pay an annual business tax.

All Oakland based businesses should obtain a Zoning Clearance prior to applying for a Business Tax Certificate. The Zoning Department can be reached at Zoning Clearance Website or (510) 238-3911.

If you are renting out residential property you will need to register with the City's Rent Adjustment Program. Once you're registered with the RAP, you will also need to pay a rent adjustment fee of $101 per rental unit.

Application Process
Apply for a New Business Tax Certificate online or at the Business Tax Office.

A non-refundable business registration fee plus special fees (SB1186 State Disability Access and Education Fund and Recordation and Technology), are due within 30 days of the business or rental start date.

In addition, a pre-payment of taxes on estimated first year calendar gross receipts, from start date to December 31, is due. The estimated tax pre-payment will be trued up/down on next year’s renewal, creating an amount owed or credit on the account.

For late registrations, 31 – 60 days late add 10%, 61 days late and over add additional 25% (10% + 25% = 35%). Additionally, simple interest at 1% per calendar month is added on registration fee, tax and penalty.

Renewals are due March 1st each year.

The City accepts payment by cash, check, cashier's check, money order, Mastercard, Visa, Discover Card or an ATM/Debit Card. If an e-mail address is provided, the Business Tax Certificate will be sent in 2-3 business days, otherwise the certificate will be mailed in 7-10 business days after the fee has been paid.

Business Tax Application Process Flow

Business Tax Office
250 Frank H. Ogawa Plaza, Suite 1320
Oakland, CA 94612
(510) 238-3704

Hours

Monday to Friday from 8-4pm, Wednesdays from 9:30-4pm

Renewal
Business taxes must be paid annually, on or before March 1st of each year. It is your responsibility to renew your certificate on time and/or to notify the Business Tax Office if you have not received your annual renewal declaration(s). Pay on-line

Non-Profit Registration
All non-profit organizations located or doing business in the City of Oakland are required to register with the City. To register as a non-profit, you must have your 501(c)(3) from the IRS, the Letter of Exemption from the California State Franchise Board, a copy of your Articles of Incorporation, and, if you have a location in the City of Oakland, a zoning clearance for your business location. Once you have obtained the above documents you must complete a Business Registration Application and provide the City with copies of your 501(c)(3), Letter of Exemption, and Articles of Incorporation.

Business Tax Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

EVERY YEAR THE BUSINESS TAX RENEWAL DECLARATION IS MAILED ANNUALLY AT THE END OF THE YEAR.

Q. Who is required to pay business tax?

A. All persons conducting business within the City of Oakland. Included are commercial/industrial and residential rental property owners (residential, commercial and industrial), retailers, wholesalers, manufacturers, service companies, self-employed persons, independent contractors and businesses conducted within one's home (with exception for family daycare homes maintaining a state license permitting fourteen or fewer children in one’s own home), and non-profit organizations are required to file and pay an annual business tax.

Q. How can I check if I have a license or if it is current?

A. You can search for your business license status at https://ltss.oaklandnet.com/Search/Index/BusinessLicense

Q. Do I need a Zoning Permit?

A. If your business is located in Oakland, you are required to obtain a zoning permit from the Zoning Department. The Zoning Department is located at 250 Frank H. Ogawa Plaza, 2nd floor, and can be reached at (510) 238-3911. NOTE: You do not need a zoning fee if your business is located outside of Oakland or if your business activity is a rental property operator.

Q. I am a nonprofit business; do I have to pay business tax?

A. If you are a nonprofit Federal or State of California tax-exempt organization, you may be exempt from payment of the business tax. You must submit a copy of your letter of determination from the Internal Revenue Service 501(c)(3) confirming the exemption from income tax. However, you are required to register and pay the registration fee.

Q. Is there a tax liability for a business located within the City of Oakland, but conducts business outside of the City?

A. Yes. However, you may apportion your gross receipts. Apportionment Guidelines are available under Director of Finance Tax Rulings 7, 8, 9 or 10.

Q. I own a piece of property in Oakland that I want to rent out. Do I need a business tax certificate?

A. Yes, all property owners in Oakland who wish to rent out their property must file and pay the initial $99.00 Registration Fee to obtain a business tax certificate. The tax is based on annual gross rental income at a rate of $13.95 per $1,000 of gross rental income. If the property is residential or mixed use, you must also complete the New Rent Adjustment Program Fee Application (RAP). If the property is 100% commercial/industrial, it is not necessary to complete this (RAP) application.

Q. I rent a room in my house. Do I need a business tax certificate?

A. Yes, all persons who rent or sublet rooms must obtain a business tax certificate. The tax is based gross rental income at a rate of $13.95 per $1,000 of gross rental income.

Q. Are there any exemptions for owner-occupied residential landlords?

A. Yes, a residential landlord who rents or leases up to three rooms in his or her principal place of primary residence, or up to two accessory dwelling units (ADUs), or a covered unit in the case of duplexes, may be eligible to be fully or partially exempt from the payment of business tax for the rental of residential property from January 1, 2020 through December 31, 2030. More information & application is at https://www.oaklandca.gov/services/owner-occupied-residential-landlord-business-tax-refund

Q. Where can I obtain a business tax application?

A. You can visit our website: https://ltss.oaklandnet.com/ to register a new business. You may also obtain an application in person in the Business Tax Office located at 250 Frank H. Ogawa Plaza #1320, Oakland, CA 94612.

Q. What are your office hours?

A. Monday to Friday from 8-4pm, Wednesdays from 9:30-4pm

Phone: (510) 238-3704

or email: BtWebSupport@oaklandca.gov

Q. How often do I renew my business tax account?

A. Business taxes must be paid ANNUALLY, on or before March 1st of each year. It is your responsibility to renew your certificate on time and/or to notify the Business Tax Office if you have not received your annual renewal declaration(s).

Q. What if my renewal is late?
 

A. Late penalties and interest apply. Penalty within 30 days late add 10%, over 31 days late add additional 25% (10% + 25% = 35%). Simple interest add 1% monthly (tax + penalty). $50.00 late filing fee applies to all accounts that renew late.

Q. What methods of payment do you accept?

A. We accept cash, check, money order, cashier's check, e-check, credit cards (Mastercard, Visa, & Discover).

Q. Can I pay over the phone or via fax?

A. No, we do not accept credit card payments via fax or over the phone. You can visit our website at https://ltss.oaklandnet.com/ to pay online with a credit card or e-check.

Q. Is there any penalty and/or interest assessed if I don't pay or if I underpay my business tax?

A. Any tax (or portion thereof) that remains unpaid after March 1st is subject to penalty and interest. NO EXCEPTIONS.

Q. Can I request an extension to file my business tax?

A. Yes. You must request an extension in writing on or before March 1st of the year. This extension will allow you to remit your business tax liability no later than 45 days from the delinquent date. Note: this extension only waives the penalty; it does not waive the interest on the tax.

Q. I was unaware of Oakland's business tax requirements. Consequently, I never obtained a business tax certificate. My business activity has been in operation for some time. Am I subject to any late fees?

A. Yes. All delinquent business taxes are subject to full penalty and interest assessments. NO EXCEPTIONS.

Q. Is the City required to send a renewal notice?

A. No, the City is not required to send a business tax renewal, delinquency or other notice or bill and failure to send such notice or bill shall not affect the validity of any tax, penalty or interest due. Refer to OMC: https://library.municode.com/ca/oakland/codes/code_of_ordinances?nodeId=TIT5BUTAPERE_CH5.04BUTAGE_5.04.220NONORE

Q. What happens if I don't register and pay my business tax?

A. FAILURE TO COMPLY WITH THE BUSINESS TAX ORDINANCE REQUIREMENTS IS A MISDEMEANOR VIOLATION. A NOTICE OF VIOLATION AND/OR CITATION MAY BE ISSUED. A LIEN IS FILED ON RENTAL PROPERTY.

Q. I overpaid my business tax. How do I request a refund?

A. Fill out the Business Tax Refund Request form when you need to get money back from the City for an overpayment. Refund Request Form

Q. Why am I being asked to provide my gender and race and ethnicity on my renewal form?

A. Demographic information helps the City evaluate equity policies and allows us to provide you with information on relevant private business funding or support opportunities. If you have additional questions, please contact Marisa Raya at mraya@oaklandca.gov. For more information on economic development in Oakland, including resources and support for your business, please visit https://www.oaklandca.gov/departments/economic-and-workforce-development

Q. Are there other taxes or fees for businesses in Oakland?

A. Click on the links for information on other City Taxes and Fees.

Q:  Which years’ Gross Receipts/Rents are used as the tax bases for each renewal?

A. A business will pay tax for their first and second year renewals based on actual Gross Receipts/Rents generated for those years.  For the third year and all subsequent years thereafter, tax will be based on Gross Receipts/Rents generated in the prior year.  

Year                                                                   Gross Receipts( GR)/Rents Generated

Year 1 of business operation                              GR Based on actual

Year 2 of business operation                             GR Based on actual

Year 3 of business operation                             GR Based upon prior actual GR

Below is an example for a business that started in 2020.  They generated the following Gross Receipts/Rents for 2020, 2021 and 2022: 

Year                                                                   Gross Receipts/Rents Generated

2020                                                                   $                 100,000.00 

2021                                                                    $                  200,000.00 

2022                                                                   $                  300,000.00

  • 2020 (first year) will be taxed on their actual Gross Receipts/Rents generated, which were $100,000
  • 2021 (second year) will also be taxed on their actual Gross Receipts/Rents generated, which were $200,000
  • 2022 (third year) will be taxed on the prior year’s Gross Receipts/Rents generated, which was $200,000
  • All subsequent years thereafter will also be taxed on each prior year’s Gross Receipts/Rents generated.
  • 2023 (Fourth year) will be taxed on the prior year’s Gross Receipts/Rents generated, which was $300,000

Please note: Business Tax payment applies to current year’s generated gross receipts.  If estimated gross receipts from the prior year are lower or higher than the actual gross receipts, the taxpayer will be required to adjust business tax payment.

Each payment of Business Taxes applies to the current year’s license renewal, not the prior year’s license.  For example, a payment made on or before March 1st, 2024 is recognized as a renewal for its 2024 license. 

Q. I don't see my question.

A. Contact the Business Tax Office at (510) 238-3704.

Director of Finance Rulings

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