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Orange County Business License Guide

5-minute read

Chris Bousquet

Chris Bousquet

21 November 2022

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Famous ballparks. Famous resorts. Famous beaches. Orange County, California, knows how to cater to a good time. It also knows how to cater to small businesses.

According to the Orange County inland empire small business development center, over 230,000 small businesses are spread across the county, growing at a 4.75% clip each year.

Here are a few statistics that support why Orange County can be a great choice for small businesses:

Third-largest county in California

  1. Over 3 million people live there
  2. Proximity to Los Angeles and San Diego
  3. Solid household income
  4. Education, tourism, and sports all flourish

But before you can just dive right in with your business and take advantage of these opportunities, there’s one important thing you need to do first: Get a business license. It’s not required in all cities in Orange County, but it is required in most.

Which is why we wrote this guide. In it, we provide you with information that will help you determine if you need a business license and how to get it.

Let’s get going.

How to Get a Business License in Orange County

In most California counties and cities, businesses must obtain a business license for tax purposes.

There are some exceptions. For example, in Orange County, the city of Dana Point does not require a business license; however, it does require a “certificate of occupancy” instead.

Because Orange County comprises so many cities — and each city’s requirements and processes to obtain a business license may be different — it’s best that you visit your local government’s website to be sure you’re following their rules.

To make that easier for you, we compiled a list of the county’s cities with direct links to their websites. If you don’t see information about “business licenses” on the landing page, try typing those words into the search bar.

How to Apply for a Business License in Orange County

There are two ways to apply for a business license in Orange County:

  1. Complete the application online and submit it online.
  2. Download the application and mail, fax, or submit it in person.

Your local government’s website will inform you where and how to apply. It also will let you know which supporting documents you may need to submit with your application.

Orange County Business License Application

When applying for your Orange County business license, you’ll be asked to provide a variety of information, along with your application. Materials and information you might want to round up before you begin the application process include:

  • Federal Tax ID number (for corporations, LLCs, partnerships, and more)
  • Your Social Security number (if you’re a sole proprietor)
  • Your business entity (sole proprietorship, partnership, LLC, etc.)
  • Your personal address and phone number
  • Your business’s address and phone number (if different from above)
  • Your driver’s license number
  • Your seller's permit number, if you sell goods
  • Your business plan, including anticipated revenue and expenses
  • Your Certificate of Insurance (COI) for your business insurance policy

Once you’ve gathered this information, in the previous section click on the city link where your business will be located. You’ll be taken to your local government’s website, where you can find more information on that city’s requirements and processes for obtaining a business license.

You also can do an Orange County business license search, which I’ll talk about next.

When searching online for a business license in Orange County, keep this in mind: There’s more than one Orange County in the United States. Florida has one. Virginia has one. Indiana. New York. North Carolina. Texas. Vermont. The process can be confusing enough. No need to complicate it further by searching in the wrong state. It’s best to always include “California” in your “Orange County” searches.

Or another way to make sure you’re looking in the right spot? By keeping this other thing in mind: Orange County doesn’t issue business licenses — the cities within the county do.

That means you can either go to your local government’s website as I mentioned above and search for “business licenses.” Or you can try the Orange County Business License Search. It’s more like a one-stop shop that’ll take you where you need to go within Orange County, California.

Another requirement to think about: Insurance

Sorting through the business license application process can be complicated. So, too, can sorting through the insurance process.

In California, most insurance coverages aren’t required by state law. Workers’ compensation insurance is the only coverage that is required if you have one or more employees. However, just because only certain insurance is mandatory doesn’t mean you should turn your back on other types of insurance. In fact, it’s just the opposite.

Why? Because let’s be real. Accidents happen, even through no fault of your own. And lawsuits can follow. Not having the proper insurance policies in place, such as general liability insurance, to potentially cover you in these instances could inflict out-of-pocket expenses that sink your business and everything you worked so hard to establish.

That’s where we can help. At Simply Business, we’ve written about the basics of business insurance in California. And we can get you free business insurance quotes from the nation’s leading insurers. All it takes is a few minutes of your time.

Or if you want to talk to a helpful human (one of our licensed insurance agents), you can give us a call at 844-654-7272. We’re here Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. (ET). We’ll answer your questions and help you get what you need for your business.

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Orange County Business License Application Fee

It costs $60 to apply for a business license in Orange County. Of that total, $56 is the application fee, and $4 is a state-mandated fee that provides funding for education on disability accessibility requirements for your business in compliance with disability laws. Both fees are nonrefundable.

Worklife Is a Good Life

It has been said that every day in Orange County is the “best day ever.” The same can be said for starting your own business. Still, it takes more than a dream to get going. It takes effort. And usually you have to top that effort with more effort.

Two things high on your to-do list? (1) Get that business license application in so you can open your doors for business, and (2) line up your insurance so that when you open your doors, you have coverage in place to help protect against common risks to your business.

Last thing to remember? We’re here with tools, guides, and other helpful information. We cover just about everything from starting a new business to growing your business for years to come. Don’t miss out on all our great content. We keep updating it all the time!

Chris Bousquet

Written by

Chris Bousquet

I went to college to be an accountant and graduated with a degree in creative writing. Words won out over numbers, but barely. All credit goes to my parents. Had they talked about anything other than banking at the dinner table growing up—and had they never bribed me with Pop-Tarts to read books, play with my Matchbox cars and quietly exercise my imagination—who knows where my left and right brain would be today.

Chris writes on a number of topics such as legal resources, small business taxes, and social media marketing.

This content is for general, informational purposes only and is not intended to provide legal, tax, accounting, or financial advice. Please obtain expert advice from industry specific professionals who may better understand your business’s needs. Read our full disclaimer

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