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Business Licenses

NOTE: If your question is not answered here or if you do not see mention of your topic, please reference the entire “Chapter 5: Business Licenses and Regulations” Municipal Code Ordinance or call the Planning Department at (209)385-6858 for application help or the Business License Department at (209)385-6843 for payment of fees. If you wish to visit us, both departments are located at the Merced Civic Center, 678 W. 18th Street, Merced CA 95340.

Please be advised that some types of licenses may require final approval by City Council. Please reference the Municipal Code Section that pertains to your type of business, or call the Planning Department at (209)385-6858.

Do I need a license with Merced City if I currently have a license with the County?
Yes, if you are based within the city limits or are entering the city to conduct your business activities.  Merced City and Merced County are two separate jurisdictions, where a license with the City covers business conducted on incorporated areas within the city limits, and a license with the County is valid for the unincorporated areas of the county (outside city limits).  When you enter one jurisdiction from another with the intent to conduct your business activities, you must be licensed for that area.  If you are not sure where the city limit line begins, the most current street map for Merced County, such as those published by Rand McNally, may be of help, or you may feel free to call the Planning Department at (209)385-6858 to verify that information.
How often is a license required to be renewed?
All business licenses shall be renewed quarterly, or every three months, before the start of the licensing period.  Due dates are: December 31st (for license period January-March); March 31st (for license period April-June); June 30th (for license period July-September); and September 30th (for license period October-December).  Please contact the Finance Department, (209)385-6843, for an explanation on how these charges are billed.
I run a non-profit business.  Do I need a business license?
In general, no business license is required, as long as proof is supplied that your organization is non-profit, usually with the non-profit ID number you receive from the Federal income tax bureau.  However, for historical land use tracking purposes, the Finance Department requests that you complete and file an application; no fees will be charged if the business is non-profit.  Please see MMC 05.04.190 regarding licensing for non-profit organizations.
I want to open a business at a commercial address in the City.  What do I need to do to obtain a business license?
A business license application, available from the Planning Department counter or you may download one by clicking here, must be completed and submitted to the Planning Department, Merced Civic Center (2nd Floor), 678 W. 18th St., Merced CA  95340; Fax (209)725-8775.  Upon receipt by City staff, the business location and its proposed use will be evaluated for proper zoning and building code standards for commercial land uses.  Inspections may be necessary and any required repairs and building and/or fire code upgrades (download Building Permit application), such as to install handicapped-access bathroom stalls or add separation walls, will be required to be completed before a license can be issued.  Once approved by Planning, Building, and Fire Departments, and as long as no other special approvals are required (see Police Department approvals below) your application will be routed to the Finance Department for final processing.  If you have submitted your application by fax or by mail, you will be contacted by the Finance Department for any business license fees due and any additional information required to set up your business license application.
Regarding signage for commercial properties, please follow this link to the City of Merced Sign Ordinance.
I want to open a business using my home as my business location.  What do I need to obtain permission to do so?
The City of Merced allows many types of businesses to operate from a residence, as long as they comply with the restrictions placed on such businesses in the City Ordinance for Home Occupations.  An application for a Home Occupation Permit must be completed and submitted with your business license application, and there is a one-time fee of $25.00 for the permit.  

The conditions placed on Home Occupations are necessary to protect the residential neighborhoods from being “commercialized”; therefore, holders of Home Occupation permits cannot have their customers come to their home to conduct business nor store any goods or equipment that is not normally found in a home.  Other conditions apply, so it is best to read the Municipal Code regarding this subject to make sure that you can abide by all regulations.
My business is growing and I’d like to open up another store on the other side of the City.  Can I use the same business license?
Per MMC 05.04.060, a separate business license is required for each separate place of business.  This also includes an administrative or clerical-only office, where no actual transactions will occur.  Please contact the Finance Department, (209)385-6843, to inquire about how the business license tax is handled in this regard.
What businesses do not need to obtain a business license?
All business must be licensed, with the exception of: public utilities, banks, insurance companies,  day care providers providing care for eight or less children (licensed by the State of California), or apartments with two or less units (MMC 05.08.050).  Please see MMC 05.04.200 for details.
What do I need to do for changes to existing licenses?
Whenever a business changes location, ownership, business name, or type of ownership (for example, changing from sole proprietorship to a corporation), you must re-submit a business license application reflecting the change.  Licenses are only valid for the person(s), partnership or corporation, location, or business name for which it is applied for and issued.  A change in ownership, including dropping or adding a partner, will be treated as a new business, which will likely require the payment of fees.  Please contact the Finance Department, Business Licensing Division at 209-385-6843, for fee rate information.
What fees do I pay to start my license?
Please contact the Finance Department at (209)385-6843 for details on business license fees.  There are many variables that may or may not apply to your specific business activities and/or location.
What is Merced's current population?
The City of Merced's population as of January 1, 2009 was 80,608.  Estimates are provided each year from the Department of Finance and are generally available in April or May.  Information about the City's historic population can be downloaded in the document below.  If you have any questions, please feel free to call the Merced Planning Division at 209-385-6858.
What special approvals do I need for my business?

Upon submittal of your completed application to the Planning Department, your proposed business activity will be evaluated for proper zoning (land use) and for any special requirements or conditions under which you can operate.
Businesses that require special attention from the Police Department will be forwarded to that department for approval and/or additional processing.  Business activities requiring Police approval include the following: 

Firearms sales (MMC Chapter 5.12)  

Storage of explosives

Alarm companies

Taxicabs and drivers (MMC Chapter 5.16)

Tow companies and drivers

Loading permits

Transportation permits (oversized loads)

Fire extinguisher refill businesses

Solicitors (MMC 05.08.800 – 05.08.930)

Street and Sidewalk Vendors (MMC Chapter 5.54)

Curb Painting (MMC Chapter 5.56)

Limousine services

Tattoo establishments

Private patrol, security services, and security guards (MMC Chapter 5.40)

Dance Permits (MMC Chapter 5.48)

Child care centers

Dependent adult care centers

Carnivals (MMC 05.08.100), Circuses (MMC 05.08.110)

Itinerant vendors (MMC 05.08.130)

Video rentals (to ensure separation of adult-type movies from others)

Lock and key businesses, including mobile services

Card rooms (MMC 05.08.060 - 05.08.090)

Pool rooms, billiard rooms, and family billiard parlors (MMC Chapter 5.36)

Massage establishments/massage technicians (MMC Chapter 5.44)

Adult entertainment businesses, including figure models (MMC Chapter 5.58)

Pawn shops (MMC Chapter 5.28)

Fortune tellers

Motion Picture Filming (MMC Chapter 5.52)

What special taxes and permits are required for my business? 
Additional taxes or permit fees may be required if your business is located within a Business Improvement Area (MMC Chapter 3.44)  or conducts a particular type of business activity. Examples would include hotels and motels (MMC Chapter 3.08), taxicab companies and drivers (MMC Chapter 5.16), massage (MMC Chapter 5.44), cardrooms and cardroom dealers (MMC 05.08.060 - 05.08.090), dance halls (MMC Chapter 5.48), billiard rooms (MMC Chapter 5.36), solicitors (MMC 05.08.800 – 05.08.930), and mobile food vendors (MMC Chapter 5.54). When your application is filed with the City, it will be evaluated to determine if these or other such taxes or permit fees will apply to your business.

When do I need a business license?
Any time you are charging fees or accepting payment for goods or services, or conducting any type of business within the City limits of Merced, you are required to obtain a business license (MMC 5.04.040). 
All State-licensed contractors working on projects within the City of Merced are also required to obtain a business license prior to the issuance of the building permit with which they are involved, even if they are only contracted with that project for a very short amount of time (MMC 05.08.120).
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