What are the requirements for starting a business in Alameda County?
Choose a Business Name
To make sure your business name doesn't conflict with other businesses, you can check to see if it is in use in Alameda County by checking the Fictitious Business Name database at the Clerk-Recorder's web-site.
To avoid duplicating names already in use outside of Alameda County, especially in cities, counties or metropolitan areas in or near where you plan to do business, we recommend that you check Reference USA. It lists businesses that appear in yellow pages of phone books throughout the U.S. and also gives information on their line of business and their size. If you have an Alameda County Library card, you can access Reference USA through the Library's web page. From the Alameda County Library Home Page, click on Articles & Databases, then choose Business & Investments and choose Reference USA.
We also suggest that you check the Patent & Trademark Office's Trademark Electronic Search System,
to make certain that the name you want doesn't conflict with a registered trademark/tradename. This registration sets a precedent for the use of a name within a specific category of product or service. Many well-known names should never be used even if your business is in an entirely different line, because these tradename owners consider such use trading on their name and reputation.
Fictitious Business Name Statement (DBA)
Most businesses whose principal location is in Alameda County are required to file a Fictitious Business Name Statement with the County Clerk-Recorder's office in Oakland. A fictitious business name is defined as a name that does not include the surnames of all owners of a business or, in the case of a corporation, does not include the full corporate name.
However, many banks are now requiring their customers to file a statment, whether legally necessary or not, before approving a business loan or opening a business account.
If you need to file, you should do so within 40 days of starting business. The forms and instructions for the Fictitious Business Name Statement are available online from the County Clerk-Recorder's office. They may also be picked up at the County Clerk-Recorder's Office in Hayward, 24405 Amador St., Room 108; in Pleasanton, 5672 Stoneridge Dr.; or in Oakland at 1106 Madison St., Room 211. Completed forms are accepted only at the Oakland office: Clerk-Recorder, 1106 Madison St., Room 211, Oakland, CA 94607.
The current filing fee is $29.00 for businesses with one owner and one business name. There is an additional charge of $7.00 for each additional business owner or business name.
Within 30 days of filing the petition, you will be required to publish a legal notice of your business name in any local paper of general circulation once a week for four consecutive weeks.
Licenses are issued either by incorporated cities or the county tax collector depending on the location of the business. Businesses located in the unincorporated area of Alameda County are required to pay license fees to the county. If you are going to do business in a city or have a fixed place of business there, apply for your license at the city offices, tax and license division. License rates and permit requirements vary from city to city. Licenses are issued for a fiscal year with the fee based on gross receipts for most retail and wholesale businesses, the number of employees or a flat fee for specific businesses.
Phone numbers for the business license departments at local cities are listed below. All are in the 510 area code, except as noted. Some of the City websites include business start-up information.
Contact the Business License unit of the Alameda County Treasurer/Tax Collector for business licenses in Castro Valley, San Lorenzo, Sunol, and other unincorporated areas.
If you are operating a business in the unincorporated area of the county, in addition to a business license, you may need a special permit from the Sheriff's Office or the County Board of Supervisors. These regulations are described in the Alameda County General Ordinance Code. The most common special permits are for auctioneering, door-to-door selling, massage parlors, second hand dealers, taxi service, private security services, kennels, quarries, automobile wreckers and junk yards. Contact the Sheriff's deputy in charge of permits 1-925-667-3620 for information and applications.
In addition to licenses and permits listed above, certain professions and selected businesses require state licenses. A few of the more common are auto repair shops, bars, liquor stores, electrical appliance repair shops, contractors, cosmetologists, insurance sales, collection agencies, real estate sales, lawyers, and medical professionals. To assist you in finding the appropriate permitting information for your business, the CalGOLD database at www.calgold.ca.gov provides links and contact information that direct you to agencies that administer and issue business permits, licenses and registration requirements from all levels of government. Additional assistance can be obtained from the State Agency Directory at www.ca.gov/directory.html. Permit and licensing status is available at www.ca.gov/OS_Business.html#permits. To verify a license or renew a license online go to www.dca.ca.gov.
You should contact the zoning department of the city for businesses in incorporated areas, or the zoning department of the county for businesses in unincorporated areas to make certain that your business location is zoned for your particular type of business.
For the unincorporated area of Alameda County contact Alameda County Zoning 670-5410. Phone numbers for city zoning offices are:
- Alameda 748-4554
- Albany 528-5760
- Berkeley 705-8111
- Dublin 1-925-833-6610
- Emeryville 596-4360
- Fremont 494-4455
- Hayward 583-4200
- Livermore 1-925-373-5200
- Newark 790-7215
- Oakland 238-3911
- Piedmont 420-3050
- Pleasanton 1-925-484-8286
- San Leandro 577-3371
- Union City 471-3232
Seller's Permits/Resale Numbers
Retailers, wholesalers and manufacturers must obtain seller's permits from the California State Board of Equalization, 1515 Clay St., Suite 303, Oakland, 1-800-432-2829. Forms are also available at the Board of Equalization's website.
Retail sellers are taxed on their gross receipts and are frequently required to place a deposit based on a six month estimate of sales. The Board issues all sellers a resale number which enables them to buy wholesale without paying sales tax.
If you plan to hire employees, there are several requirements. You should file a form SS-4 with the Internal Revenue Service. The IRS will assign an employer identification number to your business.
- Form SS-4 is available online from the IRS in a variety of formats.
Choose SS-4 from the menu which appears.
You will then be liable for federal withholding taxes, FUTA (Federal Unemployment Tax Act.) and FICA (Federal Insurance Contribution Act, i.e. Social Security). For an explanation of your Federal tax responsibilities, you can request a copy of Circular E: Employer`s Tax Guide, IRS publication 15, from the IRS. The Oakland office of the IRS is located at 1301 Clay St., 1-800-829-1040.
- The publication is also available online from the IRS in a variety of formats.
Choose Publication 15 from the menu which appears.
You will also be required to file a form DE-1 with the California Employment Development Department, 7700 Edgewater Dr., Suite 100, Oakland, 1-888-745-3886.
After filing you will be responsible for withholding and payment of state income tax and unemployment insurance. Information on the tax withholding process and other California obligations for employers is available from the EDD Employment Tax Office.
You should arrange Workers Compensation Insurance coverage for your employees. This can be done through a State-sponsored plan, State Compensation Insurance Fund, 2955 Peralta Oaks Court, Oakland 94605, 577-3000, or your own insurance agent.
As a result of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 all employers must verify the employment eligibility of new employees using form I-9. Eligible employees are citizens or aliens with work permits. Further information is available from the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services, 1-800-375-5283 and online.
Finally, you should familiarize yourself with the California Occupational Safety and Health Act, which sets down exact requirements for safety and health standards in places of employment throughout the State. Fines for noncompliance can be steep. Information is available from the California State Consultation office 1-800-963-9424; for complaints or compliance problems contact Cal OSHA's office at 622-2891.
IF YOU ARE GOING TO BE SELLING FOOD, you will need to obtain a permit from the Environmental Health Services unit of the County Health Care Services Agency; 1131 Harbor Bay Pkwy., Alameda 94502 Phone 567-6700.
Chambers of Commerce
It is not required, but you may be interested in registering with the Chamber of Commerce in your area. The Chambers of Commerce in Alameda County are:
Small Business Administration/SCORE
SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives) holds frequent low-cost workshops for potential small business owners. Some of the topics covered are: business basics; business plan; financial planning; retail basics; and import/export. They also provide face-to-face and email counseling. For further information contact:
Small Business Administration/SCORE
455 Market Street, Suite 600
San Francisco, CA 94105
415-744-6827 (9-12 AM or 1-3 PM, M-F)
SCORE East Bay Office
519 17th Street
Oakland, CA 94612
510-273-6611 (9:30 AM-1:00 PM, M-F)
A representative from SCORE, SBA's Service Corps of Retired Executives, may be available through your local Chamber of Commerce. Contact your Chamber for information and an appointment.
The SBA maintains drop-in business information libraries in San Francisco and Oakland. These libraries are available for walk-in use. The San Francisco library is located at the 455 Market Street offices. The Oakland library is part of the One Stop Small Business Center:
One Stop Small Business Center
519 17th Street
Oakland, CA 94612
Small Business Development Centers
The East Bay Small Development Center provides training classes and consulting services for small businesses throughout Alameda County.
East Bay SBDC
475 14th St. Suite 150
Oakland, CA 94612
Alameda County Library Resources
The Alameda County Library has many publications to assist an entrepreneur starting a small business. Consult the staff, in person or by phone, to determine if the library has materials on the specific business in which you are interested. You may also e-mail questions to us through Ask a Librarian.
Fremont Main Library
2400 Stevenson Blvd., Fremont, CA 94538
Reference Desk 510-745-1444
This material may be freely reproduced; however an acknowledgment of the source would be appreciated.