Here are the most commonly asked questions from people starting a business in Sonoma County.
Do I need a business license/tax certificate to open a business in Sonoma County?
You will need a business license/tax certificate if you are locating or operating your business within the boundaries of one of the nine cities in Sonoma County. To find out what you will need, please contact the individual city departments.
If you are operating your business in the unincorporated areas of Sonoma County (anywhere outside of the nine cities), then you are not required to have a business license/tax certificate.
Can I operate a business from my residence?
Generally, yes, though there are exceptions, and you must acquire a permit in most cases. You will need to contact your local city planning department for information about how to open your home-based business.
How do I decide on my business structure (sole proprietor, partnership, corporation, LLC, etc.)?
Before completing any paperwork with the City, County, State, or Federal Government, you will need to decide on a business structure. This decision will be yours. As a government department, the EDB cannot offer legal advice. For questions about the legal and/or financial implications of forming a business entity, you will want to consult a lawyer and/or an accountant.
What is a Fictitious Business Name (FBN) Statement?
FBN’s are filed with the Sonoma County Clerk-Recorder's Office. FBN's are required when a business, registered as a Sole Proprietorship or Partnership, will do business under a name that does not include the surname of each owner. If the business is a Corporation or LLC, it will need to file an FBN to operate under any other name than that filed with the state. More information can be found at the Sonoma County Clerk-Recorder's Office.
How do I prepare for income taxes?
Regardless of your business entity type, you should be prepared to separate your business finances from your personal finances by opening a separate business banking account. Dependent upon business type, there are helpful resources from the IRS and Franchise Tax Board. Always discuss tax questions with an accountant.
Do I need a Seller’s Permit?
You will need a Seller's Permit if you are retailing or wholesaling tangible goods. This will allow you to collect sales taxes and remit them to the state. More information about Seller's Permits is available from the California State Board of Equalization.
Is my worker an independent contractor or employee?
This is a common question, and can be very difficult to answer. Businesses often ask how to “1099” individuals who perform services for them, but this is only permitted under limited circumstances. A guide on the subject can be found at the California Employment Development Department (EDD)and businesses are strongly encouraged to contact the EDD at (888) 745-3886 for further information.
How do I finance my new business/expansion?
There are now several potential options available to Sonoma County businesses of all sizes and shapes. If you are a fast-growing tech business, you may be looking for an investor. Mom and Pop retail shop? You may be looking for a start-up micro-loan to get going. Visit our Finance Your Startup, Finance your Growth and Finance Your Business page for more information.
How can I find a commercial space for my new business?
The Sonoma County EDB can help! We complement the services of local brokerage firms by providing information on local commercial listings. We can also provide demographics and other data to help you compare potential locations! Once you have identified some great spots, you are ready to call a commercial property broker!
How do I connect with potential customers?
The Sonoma County EDB can help! We have a comprehensive suite of business development tools that can provide you with key marketing insights. These tools work hand-in-hand with the services available from other local organizations to help you build a rock-solid marketing plan, and get customers through your doors!