Guide to Permits, Licensing, and Regulations

Use these tools and resources to set up a California small business that is ready to legally operate.

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Permitting Agencies
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Environmental Permits
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Permit Assistance
professional licenses
Professional Licenses
regulations iconRegulations

Permitting Agencies

California Secretary of State (BizFile)

Supports businesses by registering and authenticating business entities and trademarks. A business filing is necessary for these types of entities: corporations, limited liability companies, limited partnerships and non-profits. Sole proprietors do not need to file. You can file by mail or in person.

Franchise Tax Board (FTB)

All California businesses must file state income tax with the Franchise Tax Board (FTB). Doing business in California is defined as engaging in any transaction for financial gain; being organized or domiciled in the state; or exceeding certain amounts in sales, property or payroll.

Employment Development Department (EDD)

​Collects payroll taxes; administers the Unemployment Insurance and State Disability Insurance programs; and maintains employment records for all California workers. If you employ one or more persons and pay wages in excess of $100 in a calendar quarter, you must register as an employer with the EDD.

Department of Industrial Relations (DIR)

Issues permits, licenses, certifications, and registrations. Two license issuing offices within the DIR issue permits for most types of work. Find the complete listing and references on their website.

Environmental Permits

construction workers standing in a lineDivision of Industrial Relations (DIR)
Enforces California labor laws, sets and enforces standards for safety and health in the workplace, and monitors the administration of workers’ compensation claims, and provides administrative and judicial services to assist in resolving disputes. Provides outreach and educational materials to both workers and employers about California labor regulations and operating safe workplaces.

young cannabis plantCalifornia Department of Tax and Fee Administration (CDTFA)
Administers California’s sales and use, fuel, tobacco, alcohol, and cannabis taxes. Tax programs administered by CDTFA fall into two general areas: sales and use tax, and special taxes and fees. Seller’s permits are required for businesses engaged in California that intend to sell or lease tangible personal property that would be subject to sales tax if sold at retail; you may also need a Resale Certificate. Distributors, and microbusinesses licensed to act as a distributor, of cannabis and cannabis products must obtain a cannabis tax permit.

Environmental Permits

Air Quality Impacts
Many businesses operating in California must comply with environmental requirements that protect public health and air quality. Examples of businesses affected by air pollution regulations include those involved with:

  • Dry Cleaning
  • Commercial boilers, generators, heaters and incinerators
  • Solvent Cleaners
  • Paints or inks
  • Toxic Chemicals
  • Gasoline Sales and distribution
  • Agriculture
  • Automotive refinishing

For more information, consult the California Air Resources Board for businesses.

You can refer to our California Permitting Authorities Mapping Tool to identify what Air District boundary your business is located in. You can also visit the California Local Air District Directory.

Handling, Storing, or Transporting Hazardous Materials
Hazardous waste is a waste with properties that make it potentially dangerous or harmful to human health or the environment. The universe of hazardous wastes is large and diverse. Hazardous wastes can be liquids, solids, or contained gases. They can be the by-products of manufacturing processes, discarded used materials, or discarded unused commercial products, such as cleaning fluids (solvents) or pesticides. In regulatory terms, a hazardous waste is a waste that appears on one of the four Resource Conservation and Recovery Act hazardous wastes lists (the F-list, K-list, P-list, or U-list) or that exhibits one of the four characteristics of a hazardous waste – ignitability, corrosivity, reactivity, or toxicity. However, materials can be hazardous wastes even if they are not specifically listed or don’t exhibit any characteristic of a hazardous waste.

For more information on hazardous waste, consult the California Department of Toxic Substances Control.

The Local Certified Unified Program Agencies (CUPAs) in California are charged with the responsibility of conducting compliance inspections and permitting for facilities that handle hazardous material, generate or treat a hazardous waste and/or operate an underground storage tank to minimize the potential risk to human health and the environment and establish an atmosphere to promote fair business practices. Contact your local CUPA program to determine what specific requirements are needed to adhere to. For more information consult the CUPA Program.

You can refer to our California Permitting Authorities Mapping Tool to identify what CUPA boundary your business is located in. You can also visit the CUPA Directory.

Water Quality Impacts (State and Regional Level)

Many businesses operating in California must comply with state and federal environmental requirements that protect water quality. Projects that involve discharges to waters of the State in more than one region are the jurisdiction of the State Water Board. The State Water Resources Control Board has jurisdiction throughout California. There are nine regional water quality control boards that exercise rulemaking and regulatory activities by basin. The regional water boards establish requirements for sources of waste discharge, including nonpoint sources and other sources exempted that have been exempted from federal permitting requirements. Projects that involve discharges to waters of the State in more than one region are the jurisdiction of the State Water Board. For more information consult the State Water Resources Control Board.

Water Quality Impacts (Federal Level)

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers require permits for any work, including construction and dredging, in the Nation’s navigable waters.

Different Permit Types:

  • Section 404 Permit: This permit is required when work involves a discharge of dredged or fill material into any waters of the United States.
  • Section 10 Permit: This permit is required when working or erecting structures in or affecting navigable waters.This includes all waters affected by tidal influence or otherwise determined to be navigable.

For more information consult the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

You can refer to our California Permitting Authorities Mapping Tool to identify what Regional Water Quality Control Board boundary and Corps boundary your business is located in. You can also visit the Regional Water Quality Control Board Map.

You can also contact one of the following district offices for U.S. Army Corps of Engineers:

  • San Francisco District – (415) 503-6771
  • Sacramento District – (916) 557-5250
  • Los Angeles District – (213) 452-3425
Treating, Handling, Disposing, or Storing Solid Waste
In general, solid waste refers to garbage, refuse, sludge, and other discarded solid materials resulting from residential activities, and industrial and commercial operations. This term generally includes used oil. This term generally does not include solids or dissolved material in domestic sewage or other significant pollutants in water such as silt, dissolved or suspended solids in industrial wastewater effluents, dissolved materials in irrigation return flows or other common water pollutants. However, if any of these materials are separated from the water that carries them, then they generally are considered solid waste. For regulatory purposes, hazardous waste is a subset of solid waste.

California Department of Resources, Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) Local Enforcement Agencies are designated by the governing body of a county or city and upon certification by CalRecycle, are empowered to implement delegated programs and locally designated activities. They have the primary responsibility for ensuring the correct operation and closure of solid waste facilities in the state. They also have responsibilities for guaranteeing the proper storage and transportation of solid wastes.

For more information, consult the CalRecycle for Full Solid Waste Facilities Permits.

You can refer to our California Permitting Authorities Mapping Tool to identify what Local Enforcement boundary your business is located in. You can also visit the LEA Directory.

Pesticide Sales and Use
The Department of Pesticide Regulation’s (DPR) mission is to protect human health and the environment by regulating pesticide sales and use by fostering reduced-risk pest management. A portion of DPR’s budget supports local pesticide enforcement by the County Agricultural Commissioner’s.

The Pesticide and Food Toxicology Section of the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) carries out risk assessment and hazard evaluation activities related to pesticides and other chemical contaminants in food and consumer products. These include evaluating chemical contamination of raw agricultural commodities, processed foods, and environmental media in cases of accidental release. Staff within the program performs activities required by legislation to review risk characterizations prepared by DPR and to evaluate pesticide toxicity data in support of pesticide use and regulation in California.

For more information, visit:

You can refer to our California Permitting Authorities Mapping Tool to identify the County Agriculture/Weights & Measures Department boundary your business is located in. You can also visit the CDFA Ag Commissioners directory.

Fish, Wildlife, and Plant Habitat Impacts (State and Regional Level)
California’s fish and wildlife depend upon the quality and quantity of habitat including lands, waters, and other environmental factors necessary for survival.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Environmental Review and Permitting Programs help fulfill CDFW’s mission to manage California’s diverse fish, wildlife, and plant resources, and the habitats upon which they depend, for their ecological values and for their use and enjoyment by the public.

The California Endangered Species Act (CESA) Program authorizes CDFW to permit project proponents to take(hunt, pursue, catch, capture, or kill, or attempt to hunt, pursue, catch, capture, or kill) state-listed threatened, endangered or candidate species if certain conditions are met. The CESA Program administers the incidental takeprovisions of CESA, including special agreements such as Safe Harbor Agreements and Voluntary Local Programs, to ensure regulatory compliance and statewide consistency.

The CDFW also requires a Stream Alteration Agreement (SAA) for projects that will divert or obstruct the natural flow of water, obstruct or use any material from a streambed. Any work undertaken in or near a river, stream, or lake that flows at least intermittently through a bed or channel usually requires an SAA. If you have any uncertainty about the need for an SAA you should contact the Department’s Regional Office in your area.

Fish, Wildlife, and Plant Habitat Impacts (Federal Level)
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) is the principal Federal agency for conserving, protecting, and enhancing fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats. USFWS enforces the federal Endangered Species Act, insures compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act and reviews and comments on all water resource projects. Field offices are responsible for assisting an applicant in preparing a Habitat Conservation Plan, ensuring that the HCP and associated documents are complete and coordinating with the appropriate Regional Office throughout HCP development, approval and implementation.

Agencies consult with the USFWS, the National Marine Fisheries Service and State wildlife agencies (i.e. the CDFW) for activities that affect, control, or modify waters of any stream or bodies of water. The USFWS may recommend denial of a permit application, the incorporation of additional permit conditions to minimize adverse effects, or mitigation actions. In addition, the Fish and Wildlife Service functions in an advisory capacity to the Army Corps of Engineers.

The USFWS administers licenses and permits at regional offices and certain port locations to authorize and monitor activities consistent with the conservation, protection and enhancement of wildlife, plants and their habitats. The regions also consider the risks and benefits of proposed activities to species and use the best available science and expertise to make decision.

You can refer to our California Permitting Authorities Mapping Tool to identify the USFWS regional boundary your business is located in. You can also visit the USFWS Pacific Southwest Region.

Coastal Development
Any person or public agency proposing development within the coastal zone must obtain a Coastal Development Permit from either the Coastal Commission or the city or county having authority to issue coastal development permits.

The coastal zone extends from the State’s three-mile seaward limit to an average of approximately 1,000 yards inland from the mean high tide of the sea. In coastal estuaries, watersheds, wildlife habitats, and recreational areas, the coastal zone may extend as much as five miles inland. In developed urban areas, the coastal zone may extend inland less than 1,000 yards. As defined by the Coastal Act, developmentincludes land, in or under water, the placement or erection of any solid material or structure; discharge or disposal of any dredge material or a gaseous, liquid, solid, or thermal waste; grading, removing, dredging, mining or extraction of any material; change in the density or intensity of use of land (including land diversions); construction, reconstruction, demolition, or alternation of the size of any structure; and the removal or harvesting of major vegetation other than for agricultural operations, kelp harvesting, and timber operations which are in accordance with a Timber Harvest Plan issued by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

You can refer to our California Permitting Authorities Mapping Tool to identify if your business is located within the coastal zone.

Permit Assistance

calgold logo

The CalGOLD online permit assistance tool helps you to identify local, state, and federal permit information for your business, including resources, application forms, and contact information for the relevant agencies. For permits and registrations administered by the State of California, CalGOLD also includes a Forms and Fee Finder with direct links to applications and fee information. Simply enter your city and type of business. If your business type is not listed, select General Business Information.

Professional Licensure Guide

Animal Services
  • Veterinary Services
    • Veterinarian
    • Veterinary Assistant
    • Veterinary Technician
    • Vet Food-Animal Drug Retailer
Automotive Services
Building, Construction, Contracting, Engineering, and Mechanical
Finance and Accounting
Horse Racing
  • Horse Racing
    • Authorized Agent
    • Stable Name
    • Horse Trainer
    • Horse Owner
Industrial Homeworkers

California Regulations Guide

The Administrative Procedures Act

The Administrative Procedure Act (APA) establishes rulemaking procedures and standards for state agencies in California. The requirements set forth in the APA are designed to provide the public with a meaningful opportunity to participate in the adoption of state regulations and to ensure that regulations are clear, applicable and legally valid. The APA is found in the California Government Code, section 11340 et seq. State regulations must also be adopted in compliance with regulations adopted by OAL (see California Code of Regulations, Title 1, sections 1-280). For information consult the California Office of Administrative Law’s Administrative and Procedure Act and OAL Regulations.

For information on how to participate in the rule making process, consult the California Office of Administrative Law’s Regular Rulemaking Process page.

The California Code of Regulations

The California Code of Regulations (CCR), is the official compilation and publication of the regulations adopted, amended or repealed by state agencies pursuant to the Administrative Procedure Act (APA). Properly adopted regulations that have been filed with the Secretary of State have the force of law.

The CCR is compiled into Titles* and organized into Divisions containing the regulations of state agencies.


CCR is available from a variety of Sources:

  • The Office of Administrative Law (OAL) contracts with Thomson-Reuters to provide a free online version of the Official CCR. It is also available on the OAL website: California Code of Regulations. If you have difficulties accessing the CCR website, e-mail OAL or contact Barclays at 1-800-888-3600.
  • Most County Clerks and County Law Libraries have printed copies of the CCR.
  • To order a hard-copy version of the CCR or purchase individual Titles, contact Barclays, publisher of the Official CCR, or call 1-800-888-3600.


Current Regulations
An online version of the CCR is available online through the Office of Administrative Law (OAL) in partnership with Thomas-Reuters Westlaw. This version is updated weekly.Review the regulations here.


Past Regulation Versions
If you need to research a previous version of the California Code of Regulations, the Office of Administrative Law files hardcopies this collection at the California State Law Library.

More information on accessing these prior versions can be found by visiting theCalifornia Code of Regulations History Research.


Pending Regulations
The Office of Administrative Law also publishes information on proposed regulatory actions by state regulatory agencies to adopt, amend, or repeal regulations contained in the California Code of Regulations.

To view the records of proposed regulatory actions, visit theCalifornia Regulatory Notice Register.

Unclaimed Property

Did you know California is safeguarding billions of dollars in unclaimed property? Uncashed paychecks, inactive bank accounts, and customer refunds are just some of the common forms of unclaimed property that are sent to the state every year by businesses. Search the unclaimed property database at to discover funds that may belong to you or your business.

Businesses send unclaimed property to the State Controller’s Office each year as required under California’s Unclaimed Property Law. If your business is holding unclaimed property that may be reportable, visit to register for free training webinars, review reporting instructions, and submit reports through the online reporting portal. We are here to help!

Find Past Versions of a Regulation

Sometimes, there is a need to research a prior version of a section of the California Code of Regulations (CCR) or to track its history. Researching a prior version of a CCR section is done using the California Code of Regulations Supplement (previously known as the California Regulatory Code Supplement, but commonly referred to as the Registeror CCR Supplement). For additional information, visit the California Code of Regulations History Research.

The California Regulatory Notice Register (Proposed Regulations)

The California Regulatory Notice Register (Notice Register) contains notices of proposed regulatory actions by state regulatory agencies to adopt, amend, or repeal regulations contained in the California Code of Regulations. A state agency must complete its rulemaking and submit the rulemaking file to OAL within one year of the date of publication of a Notice of Proposed Action (Notice) in the Notice Register. (Government Code Section 11346.4(b)).

Major Regulations - Standardized Regulatory Impact Assessment (SRIA)

Senate Bill 617 (Chapter 496, Statutes of 2011) established additional regulatory impact assessment standards for major regulations. State agencies must conduct a Standardized Regulatory Impact Assessment (SRIA) when it estimates that a proposed regulation has an economic impact exceeding $50 million. The Department of Finance has adopted regulations for state agencies to follow when conducting a SRIA for major regulations. Finance is required to review the completed SRIA submitted by agencies and provide comment(s) to the agency on the extent to which the assessment adheres to the regulations adopted by Finance. Any questions regarding these regulations or completing a SRIA should be directed to the Economic Research Unit. You can contact this unit by phone at (916) 322-2263 or by email at

The Permits Office of provides comments to Finance on all Major Regulation SRIA documents and analyses.

The Permits Office of GO-Biz reaches out to the impacted industry and seeks comments and concerns from the businesses being affected by the changes. GO-Biz welcomes comments from the business community on upcoming Major Regulation Impact Assessments. We encourage you to sign up for both our mailing list and the mailing list managed by the Department of Finance. You can also Contact Us to share your comments.

About the Regular and Emergency Rulemaking Processes

The Regular Rulemaking Process
Per the California Administrative Procedures Act (APA), many of the regulations that are submitted to the Office of Administrative Law are considered regular rulemakings. These rulemakings are subject to a specific process which includes comprehensive public notice and comment requirements along with requirements that documents and information on which the proposal is based is made available for review and inspection. This comprehensive process intends to create a detailed record that can be reviewed by the Office of Administrative Law and the California courts as well as encourage and facilitate public participation in the rulemaking process.

To learn more about the regular rulemaking process, visit theAbout the Regular Rulemaking Process.


The Emergency Rulemaking Process
Some proposals are submitted as an emergency rulemaking, which generally includes a brief public notice, a brief public comment period, review by the Office of Administrative Law, and a decision. These proposals are intended for situations where immediate action is required to avoid harm to public peace, health, safety, or general welfare.

For more information on the emergency rulemaking process, visit About the Emergency Rulemaking Process.


How to Participate in the Rulemaking Process
Participation in public comment opportunities are different between regular and emergency rulemaking processes. For regular rulemaking, there is a 45-day period for the public to make comments to the agency proposing the regulation. For emergency rulemaking, there is a 5-calendar day period for the public to make comments, which must be submitted to the Office of Administrative Law.

More information on participating in these processes can be found in the pages linked above.

California Office of the Small Business Advocate
1325 J Street, Suite 1800
Sacramento, CA 95814
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