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.
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.
All business licenses shall be renewed annually, or once a year, before the start of the licensing period. The due date is June 1st for the license period July 1st - June 30th. Please contact the Finance Department, (209)385-6843, for an explanation on how these charges are billed.
The Planning Department will evaluate the business location and its proposed use for proper zoning of the property. Regarding occupancy of the building, however, you are strongly encouraged to consult with the Building Inspection Services Department to determine whether or not the use of the building for your business would trigger the need for building permits. The business license review process does not guarantee a review of your business by the Building Inspection Services Department, and the business license does not grant authorization to occupy any space, building, premises or property that requires modifications or additional approvals or permits. It is the responsibility of the business license applicant to obtain all necessary permits and approvals from the building department prior to occupying the space. For these reasons, it is highly advisable that applicants for a business license contact the Building Department as early in the process of obtaining a business license as is possible. By ensuring permits and approvals are obtained in advance of occupancy, unforeseen construction and permit fees may be avoided.
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.
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 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 Section 20.48 regarding this subject to make sure that you can abide by all regulations.
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.
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), residential care facility for the elderly, which serves six or less (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.
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.
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.
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
Taxicabs and drivers (MMC Chapter 5.16)
Tow companies and drivers
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)
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)
Motion Picture Filming (MMC Chapter 5.52)
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.
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).