Steps to Starting a Business

Press Enter to show all options, press Tab go to next option

When it comes to serving the business community, the City of San Marcos is committed to raising the bar. This guide is designed to walk entrepreneurs through the necessary steps to do business in San Marcos. What type of business are you starting? Note the legend below showing which steps apply to your new business. For any questions or more information, contact the San Marcos Finance Department at (760) 744-1050, ext. 3101 or email

What type of business are you starting?

(Download the Steps to Starting a Business brochure)

Each step in this guide indicates one or more icons illustrating what the applicable business type is.

HOME BUSINESS may refer to home-based freelance business

COMMERCIAL, INDUSTRIAL or RETAIL includes storefronts or manufacturing businesses

OUT OF CITY BUSINESSES have a business address outside San Marcos city limits and can include contractors or mobile businesses.

 Business Icons

Step 1 Zoning Clearance

Prior to signing a lease or getting started with your business plan, see if your business type is allowed at a specific location by calling the San Marcos Planning Division (760) 744-1050, ext. 3204 or email

Step 2 Tenant Improvements

If you are completing tenant improvements such as altering your floor plan by adding or removing walls; making changes to the electrical, mechanical or plumbing systems; or changing occupancy, a building permit will be required. For more information, visit or call (760) 744-1050, ext. 3205.

Step 3 Business Structure

Will your ownership be sole proprietor, partnership, corporation, LLC or LLP? Contact your personal accountant or attorney for assistance. If you will be forming a corporation, LLC or LLP, you will need to file with the Secretary of State by visiting,

Step 4 Business Name

If your business name does not include your first and last name, then you must file a fictitious business name statement with the County of San Diego's Clerks Office. To complete your application, visit, call (619) 237-0502 or apply in person at the San Diego County Recorder's San Marcos location, 141 E. Carmel Street.

Step 5 For Tax Purposes

In order to apply for a business license, you will need a Federal Employer Identification Number (FEIN) or a Social Security Number (SSN). Employers with employees, business partnerships and corporations must obtain a FEIN from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). For more information or to apply, visit

Step 6 Taxable Items

If your business sells taxable items, a Seller's Permit/Resale Certificate must be obtained. Apply online by visiting
or call (858) 385-4700.

Step 7 Food Handling

Businesses that handle food must obtain a health permit from the County of San Diego's Environmental Health Department at 5500 Overland Avenue, Ste. #170, San Diego. For more information, call (858) 505-6666 or visit

Step 8 Alcoholic Beverages

If your business will be selling or serving alcohol, please contact the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (760) 471-4237 or Any individual selling or serving alcohol, or checking ID must attend the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control's (ABC) L.E.A.D or the Responsible Beverage Sales & Service's (RBSS) training every two years. For class dates or more information, visit


Anyone conducting business in the City of San Marcos must have a business license. Get your application online by visiting, or in person at City Hall, 1 Civic Center Drive. Annual business license renewals can be completed online at


The City's Stormwater Division requires facility-specific Best Management Practices (BMPs) for those businesses that have a potential to generate and discharge pollutants into the City's stormwater drainage system. To learn more about what BMPs may be required for your business, contact the city's Stormwater Division at (760) 481-3878.

Step 11 Industrial Green Permit

If your business involves the manufacturing of any product or if you own and lease space to tenants who store business materials then you may need coverage under the State Water Resources Control Board's Industrial General Permit. These permits must be obtained seven days prior to the start of operation. For more information, please contact the San Diego Water Board at (619) 516-1990 or email

Step 12 Hazardous Materials

It is recommended that you check with the County of San Diego Hazardous Materials Division ( hazmat.html), the Air Pollution Control District ( sdc/apcd/en/compliance-programs/business_assistance.html) and the Vallecitos Water District ( to see if your operations require a permit from these agencies.

Step 13 Fire Inspection

Businesses that require a fire inspection prior to business license or building permit issuance will be notified at the time of application. For more information or questions about fire inspections, contact the San Marcos Fire Department at
(760) 744-1050, ext. 3410.

Step 14 Other Permits

To learn what other city regulatory licenses (e.g., tobacco retail, massage, entertainment) may be required, visit To determine if additional state permits or federal permits/licenses are required, enter your business type and location into CalGOLD at or visit

Step 15 Signage

To learn about allowed signage in the City of San Marcos, visit

Step 16 Out of City Business Licenses

If you will be conducting business in any cities outside of San Marcos, a separate business license will most likely be required. You must contact each city individually to determine the process.



Economic Development Division |
The city's economic development program focuses on business attraction, retention and expansion, while offering many services for new and existing San Marcos businesses.

San Marcos Chamber of Commerce |
An advocate of businesses, the Chamber is dedicated to the promotion and development of a positive business environment in San Marcos.

San Diego North EDC |
The San Diego North Economic Development Council values both the public and private sectors working together as community partners to sustain and strategically grow the economic base of North San Diego County.

SCORE-SanDiego |
Offers free small business advice for entrepreneurs. SCORE is a volunteer, non-profit organization whose mission is to promote the success of small business

Small Business Development Center North County |
Provides consulting services and workshops for small businesses in North County San Diego.

US Small Business Administration San Diego Office |
Offers a variety of programs and support services to help businesses navigate the issues faced during initial applications. Business resources are also provided.

State of California, Employment Development Division (EDD) |
EDD is responsible for the state programs involving unemployment insurance, disability insurance, payroll tax collection, and job training/workforce services.

State of California, Department of Industrial Relations |
This state department oversees workers' compensation, labor standards and occupational safety and health.

California Franchise Tax Board |
Obtain State Income Tax forms from the Franchise Tax Board. For more information, visit the California Tax Service Center website at

San Diego Regional EDC |
San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation's (EDC for short) mission is to maximize the region’s economic prosperity and global competitiveness. As an independently funded nonprofit organization, EDC promotes the region, facilitates corporate expansion across diverse industry sectors, and supports the talent pool that drives their success.

San Diego Workforce Partnership |
The San Diego Workforce Partnership (SDWP) funds job training programs that empower job seekers to meet the current and future workforce needs of employers in San Diego County. We are the local Workforce Development Board, designated by the City and County of San Diego.

For more information, contact the San Marcos Finance Department at (760) 744-1050, ext. 3101 or

This guide is only intended to provide a brief overview of the key steps to starting a business and may not be inclusive of all local, state and federal requirements to operate a business.