Vancouver’s business and special license requirements and processes are summarized below, and related regulations are found in Title 5, Vancouver Municipal Code (VMC). For a printable summary see, Quick Guide – City Business License Info.
New Business License Applicants
If your company is new to Washington State, please review information at: Washington State Department of Revenue (DOR), Open a Business, prior to obtaining a Vancouver business license. Also, DOR BLS is Vancouver’s partner for the administration if its new (and renewing) business licenses (see more details below). For questions about state requirements or the city business license application process, please contact DOR BLS at 360-705-6741, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. Monday-Friday.
If your business is based within Vancouver city limits, you should also confirm that the proposed business activity is an allowed use at the business location address. To confirm the proposed use complies with zoning, contact the Vancouver Community Development Department at 360-487-7803 or email@example.com. The issuance of a city business license does not equate to city zoning approval of the business activity in the specified business location.
New Business License Fees in April 2023
On April 1, 2023, City of Vancouver’s business license fees changed. See 2023 Fee Changes tab on this page.
Why did license fees change? To respond to community priorities identified in the recently approved 2023-2024 biennial budget, the Vancouver City Council made changes to City business license fees to make investments in increased police services, park playground replacements, new roads, and economic development and job creation programs.
The changes will also reduce the fee burden on the smallest businesses in Vancouver, and those conducting limited business in the city.
City business and special licensing staff are available by email or phone, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m., Monday – Friday.
In-person license assistance from city staff can be arranged by appointment.
As noted above, Vancouver business license applications and renewals are processed by the city’s licensing partner, the Washington State Department of Revenue (DOR), Business Licensing Service (BLS). DOR BLS customer service staff are available for assistance at 360-705-6741, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m., weekdays.
Vancouver special license applications are processed by city licensing staff using forms available on this website, or upon request from city licensing staff.
See below for more details about applying for a city business license or special license.
City Business License. Vancouver requires a business to hold a city business license (also called “endorsement”) if it is either (1) physically located within city limits, or (2) its staff engage in business within city limits; including employees that work remotely for the business from a residence or elsewhere in the city limits. (To confirm if a business address or work location is within city limits, see “How to: Verify if Doing Business in City Limits” section below.)
Separate city business license. A separate city business license is required for each permanent business location in the city. In addition, if more than one business is operated from a single location, a separate city business license is required for each business.
Partnership with Washington State. Vancouver is partnered with the Washington State Department of Revenue (DOR), Business Licensing Service (BLS), for the administration of its city business licenses (also called “endorsements”) — see “How to: Obtain a City Business License” section below. A business’s state-issued Unified Business Identifier (UBI) is used to reference both its state business and its city business license.
Exemption from paying all city business license fees. As of April 1, 2023, a business is exempt from paying all city business license fees if it reports on the application an estimated in-city gross income in the upcoming 12 months of $2,000 or less (or, for renewing license holders, if it reports on the renewal questionnaire an in-city gross income in the previous 12 months of $2,000 or less). State fees are still charged.
For a complete list of criteria to qualify for the all-city-fees exemption, see: Qualifying Criteria, City Business License Fee Exemptions. For questions about these criteria, contact Vancouver business licensing staff (see contact information below).
Exemption from city employee fee, only.
- Profit Business. As of April 1, 2023, a business that reports on the application or renewal questionnaire that it will generate a gross annual income of more than $2,000 through $50,000 will pay the city license fee of $50, however, it will be exempt from paying the city employee fee.
- Nonprofit Organization. A nonprofit organization is exempt from paying the city business license employee fee upon correctly completing the city business license part of the application. The organization must check “Yes” in the application box corresponding to “Is this business a 501(c) nonprofit?” and attach a copy of its current IRS tax exemption certificate to the application.
For a complete list of criteria to qualify for the employee fee-only exemption, see: Qualifying Criteria, City Business License Fee Exemptions. For questions about these criteria, contact city business licensing staff (see contact information below).
Not transferable. A city business license is not transferable to another party; each new owner must apply for a new city business license.
City Special License. Certain types of businesses that operate in Vancouver (e.g., ambulance companies, solicitors, taxicab companies, mobile food vendors, movie theaters, secondhand dealers, recycling collectors, etc.) must hold a city-issued special license, in addition to a city business license. See Special License tab on this page.
Home-based Business. In addition to holding a city business license, a business with a location address that is a residence in the city (referred to as “home occupation”) must comply with the city’s home occupation regulations set forth in VMC 20.860, and may be required to hold a Home Occupation Permit issued by the Community Development Department. To learn more, go to Home Occupation Permit, or contact the Vancouver Community Development Department at 360-487-7803 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
How to: Verify if Doing Business in City Limits
Before applying for a city business license or special license, verify that your business location address, or location where you will conduct work, is within city limits and, thus, subject to the city’s business license regulations. See following options for making this verification.
How to: Obtain City Business License
Obtaining a city business license (also called “endorsement”) is a 3-step process:
1. Application. There are two possible methods to apply for a city business license: (1) online via the My DOR website (fastest and preferred method), or (2) by US mail (via paper forms). Application-related fees are found in the “FEES…” section below.
- Online application (fastest and preferred method). Go to My DOR and follow instructions to complete online application for a city business license and pay associated fees via debit or electronic check from your bank account, or via credit card. For assistance with this process, contact the Washington State Department of Revenue (DOR), Business Licensing Service (BLS) at 360-705-6741 or email@example.com.
- By US mail. To obtain paper forms for mailing, go to: DOR’s Vancouver City Licenses webpage and select “Business License Application and City Addendum”, or contact DOR BLS at 360-705-6741 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Mail completed forms, along with a check or money order, to the DOR BLS address on page 1 of the application form.
2. City review and license activation. When a business successfully completes application and associated payment, DOR BLS notifies city that application information is available for review with respect to city regulations. Unless issues arise during review, city typically activates a license within a week of DOR BLS notification. (If issues arise, the applicant will be contacted.)
3. Issuance of business license. After city activates city business license, DOR BLS issues a Washington State business license that has the applicable category of city license printed in the “City Endorsement” section of the state license, along with an expiration date. There are five possible categories of city license issued for Vancouver; see descriptions below.
- Vancouver General Business. Applies to a for-profit business with a location address in city limits, that is not a home occupation.
- Vancouver General Non-Resident Business. Applies to a for-profit business with a location address outside city limits.
- Vancouver Home Occupation. Applies to a for-profit business operated from owner’s residence located in city limits.
- Vancouver Nonprofit Business. Applies to a business that qualifies for one of the city’s nonprofit employee-fee-only exemption criteria and provides a copy of its IRS 501(c) tax exempt certification letter as an attachment to the application/addendum.
- Vancouver Employee Fee-Exempt Business. Applies to a business that qualifies for one of the city’s employee-fee-only exemption criteria, other than the nonprofit criteria.
How to: Renew City License
A city business license is active until expiration date shown on state license.
To facilitate the annual renewal process, the Washington State Department of Revenue (DOR), Business Licensing Service (BLS), issues a renewal notice to each active city business licensee no less than 30 days prior to the applicable expiration date. The notice includes instructions to complete renewal process prior to expiration date, to avoid a state-leveed late penalty.
Upon completion of the renewal process and payment, DOR BLS issues an updated state license, showing the applicable city license endorsement category and new expiration date.
City fees to renew the city business license are the same as city fees to apply for the city business license – see “Fees…” section below.
Fees: Application and Renewal
For state fees, see State Business License Fees.
Annual City Business License Fees
On April 1, 2023, city fees changed to those shown below. Application or renewal.
Income in City
|Minimum Total Fee|
|$0 – $2,000||$0.00||$0.00||$0.00|
|>$2,000 – $50,000||$50.00||$0.00||$50.00|
*This amount is minimum to be charged to applicant or renewing license holder that reports generating a gross annual income in city of >$50,000 and has 1 calculated employee.
When completing a business license application, an applicant must report estimated total employee hours to be worked in city in coming 12 months, and when completing the annual license renewal, a license holder must report total employee hours worked in city in previous 12 months or 4 quarters. (See definition of “employee” below.) Then DOR will divide the reported hours by 1,664 hours, and round the result to nearest whole number before multiplying it by the per employee fee; see examples below. Resulting employee number may exceed business’s employee headcount. Minimum employee number is one.
- Example 1: 600 hours divided by 1,664 hours equals 0.36, rounded to 1.
- Example 2: 6,000 hours divided by 1,664 hours equals 3.6, rounded to 4.
- Example 3: 75,000 hours divided by 1,664 hours equals 45.1, rounded to 45.
“Employee” includes: Any person working in city that is on business’ payroll or that is a self-employed person, sole proprietor, owner, manager, or partner of business. (Persons working for a business through an employment agency are considered employees of that agency.)
To estimate the city business license employee fee charged, as of April 1, 2023, see the Business License Fee Calculator.
Adopted Future Fee Increases
In accordance with VMC 5.04.090.2 and.4 and 5.04.095.B, city business license fees will increase on January 1 each year from 2024 to 2030. Businesses that report $2,000 or less in gross income in the city will continue to be exempt from paying all city fees through 2030.
The following table shows the scheduled increase dates and corresponding fee increases for businesses that report a gross annual income in the city of more than $2,000.
Annual Business License Fee Increases – 2024 to 2030
|Future Increase Dates||License Fee per License||Employee fee per Calculated Employee|
| > $2,000 – ≤ $50,000 Reported Gross Annual Income in City|
|> $50,000 Reported Gross Annual Income in City|
How to: Update Business Information
To close account or provide updates to the business name, governing people, mailing address, and/or location address, see instructions at DOR Update by Business Information. For assistance with this process contact the Washington State Department of Revenue (DOR), Business Licensing Service (BLS), at 360-705-6741.
How to: Request Refund of City Fees, if applicable
If you determine that you obtained a city business license in error or overpaid the employee fee part of the fees, you may be eligible for a full or partial refund of the city license fees.
To request a refund, send an email to: email@example.com with the following information:
- Washington State UBI number,
- full business name,
- location and mailing addresses,
- date fees paid to Washington State DOR BLS,
- requested refund amount,
- reason for error in applying for license or miscalculation of fees, and
- name and phone number of authorized contact person
For license application or renewal questions, contact Washington State DOR BLS:
For City license regulations questions, contact Vancouver business licensing: