Start Your Business

Merced County Welcomes Your Business

Starting a new business is exciting and sometimes challenging. The information on this page is provided to assist you through the process of starting a business in Merced County.

The following items should be examined prior to opening your business. We hope that by reviewing this, we may better assist your efforts to get your business open in a timely manner.

1. Prepare a Business Plan

There is no way to eliminate all risk associated with starting a business, but you can improve your chances of success with proper planning and preparation. A good starting point is to evaluate your strengths and weaknesses by creating a Business Plan. This will help determine whether or not you are ready to start a business.

A Business Plan is the blueprint or road map for where your business will travel. Your plan may also serve as a tool for raising capital and is usually required when applying for a loan or attracting financial investors.

For free and/or low-cost assistance with creating a business plan, as well as start-up incubation and training, please visit: The UC Merced Small Business Development Center (SBDC) or The Merced College - Business Resource Center (BRC)

2. Verify Zoning Regulations

Before finalizing your business location or signing lease agreements, contact the County of Merced’s Community and Economic Development Department to determine the zoning designation of your proposed site. All businesses must locate in areas that allow specific kinds of business activity. Staff will help you determine if your business is an eligible use for a particular location and whether any special approvals are necessary.

Contact: Merced County Community and Economic Development Department (209) 385-7654.

If you plan to operate a business out of your home, you will need to fill out a Home Occupation Permit application.

Contact: Merced County Community and Economic Development Department (209) 385-7654.

3. Determine your Business Structure

If you want to establish your business as a corporation you must contact the Corporation Division of the California Secretary of State's Office. This office will supply you with all the information and forms you need. In addition, the Name Availability Unit can assist you in determining corporate name availability. For more information, contact the State of California Secretary of State's Office, 1230 J Street, Sacramento, CA 95814, (916) 653-6814.

4. Obtain Federal Tax ID Number

Federal Income Tax Identification Numbers, also known as Federal Employer Identification Numbers (EIN's). To find out if your business will require EIN or to apply online, visit Federal Employer Identification Numbers

5. Register a Fictitious Business Name

If you invent a name for your business that is other than your own, the name is considered a Fictitious Business Name. All businesses should first register fictitious business names with the Merced County Clerk's Office before obtaining a Business License with the Merced County Business License Division. For more information, please call the Merced County Clerk's Office at (209) 385-7627 or visit Fictitious Business Names (FBNs).

6. Obtain your Business License and Sellers Permit

    Business License

A Merced County Business License is required to operate a business either located within and/or conducting business in the unincorporated areas of the County. Contact the Merced County Community and Economic Development Department by calling (209) 385-7686 or visit County Business License.

    Seller’s Permit

Any business that sells or leases merchandise, vehicles, or other tangible goods in California, even if temporary, is required to register with the Board of Equalization and pay sales tax on the tangible sales. Any business that holds a seller’s permit must file periodic sales and use tax returns with the Board and pay any sales or use tax due on your sales and purchases. A Seller’s Permit may be obtained from Board of Equalization.

Temporary permits are available to those whose sales activity will last no longer than 30 days, such as Christmas Tree Sales or sales at craft fairs, etc.

7. Obtain Permits and Licenses

    Building Permit

A Building Permit is needed for all new construction in Merced County. In most cases, a permit is also required for the replacement of existing construction, additions, improvements and remodeling. Building permits are the tool the County of Merced uses to regulate construction to ensure it is safe for occupancy or use. This is done through the review of plans and periodic inspections to verify compliance with the California Building Code and local regulations. Contact: Merced County Building Office (209) 385-7477

    Sign Permits

If you plan on displaying a sign either outside a building or a sign intended to be visible from outside a building, you will need to obtain a Sign Permit. A Sign Permit is needed for both permanent and temporary signs such as building signs, window signs, and banners.

Contact: Merced County Community and Economic Development Department (209) 385-7654.

    Restaurants and Food Vendors

A health inspection is required for restaurants and food vendors. The Merced County Health Department's Division of Environmental Health will arrange an inspection, or you may to request information and advice regarding health and environmental safety issues. Contact: The Merced County Health Department's Division of Environmental Health (209) 381-1100.

    Cottage Food Businesses

A new State Law allows individuals to prepare and/or package certain non-potentially hazardous foods in private-home kitchens referred to as “cottage food operations” (CFOs). All cottage food operators will have to meet specified requirements pursuant to the California Health and Safety Code related to preparing foods that are on the approved food list, completing a food processor training course within three months of registering, implementing sanitary operations, establishing state and federal compliant labels, and operating within established gross annual sales limits. For more information, please visit: California Department of Public Health and Merced County Health Department's Division of Environmental Health

    California Department of Consumer Affairs License

Many professional businesses such as accountants, engineers, doctors, and dentists require a State license from the California Department of Consumer Affairs. Businesses such as barbers, cosmetologists, security services, and auto repairs are also required to obtain a State license.

To find out if you must register your business, please visit the California Department of Consumer Affairs

    Import/Export Permit

If your business will involve the import or export of products with other countries, you may need to obtain an Import/Export Permit. For more information, contact the United States Customs Service at (415) 782-9210.

    Other Permits & Licenses

Other regional, state, and federal permits and licenses may be required, depending on the nature of your business. Contact: CalGOLD Business Permits Made Simple office at (916) 322-7394, or visit CalGOLD.