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If you're thinking about opening an e-commerce business, start here for a checklist of items to consider and permits that you may need to obtain to get your business off the ground. Please note that this guide does not substitute for legal or professional advice, and additional permits may be required depending on the circumstances of your business.
The E-Commerce Checklist covers key items that you may consider when starting your business. Get a head start on the planning process by knowing upfront what to expect so you don't run into unexpected surprises that may delay your grand opening.
Given the nature of an e-commerce business, you may be planning to use your home as your office. If you are planning to have a home-based office, please keep in mind a couple of city regulations:
The commercial activity associated with your business cannot be visible from outside - for instance, no signs or window/outside displays.
You may only have one employee working in the office who does not live in the home.
You may only have two deliveries and pick ups to your office per day, and cannot park or store commercial vehicles on site.
You may not use mechanized equipment that wouldn't normally be used in a residential setting.
You may only have one client visit per hour between the hours of 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
If you are planning to have many deliveries to and from your business, or manufacture or store a large number of goods, a home-based office may not be the best fit. You may consider finding a commercial or industrial space that fits your needs.
Before you open your doors, you will need to register your business, your business name and business entity. Check out the online start-up guide to get a tailored guide on how to formally register your business with the City, County, State and Federal Government and get set up to pay business, sales and payroll taxes.
If your business is located in California, get smart on the laws regarding the collection of sales taxes for internet purchases. Generally speaking, internet sales are treated and taxable similar to any retail, in store-sales. There are some items that are exempt from sales tax, such as used goods that are being resold, sales of cold food products and sales that are delivered outside of California.
Sales of electronic data products such as software, data, eBooks, mobile applications or digital images may not be taxable if they are delivered to the customer online.
For more information about sales taxes and exemptions, please visit the California State Board of Equalization website.
If you prefer a personal touch to getting your business of the ground, check out the Resources Section of the Business Portal. You can find organizations that might be helpful to you along the way, or visit one of the City's nine BusinessSource Centers for dedicated, free technical assistance.
The State of California Board of Equalization has created two publications that may be helpful to better understand sales tax requirements for internet sales (Publication 73: Your California Seller's Permit) and sales tax exemptions (Publication 61: Sales and Use Taxes: Exemptions and Exclusions).