Business License Modernization Project

The City of Santa Monica adopted its existing Business License Tax code in 1990, more than 30 years ago. Since the 1990’s, there have been significant shifts in the way business is conducted within Santa Monica and entirely new business sectors have emerged.  This has created administrative challenges, such as outdated tax classifications and definitions, tax rates that do not align with neighboring jurisdictions, limited exemptions for our small business community, and outdated capped amounts.  Santa Monica’s Business License Tax can be found in the City’s municipal code: Article 6 Business, Professions and Trades

Business license tax is a General Fund tax on the business activity that takes place in Santa Monica and supports essential City services.  The Finance Department collects business license taxes from approximately 23,000 businesses, 13,000 of those businesses are physically located within the City. 

Over the past year, City staff has been working with outside consultants HdL and Baker Tilly to conduct a comprehensive review of the existing BLT program and tax ordinance to identify areas for improvement.  The City initiated a review of the existing business license code and using the City Council’s priorities as a guide, developed the following goals:

·        Create a fair, equitable and simple business license taxing structure

·        Ensure that the taxing structure is competitive with neighboring jurisdictions

·        Retain, attract, and encourage the expansion of businesses

·        Proactively address emerging business models 

·        Protect the City’s General Fund tax revenue stream

Current Project Timeline

April 2024

Staff presented initial findings and recommendations of the Business License Modernization effort to the City Council on April 9th, 2024.  The proposed changes are structured to support microenterprises, small and medium size retailers, compares with neighboring jurisdictions, increases transparency, streamlines administration, and protects current tax revenues that fund essential City services. Below are the links to the staff report and the PowerPoint presentation.

Business License Tax Modernization - City of Santa Monica, California (

PowerPoint Presentation

Council recommended that a phased in approach be evaluated for increases to taxes.


May 2024

The City’s consultants will conduct a statistical survey of the Santa Monica voters to assess the feasibility of the proposed changes to the Business License Tax. 


June 2024

Per Council’s direction on April 9th, staff is drafting the proposed revisions to Article 6 to modernize the applicable section of the City ordinance. The proposed amendments will clarify inconsistencies in terminology, clarify contradictory sections and modernize definitions that are vital to the administration of the BLT program. 


Next Steps

On June 25, 2024, City Staff will return to City Council to present the results of the statistical poll and to present the proposed ballot language, proposed changes to the applicable section to Article 6 Business, Professions and Trades, and a draft resolution to be placed on the November 2024 General Municipal Election Ballot.

Want to Get Involved?

While additional information will be provided on this site as it becomes available, questions, comments or concerns can be emailed directly to: