Steps to starting or establishing a business in Boulder
- Find a location for your business, and ensure that your proposed location allows your business use and what requirements might apply by visiting the Zoning page, the Planning & Development Services Center, Building Codes and Regulations and Sign Code pages. Once you have a location, apply for a business license in the City of Boulder
- Please note, all businesses must have a sales and use tax/business license, regardless of whether the business makes taxable sales
- Requirements for Boulder County and State of Colorado licenses
- Make sure you have obtained any applicable City of Boulder Regulatory Licenses
- Find additional support as needed from the Boulder Small Business Development Center (SBDC)and other business resources.
- Determine your initial City of Boulder use tax liability which will be payable on your first city use tax return.
- Refer to “Sales and Purchase of Business” on the Tax Regulations page for more information
- If you are purchasing a business, ensure that the seller does not have any outstanding tax liabilities
Once you are licensed with the City of Boulder
Be sure to file your City of Boulder tax returns-
- Please note that even if there is no tax due (or any taxable sales), there is still a filing requirement
- Most businesses have a Use Tax obligation, learn more about use tax by visiting our Use Tax FAQ page
All City of Boulder licenses are required to be renewed every odd year
Frequently asked questions
Boulder's zoning laws specify types of business uses allowed at specific locations. Each property is in a designated zoning district and each zoning district lists the allowed uses for that district. Some types of business uses or those with certain operating characteristics are only allowed with a public review process such as "use review." Email a Project Specialist in the Planning & Development Services Center or call 303-441-1880 to learn more about zoning districts and to confirm that your proposed business use is allowed before signing a lease or purchasing a property.
Home occupations are allowed in Boulder for businesses that meet the following standards:
- A home occupation is a permitted accessory use if the following conditions are met:
- Such use is conducted entirely within a principal or accessory building and is not carried on by any person other than the inhabitants living there.
- Such use is clearly incidental and secondary to the residential use of the dwelling and does not change the residential character thereof.
- The total area used for such purposes does not exceed one-half the first floor area of the user's dwelling unit.
- There is no change in the outside appearance of the dwelling unit or lot indicating the conduct of such home occupation, including, without limitation, advertising signs or displays.
- There is no on-site sale of materials or supplies except incidental retail sales.
- There is no exterior storage of material or equipment used as a part of the home occupation.
- No equipment or process is used in such home occupation that creates any glare, fumes, odors or other objectionable condition detectable to the normal senses at the boundary of the lot if the occupation is conducted in a detached dwelling unit, or outside the dwelling unit if conducted in an attached dwelling unit.
- No traffic is generated by such home occupation in a volume that would create a need for parking greater than that which can be accommodated on the site or which is inconsistent with the normal parking usage of the district.
A City of Boulder business license comes with a mandatory sales and use tax filing requirement. Businesses that don’t have taxable retail sales are still required to file a sales & use tax return. You can learn more about tax rates and types applicable in the City of Boulder on the Current Tax Rates page. Even if your business is service-based you may have a use tax liability. You can learn more about use tax here.
Depending on the type of business you are planning to operate, additional City licensing may be required. The following require additional City licensing:
- Mobile Food Vehicles
- Liquor Licenses
- Marijuana Businesses
- Hemp Businesses
- Itinerant Merchants (Door to door sales)
- Carnival, Circus, or Menageries
- Auction Licenses
- Secondhand Dealer and Pawnbroker Licenses
- Tobacco & Electronic Smoking Device Retailers
- Short Term Rental Housing
- Activities on Pearl Street Mall
Please note that businesses in Boulder are subject to federal, state and county licensing and other regulatory requirements.
State, County, and RTD taxes are remitted to the State directly. For more information regarding specific tax issues for the State, County, or RTD, or to inquire about obtaining a state tax license, contact the Colorado Department of Revenue at (303) 238-7378 or https://www.colorado.gov/revenue