A Step-By-Step Guide to Getting a Commercial Activity License
A Commercial Activity License (formerly called a Business Privilege License– because yes, it is an honor and privilege to own a business in this wonderful city ;)) is a license that does exactly what it says: It allows you to own and run a business in this city. This goes for any type of business; including renting out units for residential housing.
Many people find out they need a Commercial Activity License upon attempting to apply for another license or permit that requires a Commercial Activity License in order to apply: such as a housing rental license (which allows you to rent residential units), a zoning permit, building permit, etc.
A Commercial Activity License is free. There are two things that you need before you will be able to get a Commercial Activity License (CAL for short): a Philly tax account number (also called a Business Income and Receipts Tax account or BIRT for short) because DUH, TAXES. And also a Federal Identification number, or EIN (a Social Security # is okay if you are a sole proprietor). Luckily the application for a CAL is a combination application including the Philly Tax account number.
Step One: Fill out the Application
The application for the Commercial Activity License (CAL) and Business Tax Account number (BIRT) is a combination application.
You can apply online or in person in the basement of the Municipal Services building. If you apply online, it will take time for the city to process your application. However, if you apply in person, you can get your Commercial Activity License and Business Income & Receipts Tax account the same day you apply.
If you decide to apply online, now you wait for a response. Check your account intermittently until the status updates and your license is issued.
Step Two: Take the Application to the Revenue Department
Head to the basement of 1401 JFK Blvd.
Go to the revenue department and input your information into the standing touchscreens in the middle of the floor. You will select “new business account”.
You will wait and then they will call your phone number.
When you head back, they will take-in your application, process it, and supply you with a Philly tax account number.
They will write the tax account number on the application, and then send you on your way.
Step Three: Take the Application Over to Licenses & Inspections
Now that you have your Philly tax account, you can get your Commercial Activity License.
Pull a “D” ticket for ‘new licenses’.
Supply the agents with your CAL application that has the philly tax account number written on it.
They will process and issue you your Commercial Activity License
At this point, you should have your Commercial Activity License in hand!
If you’re still confused or decide you simply don’t want to put in the time to do it yourself, we get it! We can handle the paperworking for you.
Remember: Every person, yes, you reading this, everyone (sole proprietor, contractor, corporation, LLC, association, landlords, investors, developers, etc.) needs a Philadelphia tax account and Commercial Activity License. If you try to get around it, you can probably last for a little while. But a point in time will likely come where you wish to leverage other tools the city offers (such as tax abatements) and you will not be able to do so without a Commercial Activity License.
If you’d like us to do it for you, we can. We will collect all of the necessary information from you, compile your application, and head to the revenue department and Licenses & Inspections to obtain your tax account and Commercial Activity License.