Business licensing in Portland
These information pages can help you get started in learning about some of the laws and registration requirements that may apply to your experiences on Airbnb. These pages include summaries of some of the rules that may apply to different sorts of activities, and contain links to government resources that you may find helpful.
Please understand that these information pages are not comprehensive, and are not legal advice. If you are unsure about how local laws or this information may apply to you or your Experience, we encourage you to check with official sources or seek legal advice.
Please note that we don’t update this information in real time, so you should confirm that the laws or procedures have not changed recently.*
If I’m hosting Experiences in Portland, am I operating a “business” in the eyes of the law?
If people are paying money to participate in experiences that you host, then yes, you are operating a business under the law.
Are there registration requirements for Portland businesses?
Yes. If you are operating a business in Portland, you are required to register with the City of Portland and Multnomah County (as a combined registration).
Note that different cities and counties may have different license requirements and rules. The discussion below applies if you are operating within the city limits of Portland. If your business includes or extends to other jurisdictions, you should determine whether other licenses are required. A good resource to check for requirements in different jurisdictions is the “Oregon Business Wizard.”
How can I register as a business in Portland?
If you meet the definition of a “business,” you should register with the City within 60 days of when you List your Experience on Airbnb, or otherwise start your business.
Below are the steps to register. This list is by no means exhaustive, so please check out the City’s website and contact the City of Portland or speak to a lawyer to make sure you’ve met all of the requirements.
Step 1: Choose your business structure. First, you’ll need to choose your preferred business structure: a Sole Proprietorship, Partnership, Corporation, or a Limited Liability Company. Go here to learn more about what these different types of business structures mean.
Sole Proprietorships are the simplest way to start a new business if you’re the only business owner and person responsible for your business’s assets and liabilities. Other business structures typically require additional fees and filings with the Secretary of State, which are not required for Sole Proprietorships. Visit this webpage for more information.
Step 2: Choose your business name. You’ll also need to name your new business. You won’t need to fill out any additional forms if you plan to use your own name (such as “John Smith”) for your business. Since Experience Hosts on Airbnb typically use their own name on their Listings, this option should generally work for Hosts.
If you don’t want to use your own legal name for your business (or the actual legal name of your corporation or LLC, if you are operating in that capacity), you must identify and register your “Assumed Business Name” (commonly called a “DBA”) with the State. First make sure the name you want is not being used by someone else. The site here identifies locations that should be searched to make sure the trade name is available. Then register your Assumed Business Name by completing this form and pay the $50 registration fee.
Step 3: Choose your business location. To register with the City, you’ll need to include the address where you run your business (i.e., a business address, shared workspace, or at home). If you run your business in a home or apartment, you should consider whether you need a “Home Occupation” permit from the City. In general, a Home Occupation permit is not required if you are simply using your home as an office or base of operations, without visits from employees, customers, or clients. If your Experience includes hosting activities in your home, then you will likely need a permit. Additional information regarding Home Occupation permits can be found here and here.
Step 4: File your Registration with the City/County. Within 60 days of starting your business, you’ll need to file your registration with the City and County. You can do this online by setting up an account (user name and password) with PortlandOregon.gov. Or you can fill out the paper form here, and mail or fax it as described on the form.
You’ll be asked to identify your “business start date,” and to identify your business structure, business name, primary business location, and provide a short description of your business activity.
There is no fee for filing a new registration with the City and County.
Step 5: Pay any taxes when due. Once your business is registered, you’ll need to file a City/County tax return each year you continue to operate. Your City/County return is filed at the same time you file your Federal and Oregon state tax returns. Business revenues up to $50,000 are generally exempt from City and County taxes; so long as gross receipts from your business are less than $50,000, you will not owe any additional taxes with your City/County return.
Example: Anne is an Experience host who runs experiences one week per month where she brings her guests to her favorite bars in the Pearl District. She runs her experiences alone, and makes about $800 per month, which helps her supplement her earnings as an artist. Anne registers as a business in Portland before hosting her first Experience. She:
- Picks a Sole Proprietorship structure;
- Decides to use her own legal name to register as a business (that’s how she lists her Experience on Airbnb anyway);
- Picks her own home as her business address;
- Registers her business with the City and Multnomah County using the combined form.
Anne will not pay any fees for registration. She will file a separate City/County tax return identifying income from her business at tax time, but so long as the revenues are less than $50,000, she will not owe any additional City or County taxes.
Is there anything else I should be thinking about?
Yes. You should consider the following-
Activities and licenses
Depending on the activities involved in your Experience, you may need to register, obtain licenses, or follow specific rules that apply to that activity. Information concerning special licenses, permits, and certifications for different business activities can be found here. Our section on the various activity specific topics covers some of the typical activities, but it is not exhaustive. You should always check with the City or speak to a lawyer to determine which permits and licenses may be required for the experiences you are offering.
If you plan to hire employees as part of your business, you may also be required to obtain an employer identification number (EIN) from the IRS.
Note: A sole proprietor without employees can use their Social Security Number instead of EIN. The IRS also provides other useful information on taxes that apply to small businesses.
Tax and accounting
You should also check what tax and accounting rules apply to you, as you may need to pay personal income and sales tax in addition to business property tax. Also make sure you have the right insurance in place to cover all the activities you will be providing.
What resources are available to me to help me get set up as a business?
We encourage you to take advantage of the free resources offered by the Oregon Secretary of State (including the “Oregon Start a Business Guide” and the Business Information Center ) and the Portland Office of the Small Business Administration.
Are there additional laws that apply to me as a result of my being a registered business?
Yes. Several consumer protection laws, like the Federal Trade Commission Act and Oregon Unfair Trade Practices Act require you to truthfully describe your Experience in your Listing so your guests can make informed decisions. This means that:
- The information you provide to Guests must be accurate and not misleading,
- You accurately and completely describe in your Listing the main characteristics of your Experience, as well as what is included and any special terms and conditions (for example, my favorite local craft cocktail bar Experience includes the first round of drinks, but guests must pay for additional drinks out of pocket)
- You do not offer a service that you do not intend to provide
- Your price is accurate, and you do not List an Experience at one price and then charge an additional fee when your guests get there.
In sum, this means that you need to provide the services advertised in your Listing, within the advertised dates and times, at the advertised price. For more information, the FTC provides helpful guidance on truth-in-advertising, that we encourage you to review.
*Airbnb is not responsible for the reliability or correctness of the information contained in any links to third party sites (including any links to legislation and regulations).