Briefly, the benefits of starting a California LLC include:
- Separating and limiting your personal liability from your business liability and debts
- Quick and simple filing, management, compliance, regulations and administration of your California LLC
- Easy tax filing and potential advantages for tax treatment
Learn more about the benefits of the LLC business structure.
In this guide you’ll find information on starting your California business, searching for and naming your LLC, registering your business, getting a California Registered Agent, the fees you’ll need to pay, business taxes and much more.
STEP 1: Choose a Unique Business Name and Complete a California Entity Search
You will need a distinctive and original name for your California LLC that’s not used by any other business in CA. Incfile’s Business Name Generator is a great way to brainstorm company names — the tool also allows you to easily check the California Secretary of State’s register of businesses to make sure your name isn’t already being used by another company.
If you already have a name in mind, you can make sure it’s available by using the California business search on the CA Secretary of State website or Incfile’s free Business Name Search tool.
There are a few rules you’ll need to follow when choosing an LLC name, which you can learn about in the California business names section of this guide. One California rule, for example, is that your business name cannot include “Agency,” “Commission,” “Department,” “Bureau,” “Division,” “Municipal” or “Board.”
STEP 2: Provide an Official Business Address for Your LLC
Every California LLC must have a designated street address. That could be your home address (if you’re running the company from your residence), your company’s office building or any physical address of your preference. The address can be outside the state of California, but it cannot be a P.O. Box.
STEP 3: Assign an Agent for Service of Process for Your California LLC
Every CA LLC must have a “Registered Agent,” known in California as an “Agent for Service of Process,” when it is formed. This is an official position; the Agent for Service of Process is someone who receives official legal and tax correspondence and has responsibility for filing reports with the California Secretary of State.
This position can be filled by you, another manager in the business or a dedicated Registered Agent service. Your CA Agent for Service of Process must have a physical street address in California and must be present to receive important documents for your company during business hours.
At Incfile, all of our packages include a California Registered Agent service that is free for the first year and just $119 per year afterward. We also have a dashboard where you can log in and easily view any document your Registered Agent has received on your behalf.
STEP 4: File Articles of Organization with the California Secretary of State
Once you've gathered all the information for your California LLC, you’ll need to file a formal document (Form LLC-1) with the CA Secretary of State. This document is known as your “Articles of Organization,” and filing the document creates your California LLC. Here’s what is typically included:
- Your business name and address
- Details of your Agent for Service of Process
- Management structure
- Name of the incorporator
Download California's Form LLC-1 Here
You can file your Articles of Organization online on the California Secretary of State website, mail in a form, submit in person, or have Incfile do it on your behalf for free. The State of California charges a $75 fee to file and start an LLC in California.
|File by Mail:
Secretary of State
Business Entities Filings
P.O. Box 944228
Sacramento, CA 94244
|Submit in Person:
1500 11th St.
Sacramento, CA 95814
(Open M-F 8am-5pm)
Note: If you drop off your Articles of Organization in person, you’re required to pay a separate, non-refundable $15 drop off fee. This gives your paperwork priority over mail-in documents.
You only need to file your Articles of Organization with the State of California once, but you will need to file a Statement of Information biennially for your LLC, which has its own fees. Your first
Statement of Information (Form LLC-12) is due within 90 days of your entity formation date. This is also something Incfile can remind you to do or do for you if you choose to have us handle the paperwork.
Have Incfile Handle all the Paperwork for You for $0 + the California State
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What are the fees and requirements to form a business in California?
||State Filing Time
||Expedited Filing Time
||15 Business Days
||3 Business Days
Statement of Information
Due Date: During six-month period ending on last day of anniversary month of incorporation or qualification.
Filing Fee: $20
Important:The initial Statement of Information filing is due within 90 days of the entity formation date.
California Franchise Tax
Franchise Tax Fee: $800 (minimum)
$800 payment for the LLC Franchise Tax is due by 15th day of the 4th month after your LLC is filed. The month your LLC is filed counts as Month 1, regardless if you file on the 1st of the month, the last of the month, or any day of the month, really. This means that if you were to file your LLC on March 22nd, then you must pay the $800 fee no later than June 15th (in this example, March is Month 1, April is Month 2, May is Month 3, and June is Month 4). Then, every year after your first payment $800 LLC Franchise Tax will be due by April 15th. You pay the $800 LLC Franchise Tax using Form 3522 called the LLC Tax Voucher.
(We do not assist in the filing of the Franchise Tax Report)
STEP 5: Get an Employer Identification Number (EIN) From the Internal Revenue Service
You will need an EIN to identify your business to the IRS. You use this number when filing and paying taxes or when submitting payroll information and payments for your employees. You can obtain one directly from the IRS, or we can get one for you as part of the California LLC business formation process.
STEP 6: Create a California LLC Operating Agreement
An Operating Agreement is a kind of “instruction manual” that outlines how you will run your business. It includes how decisions are made, how the business is divided amongst members and what happens if a member leaves the company.
California requires that LLCs have an operating agreement in place. This does not need to be filed with the Secretary of State but should be kept on hand.
Learn more about operating agreements here
Receive a personalized operating agreement
when you select Incfle’s Gold package
Form Your LLC Now
A regular LLC is suitable for most business needs, but you also have a few other options in California.
Some states allow certain occupations to form “Professional LLCs.” These types of businesses typically have specialized requirements and licensing. California does not recognize or allow professional LLCs, and the state does not allow professional services to be provided by LLCs. Instead, if you want to provide professional services, you will need to form a
If your business is already operating in another state and expanding to California, you’ll need to form a foreign LLC.
The CA Secretary of State has plenty of information on forming and running a business in California.