Start an LLC in California

To start an LLC in California, you file Articles of Organization ($70) and an Initial Statement of Information ($20) with the California Secretary of State.

Hire us to form your LLC and you’ll get:

  • A business address. Convenience and privacy with a business address, registered agent service and mail forwarding. Plus options for office space, DBAs, and trademarks.
  • Immediate California business presence. Business domain and email, open-source website, SSL web security, and a California phone number.
  • Unparalleled support. Operating agreement, compliance reminders, a library of forms, and experts you can call now or 10 years from now.

We can do all this because we’re local registered agents with years of experience and a permanent, stable address at our own building in Midtown Sacramento, and we truly do it all for an affordable price.

$149 + State Fees

Whether or not you hire us, we’re here to help. DIYers, scroll down for an easy-to-follow guide to set up a California LLC.

How to Start a California LLC

It’s no secret that starting an LLC in the Golden State has its benefits: California is home to the nation’s largest economy, a diverse business climate, and nearly 40 million residents. Filing for California LLC registration can protect your personal assets and afford you some tax flexibility. It just makes sense to do business in California.

Here’s how you can start a California LLC today:

Name Your California LLC

You have a fair amount of leeway when naming your California LLC. You can choose any name you want so long as you operate within California’s legal requirements:

Your LLC name must include an “identifier” at the end. You’ve seen it before—business names often end in LLC. For a California LLC, you need to include an “identifier” for your entity type to your business name. You can choose one of the options below or an acceptable variation.

  • LLC
  • L.L.C.
  • Limited Liability Company
  • Ltd. Co.

Your LLC cannot include any deceptive words. You can’t include words in your LLC’s name that suggest your business is something like a bank or a government institution.

Your business name has to be unique. You cannot choose a name that is already taken. You can do a business name availability search through the California Secretary of State’s Business Search. If the name is taken, you’ll need to choose a new name. And no, you can’t try to game the system by throwing in a punctuation mark somewhere to make the name unique—see the above requirement. You can’t have a deceptively similar name to another business registered with the California Secretary of State.

Pro Tip: Say you have a hot business idea and the perfect name but still need time before you officially form your California LLC. You do not want to lose that name. No problem. Reserve that business name by filing a Name Reservation Request with the Secretary of State. For only $10, you end up reserving that LLC name for 60 days, giving you time to work out the rest.

Hire a California Registered Agent

A California LLC is required to have a registered agent available to accept legal mail on behalf of the business. Otherwise known as an “agent for service of process,” a California registered agent needs to meet at least three requirements:

  • Maintain a physical street address in California
  • Be open and available during regular business hours
  • Sign off on accepting and forwarding your legal mail

Most choose to hire a registered agent for a few reasons. The two main ones are privacy and stability. When you hire us, protecting your privacy is built into our system because we list our registered agent name and address on your public filings, not yours. And since that address is the building we own in Sacramento rather than some third-party vendor lease, it’s a stable and permanent address you can count on for all of your state filings.

Looking for an office lease, local phone number and phone service, or conference room rental options? We offer a California Virtual Office package for just $19 / mo. 

Just need some more of your business mail forwarded? You can add our Virtual Mail service. 

File California Articles of Organization

Filing California Articles of Organization and paying the $70 filing fee is how you register your LLC with the California Secretary of State. So here’s where the paperwork really begins—this is what you’ll need to include in your articles:

  • LLC business name
  • LLC business address
  • Mailing address (if different from LLC business address)
  • The name and address of your agent for service of process (your registered agent)
  • LLC management structure
  • Organizer’s signature

All this information becomes public, so you want an LLC formation service that has a secure and stable address that you can count on for years to come. That’s why it matters who you choose to form your LLC.

When you hire us, we take care of the Articles of Organization, provide our California business address to use on your public filings, and give you that first year of registered agent service all for $149 plus state fees. You’ll be able to view registered agent mail through your secure online account and access a goldmine of an LLC document database that can save you a ton of time and money.

Store your Articles of Organization and other important business documents in a corporate book (available at checkout). We also offer custom embossing seals for a professional look on all your official documents.

File Beneficial Ownership Information (BOI) Report

LLCs have a new federal reporting requirement starting January 1, 2024: most companies that do business in the US are required to file a Beneficial Ownership Information (BOI) report to the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN). There is no filing fee, and this information is not made public. The BOI report simply verifies who is actually controlling and/or benefiting from your company.  Here’s everything you need to know about the BOI report:

  • Who submits? The BOI report collects information about your LLC and its beneficial owners. In a nutshell, all this report shows is who actually executes substantial control over company decisions or benefits financially from the company, including anyone who owns 25% or more of the business.
  • What is submitted? You will submit information about your LLC, including the legal company name, any DBAs or trade names, jurisdiction of formation, and tax ID. You will also provide beneficial owner and company applicant information, including full legal name, residential address, date of birth, and photo ID (e.g., driver’s license).
  • When is it due? LLCs formed on or after January 1, 2024 must submit a BOI report within 30 days of formation. (Update: FinCEN has temporarily extended the deadline for submitting a BOI report to 90 days for businesses formed in 2024 only. Businesses formed in 2025 will again have 30 days to submit their BOI report after formation). Formed an LLC before 2024? You have until the end of 2024 to submit your BOI report (company applicant is not required).

Sounds like a lot of hoops and hurdles? Let us take care of it. We’ve been handling federal filings for our registered agent clients for years—just add BOI Report Filing ($9) and our local filings specialists will submit this mandatory federal filing for you quickly and securely.

File Initial Statement of Information

Once you complete your California LLC registration, you have 90 days to file the initial statement of information and pay the $20 filing fee. This document includes basic information about your business such as the officially registered LLC name and your 12-digit Secretary of State filing number (you can find this at the top of your Articles of Organization or by conducting an SOS business entity name search).

This is one of those steps you really do not want to forget because your LLC could get be suspended by the Secretary of State and you’ll be subjected to a $250 late fee. That’s why when you hire us to form your California LLC, we file your initial statement of information for you.

Maintaining an LLC in California

Here’s a big part where people needlessly get caught up. There are some key steps you’ll want to take when you are maintaining an LLC in California:

Get an EIN. Most LLCs are required to get an Employer Identification Number from the IRS for their tax filings. EINs also make it a lot easier to secure a business bank account. Apply for an EIN for free from the IRS. You can also have us handle that if you want to add that Tax ID service at checkout.

Open a California Business Bank Account. If you form an LLC in California to protect your personal assets, you really should have a separate bank account for your business. Most banks will request your EIN, Articles of Organization, and an LLC Operating Agreement when opening a business bank account. We include an operating agreement in your online account when you hire to us to register your LLC.

Pay Annual Franchise Tax. Every California LLC has to pay an annual California Franchise Tax of $800. Again, our clients get timely reminders because missing this tax can cost you thousands in late fees in addition to your business being FTB suspended or forfeited.

Submit Biennial Statement of Information. California LLCs must submit a Statement of Information to the California Secretary of State every two years. Your initial Statement of Information is due within 90 days of forming an LLC in California (along with a $20 fee), and two years later, you will have a six-month window to submit your Statement of Information. For example, if you submitted your initial Statement in January of 2023, then your window for submitting your biennial report is August of 2024 through January of 2025.

Review any business-specific licensing and permits. This is where you’ll need to do a little research on local requirements for your business. Some municipalities in California require that LLCs obtain a Business Tax Certificate. Others might have specific permits or licenses that are required for your particular industry. You’ll need to reach out to your local governing authorities to pin down exact requirements.

It’s a lot to juggle, we know. We can help.

Why Hire Our California LLC Formation Service?

We are the best value for California LLC formation service.

Some companies advertise “$0” to form an LLC in California—and then hit you with add-ons, hidden fees, and yearly price increases for registered agent service.

Not us. We don’t advertise “$0” before you sign up only to piecemeal everything you actually need at checkout until you end up paying way more. We pride ourselves on being affordable and transparent. For $149 plus state fees, we:

  • Prepare and submit your California Articles of Organization.
  • Provide a business address, operating agreement, a year of registered agent service, ongoing compliance reminders, and access to our stellar customer support team.
  • Give you a starter Virtual Mail package of 3 documents a year with the option to upgrade for more mail, a unique suite number or a full Virtual Office suite.
  • Get your business online fast with a web domain (free for a year), website, SSL, email and phone (free for 90 days).

Just the LLC documents our clients have access to alone can save you an expensive visit to an attorney’s office to have your LLC operating agreement professionally drafted! That’s all included as a baseline and it’s everything you’ll need to start and maintain an LLC in California.

After the first year? $49 / yr for California registered agent service.

That’s it.

Start a California LLC Today

CALIFORNIA LLC FAQS

Starting an LLC in California can seem like a daunting task, especially if you’re going it alone. Our office is full of California LLC experts. Here are some of the questions we hear most often about LLC formation in California.

Not sure if a California LLC is the right business structure for you? Choosing an entity type is an important decision. Check out our Start a Business in California page to learn more.

HOW MUCH DOES IT COST TO FORM AN LLC IN CALIFORNIA?

Currently, the state charges a $70 filing fee for the California Articles of Organization and a $20 fee for the mandatory initial Statement of Information.

If you hire us to file your LLC for you, we offer a wide range of tools and support for $149 plus state fees.

CAN I USE MY HOME ADDRESS FOR MY CALIFORNIA LLC?

There’s no rule against using your home address as your business address for your California LLC, but there are several drawbacks to doing so. Check out our Business Address Guide to understand the possible consequences of listing your home address on the California Articles of Organization (spoiler alert: it has to do with privacy).

If you hire us for registered agent service, we’ll provide a business address for you to use, which can help you keep your home address off the public record.

WHAT’S THE LLC TAX IN CALIFORNIA?

All California LLCs have to pay the California Franchise Tax. It’s a flat fee of $800. You’ll owe the California Franchise Tax every year until you dissolve your LLC. The California Franchise Tax will be due on the 15th day of the fourth month from your LLC’s formation date.

In addition to the California Franchise Tax, there’s also an LLC fee for any California LLCs making more than $250,000. It starts at $900 and goes up to $11,790.

DOES A SINGLE-MEMBER LLC PAY THE CALIFORNIA FRANCHISE TAX?

Yes. All LLCs — regardless of size — have to pay the California franchise tax. The only way to get around it is to operate as a sole proprietor, and that leaves you exposed to personal liability.

WHAT HAPPENS IF I DON’T PAY THE CALIFORNIA FRANCHISE TAX?

If you do not pay the California Franchise Tax, you will be subject to financial penalties. For the first year, you will be charged an $18 per member per month late fee. After that, your late fee penalty will increase until it maxes out at 25% of the original tax that your business owes. Neglect to pay your franchise taxes for long enough and the California Franchise Tax Board (FTB) will suspend your LLC. You can still reinstate your business, but it will cost you a $2,000 penalty plus your overdue taxes.

WHAT IS A CALIFORNIA DBA?

A California DBA (also called a trade name) is a name you use for your business that is not the same as the name listed on your formation papers. Think of it as an alias or pseudonym that you use for marketing purposes. For instance, let’s say you own a convenience store called “Carla’s Corner,” and your to-go sandwiches are so popular, you decide to market your sandwiches to other stores. So, you come up with “Sam’s Subs” as a trade name (aka your DBA name, or the name your LLC is “Doing Business As”) for this product line.

Need a DBA? You can add “Trade Name Service” for $125 plus state fees after signing into your account. You can have us take care of the publication requirement for an additional cost.

DO I NEED AN OPERATING AGREEMENT FOR MY CALIFORNIA LLC?

Technically, no. But you should have an operating agreement for your California LLC. You don’t have to file it with the government and they’re not going to check to make sure you have one. However, operating agreements also set the internal structure for your business, covering important topics such as voting procedures, how profits and loses will be allocated, and pretty much every major issue your business might face and need a sort of “constitution” to refer to for direction. Plus, when you open a business bank account for your California LLC, the bank is going to ask to see it.

If you hire us, we’ll provide you with a customized template to help you draft your California operating agreement, along with several other critical California LLC business documents drafted by our attorneys to ensure everything is covered.

HOW DO YOU AMEND ARTICLES OF ORGANIZATION IN CALIFORNIA?

To make changes to your original Articles of Organization in California, you have to file the Limited Liability Company Certificate of Amendment form with the California SOS. You can use the LLC Certificate of Amendment form to change your California LLC’s name and how it’s managed. It costs $30 to file. To change your registered agent, business address, or managers and members, you’ll have to use the Statement of Information form.

HOW DO YOU REGISTER A FOREIGN LLC IN CALIFORNIA?

To register a foreign LLC in California, you’ll need to get a California registered agent, obtain a Certificate of Good Standing from your home state, and file the Application to Register a Foreign LLC. You can do that yourself or hire us to do it — you’ll need a California registered agent anyways.The standard filing fee for California Articles of Organization is $70. However, you’re also required to submit an Initial Statement of Information within 90 days of forming your LLC, so you might as well do it at the same time. That costs another $20.

When you hire California Registered Agent Inc to form your LLC, we include the initial Statement of Information in our LLC Formation Package.

HOW DO YOU DISSOLVE A CALIFORNIA LLC?

To dissolve or cancel a California LLC, you have to file the right LLC dissolution form with the California SOS. There are three different dissolution forms, and the one(s) your LLC will need to use depend on a few different factors.

If all of your members have unanimously voted to dissolve, you’ll need to file the Certificate of Cancellation (Form LLC 4/7). If the decision to dissolve was not unanimous, you’ll need to file the Certificate of Dissolution (Form LLC-3). If your California LLC is less than a year old and meets a few other requirements, you may be eligible to file the Short Form Certificate of Cancellation (Form LLC 4/8).

Whatever form you file, you’ll need to be sure your company is active with the California SOS — LLCs that are suspended must reinstate before dissolving.