How to Start a Business in Los Angeles

To start your business in Los Angeles, you’ll need to meet requirements with both the City of Los Angeles and Los Angeles County. This page helps you cut through the red tape by walking you through every step to starting your Los Angeles business.

Tired of paperwork? We’ve got you covered. Hire California specialists to handle everything for launching your LA business.

What Counts as “Los Angeles”?

Before you dive into this guide, it’s important to note that we’re walking you through how to start a business in the City of Los Angeles specifically. Seems obvious enough, right?

Thing is, Los Angeles County includes 88 incorporated cities and many unincorporated areas. The City of Los Angeles just happens to be one of the many incorporated areas in this over 4,000 square mile area. Within LA County, you have Long Beach, Marina del Ray, Pasadena, Santa Monica, and nearly three thousand miles of unincorporated areas.

Why does this matter? Because where your business is located in LA County will determine your business licensing and registration requirements. To that end, this guide is focused on starting a business in Los Angeles City.

Skip the hassle. Choose from our array of business services.

Choose Your Business Structure

Starting a business in Los Angeles starts with choosing the right business structure. What you’re really looking at here is a choice between an unregistered and registered business. Think of it this way: You can start a sole proprietorship or general partnership without registering with the state, but then you get no liability protection. That means, you and your personal assets are not protected against business creditors and lawsuits. On the other hand, you can start a registered business entity like an LLC or corporation. You’ll have to file paperwork with the government and pay associated fees, but in return you’ll get limited liability, tax options, and room for growth.

Common Unregistered Business Types

  • Sole Proprietorship. This is the simplest type of business to start and most suitable for small business owners with no employees and low sales volume. A sole proprietorship is operated by a single person (the owner) and is not legally required to register with the state.That means your startup costs are low, there’s a great deal of business flexibility, and all the profits go to the you, the business owner. The downside? You’re legally vulnerable because you’re personally liable for all the company’s debts and actions.
  • General Partnership. This is also a simple business structure that works well for small business owners. In a general partnership, the arrangement is typically two or more persons who agree to share in all business assets, profits, and liabilities. Like a sole proprietorship, the partners (owners) are not required to register with the state. And like a sole proprietorship, all partners are personally liable for the business debts and actions

Common Registered Business Types

  • Limited Liability Company. A limited liability company (LLC) is a blend of a corporation and a sole proprietorship or partnership.This hybrid entity gives business owners the personal asset protection and tax flexibility of a corporation without the rigid formalities. What really distinguishes an LLC from a sole proprietorship is that a sole proprietorship is an extension of the owner. An LLC is a separate entity from owners. That’s why when an LLC faces lawsuits or creditors, the LLC is liable—not the owner.

Learn more about starting an LLC in California.

  • Corporation. This is another legal entity created by individuals (stockholders or shareholders). Like an LLC, a corporation is considered a legal entity separate from its owners. It is a more formalized business entity that is best suited for business owners who are looking to scale up by attracting investors and having in place procedures for a large company.

Learn more about incorporating in California.

It’s up to you what you think is best for your business. For smaller operations, you might start as a sole proprietorship or general partnership to minimize startup costs. It’s a roll of the dice, but if you’re operating a lemonade stand, maybe it just makes sense for you at that time.

Now, if that lemonade stand expands to 30 lemonade stands raking in $100K in annual revenue, we think it’s a good idea to to start an LLC or corporation by registering your business with the California Secretary of State. That’s just our two cents.

Hire Us to Register Your Business Today
Only $149 + State Fees

Our incorporation services covers everything for launching your business, including the first year of registered agent service, immediate online business presence with our California Business Package, and free use of our professional building address on your public filings.


Pick a California Business Name

The next step to starting your Los Angeles business is choosing a name for your company. You can review California’s requirements for business entity names for all the details, but here’s the gist:

  • Sole proprietorship or general partner.  Your business will formally be known by your legal name(s).
  • Starting an LLC, incorporating, or establishing a limited partnership. Your business name will be the one listed on your Articles of Organization or Incorporation.

If you’re registering a business entity, then more specific requirements include:

– Having a name that is unique (check for availability by using the California Secretary of State’s Business Search),

– Adding an identifier for your business structure type (for example, “LLC” or “LC” for a limited liability company; “Corp” or Inc.” for incorporation),

– Avoiding deceptive words (for instance, using words that suggest your business is a bank or some other government institution).

Your business name is crucial for your company’s identity and branding. If you have a business name you love and it’s currently available, you can file a Name Reservation Request ($10) with the Secretary of State. That way, you can reserve your name for 60 days while you work out everything else for registering your company.

File for a Los Angeles Fictitious Business Name

You may also want to file for a Los Angeles fictitious business name (also known as a DBA or Trade Name). This is especially true if you have a sole proprietorship or general partnership and want a choice in your business name. Business owners typically register a DBA for branding purposes or, in the case of sole proprietors and general partnerships, it could be a way to set a professional boundary by using a name other than the owners’ legal names.

How Do I Register a DBA in Los Angeles?

To register a fictitious business name in Los Angeles, you will need to submit a Fictitious Business Name Statement with the LA County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk’s office and meet the LA County publication requirement.

DBA Requirements:

–  Your California business address. Our clients get free use of our permanent building address on their filings.

– A Certificate of Status from the California Secretary of State (only for LLCs and corporations). You’ll need to mail or deliver a Business Entities Records – Order Form to the California SOS. The cost is $5, but if you choose to drop off your request in person, you’ll be charged an additional $10.

– The names and addresses of all owners.

– A signature from an owner, office, manager, or member.

You have the option to file online, in-person, by mail, or via third party through the LA County Registrar-Record/County Clerk website. The form costs $26 to file. Online filings are the easiest route, but you will be charged an additional $9 service fee. If you choose to file by mail, in-person, or third party instead, you’ll need to include a notarized Affidavit Identity Form.

LA County Publication Requirements:

You’ll basically have to publish the fact that you registered an FBN in a local newspaper. You must begin publishing within 30 days of filing your FBN statement, and you must continue to do so once a week for a month in a Los Angeles County newspaper.

Once you’ve completed this process, you will have to file Proof of Publication with the LA County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk’s office. You can choose from this list of LA County newspapers that will fulfill your publication requirement. The cost? Typically $30-$100.

All in all, it can cost you anywhere from $50 to hundreds of dollars to register your FBN between filings and your publication requirement. If, for instance, you choose to publish in the LA times, the fee is $491 ($575 for Sundays)! On the other side of the spectrum, the LA Metropolitan Gazette only charges $25.

We know this can be a major headache. If you’re hiring us for service and you also need to register a Fictitious Business Name, you can add “Trade Name Service” for $125 plus state fees after signing into your account. We can also take care of the publication requirement for an additional cost.

Register Your California Business

Registered entities like LLCs and corporations are required to file the appropriate formation documents (Articles of Organization or Articles of Incorporation) with the California Secretary of State (SOS). Unregistered business entities like sole proprietorships and general partnerships are not required to file Articles or a Statement of Information with the California SOS.

How much does it cost to file Articles?

– LLCs. You’ll need to file Articles of Organization ($70) and an Initial Statement of Information ($20).

– Corporations. You’ll need to file Articles of Incorporation ($100) and an Initial Statement of Information ($25).

What’s included in the Articles?

For LLCs and corporations, your articles will typically require the following information:

  • Business name
  • Business address
  • Business purpose
  • Mailing address (if different from business address)
  • Name and address of your California agent for service of process (also know as a “registered agent”)
  • Business management structure (e.g., an LLC can be “manager-managed” or “member-managed”)
  • Number of shares you’re creating (for corporations only)
  • Organizer’s or Incorporator’s signature

Something to keep in mind here: All of this information goes on the public record. That means if you’re serving as your own registered agent or you operate a home-based business, your personal information is out there for everyone to see. That includes solicitors, spammers, and bad actors. On top of that, you will need to be available at your California business address during normal business hours to accept service of process—if you have to step out and miss a time-sensitive legal correspondence, you risk anything from fines to having your business registration revoked.

Where do I submit my Articles?

For paper submissions, you can fill out and print the PDFs linked above and submit by mail or in-person. In-person submissions cost an additional $15 non-refundable priority service fee over documents submitted by mail. You’ll submit your completed formation documents (Articles and Statement of Information) with a money order or check made payable to the Secretary of State to the corresponding address:

Mailing Address:
Secretary of State
Business Entities Filings Unit
P.O. Box 944260
Sacramento, CA 94244-2280

In-Person Delivery:
Secretary of State
1500 11th Street
Sacramento, CA 95814

When you hire us to register your LLC or incorporate your LA business, we file your Articles for you immediately, signing as your organizer or incorporator and listing our permanent building address. You get a year of our local registered agent service, same-day virtual mail forwarding, and an entire online platform for building your California business presence.

Our building is right here in Midtown Sacramento, and we own the building outright. That allows us to offer consistent, reliable, and low-cost registered agent and business services for the lifetime of your business.

Start your business off the right way. Hire California Registered Agent, Inc.

Hire Us to Register Your Business Today
Only $149 + State Fees

File a California Statement of Information

Registered business entities are also required to file a California Statement of Information with the SOS. Also referred to as a California Annual Report or a California Biennial Report, the purpose of this report is to update the state about your business operation.  Unregistered business entities like sole proprietorships and general partnerships are not required to file this document.

Newly registered business entities must file an Initial Statement of Information with the SOS within 90 days of formation. The filing fee is $20 for LLCs and $25 for corporations. After the initial Statement of Information, California LLCs must continue to submit every two years (Biennial Report) and corporations must submit yearly (Annual Report).

Learn more about the California Statement of Information

Submit a Beneficial Ownership Information (BOI) Report

Beginning January 1st, 2024, all business entities registering with the state must submit a Beneficial Ownership Information (BOI) report to the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN). The BOI report is required of business entities that have submitted paperwork with the Secretary of State or a similar state agency. Unregistered business entities like sole proprietorships and general partnerships are not required to submit a BOI report. The purpose of this report is to reduce money laundering and other financial crimes. The information on this report is not released to the public.

Company information required on the report includes the full legal name, any trade or DBA names, current address, formation jurisdiction, and tax ID. Beneficial owners and company applicants include their full name, date of birth, residential address, and copy of an identifying document with a unique ID number (e.g. driver’s license).

  • Beneficial owner: Anyone who controls the company directly or indirectly. This includes those who own at least 25% of the company and people who has substantial control over business operations (for example, CEO or LLC member-manager).
  • Company applicant: : The person(s) responsible for filing formation documents. This information is not required for businesses formed prior to 2024.

Entities formed after January 1, 2024 must file their report within 30 days of formation. Entities already in existence before 2024 have until January 1, 2025 to file a report and do not have to provide company applicant information. (Note: For businesses established in 2024, FinCEN will accept BOI report filings up to 90 days after formation. Companies formed in 2025 and later will return to a 30-day filing window.)

Get an EIN

Nearly every business entity must get an EIN (Employer Identification Number). An EIN is a federal Tax ID number assigned by the IRS. Even if your business isn’t required by law to have an EIN, it’s a critical part of getting your financial affairs in order. It’s often necessary to provide an EIN to apply for a business bank account, licenses, permits, and local tax registrations.

You are required by federal law to obtain an EIN if any of the following is true for your business:

  • Your business has employees
  • Your operate your business as a corporation or partnership
  • You file tax returns for any of the following: Employment, Excise, or Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms
  • You withhold taxes on income, other than wages, paid to a non-resident alien
  • You have a Keogh plan
  • You are involved in any of the following:
    • Trusts (except certain grantor-owned revocable trusts, IRAs, and Exempt Organization Business Income Tax Returns)
    • Estates
    • Real estate mortgage investment conduits
    • Non-profit organizations
    • Farmers’ cooperatives
    • Plan administrators

It’s quick, easy, and free to get an EIN—just use the IRS’s EIN assistant. There are plenty of other ways to apply, too.

Learn more about the importance of getting an EIN.

Pay Annual Taxes to the Franchise Tax Board

Registered California businesses must pay the Franchise Tax Board (FTB) an annual minimum of $800. Sole proprietorships and general partnerships do not have to pay the annual Franchise tax since they are not registered with the Secretary of State.

There’s no beating around the bush here—it’s a steep price for doing business. But remember, you’re doing business in a state that rivals some of the most economically robust nations in the world.

The due dates and exact cost vary depending on a number of factors. We suggest you check out our more nuanced page on the California FTB tax linked below.

Learn more about the California Franchise Tax.

Apply for an LA Business Tax Registration Certificate

All businesses within the City of Los Angeles Limits must apply for a Business Tax Registration Certificate (BTRC) with the Los Angeles Office of Finance. Your BTRC number is used to pay your annual city taxes. Every year that you’re in business, you’ll need to renew your BTRC. You’ll also need to display your BTRC at your place of business.

To find out if you need to apply for a BTRC, you can check if your business is within LA City limits. The simplest and fastest way to apply is online, but that option is only available under a couple of conditions:

  • This is your first time registering a business within the City of Los Angeles.
  • You’re opening a single business location at the time of registration.

Otherwise, you’ll have to fill out the Business Tax application (available in Spanish as well: Aplicación De Impuestos De Negocio) and email it or deliver it in-person to the City of Los Angeles, Office of Finance.

The amount you’ll pay in business taxes to the City of LA will depend on your gross receipts from the previous tax year. That means you’ll only be able to calculate your city business tax at the end of the year. The good news? You don’t have to pay the full business tax when you first apply for a BTRC—you’ll pay the minimum tax at the time of registration and then the rest will be collected as back tax when you renew your BTRC.

You can estimate your taxes using the Los Angeles Office of Finance Business Tax Calculator.

Obtain Licenses & Permits

To do business in Los Angeles, you will likely need to obtain a business license or permit. Some industries might not require any. Other industries might require several. If you’re running a food truck, for instance, then you’ll need to apply for a Public Health Permit from LA County. On the other hand, if you’re working from home (known as “Home Occupation”), the City of LA does not require a Home Occupation permit so long as you’re within LA’s zoning regulations for home businesses.

This is one of those dizzying topics that’s highly industry-specific. It’s easy to get lost in the weeds when it comes to figuring out what licenses or permits you might need for your business situation. Here’s a couple of handy web tools to quickly and accurately determine what licenses, permits, and inspections your business will need:

CalGold. This web tool is provided by the state of California to help business owners determine what licenses and permits are needed in each county and city. The site includes a database of regulatory agencies that administer each license or permit, along with required forms and fees.

Tools for Business. This web tool is provided by the City of Los Angeles. It’s organized according to specific departments and can be useful for a more specific search (for instance, to track down requirements for filming or cannabis regulation in LA).

Build Your Business Presence in LA

Perhaps the most important part of launching your business is connecting with your audience. From choosing the right business name to deciding where your physical business will operate, reaching your customers is at the heart of all your business decisions. A lot of your decisions will be about building your brand and expanding your business presence.

To that end, the most valuable tool you can have in your arsenal is a business domain. With a unique domain name, you can build out your business website, start using a professional email address, and much more.

Learn more about registering a business domain.

We know this sounds like another hurdle. It doesn’t have to be, though. When you hire us for service, we include an entire online platform to launch your California business presence:

  • Unique domain name
  • Email addresses connected to that domain name
  • Prebuilt  and easy-to-use business website
  • SSL security for your website
  • California virtual phone service

We include everything you need at sign-up so that you can start winning customers today. All at no additional upfront cost and with the option to cancel at anytime.

Start Your LA Business Today!
Fast Filings + Domain + Business Presence

Operating an unregistered business? You can just sign up for our California Business Presence package and build out your online business presence with the guidance of local business experts.

Hire Local Registered Agents
to Handle Everything

Doing all the bureaucratic stuff is often a major hassle for most small business owners. We haven’t met any entrepreneurs who want to waste time tracking down all the right government forms, grinding through the paperwork, and combing through the fine print to make sure their business is set up correctly.

Our business formation and registered agent services take care of all that for you so that you can just focus on building your business. And as your business grows, you’ll have access to several business options to support your business growth.

It’s simple: we’re your one-stop shop for success at any stage of your business journey.

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Business Formation Service

If you’re looking to register your business with the California Secretary of State, our business formation services are your comprehensive business solution.

Whether you’re starting an LLC or incorporating in California, we include free use of our business address, a year of registered agent service, instant online presence, and more!

$149 + State Fees

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Registered Agent Service

Fast, reliable, and affordable. We do same-day virtual mail scanning to ensure that you get your registered agent mail the same day we receive it.

Everything is delivered to you through your secure online portal, where you can receive, store, and manage your documents. Year over year, our California Registered Agent Service is the best value in the state.

$49 / Year

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Virtual Mail Forwarding

Our open-and-scan mail forwarding options provide you additional mail scans for your business mail. You get instant access to your mail wherever there’s an internet connection.

With our Virtual Mail Forwarding packages, you get a secure and professional mailing address. Plus, you get to skip out on all the junk mail that comes with running a business.

Starting at $49 / Year


Virtual Office

Just because you do business in LA doesn’t mean you have to pay LA prices on everything. We provide you everything to manage your business address, mail, and phone needs.

Our California Virtual Office package includes unlimited mail scans, a complete phone service package, and a month-to-month office lease in our Sacramento building for an unbeatable price.

$19 / Month