How to Start an LLC in California

Last Updated: by Nagabhushanam Peddi

To start a California LLC, you'll need to file Articles of Organization with the California Secretary of State, which costs $70. You can apply online, in person, or by mail or fax.

Follow our step-by-step How to Start an LLC in California guide to get started today.

  1. Name Your California LLC
  2. Choose a Registered Agent in California
  3. File the California Articles of Organization
  4. File the Initial Statement of Information
  5. Create an Operating Agreement
  6. Get an EIN
  7. File the Statement of Information
  8. Submit Annual Taxes
  9. Keep Your Company Compliant

Or Simply use a professional service:

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Learn more about LLCs and their benefits in our What Is an LLC guide. To form an LLC in any state, visit our How to Set Up an LLC guide.

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Step 1: Name Your California LLC

Choosing a company name is the first and most important step in starting your California limited liability company. Be sure to choose a name that complies with California naming requirements and is easily searchable by potential clients.

1. Follow the naming guidelines for a California LLC:

  • Your name must include the phrase “limited liability company” or one of its abbreviations: “LLC, L.L.C., Limited, Ltd., Company or Co.”
  • Your name cannot include words that could confuse your LLC with a government agency (FBI, treasury, state department, etc.).
  • Restricted words (e.g., bank, attorney, university) may require additional paperwork and a licensed individual, such as a doctor or lawyer, to be part of your LLC.
  • For a complete list of naming rules in California, you can read California's Code of Regulations.

2. Is the name available in California? Make sure the name you want isn't already taken by doing a business name search on the State of California website.

3. Is the URL available? It's a good idea to check if your business name is available as a web domain. Even if you don't plan to make a business website today, you may want to buy the URL in order to prevent others from acquiring it.

Find a Domain Now

Once you have verified your name is available, you can select a professional service to complete the LLC formation process.

We reviewed and ranked the best LLC services. Find out which is best for you.

Step 2: Choose a Registered Agent in California

You are required to appoint a California agent for service of process for your California LLC. An agent for service of process is more commonly known as a registered agent in other states.

What is an agent of service of process? An agent of service of process is a person or business entity responsible for receiving important tax forms, legal documents, notices of lawsuits, and official government correspondence on behalf of your business.

Who can be an agent of service of process? An agent of service of process must be a full-time resident of California or a corporation, such as a registered agent service, authorized to conduct business in the state of California. You may elect an individual within the company, including yourself.

Recommended: Most registered agent services offer a free year of service when you form an LLC. Learn more in our review.

Step 3: File Your California LLC Articles of Organization

To register your California LLC, you must file Form LLC-1: Articles of Organization with the California Secretary of State. You can apply online, by mail, or in person.

Now is a good time to determine whether your LLC will be member-managed vs. manager-managed.

File the Articles of Organization

OPTION 1: File Form LLC-1 Online With California bizfile Online

File Online

- OR -

OPTION 2: File by Mail or In Person

Download Form

Filing Fee: $70

Mailing Address:
Secretary of State
Business Entities Filings
P.O. Box 944228
Sacramento, CA 94244

Drop-Off Address:
1500 11th St., 3rd Fl.
Sacramento, CA 95814

Note (if filing in person): Articles filed in person at the Secretary of State Office in Sacramento are subject to an additional $15 counter drop-off fee. This provides priority processing over applications submitted by mail. Applications may be filed at the drop-off address Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. PT.

For help completing the form, visit our California Articles of Organization guide.

California LLC Formation Document

If you’re expanding your existing LLC to the state of California, you must form a foreign LLC.

Step 4: File the Initial Statement of Information

All California LLCs must file an Initial Statement of Information (Form LLC-12) with the California Secretary of State within 90 days of formation. This can be done in person, by mail, or on the Secretary of State's website.

File the Initial Statement of Information

OPTION 1: File the Statement Online through the California bizfileOnline Platform

File Online

- OR -

OPTION 2: File the Statement by Mail or In Person

Download Form

Fee: $20 (Nonrefundable)

Online Instructions: The link to the online filing of the Statement of Information can be found under "Business Entities." Search for and select your business, then choose "File Statement of Information."

Mailing Address:
Secretary of State, Statement of Information Unit
P.O. Box 944230
Sacramento, CA 94244

Submit In-Person:
California Secretary of State Sacramento Office
1500 11th Street
Sacramento, CA 95814

Note (if filing in person): If you file your Initial Statement of Information in person, you must pay an additional $15 counter drop-off fee. Applications may be filed at the drop-off address Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. PT.

Step 5: Create a California LLC Operating Agreement

An operating agreement is required when forming an LLC in California.

What is an operating agreement? An operating agreement is a legal document outlining the ownership and operating procedures of an LLC.

Why are operating agreements important? A comprehensive operating agreement ensures that all business owners are on the same page and reduces the risk of future conflict.

Read our California LLC operating agreement guide for more information on operating agreements.

Recommended: Download a template or create a free operating agreement using our tool.

Step 6: Get a California LLC EIN

You can get an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS for free. It is used when you file and pay taxes and is essentially a Social Security number (SSN) for the company.

Why do I need an EIN? An EIN number is required for the following:

  • To open a business bank account for the company
  • For federal and state tax purposes
  • To hire employees for the company

Where do I get an EIN? The business owner obtains An EIN from the IRS (free of charge) after forming the company. This can be done online or by mail.

FOR INTERNATIONAL APPLICANTS: You do not need an SSN to get an EIN. Learn more here.

Get an EIN

Option 1: Request an EIN from the IRS

Apply Online

- OR -

Option 2: Apply for an EIN by Mail or Fax

Download Form

Mail to:
Internal Revenue Service
Attn: EIN Operation
Cincinnati, OH 45999

Fax: (855) 641-6935

Fee: Free

Step 7: File the Biennial Statement of Information

LLCs in California must file a biennial report, also known as the Statement of Information, with the California Secretary of State. 

Statements of Information can be submitted online, by mail, or in person with the $20 filing fee. In-person filings require an additional $15 fee.

This form must be submitted every second year by the end of the month your LLC was formed (e.g., if you create your LLC on May 2, your Statement of Information would be due by May 31).

Step 8: Submit Annual Taxes

LLCs in California must regularly submit an annual tax and an annual LLC fee to the California Franchise Tax Board.

LLC Annual Tax

All LLCs doing business in the state of California must pay a flat $800 annual tax, even if they didn’t conduct business during that tax year. 

This tax is due on the 15th day of the fourth month of your LLC’s taxable year. You can pay online or by submitting a return form by mail.

LLCs with starting tax years between January 1, 2021, and January 1, 2024, do not have to pay the annual tax in their first year. 


LLCs that make more than $250,000 in California income must pay an LLC fee each year. This fee increases depending on the amount of income:

  • $250,000–$499,999: $900
  • $500,000–$999,999: $2,500
  • $1 million–$4.99 million: $6,000
  • $5 million+: $11,790

LLCs that make less than $250,000 do not have to pay the fee for that year.

The LLC fee is due by the 15th day of the sixth month of your LLC’s taxable year. You can submit the return by mail.

Steps After LLC Formation

Read all the steps needed to maintain your LLC’s personal liability protection, open a business bank account, get business insurance, and stay current with state reporting requirements.

Visit our After Forming an LLC guide to learn more.

Step 9: Keep Your Company Compliant

California Business Licenses & Permits

You must comply with federal, state, and local government regulations to operate your LLC. Fees and requirements for licenses and permits will vary depending on what sort of business license you need.

Find out how to get your LLC's necessary California business licenses and permits with our California Business License guide.

Recommended: Consider having a professional service research your business’s licensing requirements. Read our best business license services review.

California LLC Tax Filing Requirements

It's essential to stay up to date on California LLC taxes.

Depending on the nature of your business, you may be required to register for one or more forms of tax with the appropriate California taxing authority:

Sales Tax

If you sell a physical product, you'll typically need to register for a seller's permit through the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration website.

The state of California's sales tax is 7.25%. Counties, cities, and local jurisdictions can create additional sales tax. Some areas of California have a sales tax as high as 10.75%. 

Payroll Taxes

If you hire employees, you must register for California payroll taxes, including Employee Withholding Tax, Unemployment Insurance Tax, and Disability Insurance, through the California Employment Development Department website.

Income Tax

California's income tax rates are divided into nine brackets. Depending on your LLC's income, you could be taxed at 1% to 13.3%. 

State tax returns are due each year by April 15. To calculate your tax or determine your tax bracket, visit the State of California Franchise Tax Board website

You'll also need to report your federal income tax using either Form 1065 (multi-member LLC) or Form 1040 Schedule C (single-member LLC).

Hiring Employees

If you plan to hire employees for your California LLC, stay compliant with California law by following these steps:

For more information, check out California's Tax Service Center.

Recommended: Check out our Hiring for Your Small Business Guide for resources like sample job descriptions, payroll service reviews, and more.

Common Questions About California LLCs

What is an LLC?

LLC is short for “limited liability company.” It is a simple business structure offering more flexibility than a traditional corporation while providing many benefits. Read our What is a Limited Liability Company guide for more information.

Or, watch our two-minute What is an LLC video.

How do I name my California LLC?

You must follow the California LLC naming guidelines when choosing a name for your LLC:

  • Include "limited liability company" or one of its abbreviations (LLC or L.L.C.).
  • Do not use words that could confuse your business with a government agency (FBI, State Department, CIA, etc.).
  • Receive the proper licensing when using the words such as lawyer or doctor.

If you are having trouble creating a name for your LLC, use our LLC Name Generator. You'll find a unique name for your business and an available URL to match.

After you get your business name, get your unique logo using our Free Logo Generator.

Do I need to get a DBA or fictitious business name for my business?

Most LLCs do not need a DBA, known in California as a fictitious business name. The name of the LLC can serve as your company’s brand name, and you can accept checks and other payments under that name as well. However, you may wish to register a DBA to conduct business under another name.

To learn more about DBAs in your state, read our How to File a DBA guide.

Can I be my own registered agent?

Yes. You or anyone else in your company can serve as the registered agent for your LLC. Read about being your own registered agent.

What is the processing time to form my LLC in California?

Processing typically takes five business days online or by mail but may be expedited for an additional fee:

  • Four-Hour: $500
  • Same-Day: $750
  • 24-Hour - $350

Go to our How Long Does it Take to Form an LLC in California guide to learn more.

What is the difference between a domestic California LLC and foreign LLC?

An LLC is called a "domestic LLC" when it conducts business in the state where it was formed. A foreign LLC must be formed when an existing LLC wishes to expand its business to another state. If you are filing as a foreign California LLC, read our guide for more information.

Do I need to file my operating agreement with the State of California?

No. Though California requires LLCs to create and maintain an operating agreement, your operating agreement is an internal document that you should keep on file for future reference.

How do I get an EIN if I don’t have a Social Security number?

An SSN is not required to get an EIN. You can fill out IRS Form SS-4 and leave section 7b blank. Then call the IRS at 267-941-1099 to complete your EIN application. Read our guide for international EIN applicants.

What tax structure should I choose for my LLC?

You will be informed of the available tax classification options when you get an EIN. Most LLCs elect the default tax status.

However, some LLCs can reduce their federal tax obligation by choosing the S corporation (S corp) status. To learn more, read our LLC vs. S Corp guide.

Do I need an EIN for my LLC?

All LLCs with employees, or any LLC with more than one LLC member, must have an EIN. This is required by the IRS.

Learn why we recommend always getting an EIN and how to get one for free in our Do I Need an EIN for an LLC guide.

What is the California franchise tax?

The annual franchise tax for an LLC formed in California is a flat tax of $800. This is due on the 15th day of the fourth month of your LLC’s taxable year.

Do you have to pay the $800 California LLC fee the first year?

If you form or have formed your LLC between January 1, 2021, and January 1, 2024, you do not have to pay the annual franchise tax your first year of business.

What is the minimum wage in California?

The statewide minimum wage in California is $15.50 per hour.

How often do I need to pay employees?

In California, wages are required to be paid at least twice during each calendar month on days designated as regular paydays by the employer.

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