Required Costs to Form a California LLC
State Filing Fee: $70
In order to form an LLC in California, you’ll need to file Articles of Organization with the Secretary of State. California charges a $70 fee (with an additional $15 if filing in person) to process this document. An additional fee will be incurred if you choose to work with a professional business formation service (recommended) or require expedited processing.
Business Permits & Licenses: Varies
Depending on your specific industry and geographical location, you may need to pay for a number of federal, state and local permits/licenses in order to legally operate in California. We can’t speak to the exact cost this will impose on your business without knowing these details, so just be sure to include some wiggle room in your startup budget to account for these potential expenses.
How do I find the right permits & licenses?
Use the resources below to find out what permits & licenses are required of your LLC, or have a professional service do the legwork for you:
- Federal: All federal business licensing requirements can be found on the U.S. Small Business Administration website.
- State: To learn about state permits & licenses and get started on the application process, head to the California Secretary of State’s website.
- Local: Contact your local Chamber of Commerce to find out about the licensing requirements of your specific county/municipality.
Ready to Form a California LLC?
Optional Costs to Form a California LLC
The following expenses are recommended but not required for California LLCs. Each of the services below will make the process of setting up your business significantly easier, but none are mandated by law. Read on to find out which of these optional costs seem worthwhile for your LLC.
LLC Formation Service: $39 - $79
While it’s possible to form an LLC in California without the help of a professional, many folks prefer to go this route to ensure nothing slips through the cracks.
These days, you don’t need to spend hundreds (or thousands) of dollars to make sure you’re handling the LLC formation process properly. Online services like ZenBusiness ($39 + State Fee) and LegalZoom ($79 + State Fee) will take care of the filing process on your behalf for a fraction of the cost of a business attorney.
Additional services offered:
In addition to filing your Articles of Organization, online formation providers offer several other services that can help you get the ball rolling on your new business faster and more efficiently. Two of the most popular add-on services for LLC founders are operating agreements and EIN registration.
Operating Agreement: $40-$99
An operating agreement is a governing document that outlines the ownership and management structure of an LLC. Whether you’re starting a single- or multi-member LLC in California, it’s important to have an operating agreement in place. Purchasing a custom operating agreement from an online formation service is an easy way to ensure you’ll have a thorough and legally-binding document governing your new LLC.
EIN Registration: $60-$70
Upon forming an LLC, you’ll need to obtain an EIN (or Employer Identification Number)—essentially a social security number for your business. If you’d prefer not to apply for your EIN directly through the IRS, you can delegate this task to your formation provider for an extra fee.
Business License Research Service: $99
If your LLC requires several federal, state, and local permits or licenses in order to legally operate, you may consider recruiting the help of a professional business license research service.
While not necessary for every business owner, these services can be massively helpful to busy entrepreneurs looking to save time on the research and paperwork side of things. If you’re looking to maximize your time in the early phases of your business, we recommend checking out Incfile’s $99 business license research package.
Ongoing LLC Maintenance Costs
Once you’ve taken care of all initial LLC formation costs, you’ll still be responsible for covering a few additional expenses in order to stay compliant with state law. Below we’ll discuss the ongoing costs involved in maintaining a California LLC.
California Biennial Report Fee: $20
California requires LLCs to file a biennial report, also known as the Statement of Information, with the Secretary of State.
Registered Agent Service: $99/yr
A requirement we have not yet discussed is designating a registered agent for your California LLC. A registered agent is the individual or business entity responsible for receiving and processing legal documents on behalf of your business.
While California does not prohibit business owners from acting as their own registered agents, many people choose to appoint a professional for the sake of privacy, convenience, and discretion. Keep in mind that if you assume this role, you’ll be responsible for maintaining normal business hours at the address provided on your formation documents, and receiving service of process notices in the event that your LLC is sued (learn more).
Is a registered agent service right for me?
While hiring a professional registered agent is not a legal requirement in California, it’s another great way to save time and energy that could be spent on other aspects of running your business.
If you decide appointing a third-party professional is the right move for your LLC, we recommend ZenBusiness. Their registered agent services are free for the first year and $99 every following year.
Ready to Form Your California LLC?
If you’re ready to officially form an LLC in California, check out our step-by-step guide. We’ll walk you through the entire formation process in 5 easy steps.