How to Start an LLC in California | 2023 Guide

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Start a LLC in California

How to Start an LLC in California: If you’re looking to launch a business in California, starting a Limited Liability Company (LLC) may be the right choice for you. An LLC provides personal liability protection for its owners while giving them flexibility in managing and taxing the business. This guide provides a step-by-step process for starting an LLC in California. From choosing a unique name to registering with the state and obtaining necessary licenses and permits, Webinarcare Editorial Team will walk you through setting up your new business entity. So grab a pen and paper, and let’s get started!

What is a Limited Liability Company?

A Limited Liability Company (LLC) is a type of business entity that combines a corporation’s limited liability protection with a partnership’s tax benefits. LLCs are popular among small business owners for their flexibility and ease of formation. In California, an LLC must have a unique name and file Articles of Organization with the Secretary of State. Depending on their business needs, LLCs may also elect to be taxed as a corporation or an S-corp. Owners of an LLC, called members, are not personally liable for the company’s debts and losses, and the company’s profits and losses are passed through to the member’s personal tax returns. This makes an LLC an attractive option for those seeking personal liability protection and simplified taxation.

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Steps on How to Start an LLC in California

To form an LLC for your business, you must follow the guidelines that include naming your LLC, hiring a Agent for Service of Process, filing your Articles of Organization, creating your LLC operating agreement, getting an employer identification number, opening a bank account and getting business licenses and permits.

Step 1: Name your LLC in California

After you have decided on the idea to form an LLC in California, deciding the name for your LLC is significant. There is a complete guide on LLC name guidelines for you to have a proper LLC business name. Here are some regulations you must follow while naming your LLC,

  • The name should not be confused with a government entity.
  • The name should be unique.
  • The name should be available to use.
  • Any other business does not use the name.
  • The new name must include “LLC” if it is a limited liability company.

In California, if you do not wish to file your LLC right away but want to hold the name that you have decided on, then you can reserve your LLC name for 60 days. You must file a name reservation application in California Secretary of State to keep the name. 

Recommended: We recommend a professional service that can offer you unlimited name search, trademark and copyright registration at a reasonable price. We recommend using –

LegalZoom – ($0 + State Fees for LLC Formation)

You can register your business under a different legal name if your preferred name isn’t available. Once you have chosen a name, you can submit an application for filing California DBA (doing business as). In this manner, you can choose any name you desire for your business. A DBA allows a company to operate under the name of the person or entity who owns it. If you have decided to file for a DBA, you can file it in two methods, online and by mail. However, before filing a DBA, you should know that you need to renew your DBA from up to five years, which costs around $26 for filing and $5 for each additional business name..

Step 2: Hire a Agent for Service of Process in California

Hiring a Agent for Service of Process in California is a must since a Agent for Service of Process is a person or business entity responsible for receiving important legal documents on behalf of your California LLC. Most states require you to designate a Agent for Service of Process when forming your LLC. 

The qualifications of a Agent for Service of Process vary depending on the jurisdiction. Still, generally, a Agent for Service of Process must meet the following criteria:

  • Availability: A Agent for Service of Process must be available during regular business hours to receive and process legal documents and official correspondence.
  • Physical Address: A Agent for Service of Process must have a physical street address within the state where the LLC is registered. This address, known as the registered office, cannot be a P.O. Box.
  • Residency or Authorization: For individuals serving as Agent for Service of Process, they must be residents of the California where the LLC was formed. A business entity acting as a Agent for Service of Process must be authorized to do business within that state.
  • Age: A Agent for Service of Process must be at least 18 years old.
  • Good standing: A Agent for Service of Process should not have any legal or financial issues that impede their ability to fulfill their duties.

Choosing a reliable and responsible Agent for Service of Process is essential, as failure to receive and respond to legal documents can seriously affect your business. Some businesses use professional Agent for Service of Process services to ensure compliance and proper handling of legal matters.

However, if you would like to have an easier process in filing the necessary documents, you can get California Agent for Service of Process Services.

Step 3: File your Articles of Organization in California

The Articles of Organization for an LLC is an important document to start your limited liability company (LLC). California Articles of Organization is a simple document that contains the business name and address as well as the name and address of the person who received lawsuits on behalf of the organization. 

Here are the guidelines and specific requirements in filing your Articles of Organization in California.

1. Obtain the Necessary Forms: Visit the California’s business filing office website, usually the California Secretary of State’s office, to download the required forms or file online. 

2. Provide the Required Information: Fill in the necessary details in the form, which typically include:

  • The name of your LLC (must include an LLC designator such as “LLC,” “L.L.C.,” or “Limited Liability Company”)
  • The purpose of your LLC (a general statement or specific business activities)
  • The address of your LLC’s principal place of business
  • The name and address of your registered agent (the person or business entity responsible for receiving legal documents on behalf of your LLC)
  • The management structure of your LLC (member-managed or manager-managed)
  • The duration of your LLC, if not perpetual
  • The names and addresses of the LLC’s organizers or members

3. Sign and File the Form: Submit the completed form in the {state} state office, either by mail, in person, or online. You may mail it at Secretary of State, Business Entities Filings, P.O. Box 944228, Sacramento, CA 94244.

4. Pay the Filing Fee: When you submit your Articles of Organization, you’ll need to pay a filing fee of $70. Make sure to check and include the correct payment with your submission.

5. Receive Confirmation: After your Articles of Organization have been filed and processed, you’ll receive a confirmation from California, typically a stamped and approved copy of the document or a Articles of Organization.

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Once you have successfully filed your Articles of Organization and it has been approved, your California LLC is officially formed. However, remember to complete additional steps, such as creating an Operating Agreement, obtaining an EIN, and registering for any required licenses and permits.

Step 4: Create Your California Operating Agreement

An operating agreement is a document that contains all of your company’s organizational details. Drafting an operating agreement in most states is not required. Yet, having one as an internal document is strongly advised. An operating agreement includes information like-

  • About Business
  • Members and management
  • Capital contribution
  • Profit Distribution
  • Change of membership
  • Dissolution

To understand how an operating agreement works, you should check out how to create an operating agreement in California.

Recommended: Get oprating agreement drafts ready on your table with a help of a professional service. We recommend using –

LegalZoom – ($0 + State Fee for LLC formation)

Step 5: Get an EIN

After documenting the operating agreement, you should get or request an Employer Identification Number (EIN) in California. An EIN will serve as the tax ID for your professional corporation. EIN can be obtained from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). It is a 9-digit number similar to Social Security Number. EIN, however, is distinct from SSN. It is only used for business-related activities, particularly for submitting general taxes. The form must be completed and uploaded to the IRS website. 

The application of an EIN in California can be through the following:

  • Apply Online- The online EIN application is the preferred method for customers to apply for and obtain an EIN.
  • Apply by Fax- Taxpayers can fax the completed Form SS-4 application to the appropriate fax number), after ensuring that the Form SS-4 contains all of the required information.
  • Apply by Mail- The EIN application Form SS-4 can be filed via mail. The processing time frame to receive the mail is four weeks.
  • Apply by Telephone-International Applicants – International applicants may call 267-941-1099 (not a toll-free number) from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. (Eastern Time) Monday through Friday to obtain their EIN.

In obtaining an EIN for your LLC, you should be aware to ensure that your LLC is eligible for an EIN. You need an EIN if you have employees, operate as a corporation or partnership, or meet other specific IRS criteria. Before applying, gather the required information, including your LLC’s name, mailing address, and the responsible party’s Social Security Number (SSN) or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN). Also, you can apply for an EIN through various methods, including online, by fax, mail, or telephone (for international applicants).

Recommended: Professional services have the EIN included in their LLC formation package. We recommend using –

LegalZoom – ($0 + State Fee for LLC formation)

Step 6: Open a Bank Account and Prepare for Taxes

After you have filed for and received your Employer Identification Number, you should open a bank account because you will use this account for yourself, your clients, and your employees.

Your business dealings in California might be simpler with a US business bank account because it boosts your company’s legitimacy and liquidity. Most banks demand an EIN to create a business bank account for firms other than sole proprietorships. Also, having an EIN makes tax preparation easier. You can anticipate paying employment and corporate taxes with California LLC.

Opening a bank account is necessary for California business. If you are still wondering where to open an account in your California, you should check the Best Bank for Small Business in California.

Step 7: Get a Business and License Permit

You must get a business license in California before establishing your LLC. A business license is a legal document granted by a state government body that permits you to conduct business within the area under its jurisdiction. The price of business licenses and permits in California ranges from $50 – $300. If there is a requirement for a specific license or city-based permit, you must inquire with the California Secretary of State.

Cost to Form an LLC in California

Even if you have a business name and structure in mind, you should consider whether you can afford the costs of forming an LLC in California. Articles of Organization costs around $70. The initial filing fee is $70, and the annual fee is $10, $20 every 2 years. 

If you forget to pay the annual fee for your California LLC, you will have a penalty of $250. However, you can check the California LLC Cost for additional information.

Advantages of Creating California LLC

Even though some people decide on what to do with their businesses, some choose to put it in their own individual name, while others still choose to set it up via LLC in California. Important benefits will help you set up an LLC in California. 

  • Pass-Through Taxation: The pass-through structure will make the company not pay twice the tax. Most start-ups and entrepreneurs in California apply for an LLC because of this structure. Pass-through taxation refers to how income and losses from an LLC (Limited Liability Company) are passed through to its members (owners) for tax purposes rather than being taxed at the business entity level. This means the LLC does not pay federal income taxes; the members’ profits and losses are allocated based on their interests. Each member then reports their share of the LLC’s income or losses on their personal tax returns and pays taxes at their individual tax rates.
  • Ownership Flexibility: If you need sole and primary control over your company’s operations, a sole proprietorship will allow you to do so. If you apply for an LLC in California with flexibility, you will have default rules set by law and need an operating agreement.
  • Personal Liability Protection: Personal Liability Protection protects your business from damage, debts, or legal obligations. In personal liability protection, the company’s profits and earnings will stay as is even if your company is about to be sued. This protection of having an LLC in California can also be extended to the company’s properties and assets. Many start-up companies will benefit from this since most are starting to build a company. Even if liability exists, the LLC in California will protect its assets. 


What does LLC stand for?
LLC stands for Limited Liability Company.
Are LLCs recognized in California?
Yes, LLCs are recognized in California.
Can any type of business become an LLC in California?
No, certain businesses (such as banks and insurance companies) are restricted from becoming LLCs in California.
How do I start an LLC in California?
To start an LLC in California, you must file Articles of Organization with the Secretary of State’s office.
How much does it cost to start an LLC in California?
It costs $70 to file Articles of Organization with the Secretary of State’s office in California.
Can I file Articles of Organization online?
Yes, you can file Articles of Organization online through California’s business portal.
How long does it take to start an LLC in California?
It typically takes 24-48 hours for the Secretary of State’s office to process an LLC’s Articles of Organization.
Do I need to have a unique LLC name?
Yes, your LLC name must be unique and not already in use by another business in California.
How many members can an LLC have in California?
An LLC in California can have an unlimited number of members.
Can a foreign LLC operate in California?
Yes, a foreign LLC can operate in California, but it must register with the Secretary of State’s office.
Do I need to have an LLC operating agreement in California?
No, an LLC operating agreement is not required in California, but it’s still recommended to have one.
Can I be the only member of an LLC in California?
Yes, you can be the only member of an LLC in California.
What is the difference between an LLC and a corporation in California?
A corporation is more complex than an LLC and comes with more formalities and filing requirements.
Are LLCs taxed in California?
Yes, LLCs in California are taxed like partnerships for state tax purposes.
Can an LLC have multiple managers in California?
Yes, an LLC in California can have multiple managers.
What is a California registered agent in an LLC?
A California registered agent is a person or entity that is authorized to receive legal documents on behalf of the LLC.
Can an LLC change its registered agent in California?
Yes, an LLC in California can change its registered agent by filing a statement of information with the Secretary of State’s office.
How often does an LLC in California need to file a statement of information?
LLCs in California must file a statement of information every two years.
Can I change my LLC’s name in California after it’s been formed?
Yes, an LLC in California can change its name by filing an amendment with the Secretary of State’s office.
Does California have an annual franchise tax for LLCs?
Yes, California requires LLCs to pay an annual franchise tax.
How is an LLC’s ownership interest determined in California?
An LLC’s ownership interest is determined by the percentage of membership interest assigned to each member.
Can a California LLC have a corporate entity as a member?
Yes, California LLCs can have corporations as members.
Can a California LLC have a non-US citizen or non-permanent resident as a member?
Yes, California LLCs can have non-US citizens or non-permanent residents as members, but they may face additional tax reporting requirements.
What types of businesses should consider forming as an LLC in California?
Small business owners and entrepreneurs who want to limit their personal liability should consider forming an LLC in California.
Do I need to get an EIN for my LLC in California?
Yes, LLCs in California must obtain an EIN from the IRS.
Do I need to file an annual report for my California LLC?
Yes, California LLCs must file a statement of information with the Secretary of State every two years.
What happens if I don’t file a statement of information on time for my California LLC?
If you don’t file a statement of information for your California LLC on time, you may face penalties and your LLC may be suspended.
Can I dissolve my LLC in California?
Yes, an LLC in California can be dissolved by filing a certificate of cancellation with the Secretary of State’s office.
What is a California LLC’s governing authority?
The governing authority of a California LLC is typically outlined in its operating agreement.
What does LLC stand for and what is it?
LLC stands for Limited Liability Company. It is a type of business structure that combines the liability protection of a corporation with the simplicity and flexibility of a partnership or sole proprietorship.
Is it necessary to use a lawyer to start an LLC?
It is not necessary, but it’s recommended to consult a lawyer to ensure the compliance of California laws.
Can a non-US citizen start an LLC in California?
Yes, a non-US citizen can start an LLC in California.
What is the minimum number of members required to start an LLC in California?
There is no minimum number of members required for an LLC to be formed in California.
What forms do I need to file to set up an LLC in California?
You need to file articles of organization with the California Secretary of State to create your LLC.
How long does it take to form an LLC in California?
The processing time can range from a few days to a few months depending on various factors, such as workload and filing volume of the California Secretary of State.
What is the filing fee to form an LLC in California?
The current fee to form an LLC in California is $70.
Can I reserve a name before filing for my LLC in California?
Yes, you may submit a name reservation application with the California Secretary of State and pay the required fee.
Do I need an office in California to form an LLC?
You only need a registered agent address in California, which can be a physical street address, for service of process.
Can I be my own registered agent for my LLC?
You may be your own registered agent as long as you have a permanent physical address in California, but a commercial registered agent may be more beneficial for privacy purposes.
Are there any ongoing filing requirements in California for an LLC?
Yes, California requires annual filings of Statement of Information for all LLCs.
Is a California LLC required to have an operating agreement?
An operating agreement is not required by the state of California but is highly recommended to address internal management tips.
Can an LLC elect to have S-corporation taxation in California?
Yes, LLC can elect to be taxed as an S-corporation by filing IRS Form 2553 and appropriately followed by California state regulations.
Can a sole proprietorship convert to an LLC in California?
Yes, a sole proprietorship can become an LLC in California, but you need to file appropriate formation documents with the state.
What are the advantages of forming an LLC in California?
The main advantage of forming an LLC is the limited personal liability protection it offers and the ease of management combined with flexible tax options and business credit access.
Can an LLC have global activities?
Yes, an LLC can have a global presence, but it is subject to foreign exchange laws.
Are there any restrictions on naming of my LLC in California?
There are specific following name reservations regulations that prohibit using certain restricted / prohibited words or phrases given by the State in your LLC name.
Can an LLC incur bank loan or bring investors?
Yes, banks or investor groups commonly participate and approve the LLC as it ran like a more organized traditional corporation.
Can an LLC signify EIN?
Yes, even if an LLC does not have any employees yet done continuous contracting works, they would require EIN securing if allowed by applicable Internal Revenue Service (IRS) authorizations.
Is California business license necessary for an LLC?
All businesses operating in the State of California must go through a licensing or registering process and can with an LLC.
Can I change the tax classification of my LLC in California as per IRS guidelines?
Yes, if appropriate IRS requirements allowed subject to California laws are followed.
Can I form a foreign LLC in California?
A registered agency located in California must be willing to “transact business” on behalf of your LLC outside CA borders.
Can I dissolve my LLC if I choose to stop doing business?
Yes, You may dissolve your LLC with the state of California by formal dissolution filings and distribution of any payments, assets or tax liabilities at the dissolution time.
Do I need to report every California business activity for tax purposes within or going beyond state limitations?
You should ensure to meet all applicable compliance with adhered rules and procedures involved in reporting various California business operations for Taxable Environment.
Does EDD exist in California?
Yes, the Employment Training Department (EDD) measures, analyzes, and reports upon employment in promising trends initiating prosperous California Employment-centered working systems and traineeship opportunities.
Does bonding a California LLC necessary?
only state regulated specialty professions demand failure of satisfactory performance means damage for many commercial transactions between non-governmental citizens carrying out operations under state law by trading services with E-commerce initiative while no bonding is typically suggested before these operations.
Can I get help with legal nuances while setting up my LLC in California?
There are several online resources available to understand formation, regulatory, legal, and operational nuances in business starting, permitting and operations requirements in California for aspiring business owners and operators alike, Consulting the Lawyer still appears advisable.

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In conclusion, starting an LLC in California is a strategic choice for entrepreneurs seeking a flexible, straightforward business structure with limited liability protection. By following the essential steps, including choosing a business name, filing Articles of Organization, appointing a Agent for Service of Process, creating an Operating Agreement, obtaining an EIN, and securing the necessary licenses and permits, you can successfully establish your LLC. This business structure offers numerous advantages, such as pass-through taxation and ownership flexibility, making it an attractive option for small business owners looking to grow and protect their ventures. As always, consult legal and business professionals for guidance specific to your situation and state requirements.

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