Small Business Taxes in California | Our Essential Guide

California Small Business Taxes

Owning and operating a small business in California is exciting and fulfilling. However, it also comes with responsibilities, including staying informed about California tax laws and ensuring that your California business complies with all applicable regulations. If you will start a Limited Liability Company in California, this one’s for you! 

This comprehensive guide will walk you through the critical aspects of Small Business Taxes in California. Understanding different taxes allows you to make informed decisions that will benefit your business and help you stay on the right side of the law.

Webinarcare Editorial Team will help you easily understand small business taxes in California. You must be guided by all the factors gathered in this article.

Small Business Tax Law in California

California’s small business tax law defines and outlines the tax obligations and exemptions for various businesses, including Limited Liability Companies (LLCs). These laws comprise various taxes that small businesses must comply with for income, sales, payroll, property, and other industry-specific taxes. Each type of tax presents unique implications for small businesses, and navigating through this maze can be quite challenging. Therefore, understanding these taxes in detail is crucial for LLCs as it aids in effective tax planning and helps avoid non-compliance penalties.

LLCs in California enjoy certain benefits under the small business tax law. Generally, an LLC is considered a pass-through entity, and its profits are passed directly to its owners, who then report this income on their personal tax returns. This differs from starting a corporation in California that faces double taxation on corporate profits and dividends. However, it’s noteworthy that the taxable profit of an LLC is not just the cash the owners take out – it includes the company’s overall profits.

So, appropriate measures must be taken to ensure accurate reporting and minimize tax liabilities as much as possible. Tax laws concerning LLCs often change, and keeping abreast of these updates plays a pivotal role in the successful running of the business. If you are still looking for an LLC service to help you with your taxes, we reviewed these services, including the top features and affordable prices.

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Type of Taxes For Small Businesses in California

Starting a business in California significantly contributes to the local economy. However, operating such businesses here requires an in-depth understanding of the types of small business taxes. Small businesses must adhere to these taxes’ specific regulations, rates, and filing deadlines to avoid penalties and operational interruptions. These taxes include but are not limited to:

  • Income Tax: Typically, all businesses in California must file an income tax return and may need to pay capital gains tax on any profits. The income tax rate in California can range from 1% – 13.3% (depending on income).
  • Sales Tax: Businesses in California that sell physical products might be required to collect sales tax on transactions and forward it to the California government. The sales tax rate in California is 7.25%.
  • Payroll Tax: If a business in California has employees, it is responsible for withholding payroll taxes from the employee’s wages and transferring them to the relevant tax agency.
  • Property Tax: Businesses that own property in California may be subject to a property tax varying from county to county. The property tax rate in California is 0.74%.
  • Franchise Tax: Some states, including California, may have a franchise tax, which applies to businesses simply for the privilege of operating in that state. The franchise tax fee in California is $800.
  • Self-Employment Tax: Sole proprietors and freelancers in California may be required to pay self-employment taxes, covering social security and Medicare costs.
  • Excise Tax: Some businesses may be liable to pay excise taxes, typically applied to certain goods and services such as alcohol, tobacco, and gasoline.
  • Unemployment Insurance Tax: Employers in California might be required to pay unemployment insurance taxes, which fund unemployment benefits for workers who lose their jobs.

Understanding the types of small business taxes in California is the first step towards financial transparency. Remember, when you start an LLC, you’re not only launching a business, you’re also taking on a mantle of fiscal responsibility. Stay informed, stay compliant, and contribute to the growth of California’s economy.


Calculate Taxes in California

Understanding how to calculate taxes for small businesses in California. You will not just fathom the different taxes and how they work but also how you came up with them. Here is how you calculate taxes in California.

  • Income Tax: Business income tax is calculated based on the profits reported on your income tax return. The amount of tax due will be based on the tax rate in your specific tax bracket.
  • Sales Tax: To calculate sales tax, multiply the total sales receipts by the sales tax rate in California. The sales tax amount should be added to the customer’s price for goods or services.
  • Payroll Tax: Payroll taxes include federal income tax, Social Security, and Medicare taxes. You can use the tax tables or tax calculator provided by the IRS to calculate these taxes. In addition, employers are responsible for paying the Federal Unemployment Tax (FUTA).
  • Property Tax: Property taxes are calculated by multiplying the property’s assessed value by the local property tax rate.
  • Franchise Tax: Franchise tax calculation varies by state. It could be based on your net worth, income, or a flat fee. Consult the California Franchise Tax Board for details.
  • Self-Employment Tax: Self-employment tax consists of Social Security and Medicare taxes. To calculate it, multiply your net profit from self-employment by 15.3%.
  • Excise Tax: Excise taxes are usually included in the product’s price, like gasoline or alcohol, and are often levied per unit (like per gallon or bottle) rather than as a price percentage.
  • Unemployment Insurance Tax: These rates vary by state and by the individual employer’s experience rating. The employer’s experience rating is based on the benefits paid to former employees, so new businesses in California usually have a relatively low rate.

It is recommended to consult a tax professional to ensure accuracy and compliance with all relevant tax laws.

File and Pay Business Taxes in California

The process of filing and paying taxes in California can be broken down into several steps. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to go about it:

  1. Gather all relevant documents: Collect all the necessary paperwork, including W-2 forms from your employer(s), 1099 forms for freelance or self-employment income, income statements from banks or financial institutions, and any other relevant receipts or records.
  2. Determine your filing status: Assess your marital status and household situation to determine the appropriate filing status, such as Single, Married Filing Jointly, Married Filing Separately, Head of Household, or Qualifying Widow(er) with Dependent Child.
  3. Choose a filing method: In California, you can file taxes electronically using tax software or prepare a paper return. Electronic filing is generally faster, more convenient, and can minimize errors. You can file your taxes by mail and submit them to the California Franchise Tax Board.
  4. Calculate your taxable income: Calculate your total income by adding up all your earnings, including wages, tips, self-employment income, dividends, and interest. Deduct any eligible adjustments and deductions to arrive at your taxable income.
  5. Complete the tax return: Fill out the California tax forms electronically or on paper based on your chosen filing method. Take your time to review and double-check the information provided to minimize errors.
  6. Submit your tax return: If filing electronically, follow the instructions provided by the tax software to submit your return electronically. If filing on paper, mail your completed tax return to the California Franchise Tax Board. Include any required forms, schedules, and copies of your W-2 or other income statements.
  7. Determine your payment method: Calculate the taxes owed or the refund due. If you owe taxes, there are several payment options available, such as electronically via direct debit or credit card, by mail with a check or money order, or through an electronic funds transfer. Choose the payment method that suits you best.
  8. Pay your taxes: Submit your tax payment by the California deadline. Ensure the payment is postmarked by the due date to avoid penalties or interest charges.
  9. Keep copies for your records: Make copies of all documents associated with your tax return, including the completed forms, payment proof, and any supporting documentation. Store these records in a safe place for future reference.

Remember to consult California’s official tax website or seek professional advice to ensure compliance with any specific tax regulations or updates in the state.

Small Business Tax Deductions

Tracking and claiming deductions for your California small business can significantly reduce your tax burden. Some common deductions available to small businesses in California include:

  • Business Expenses: Ordinary and necessary expenses, such as rent, utilities, and office supplies, can be deducted from your income.
  • Depreciation: The cost of business property, such as equipment, vehicles, and buildings, can be deducted over a specified period. Knowing it has tax deductions is better if you plan to create a rental property for your California LLC
  • Employee Wages and Benefits: Employees’ salaries, wages, and benefits can be deducted as a business expense. 
  • Business-related Travel and Meals: Expenses incurred while traveling for business purposes or meals consumed during business meetings can be deducted, subject to certain limitations.
  • Home Office Deduction: If you use a portion of your home exclusively for business purposes, you may be able to deduct a portion of your home expenses, such as mortgage interest, property taxes, and utilities.
  • Retirement Plan Contributions: Contributions made to a qualified retirement plan for yourself and your employees can be deducted as a business expense.

Hire a Tax Professional in California

Accurate tax filing requires a certain level of expertise. Recognizing this, seeking the services of a good tax professional in California can be beneficial for your small business. Hiring a tax professional will safeguard you from possible mistakes and help you maximize your tax savings. Considering their value, selecting the right professional becomes crucial.

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Sanctions For Not Filing Small Business Taxes in California

Sanctions and penalties exist for not paying taxes for a small business in California. The specific sanctions and penalties can vary depending on the amount owed and the time the taxes remain unpaid. Some common sanctions and penalties for unpaid small business taxes in California include:

  • Late payment fees
  • Interest charges on unpaid taxes
  • Revocation of business license
  • Seizure of business assets
  • Legal action, such as wage garnishment or liens on the property.

Paying small business taxes on time and in full is important to avoid these sanctions and penalties. Suppose you are unable to pay your small business taxes. In that case, it is recommended that you contact the California Franchise Tax Board or a tax professional to discuss payment options and avoid any penalties.

Where Do I File My Small Business Taxes in California?

Small business taxes in California can be filed with the California Franchise Tax Board or a state-approved online tax filing service. The specific process for filing small business taxes can vary depending on the business entity type and the revenue earned during the tax year. It is recommended that small business owners consult with a tax professional or visit the California Franchise Tax Board website for more information on how to file small business taxes in California.


How do I obtain a California business license?
Visit the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration website to apply for a business license.
What taxes do California small businesses have to pay?
Small businesses in California are required to pay state taxes such as the franchise tax and sales and use tax.
How do I file my California state taxes as a small business owner?
Small businesses in California can file their state taxes online using the CDTFA’s online portal.
How do I claim business expenses on my California state taxes?
Keep receipts and documentation of all your business expenses and report them on your California tax return.
What are the penalties for failing to pay California state taxes?
Penalties for failing to pay California state taxes can include late fees and interest charges.
Are social security taxes required for businesses in California?
Yes, businesses in California are required to pay federal social security taxes.
What is the California franchise tax and do I have to pay it?
The California franchise tax is a tax that is assessed on corporations and some LLCs which earn a minimum amount of income in California.
How much is the minimum franchise tax in California?
The minimum franchise tax in California is $800.
How do I pay my California franchise tax?
California franchise tax payments can be made via mail or online through the CDTFA’s website.
What is the sales tax rate in California for small businesses?
The sales tax rate in California for small businesses varies from county to county.
Are businesses that operate in California required to collect sales tax on products sold via the internet?
Yes, California businesses are required to collect sales tax on items sold via the internet.
Can I use the same EIN for multiple businesses in California?
Yes, you can use the same EIN for multiple businesses in California as long as those businesses meet certain criteria.
How do I file for a California sales and use tax permit?
Sales and use tax permits can be obtained through California Department of Tax and Fee Administration using their online portal.
Are businesses required to register with the California Secretary of State?
Yes, corporations, LLCs, and other types of businesses are required to register with the California Secretary of State.
How do I register for a California state employer identification number (SEIN)?
Business owners can obtain a California state employer identification number by filing an application with the Employment Development Department.
What is the California Property Tax?
California property tax is assessed at the local level and is used to fund local schools, libraries, fire departments, and police departments.
How do I calculate California property tax rates for my business assets?
Local county assessors determine the value of business assets and calculate taxes based on their assessments.
Are California business owners required to pay workers compensation tax for their employees?
Yes, California business owners are required to carry workers compensation insurance to cover injury and illness claims for their employees.
What do I do if I can’t pay my California state taxes?
If you are unable to pay your California state taxes, contact the EDD to discuss your options.
Will I be penalized if I file my California state taxes late?
Yes, penalties are applied for late or non-filing of business taxes in California.
How do I file my business’ California state tax for previous years?
Past year California state taxes can be filed on your current return or you can file a separate return by contacting the state tax department.
How much personal income tax does California take from small business owners?
California personal income tax rates can vary depending on the business classification and personal income.
How many California state tax brackets are there?
California has ten tax brackets and rates vary depending on filing status and taxable income.
Can I get a California state tax extension?
Yes, file for a California state tax extension by submitting a Request for Extension to file on the state’s website.
Is it possible to file my California state business taxes free of charge?
California’s online portal for business tax allows customers to file returns electronically at no cost..
What happens if I overpay on my California state taxes?
Overpaid income tax can show up on a refund and can be applied towards next year’s business taxes within California.
Do California business owners need to file annual reports?
California business structures do not need to file an annual report.
Can I amend my California state tax returns?
Yes, when it is a required change, taxpayer need to fill out Form 540X to amend a past tax return in California.
Where can I find information on starting a small business in California?
Search California’s Department of Business Oversight and Franchise Tax Board to learn more about starting a small business in the state.
What are some California tax credits available for small businesses?
California offers several tax credits like the New Employment Credit and California Competes Tax Credit for small businesses.

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Understanding and complying with small business tax laws in California is crucial for the success of your business. By staying informed about filing requirements, tax rates, deductions, and credits, you can make informed decisions that will benefit your business and help you avoid potential tax penalties. Consider consulting with a tax professional to ensure your small business fully complies with all applicable tax laws in California.

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