Forming a limited liability company (LLC) in California offers entrepreneurs a flexible and protected business structure. This comprehensive guide provides a step-by-step breakdown of the process to help individuals successfully establish an LLC in California. It also includes specific information on costs associated with each step.

Step 1: Select a Name for Your California LLC

Select a unique name for your LLC that complies with California's naming requirements. The name should be distinguishable from existing names in the California Secretary of State's records and must not be misleading to the public. Check name availability by searching the California Secretary of State's business name database. You can reserve an available name for up to 60 days by filing a Name Reservation Request form with the California Secretary of State.

Step 2: File Articles of Organization With the Secretary of State

Form your California LLC by filing Articles of Organization (Form LLC-1) with the California Secretary of State's office. The Articles of Organization must include the LLC's name, purpose, management information, address, and the name and address of the registered agent. File Form LLC-1 online or submit it by mail or in person. The filing fee is $70, and expedited filing is available for an additional fee.

Step 3: Designate a Registered Agent

Appoint a registered agent for service of process who will accept legal papers on behalf of your California LLC. The registered agent must be an individual or company located in California and cannot be the LLC itself. Their street address (not a P.O. box) must be listed in the Articles of Organization. You can choose an individual affiliated with the LLC or hire a commercial registered agent for a fee.

Step 4: Decide on Management Structure

Determine whether your California LLC will be member-managed or manager-managed. Most small multi-member LLCs choose member management, where members are directly involved in the day-to-day operations. Alternatively, you can appoint managers to oversee the LLC's activities, similar to a corporate board of directors.

Step 5: Create an Operating Agreement

While not required by the Secretary of State, it is highly recommended to create an LLC operating agreement. This document outlines how the LLC will be managed, the rights and responsibilities of members and managers, and other important provisions.

Step 6: File a Biennial Report

File a Statement of Information (Form LLC-12) with the California Secretary of State within 90 days after filing the Articles of Organization. Subsequently, file the statement biennially. The form includes information about the LLC's name, California Secretary of State file number, agent for service of process, principal executive office address, managers or members, and more. The filing fee is $20.

Step 7: Pay Your California State Tax Obligations

All LLCs in California must pay taxes to the California Franchise Tax Board (FTB). The annual minimum franchise tax is $800, payable using Form 3522, Limited Liability Company Tax Voucher. LLCs with net income over $250,000 must also pay an additional fee based on their total annual income. File Form 568, Limited Liability Company Return of Income, by the 15th day of the 4th month after the close of the LLC's taxable year.

Step 8: Additional Requirements

Comply with any additional tax and regulatory obligations that apply to your California LLC. Obtain an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS if the LLC has multiple members or employees. Ensure compliance with local and state business licensing requirements based on your LLC's location and type of business activity. Register with the appropriate California taxing authorities, such as the State Board of Equalization (BOE) for sales tax collection and the Employment Development Department (EDD) for employer taxes.

By following the step-by-step instructions provided in this guide, entrepreneurs can successfully form an LLC in California while understanding the specific costs associated with each stage. We advise you to consult professionals or seek legal advice to ensure compliance and the smooth establishment of your LLC in California.

Novo Platform Inc. strives to provide accurate information but cannot guarantee that this content is correct, complete, or up-to-date. This page is for informational purposes only and is not financial or legal advice nor an endorsement of any third-party products or services. All products and services are presented without warranty. Novo Platform Inc. does not provide any financial or legal advice, and you should consult your own financial, legal, or tax advisors.

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