How Much Is an LLC in California?
California LLC Filing Fee: $70
To form an LLC in California, you'll need to file the Articles of Organization (Form LLC-1) with the Secretary of State. The California Secretary of State charges $70 to process and record this document, with an additional $15 counter fee for in-person filings. This can be done online. It can also be done by mail or in person by printing, completing, and submitting Form LLC-1.
Agent for Service of Process Fee
Every California LLC must appoint an agent for service of process, known as a registered agent in most states. Your California agent for service of process must be a resident of California and must be available to receive service of process during normal business hours at a designated street address.
You can be your own registered agent in California, or you can use a registered agent service for a minimal cost.
Recommended: Get free registered agent services for one year when you form an LLC with Northwest.
California Statement of Information Fee: $20
Every California and registered foreign limited liability company must file a Statement of Information (biennial report) with the California Secretary of State, within 90 days of registering with the LLC, and every two years thereafter during a specific six-month filing period based on the original registration date. The filing fee is $20.
The Statement of Information can be filed online. It can also be filed by mail or in person by printing, completing and submitting Form LLC-12. Any Statement of Information filed after the required due date will result in a $250 late penalty.
California Annual Tax: $800
Every LLC that is doing business or organized in California must pay an Annual Tax of $800. This yearly tax will be due — even if you are not conducting business — until you cancel your LLC.
The annual tax payment is due with the LLC Tax Voucher (FTB 3522).
California LLC Fee: Varies
If your LLC will make more than $250,000, you will have to pay an LLC fee. LLCs must estimate and pay the fee by the 15th day of the sixth month of the current tax year.
The Fee is payable with Form FTB 3536.
Cost to Register a Foreign LLC in California: $70+
LLCs registered in another state that want to expand into the state of California must register as a foreign LLC in California.
The cost for registering a California foreign LLC is $70. You can register a foreign LLC in California by filing an Application to Register a Foreign Limited Liability Company (Form LLC-5).
Registering a foreign LLC can be done online. It can also be filed by mail or in person by printing, completing, and submitting Form LLC-5. Filing in person will cost $85.
Business Licenses and Permits
Your business might need federal, state, and local permits/licenses to legally operate in California, depending on your industry and geographical location. This is true whether you form an LLC or any other type of business structure.
Learn more about state and local licensing in our California business license guide.
Other California Business Filing Fees
There are fees associated with other, optional business filings in California.
"Doing Business As" (DBA) Name
When an LLC is registered with the state, the LLC’s name is also officially registered. Some business owners choose to also file for a DBA name, known as a Fictitious Business Name (FBN) in California. The FBN statement is filed with the county where the business will be located. Foreign LLCs must register with the Clerk of Sacramento County.
The fee to file a fictitious business name statement varies depending on the county where it is filed and is valid for five years or until the facts in the statement change (whichever occurs first).
Learn more in our California DBA guide.
Certified Document Copies
You can get certified copies of your California business documents by ordering through the Secretary of State and paying $5 per document.
Certificate of Status
A California Certificate of Status can be ordered from the Secretary of State online. It can also be requested by mail or in person by printing, completing, and submitting a Business Entities Records – Order Form. The cost is $5.
A Certificate of Status is often required by banks and lenders.
How to Start an LLC in California
Forming an LLC yourself is easy; just follow the five steps below.
Five Basic Steps to Start an LLC in California
Step 1: Name Your California LLC
Step 2: Choose a Registered Agent
Step 3: File the Articles of Organization
Step 4: Create an Operating Agreement
Step 5: Get an EIN
Step 1: Name Your California LLC
When you name your California LLC, you’ll need to choose a name that:
- Is available for use in the state of California
- Meets California naming requirements
- Is available as a web domain
Check web domain (URL) availability with GoDaddy:
Find a Domain Now
Not sure what to name your business? Check out our free LLC name generator.
Step 2: Choose a Registered Agent
California LLCs are required to appoint a registered agent to receive service of process. Business owners can hire a registered agent service or appoint any California resident that is 18 years or older and is available during normal business hours at a specified address to receive service of process.
Recommended: Northwest offers one full year of registered agent services with their $29 (plus state fees) LLC formation package.
Step 3: File a California Articles of Organization
For a closer look at the filing process, check out our California Articles of Organization guide.
Step 4: Create an LLC Operating Agreement
California law makes many references to an operating agreement. But there is no legal requirement that the operating agreement should be in writing. If, however, the LLC does have an operating agreement in writing, a copy must be kept at the business premises.
An operating agreement outlines the ownership and operating procedures of an LLC, ensuring that all members are on the same page and reducing the risk of conflict down the line.
Learn more in our California LLC Operating Agreement guide.
Step 5: Get an EIN
An Employer Identification Number (EIN) is a nine-digit number issued by the IRS to identify businesses for tax purposes. Think of an EIN as a Social Security number for your LLC.
To learn how to get an EIN for free, visit our How to Get an EIN Number guide.
California Business Resources
LLC Cost in California FAQ
What is the cheapest way to start an LLC in California?
The cheapest way to start an LLC in California is to handle the registration process individually. In order to do this, you will need to follow these steps:
- Name your LLC
- Choose an agent for service of process: This can be a registered agent service or an individual.
- File the California Articles of Organization: The filing fee for this is currently $70 and can be done online, by mail, or in person.
- Create an LLC operating agreement: This is usually not a legal requirement, but it is highly recommended.
- Get an EIN: This is basically your business’s Social Security number (SSN).
How much does an LLC cost per year in California?
Every California and registered foreign limited liability company must file a Statement of Information with the California Secretary of State every two years. The filing fee is $25.
For a more in-depth analysis, see our How Much Does an LLC Cost? article.
How much does an LLC license cost in California?
An LLC is not a business license, but a business entity.
However, an LLC will be required to file a Statement of Information for a cost of $25, pay an Annual Tax of $800, and pay an LLC fee if its revenues exceed $250,000.
You may be required to pay additional fees if you choose to pay for a registered agent service, an LLC formation service, or an LLC attorney.
See our How to Start an LLC in California for more information on registering your business as an LLC.
Do LLCs pay income taxes in California?
LLCs are a “pass-through” tax entity. This means that the LLCs profits are “passed through” directly to its owner(s), who then pay income taxes independently.
This is advantageous compared to a corporation’s tax structure because it means that LLC members are not taxed twice.
Having said that, readers should keep in mind that LLCs are very flexible when it comes to how they can be taxed, and — depending on the specifics — they can choose to be taxed as a pass-through entity, a C corp, and an S corp.
For more information, see our How Is an LLC Taxed guide.
What are the tax benefits of an LLC?
The tax benefits of an LLC will depend on how you choose to be taxed, as well as on whether you are operating as a single or multi-member LLC.
Generally speaking, LLCs can choose to be taxed in several different ways, including:
- As a sole proprietorship or general partnership
- As a C corporation
- As an S corporation
See our Single-Member LLC Taxes guide for a detailed overview of the tax benefits of having an LLC as a small business.
Do I need to open a business bank account for my LLC?
Even though you do not necessarily “need” to open a bank account for your LLC, this is generally highly recommended for several reasons.
For one, having a separate bank account can allow you to maintain your LLC’s corporate veil — meaning that you will not risk losing your limited personal liability under the law. A business bank account also offers financial benefits, including the ability to build business credit more quickly and access to larger business loans.
Interested in opening a business bank account? See our review of the best banks for startups in 2023.