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Here are the steps you need to take to form an LLC in California. For more information on how to form an LLC in any state, see our article Forming an LLC - A 50 State Guide.

If you're ready to set up your LLC today, you can do so in any state through LegalZoom for $149 plus filing fees. To get started, click here.

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Step 1. Choose a name for your LLC

The first step to forming your LLC is to come up with a name. When doing so, there are a few things you need to look out for.

1. Follow California's naming guidelines

  • In California, your business name must contain the words Limited Liability Company or the abbreviation L.L.C. or LLC.
  • Restricted words (e.g. Bank, Attorney, University) require additional paperwork and may require a licensed individual, such as a doctor or lawyer, to be part of the LLC.
  • Prohibited words are those that would cause the public to mistake the name of your LLC with a federal or state agency (e.g. FBI, Secret Service, Treasury etc.)

2. Check that the name is available

The name must be distinguishable from the names of other businesses already on file with in California. You can check California's business name database to see if your name is available.

3. Check to see if the domain is available

You don't necessarily need a .com domain, but if you want to make sure you're going to have a domain, it's best to get one before you file any documents with the state. You can check to see if your domain name is available on GoDaddy.com.

Step 2. Choose a registered agent

In California, you are required to nominate a Agent for the Service of Process (a.k.a. a registered agent) for your LLC.

A registered agent is a person or business that agrees to send and receive legal papers on behalf of your LLC, such as service of process of legal action and state filings.

Your registered agent must be a resident of California - either a business entity or an individual. You can elect someone inside the business for this - including yourself, but the business entity cannot represent itself as the Agent for the Service of Process.

You can learn more about registered agents here.

Step 3. File your Articles of Organization

Filing your Articles of Organization with the state of California officially registers your LLC with the state.

The articles of organization must include the following:

  • The name and address of the LLC.
  • Its purpose.
  • Information on how it will be managed.
  • Your registered agent's name and address.

The articles can be filed by mail or done in person.

Here is the document for filing by mail or in person.

The filing fee is $70, plus a $15 fee if you drop it off.

Step 4. File an initial Statement of Information

California requires all new LLC's to file an initial Statement of Information within 90 days of formation.

This can be done online, by mail, or in person.

If you're doing this in person or by mail, here's the document you'll need to fill out.

If you're mailing the document, send it here:

Secretary of State Statement of Information Unit P.O. Box 944230 Sacramento CA 94244-2300

If you're delivering in person, deliver the document here:

Sacramento office 1500 11th Street
Sacramento CA 95814

Step 5. Prepare your operating agreement

In California, operating agreements are required to form an LLC. An operating agreement outlines the ownership and operation procedures of your LLC.

You can check out a sample operating agreement here

Step 6. Get an EIN

An Employer Identification Number (EIN) is basically a social security number for your business. It's used by the government to identify your business and track tax payments.

You'll need an EIN to file federal and local taxes, and some bank accounts require you to have one in order to open an account with them.

You can get your EIN here.

Step 7. Get the appropriate business licenses

Depending on the type of business and where it's located, you may need to get other local business licenses. For more details, check out this resource.

If you'll be collecting sales tax or hiring employees, you’ll need to register with the appropriate California taxing authority.

If you're collecting sales tax, register with the California State Board of Equalization, which you can do online.

If you're going to hire employees, register with the California Employment Development Department.

Step 8. Pay your taxes

California LLCs and foreign LLCs must pay taxes to the California Franchise Tax Board if:

  • they are organized in California, registered in California, or conduct business in California, and...
  • they have not elected to be taxed as corporations (i.e. they are taxed as partnerships or sole proprietorships).

Any LLC in California must pay an annual minimum franchise tax of $800. LLCs with annual income over a certain level must pay an additional fee.

For more details, check out the California Franchise Tax Board Website.

Other things to keep in mind

For professional services

LLC's cannot be formed to provide professional services. These include any services that require a state license. You can check here to see if your service requires a license.

For foreign LLC's doing business in California

LLCs organized outside California that want to do business in the state must register with the California Secretary of State.

To register, you must file Form LLC-5 and pay a $70 fee.


If you're ready to set up your LLC today, you can do so in any state through LegalZoom for $149 plus filing fees. To get started, click here.

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