How To Start an LLC in California

Kaitlin Edwards | Jan 23, 2024

How To Start an LLC in California

If you’re considering establishing a limited liability company (LLC) in California, there are several key pieces of information you need to know before embarking on this journey.

This guide is tailored to offer you a clear roadmap so that you can navigate the process with confidence and ease. If you’re ready to get your entrepreneurial dreams off the ground, let’s get started.

What Is an LLC?

An LLC, or limited liability company, is a popular business structure. You’re protected from liability like a corporation, and you also enjoy the simplicity that comes with a sole proprietorship. It’s a flexible option for small to medium-sized businesses, allowing owners, known as members, to benefit from both operational flexibility and reduced personal liability.

What Are the Pros and Cons of Starting an LLC in California?

Given that there’s more than one type of business, entrepreneurs need to know what LLCs bring to the table — and what they don’t. So let’s look at the pros and cons to help you better determine if an LLC is the right call for you in the state of California.

Pros

If you’re starting an LLC in California, there are a few potential benefits of doing so:

  • Liability Protection: One of the main draws of an LLC is the liability protection it offers. Your personal assets, like your home or car, are typically shielded from business debts and legal disputes.
  • Flexibility in Taxation: LLCs enjoy a level of tax flexibility. You can choose to be taxed as a sole proprietor, partnership, or corporation, giving you control over your fiscal path.
  • Ease of Setup and Maintenance: Compared to corporations, LLCs have fewer paperwork requirements and formalities, making them less burdensome to start and maintain.
  • Management Versatility: Whether you manage your LLC yourself or appoint managers, the choice is yours. This flexibility is perfect for various business models.
  • Credibility and Professionalism: Operating as an LLC often enhances your business’s credibility, attracting customers and investors who prefer dealing with a formal business entity.

Cons

As a California LLC, there may also be a handful of drawbacks:

  • Franchise Tax: In California, LLCs are subject to an annual franchise tax, which can be a financial burden for new or small businesses.
  • Public Record: Information about your LLC, like management structure and addresses, is on public record, which might be a concern for some business owners.
  • Limited Growth Potential: Unlike corporations, LLCs can’t issue shares, which could limit your options for raising capital or expanding your business.
  • Self-Employment Tax: Profits from an LLC may be subject to self-employment tax, which can increase your tax burden.
  • Complexity in Multi-State Operations: If your LLC operates in multiple states, navigating the varied compliance requirements can be challenging.

In the next section, we’ll go over the specifics of starting your LLC in California while outlining each step in detail. So stay tuned as we provide you with the tools and knowledge you need to successfully launch your California LLC.

How To Start an LLC in California

We’re now ready to discuss the steps you’ll need to take in order to establish a successful LLC in California. We’ve outlined each in detail to give you a step-by-step overview of what’s needed from you.

1. Select a Name for Your LLC

Choosing the right California LLC name is crucial. It’s not just a label; it’s your business identity. The name must include phrases like “Limited Liability Company” or abbreviations like “LLC” to comply with California state law.

Here are a few pointers:

  • Name Uniqueness: Your chosen name should be distinguishable from other business entities registered in California. A quick name search on the California Secretary of State’s website can help you avoid overlaps with your new business.
  • Name Reservation: Found the perfect name? Consider reserving it with the California Secretary of State to ensure it’s yours while you complete other formalities.

2. Choose a Registered Agent

A registered agent is more than just a formality; they are your liaison with the legal and government world. They handle crucial correspondences like tax notifications, business licenses, and legal formation documents, ensuring you don’t miss anything important.

Options for your registered agent include:

  • Business Owner or Employee: If someone within your business is always available during regular business hours, they can be designated as the registered agent.
  • Mosey: Integrating seamlessly with your compliance needs, Mosey offers a more cost-effective solution, acting as your registered agent within your existing subscription. This means no extra per-state fees and the convenience of managing everything through Mosey’s platform.
  • Use a Third-Party Service: Another option is to use a third-party service to choose your registered agent. Keep in mind, though, that this comes with a fee, and costs can vary depending on the service you choose.

3. File Articles of Organization

Creating your LLC is more than just a formality; it’s a declaration of your business’s identity and structure. When you file California Articles of Organization with the Secretary of State, you’re not just filling out a form — you’re laying the foundation of your business.

This document includes essential details like your LLC’s name, the nature of your business, and your chosen registered agent. It’s a pivotal moment when your business shifts from concept to reality.

The LLC filing fee varies, but it’s typically a modest sum, especially considering the legal legitimacy and protection it grants your business.

4. Receive Certification From the State

After the state approves your Articles of Organization, you’ll receive an official certification. Think of this as the golden ticket for your LLC — it’s proof of your business’s legal existence and legitimacy.

This certification isn’t just a piece of paper; it’s essential for practical steps like setting up a business bank account, securing funding, or establishing credit under your business name. It’s the document that formally recognizes your business in the eyes of the state and opens doors to various business opportunities and necessary operations.

5. Generate an LLC Operating Agreement

Think of drafting an LLC Operating Agreement as creating a blueprint for your business’s internal operations. In California, this isn’t mandatory but is highly advisable. This document, which is essentially the rulebook for your LLC business, outlines the management structure, profit distribution, and operational guidelines.

Whether your LLC is manager-managed or member-managed, the agreement sets clear expectations and roles, thereby mitigating potential conflicts.

It also provides a structure for decision-making processes, safeguarding the business’s operational integrity. This is your opportunity to tailor your business’s governance to fit your specific needs and vision.

6. File a Statement of Information

Filing an initial Statement of Information is a key compliance measure in California. Required within 90 days of filing your Articles of Organization, this document keeps the state updated with your LLC’s current information.

It includes the names and addresses of your LLC’s officers, the principal business address, and a brief description of your business activities.

This is a way to maintain transparency and good standing with the state, ensuring that your business information is up-to-date and accessible for necessary communications.

7. Obtain an Employer Identification Number (EIN)

Your LLC’s employer identification number (EIN) is its unique tax identifier, much like a Social Security number for an individual. Obtaining an EIN from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is free and indispensable for various business activities.

It’s required for filing federal and state taxes, hiring employees, and opening a business bank account. This number also helps in establishing your business’s credit profile. Think of it as a rite of passage in your business journey — a step that transitions your LLC from a mere idea to a functional entity in the business and financial world.

8. Pay the Annual Franchise Taxes

Yes, taxes. Every LLC in California is subject to an annual franchise tax. This tax, while often viewed as a burden, is actually a contribution to the state’s infrastructure and economy, supporting the environment in which your business operates.

Paying this tax is a sign of your business’s commitment to maintaining good standing in the state.

The amount might vary, but considering the benefits and protections your business enjoys within the state’s legal framework, it’s a worthwhile investment in your business’s future and reputation.

Forming an LLC in California involves a mix of strategic decisions and compliance steps. From selecting a unique name to fulfilling tax obligations, each step is a milestone in your California business journey. Mosey stands ready to assist in making this process smoother and more manageable.

How Much Does It Cost To Establish an LLC in California?

One of the key considerations in any business formation is the financial outlay involved.

The cost to set up an LLC in the Golden State isn’t just about a single fee — it’s a combination of various expenses that together make up the investment in your business’s legal foundation and operational readiness:

  • Filing Fee for Articles of Organization: This is the initial fee paid to the California Secretary of State to officially register your LLC. Pricing currently stands at $70, but it’s wise to check for the most up-to-date fee.
  • Registered Agent Fee: If you opt for a third-party registered agent service, expect to pay a fee of a few hundred dollars. Mosey, as part of its comprehensive compliance platform, can serve as a more cost-effective alternative.
  • Annual Franchise Tax: Every LLC in California is subject to this tax, which is a minimum of $800 per year. Payment for this goes to the California Franchise Tax Board.
  • LLC Operating Agreement: Drafting this document might incur costs, especially if you seek professional legal assistance. However, many opt to create it themselves using templates.
  • Statement of Information Filing Fee: Required within 90 days of your LLC formation and biennially thereafter, this filing has a fee of $20.
  • Miscellaneous Costs: These might include additional fees for name reservation, obtaining an EIN (free if done directly through the IRS), setting up a business bank account, domain registration for your business website, and any other initial operational expenses.

It’s important to remember that these costs are an investment in your business’s legal health and operational efficiency. While there are upfront costs to establishing an LLC in California, the long-term benefits of liability protection, flexibility in tax returns, and enhanced credibility often outweigh these initial expenses.

A Final Word on Starting an LLC in California

As you navigate starting an LLC in California, consider partnering with Mosey. Our platform simplifies the complexities of compliance, offering a streamlined, cost-effective solution for managing your LLC’s legal requirements.

With Mosey, you can ensure that your business not only meets California’s standards but thrives within them. Start your LLC with confidence, supported by the expertise and innovation of Mosey.

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