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What Does it Cost to Start an LLC in California?

Cost to Form an LLC in California
(Last Updated On: November 29, 2023)

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Welcome to our guide on the cost of forming an LLC in California, a state known for its entrepreneurial opportunities. Within this guide, we’ll explore the essential expenses involved in establishing an LLC, from mandatory fees to optional costs. 

Whether you’re a startup founder or a seasoned business owner, understanding the financial aspects of creating an LLC in California is crucial. Additionally, we’ll introduce how ZenBusiness can simplify the process and help you navigate the complexities of business formation.

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What Is the Cost of Forming an LLC in California?

The primary cost to form an LLC in California is $70 if you file online or $85 if you file by mail for submitting your LLC’s Articles of Organization to the California Secretary of State’s office.

Here’s the LLC Cost Guide for all US States:

California Foreign LLC Formation Costs

If you possess an LLC registered in a different state and intend to extend your business into California, you must establish your LLC as a foreign entity within the state. This process involves submitting an Application to Register a Foreign Limited Liability Company (Form LLC-5) and carries a fee of $70 for California foreign LLC registration.

Annual Cost for LLCs in California

For California LLCs, the yearly expenses encompass the following components: A compulsory Annual Franchise Tax of $800, irrespective of income or activity level, due on April 15. A biennial Statement of Information fee of $20 is mandatory for all California LLCs, to be filed every two years on the formation anniversary.  

The expenses for a registered agent range from $100 to $200 or more annually if not already designated, and a potential business license charge, which varies based on business type and location and may be required from the city or county of operation.

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How Much Does It Cost to Start an LLC in California With the Best LLC Service?

ZenBusiness LLC Formation Cost

In California, the initial filing fee for an LLC amounts to $70 as a foundational cost, which can vary depending on additional factors. Concerning processing timelines, the standard processing period is set at 2 to 3 weeks. 

However, there’s an option to accelerate the processing duration, reducing it to 5 to 7 days, by paying an expedited fee of $50. Moreover, for those seeking even quicker processing, an option to rush the process to 2 to 3 days is available for an additional fee of $100.

ZenBusiness provides a selection of three pricing packages for their business formation services: Starter, Pro, and Premium.

  • Starter plan: This plan is particularly suitable for essential business formation requirements and is priced at $0, in addition to state fees.
  • Pro plan: It encompasses supplementary features, such as expedited filing and registered agent service, with a price of $199 plus state fees.
  • Premium plan: Positioned as the most comprehensive choice, it encompasses all features from the Pro plan, along with the added advantage of unlimited Worry-Free Compliance. This feature facilitates businesses in maintaining conformity with both state and federal regulations. The Premium plan is available for $349, plus state fees.

Furthermore, ZenBusiness extends a complimentary year of Worry-Free Compliance with the purchase of any plan.

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Additional Costs When Starting an LLC in California

California LLC Name Costs

In California, there’s no charge for naming your Limited Liability Company (LLC). Approval of your chosen LLC name comes without any additional expense when your Articles of Organization filing is sanctioned by the state.

While there might be information online suggesting the necessity of LLC Name Reservations, this is largely untrue for most states, including California, as forming an LLC typically does not entail any fee related to the business name.

California Registered Agent Costs

The California registered agent Fee can either be $0 or $125 annually. When establishing your LLC in California, it’s mandated by state law to designate a registered agent.

In California, a registered agent is an individual or a company responsible for receiving legal documents and state notifications (referred to as “service of process”) on behalf of your LLC. A registered agent must possess a physical address within the state and should generally be available during standard business hours.

Opting to serve as your own registered agent or having someone you’re familiar with take on this role for your LLC does not incur any additional costs. These choices for a registered agent do not involve any additional LLC fees in California.

Alternatively, you can choose to hire a registered agent service. This option comes with a cost ranging from $100 to $300 per year. Nevertheless, companies providing registered agent services also offer other valuable business-related services and can ensure the protection of your privacy.

Hiring a registered agent service becomes particularly advantageous if you lack a state address or wish to safeguard your personal address from public records.

California Operating Agreement Costs

There’s no cost associated with creating a California LLC Operating Agreement, a written contract between LLC Members outlining ownership, management, and profit distribution. Both Single-Member and Multi-Member LLCs should draft and retain this agreement within their business records, providing copies to each Member. 

While many websites charge between $50 and $200 for such documents, the creation of a basic LLC Operating Agreement itself does not involve any fees.

California EIN Cost

Obtaining an EIN Number, essential for income tax filing, opening an LLC bank account, and employee hiring, is often referred to as an Employer Identification Number (EIN) or Federal Employer Identification Number (FEIN).

Despite many websites charging for this service, you can actually secure an EIN for your LLC at no cost. The process, available through the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), involves a brief online filing that can be accomplished within minutes.

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California LLC Taxes

Here are some of the most common LLC taxes in California:

Federal Income Taxes

When it comes to federal income taxes, the treatment of your LLC by the IRS depends on various options. For Single-Member LLCs, the IRS considers them as Disregarded Entities, implying that the LLC itself doesn’t need to file a federal income tax return. Instead, the LLC owner files the return and pays the taxes. 

The tax approach depends on ownership owned by an individual, treated like a Sole Proprietorship, or owned by another company, taxed as a branch of the parent company.

Multi-Member LLC Taxes

For LLCs with multiple owners, they’re taxed like Partnerships. Filing a 1065 Partnership Return is necessary, along with issuing a Schedule K-1 to owners. The K-1s detail each owner’s share of profits, and this income is directly reflected on owners’ personal tax returns (Form 1040).

Husband and Wife LLC Taxes

In states with community property laws like California, a husband and wife-owned LLC can choose to file taxes as a Single-Member LLC (Qualified Joint Venture) instead of a Multi-Member LLC. This election is made during the EIN Application process or by sending a letter to the IRS. Otherwise, the default status is Partnership taxation.

Electing Corporate Taxation

Beyond the default statuses, an LLC can opt for corporate taxation. This involves two types of elections: S-Corporation and C-Corporation. 

Filing Form 2553 for S-Corporation or Form 8832 for C-Corporation with the IRS initiates these elections. S-corporation status can be beneficial for established profitable businesses, while C-corporation status might be chosen to save on healthcare fringe benefits for larger employers.

California State Income Tax

Single-member LLCs in California don’t file a state-level return; their owner includes LLC profits/losses in their personal state return. Multi-Member LLCs may file a state-level Partnership return, with owners including profits/losses in their personal state returns. 

Certain industries and business types might have specific California business taxes, warranting the assistance of an accountant.

California Annual Franchise Tax

All California LLCs must pay the California Annual Franchise Tax annually, a payment to the state for the privilege of operating there. This $800 fee is mandatory, irrespective of business income or activity.

Local Income Tax for California LLCs

LLC owners and/or the LLC itself might need to file local income taxes with their respective local municipalities. Getting professional help, like an accountant, is advisable, as different municipalities have varying requirements.

California Sales Tax

If your LLC sells products to California consumers, collecting sales tax and obtaining a Seller’s Permit might be necessary. This permit allows sales tax collection on retail transactions within the state, and it’s essential to check the specific requirements with the California Department of Tax & Fee Administration.

California LLC Payroll Taxes

For California LLCs with employees, dealing with payroll taxes is mandatory. Payroll taxes encompass multiple taxes and filings, including federal and state income tax withholding, Social Security tax, Medicare tax, federal and state unemployment taxes, and more. 

While it’s possible to handle payroll taxes independently, their complexity often leads to hiring payroll companies or seeking assistance from accountants to avoid errors and penalties.

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California LLC Cost FAQs

How Much Does It Cost to Open an LLC in California?

The initial cost of establishing a California LLC is $70, covering the filing fee for the LLC’s Articles of Organization. Additional expenses might arise if your LLC requires a business license, contingent upon the industry and location, with the exact cost of local business permits varying.

How Much Does an LLC in California Cost Per Year?

The annual cost for a California LLC includes a mandatory $800 Annual Franchise Tax paid to the California Franchise Tax Board to maintain LLC status. Additionally, every 2 years, a $20 fee for the Statement of Information is required, paid to the Secretary of State. If you utilize a registered agent service, there’s an annual subscription fee, typically around $125. 

Further costs might arise based on the necessity of a business license, contingent upon industry and location, with potential renewal fees determined by the municipality.

Should I Hire an LLC Formation Service?

Engaging an LLC formation service for establishing your California LLC is optional, where self-formation is permissible. Nonetheless, if you seek efficiency and accurate filing, ZenBusiness is recommended. With strong customer support, they provide free registered agent services for the initial year and offer additional features such as an Operating Agreement and Annual Report filing.

Conclusion

In conclusion, forming an LLC in California involves several cost considerations that potential business owners should be aware of. The costs can vary based on factors such as filing fees, publication requirements, and optional services like expedited processing. 

The initial expenses of establishing an LLC might seem daunting, they’re an investment in gaining legal protection, limited liability, and potential tax benefits for your business. 

However, services like ZenBusiness can greatly assist in streamlining this process, offering guidance on the necessary steps and paperwork, potentially saving both time and money. 

It’s essential to thoroughly research and plan for these costs as part of your overall business budget to ensure a smooth and financially sound process of setting up your California LLC.

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About the author

Dr. Gabriel O'Neill, Esq., a distinguished legal scholar with a business law degree and a Doctor of Juridical Science, is a leading expert in business registration and diverse business departments. Renowned for his academic excellence and practical insights, Dr. O'Neill guides businesses through legal complexities, offering invaluable expertise in compliance, corporate governance, and registration processes.

As an accomplished author, his forthcoming book is anticipated to be a comprehensive guide for navigating the dynamic intersection of law and business, providing clarity and practical wisdom for entrepreneurs and legal professionals alike. With a commitment to legal excellence, Dr. Gabriel O'Neill, Esq., is a trusted authority dedicated to empowering businesses within the ever-evolving legal landscape.