How Much Does an LLC Cost in California

Written by: Mary Gerardine

Last updated:

The minimum California LLC cost is $70, which covers the processing fee for filing your LLC formation documents, known as the Articles of Organization.

Having said that, the total cost of forming a California LLC will depend on several factors, including your personal preferences and business needs.

In our How Much Does an LLC Cost in California article, we’ve broken down everything you need to know about the different costs associated with launching and maintaining an LLC.

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California LLC Cost

In the table below, you can find a summary of the main requirements of forming a California limited liability company (LLC) and their associated fees.

                                                                               
RequirementFee
Articles of Organization$70-$85
Agent for Service of Process$49-$150+
LLC Name$0-$110
Operating Agreement$0+
Statement of Information$20 (due within 90 days of LLC formation)
Beneficial Ownership Information Report$0 (beginning January 2024)

Note: From January 2024, FinCEN mandates that all new LLCs submit a Beneficial Ownership Information (BOI) Report within 90 days of their formation. It should be noted that failure to file an accurate report on time can result in a $500 per day fine.

California LLC Filing Fee ($70-$85)

In California, all LLCs are required to submit their Articles of Organization with the Secretary of State in order to be registered with the state.

The filing fee for the Articles of Organization is $70, applicable to both domestic and foreign LLCs wishing to operate. There is an additional $15 fee for in-person submissions.

Having said that, if you choose to use an LLC formation service, the cost will be a little higher as it will include a small service fee in addition to California’s state filing fee.

The fees for an LLC formation service can range significantly, but can start from as low as $29, increasing if you decide to purchase any additional offerings.

Note: For more details on the formation process you can check out our California LLC Formation guide.

California Agent for Service of Process ($0-$49+)

Under California law, corporations, limited liability companies, limited partnerships, and limited liability partnerships are obligated to designate an Agent for Service of Process — equivalent to what is known elsewhere as a registered agent.

This is a person or entity that you must assign to receive tax, legal, and governmental correspondence on behalf of your California LLC.

While you can act as your own Agent for Service of Process at no extra cost, it’s often recommended to hire a professional service so you avoid any potential penalties or legal issues caused by non-compliance with state regulations.

Keep in mind that acting as your own Agent for Service of Process in California requires listing your personal name and address on the public record.

This exposure often leads business owners to seek alternatives to avoid the associated inconveniences, such as unsolicited phone calls.

Though the exact cost will vary depending on the chosen provider, most LLC formation services typically charge between $49 to $150 for this service.

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Alternatively, you can find some of the top recommendations for professional RA services in our Best Registered Agent Services of 2024 article.

Naming Your California LLC ($0-$110+)

When forming your California LLC, you’ll be required to pick a suitable name that’s available to use.

While registering a name in itself has no cost, there are two potential costs to be aware of when naming your LLC.

Reserving Name

To reserve a name for a corporation, limited liability company (LLC), or limited partnership in California, you need to complete the Name Reservation Request Form and submit it with a $10 fee payable to the Secretary of State.

This can be done via mail with a self-addressed envelope to the Name Availability Unit in Sacramento, or in person at the Secretary of State’s office in Sacramento or the Los Angeles regional office.

You may list up to three names in order of preference on the form, with the first available name being reserved for 60 days. It’s important to note that it’s your responsibility to ensure the name meets all legal requirements at the time of your official filing.

Note: Before registering a business name for your California LLC, you can use the California CA Secretary of State: Business Entities Search tool to check if your business name is available.

When choosing a name for your LLC, it’s important to select one that corresponds to an available domain. This is because a matching domain ensures consistency between your LLC’s name and its online presence, which helps to strengthen its brand recognition and credibility.

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Doing Business As (DBA) Name

If you want to operate your California business under a name other than the one it’s legally registered as, you’ll need to obtain a Doing Business As (DBA) name — or ‘fictitious name’ as it’s known in California.

This process involves submitting a Fictitious Business Name Statement to the county clerk’s office where your business is located. The cost for filing a DBA varies by county, typically ranging from $10 to $100.

Note: You can register multiple DBAs in California as long as you follow the proper steps for each one.

California LLC Operating Agreement ($0+)

While not mandatory, it’s good practice for LLCs to have an operating agreement (or “company agreement” as it’s known in California).

This document defines the roles and responsibilities of the members or managers in your LLC and will help prevent and solve any business disputes that may arise later on.

While you can opt to hire an online service or business attorney to draft this document for you (which typically costs at least a few hundred dollars), it’s actually quite straightforward to do it yourself at no extra cost.

It’s also important to note that this doesn’t actually need to be filed with the California Secretary of State — it’s purely an internal document.

Statement of Information ($20)

After setting up your LLC’s name and any DBAs, the next step is to file the Statement of Information with the California Secretary of State. This filing, which costs $20, is due within 90 days of the LLC’s formation.

This document includes vital details about your business, such as its addresses, management structure, and agent for service of process.

After the initial filing, LLCs are required to file an updated Statement of Information biennially.  As with the initial filing, the fee for this subsequent statement remains at $20.

Additional California LLC Formation Costs

On top of the more common fees outlined above, there are a number of additional formation costs that LLCs in California may encounter depending on their circumstances.

We’ve summarized some of these additional costs below:

Local Business Licenses

Depending on the exact location and industry of your LLC, there are a number of local-level licenses and permits you may be required to obtain.

For example, in Tustin the cost of a business license starts at $25, but can be significantly higher.

Certificate of Status

A California certificate of status is a document often required to open a business bank account, or by lenders in order to check that your LLC is properly registered and legally authorized to conduct business with the state.

Obtaining a Certificate of Status in California costs $5, and requests can be made online via the Secretary of State’s bizfile Online portal.

Certified Copies of Business Documents

A California Certified Copy is a copy of a Business Document which includes an endorsement with an accompanying certificate or Seal of the California Secretary of State stating it’s a true copy of the Business Document.

If you want to obtain certified copies of your California Articles of Organization, the CA Secretary of State charges a fee of $5 per document. You can request these online at bizfile Online using the Business Entities Records Order Form.

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Cost to Maintain an LLC in California

In addition to the cost of forming an LLC in California, there are also several ongoing costs you’ll be responsible for paying each year, such as the previously discussed biennial Statement of Information filing.

We’ve outlined these recurring costs associated with maintaining a California LLC below.

LLC Franchise Tax

All LLCs in California are required to pay an annual franchise tax of $800 to the California Franchise Tax Board.

This tax applies regardless of the level of income or business activity and is due by the 15th day of the 4th month after the beginning of the tax year.

For new LLCs, this means the first payment is due within the first four and a half months of formation — after this, the tax payment will be due each subsequent year on the same date.

Annual LLC Fee

In addition to the standard $800 franchise tax, California LLCs generating over $250,000 in gross income are required to pay an additional annual fee.

This progressive fee is determined by your LLC’s income level, starting at $900 for incomes ranging from $250,000 to $499,999, and incrementally increasing for higher income brackets up to a maximum of $11,790 for incomes of $5 million or more.

It should be noted that the payment deadline is on the 15th day of the 6th month which follows your LLC’s fiscal year start.

Registered Agent Maintenance

If you decide to take advantage of a professional registered agent in order to handle your legal documents, you’ll be required to pay an annual fee in return for their services. This fee commonly ranges between $35 and $300 depending on the provider and features you select.

While you’re not required to use a professional registered agent service, it’s highly recommended.

Taxes

In addition to the federal taxes your LLC is required to pay regardless of the state it’s based in, there are a variety of state-specific taxes in California you need to be aware of, including:

  • Sales tax
  • Employment taxes
  • Business privilege taxes
  • Property taxes

Additionally, there are various local taxes your LLC may need to pay depending on the municipality or county it’s based in, such as:

  • Sales and use taxes
  • Property tax

California vs Other States

Starting an LLC in California comes with unique financial considerations not found in many other states.

While the state’s initial filing fee for the Articles of Organization is relatively low at $70, California sets itself apart with an $800 annual franchise tax for LLCs, which ranks among the highest nationwide.

In comparison, states such as Arizona do not impose any franchise taxes on LLCs, which offers a more affordable option for ongoing LLC maintenance.

Ultimately, the best state to form your LLC will be one in which you plan to primarily operate your business from. This makes it far easier to stay legally compliant on a number of levels, including taxation, licensing, and filing requirements, as you’ll only need to deal with one state’s set of rules.

LLC Cost in California FAQ

How much does it cost to get an LLC in California?

The initial cost to form an LLC in California is $70, which covers the cost of filing your Articles of Organization with the Secretary of State. Having said that, this can be a lot more depending on your personal choices. For more information on California LLC fees, check out our article on How Much Does it Cost to Start an LLC.

Is it worth getting an LLC in California?

Establishing an LLC in California provides liability protection, tax advantages, and enhanced credibility. While there’s an $800 annual franchise tax, California’s expansive market and dynamic economy offer substantial opportunities for growth. If you’re interested in getting started, check out our guide on How to Start an LLC in California.

Can I get a free LLC in California?

It’s not feasible to form an LLC in California without incurring any costs, as state filing fees and the annual tax are mandatory. The initial filing fee for the Articles of Organization is $70, a requirement for every business entity, be it a domestic LLC or a foreign LLC.

How do I start an LLC in California by myself?

To start an LLC in California, you will need to first file your LLC’s Articles of Organization with the Secretary of State and pay the $70 California LLC fee. For LLCs with partners, drafting an Operating Agreement is essential for defining roles—while for a single-member LLC, it enhances clarity. Remember to open a separate business bank account for financial organization.

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