Form an LLC in California today and take advantage of the many benefits of owning a limited liability company.
If you’re thinking of starting an LLC in California, benefits and drawbacks are probably at the top of your mind. Is it worth it, or should you start your LLC somewhere else? Or would a different business type be a better choice?
The California LLC is a particularly popular business entity choice because it offers limited personal liability. Plus, as of this writing, California has waived its usual $70 fee for filing Articles of Organization for an LLC, at least until June 30, 2023.
California is home to more than 4.2 million small businesses. Small business owners are an essential part of the state’s economy, employing almost half of the state’s workers. With the state’s emphasis on innovation and technological advancements and a diverse economy, it’s no surprise that many limited liability companies call California home.
California has also prioritized supporting its small business community, with generous programs for loans and grants to get entrepreneurs up and running.
Plus, the limited liability company structure comes with a lot of benefits. Let’s cover them in detail.
A key advantage of an LLC is its flexible taxation options. By default, a California LLC is subject to pass-through taxation, so it’s taxed like a partnership or sole proprietorship. As a pass-through entity, the LLC itself doesn’t pay taxes. This is unlike a corporation, in which profits are taxed at the business level and again at the individual shareholder level, which is called “double taxation.” LLC profits are only taxed once, on the individual tax returns of the members. This tax status applies for both state and federal tax purposes.
Additionally, an LLC can elect to be taxed as a C corporation or S corporation instead. These structures generally favor more established LLCs, but having the option is a luxury. California normally charges an $800 minimum franchise tax for LLCs every year, but they’re currently waiving the first year of that tax to help LLCs get up and running.
Another key benefit of a California LLC is the personal liability protection offered by this entity type. In the eyes of the law, an LLC is a separate legal entity from its owners. The LLC is responsible for its own debts and liabilities. If the business goes south or the LLC is sued, creditors usually can’t come after the personal assets of the members.
This personal asset protection is especially valuable in California. California is a notoriously litigious state (lots of civil suits are filed). For example, between 2013 and 2020, California plaintiffs filed over half of all lawsuits nationwide under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Class-action suits are also quite common.
The liability protection of an LLC usually protects your home, personal bank account, car, and other assets. If one of these suits was filed against your LLC and the plaintiff won, you would only pay from the LLC’s assets, not yours. This protection is the primary reason a lot of entrepreneurs decide they need an LLC instead of being a sole proprietor or partnership.
In addition to waiving start-up fees, California offers a lot of financial resources to entrepreneurs. The state’s CalCap program, California Capital Access Program, helps back small business loans. Thanks to their assistance, thousands of small business owners receive loans they couldn’t get on their own. California is also receiving up to $1.1 billion from the U.S. Treasury to support local businesses.
California also has a substantial presence of private venture capitalists. For example, in the third quarter of 2021 alone, venture capital firms brought $34.4 billion in new funding. Attracting venture capital can be challenging, but in California, its accessibility is a major advantage.
An additional advantage to California LLCs is their simplicity. LLCs are relatively easy to run and maintain, especially compared to corporations. Corporations have to draft bylaws, hold annual meetings for shareholders, hold board meetings, record company minutes, and much more. In contrast, an LLC is very simple.
Annual compliance for California LLCs is pretty simple. You’ll have to draft an operating agreement and comply with it. Beyond that, you’ll have to pay your annual franchise taxes, file your California annual report, and keep your business licenses up to date. These requirements might vary depending on your industry, but that’s what you can expect most years. Since this maintenance is so easy, many entrepreneurs opt to form an LLC.
Starting a business is an important legal process, but with the right help, you can set up a compliant California LLC. That’s where ZenBusiness comes in. We handle the red tape so you’re free to focus on your business goals. Whether you need a free LLC formation, a registered agent for service of process, a business name reservation, or worry-free compliance, we can help.
Disclaimer: The content on this page is for informational purposes only, and does not constitute legal, tax, or accounting advice. If you have specific questions about any of these topics, seek the counsel of a licensed professional.
Knowing if you’re ready to take the leap into business ownership can feel overwhelming. You can use our LLC checklist to assess how ready you are. Generally, if you have a registered agent and your LLC name picked, you’re ready to begin. But this checklist will help you work through the other LLC requirements, too.
If you still have questions, we recommend seeking legal advice from a California business attorney.
There are pros and cons to every business structure. In California, the biggest drawback can be your annual tax burden. The $800 minimum annual franchise tax can be a burden for some brand-new LLCs. Plus, California has higher-than-average personal income taxes.
That said, if you budget for these expenses, you can navigate them without issue.
Most entrepreneurs decide they need an LLC because they want the liability protection the structure provides. That said, you can run a successful partnership or sole proprietorship and still be compliant with state statutes. There’s just more personal risk involved. So while you might not legally “need” an LLC, there’s a good chance you’ll want one.
California state law requires an LLC to draft an operating agreement. But even if the law didn’t require it, we’d recommend creating one. This company agreement governs how the LLC is run, how profits are allocated, how membership can change, and more. Our guided operating agreement template can help you create one easily.
California doesn’t require a minimum number of members, so you can form a single-member LLC or a multi-member LLC. There are advantages to both types. Single-member LLCs enjoy personal business autonomy. A multi-member LLC lets you team up with fellow entrepreneurs to pool resources and ideas. Both types still give you limited personal liability.
California Business Resources
Start an LLC in Your State
When it comes to compliance, costs, and other factors, these are popular states for forming an LLC.
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