5 Best California LLC Services

Get Mark Cuban's recommended LLC service (ZenBusiness) for $0 + state fee. Alternatively, you can compare the top services below.

At ZenBusiness we have formed over 400,000 LLCs

Excellent 4.6 out of 5 stars 11,778 reviews 4.6 out of 5 stars

Rated #1 by Mark Cuban, Forbes, & NerdWallet

✨ ZenBusiness ✨

If you’re looking for the best LLC website overall, go with us at ZenBusiness. ZenBusiness is a Texas-based company that has helped form more than 400,000 businesses since 2015, with positive reviews online to back it up.

What’s unique is that we are a socially conscious organization focused on doing good while growing as a company. ZenBusiness has a partnership with Kiva.org to help lift people out of poverty through financial lending and loan money to help women- and minority-owned businesses get off the ground.

  • ZenBusiness has the best starting package available that includes all the necessities when creating an LLC — totally free. With ZenBusiness forming your LLC for free ($79 less than LegalZoom), all you have to cover is the state fee.
  • Customer feedback is a major strength for ZenBusiness. There are 10,000+ reviews online, and nearly all of them are positive.
  • ZenBusiness has a 100% accuracy guarantee, so you can sleep easy at night knowing everything was filed properly.

If you want to form an LLC with a socially conscious provider and get the best overall value, choose ZenBusiness.

Start Your California LLC

LegalZoom

With LegalZoom, you’re getting LLC service from the biggest name in this industry. With millions of customers and a sky-high advertising budget, LegalZoom has a ton of name recognition. The company also has a mostly positive customer feedback reputation.

However, LegalZoom’s baseline LLC package costs $79 (plus your state’s fee) and doesn’t include many features. If you prioritize customer volume and brand power, LegalZoom’s prices might be worth paying, but there are definitely cheaper options out there.

Between LegalZoom and ZenBusiness, your decision may depend on what type of company you like to work with. Both companies have plenty of experience and know how to get your LLC formed in a compliant manner. However, while LegalZoom is a massive corporation, ZenBusiness has more of a personal touch.

With ZenBusiness, you’ll receive more responsive and consistent customer support, significantly lower prices, and no-nonsense LLC formation packages.

Northwest

Northwest offers personalized customer support that many customers appreciate, but you’ll have to pay a high price to get it. That’s because Northwest charges at least $225 to form your LLC, compared to ZenBusiness’ free offer. Even though Northwest includes a year of registered agent service, we still don’t think they come close to matching the Zen value proposition.

If registered agent service is a high priority for you, Northwest could be a good fit, as they have reasonable rates for this service. In addition, while most competitors typically only scan the government documents they’re legally required to scan, Northwest scans all documents they receive on your behalf.

Northwest gets good customer feedback too, but its reviews number in the hundreds compared to the 10,000+ reviews for ZenBusiness. And, just to reiterate, we can save you $225 over Northwest for LLC formation service.If personalized support is something you highly value, Northwest Registered Agent is a solid choice. If not, you can save hundreds of dollars by going with a competitor like ZenBusiness.

Incfile

IncFile is one of just two companies we’re aware of that can match ZenBusiness’ offer of a free California LLC formation that only requires you to pay your state’s fee. IncFile even includes a year of registered agent service in every one of its LLC formation packages, including the free option.

IncFile also competes on even footing with ZenBusiness in the realm of customer feedback — both companies have great average scores and 10,000+ reviews. And did we mention both of these companies will form your new LLC for free?

Customer service is one area where IncFile lags behind competitors like ZenBusiness. At times, IncFile’s response times leave much to be desired, and we’ve even had several support emails go unanswered. Here at ZenBusiness, we pride ourselves in our helpful and responsive customer service.

If you want a free LLC service and ZenBusiness doesn’t feel like a good fit for some reason, give IncFile a look.

SunDoc Filings

SunDoc Filings isn’t among the most popular LLC formation services in most states, but its home state of California is an exception. That’s because the SunDoc Filings offices are in Sacramento, and they hand-deliver documents to the Secretary of State’s office three times per day.

This enables SunDoc Filings to form California LLCs faster than any competitor we’re aware of. This company also receives strong customer feedback, with around 3,000 positive reviews and very few examples of negative feedback.

However, SunDoc Filings also has some drawbacks, including pricing. The cheapest package they offer costs $79, but it doesn’t even include the preparation of your Articles of Organization — it only provides document filing. You’ll need to spend at least $99 to have SunDoc Filings prepare and file your documents, while ZenBusiness will do it for free.

There really isn’t much of a reason to use SunDoc Filings in other states, but if you need your California LLC formed in a hurry, they’re worth considering.

Best LLC Service

Take it from real customers

Incredibly easy start to finish


Incredibly easy process from start to finish. I’ve used ZenBusiness to set up multiple LLC’s. Their customer service is great too! But you probably won’t need it 🙂

– Walker D

Its great and cheaper than legal zoom


Its great and cheaper than legal zoom. The Customer service is also great and able to fix any problems.

– Trevious Martin

Easy Online Setup with Real Time Support


Easy online setup and great customer service support throughout the process! A representative was quick to schedule a call to make sure everything went smoothly and keep me up to date on where I was in the process.

– customer

over 400,000 customers agree!

FAQ's

  • We invite you to take a look at our comprehensive guide to forming a limited liability company in California. This article walks you through the LLC formation process in this state step by step, ensuring that you don’t miss any crucial elements.

  • One of the most important steps in forming a California LLC is choosing a business name. Once you come up with ideas for your name, you should do a preliminary search through the state’s business search database to make sure your desired name is available. However, it’s important to note that this tool is unofficial.

    Once you’ve verified that your name is available using the business search database, you’ll need to mail a Name Availability Inquiry Letter to make this process official. For more information on conducting a business name search in California, check out our full article on the topic.

  • You can file your Articles of Organization online through the California Secretary of State’s BizFile tool, or you can print off a paper form and mail it to the Secretary of State’s office.

  • All California LLCs are required to file a Statement of Information every two years. This filing costs $20, and you can file it online. In addition, each LLC must pay the state’s annual LLC tax with Form 3522, which costs $800 each year.

  • To find out which permits and licenses are applicable to your business, head on over to the state’s “CalGold” permit and license website, where you can find extensive information about licensing requirements in this state.

  • The California Secretary of State has a handy page on their website where they display current turnaround times for LLC formations in real time. At the time of this writing, online filings were taking around three business days, while in-person filings took five business days.

    Do you need your business formed in a hurry? California has a few options, but they’re very expensive. They will form your LLC in 24 hours for $350, four hours for $500, or same day for $750. We will note that to qualify for the four-hour service, your documents must be precleared and approved by the state.

  • If you want more details about what these companies can offer in this state, or you’d like to take a look at some other options, check out our complete guide to California registered agents.

  • Unfortunately, not all businesses last forever. If the time comes when you need to close your LLC’s doors, you’ll need to do so in a manner consistent with the state’s regulations. That’s why we wrote our guide to California LLC dissolutions, so you can complete the process in a compliant manner.

  • If your LLC already exists in another state, you don’t actually need to “form” it in California. Instead, you’ll need to foreign qualify the business in this state. This process is somewhat similar to LLC formation, but there are some crucial differences as well. Take a look at our guide to foreign qualifications in California for more information.

California LLC Fast Facts

  • LLC Formation Speed: Real-time updates here (currently four business days for online submissions and six business days for hard copies)
  • Cost to File a CA LLC: $70, plus the service’s fee if you use one (you can add certified copies for $5 per page)
  • How to File Your Articles of Organization: Online or by mail
  • Biennial Reports: Due every other year (with the exception of your initial report, which must be filed within 90 days of forming your business); costs $20 to file
  • State General Business License: Not required, but industry licenses may apply
  • PLLCs: Not an option in CA

What Is a California LLC?

LLCs are formal legal entities that are typically taxed similarly to sole proprietorships and general partnerships, in that the owners include any company profits or losses into their personal returns — the LLC itself does not owe income taxes. An LLC may also elect to be taxed like a corporation, although this is not a very common option.

There are similarities to corporations too, especially when it comes to financial responsibilities. In an LLC, the owners or members are not usually personally accountable for the financial status of the business. This means that if someone sues your LLC, your personal assets are not at risk.

While California does not legally require LLCs to create an operating agreement, it’s still strongly recommended. This document can help clear up any disagreements between your owners, and it’s also just generally convenient to have a roadmap of your LLC’s operational aspects.

We have good news and bad news regarding the affordability of LLCs in California. The good news is that California charges a very reasonable $70 filing fee to form your LLC, which is cheaper than many other states. However, the negative side of the coin is the fact that California charges an annual franchise tax with a minimum $800 fee, which is much higher than nearly every other state’s maintenance fees.

One other interesting note about the LLC in California is that this state does not allow entrepreneurs to form series LLCs, they do allow you to expand an existing series LLC into their state. The series LLC is a group of LLCs that fall under the umbrella of one parent LLC.

The big advantage of series LLCs is that each LLC in the series is shielded from the liability of each other LLC, and you only need to form one entity instead of several separate LLCs or a corporation with subsidiaries. For more information on expanding a series LLC into California, check out the California Franchise Tax Board website.

The Total Cost of Forming and Maintaining an LLC in California

In addition to the costs of a business formation service or hiring an attorney (which are optional, as we’ve discussed), there are quite a few other required and optional expenses when forming and maintaining a California business. You cannot form an LLC in California without filing the Articles of Organization, the document that officially registers your business within the state. The filing fee for this is free unless you want additional certified copies (you get one free copy) for $5 per copy.

Within the first 90 days of forming your LLC, you will need to submit an Initial Report for $20. This acts as a precursor to the Statement of Information, which you’ll file every other year — also for $20. These reports keep the state up-to-date about some basic but vital information about your business.

Those expenses are pretty minimal but don’t think that you won’t have to pay any substantial expenses because the state charges a hefty Annual Franchise Tax. For an LLC, this tax is levied regardless of how much income you make, and it costs a hefty $800 each year. Then there are income taxes to consider. And to top it off, you’ll have to pay federal taxes, along with several others.

For instance, if you have employees, you’ll pay unemployment insurance tax. If you sell goods or services, you’ll pay sales and use tax. Depending on the nature of your business, there could be other taxes required, so check with the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration to make sure.

Other than that, the other potential expenses only apply to certain businesses. These include things like professional or industry-specific business licenses and business insurance.

Pros and Cons of Creating a Limited Liability Company

An LLC is one of the most popular entity types nationwide. But it isn’t the right type for everyone.

Only you can pick which entity type best fits you and your business; after all, you understand your business idea better than anyone. You have a clear vision for your products and services, both present and future.

To truly determine whether an LLC is right for you, it’s helpful to consider the advantages and disadvantages of LLCs.

Pros

  • Easier to form and maintain than a corporation
  • Personal asset protection
  • Flexible taxation structure; can pay as a partnership or a corporation
  • Business name is protected for exclusive use within state boundaries

Cons

  • No authority to issue stock, so opportunities to raise capital are limited
  • Fees are higher than partnerships or sole proprietorships
  • Requires more paperwork than some entrepreneurs are comfortable with

Should You Form a California LLC or Corporation?

Common characteristics

There are some common aspects of the LLC and the corporation, starting with the personal asset protection they both provide. Also known as limited liability, this personal asset protection ensures that if your business is sued, only the business assets are at risk. Meanwhile, your personal assets — like your house, car, personal bank accounts, investments, etc. — are protected by your LLC or corporation’s business structure.

In addition, LLCs and corporations both provide their owners with business name exclusivity. If you own and operate a sole proprietorship or general partnership, you will not have exclusive rights to your business name. Instead, if another company decides to use your name as its own, you won’t be able to stop them. In fact, they could even register your business name and gain exclusive rights to it, forcing you to come up with a new one.

Advantages of the LLC

In general, an LLC is quicker and easier to form than a corporation. LLCs usually need to provide less information for their formation documents than corporations do, and there are fewer steps in the process as well. For instance, LLCs don’t need to draft corporate bylaws, name officers or board members, hold initial board meetings, or issue stock. On the other hand, corporations need to do all of these things and more.

The LLC is also a less rigid business structure that allows its owners greater flexibility. The business structure of a corporation is inflexible, with many regulations dictating how the business should look and function. Meanwhile, LLCs have options for business management structure and ownership responsibilities that corporations simply don’t have.

Another even more valuable option LLCs have is that they can choose how they want to be taxed. Most LLCs are taxed as pass-through entities, which means the business itself does not pay taxes, but the profits are passed through the LLC itself to its owners, who pay taxes on this money on their personal returns. However, LLCs can also opt to be taxed like corporations (either as a C corporation or an S corporation), giving them more options for taxation than a corporation has.

Advantages of the corporation

Corporations have some advantages too, like the ability to sell stock. It’s quite difficult for an LLC to attract outside investments because it cannot issue stock. The vast majority of investors prefer stock as their investment medium, and it’s also very rare to see venture capitalists investing in LLCs. For these reasons, the corporation is a much better option for businesses looking to attract investments.

In addition, the corporation has been around for hundreds of years, while the LLC is a newer addition to the American business landscape. This means that the corporation has more established legalities and also that it’s easier to expand into other states because the corporation’s structure is essentially the same no matter where you form it.

How to Set Up a California LLC on Your Own

Technically speaking, you don’t have to use an LLC formation service like Zen Business or LegalZoom. These services are incredibly helpful, but you can save money by completing the process yourself.

You can read our complete guide to DIY an LLC setup in California, but here’s a quick look at the process:

Choose a business name

Every LLC in California needs a name that’s memorable and gives potential clients a good idea of what goods or services are available. The name also needs to be unique — both for legal reasons and so your business stands out from the competition.

Appoint a CA registered agent

As we’ve mentioned in this guide, every LLC needs an agent who can accept service of process on your behalf. In all states, you can act as your own registered agent as long as you have a physical address in the state. That said, we generally recommend that you appoint someone else (like an online service) to act as your agent.

File the Articles of Organization

This document, once filled out and filed, officially forms your business in the state of California. You’ll need to provide some important information, including your contact information, your business address, signatures for your LLC’s members, and more. California has a $70 filing fee.

Setting up the LLC is as easy as 1-2-3; it’s the maintenance requirements that are a bit more complicated:

Register for and pay taxes

If you have employees, you’ll need to get an Employer Identification Number from the IRS. Then there are state-specific taxes, too. California has pretty heavy taxes. For LLCs taxed as corporations, there is a flat rate of 8.84%. The individual rate ranges between 1% and 13.3%. You will also need to account for sales taxes (7.25% plus local fees) and other miscellaneous taxes. More information can be found at the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration.

Get licenses and permits

There’s no general state business license in California, but that doesn’t mean you won’t need to get professional licenses. California offers a nearly comprehensive resource for business licensing: CalGold.

Create an operating agreement

Even single-member LLCs should create a “master document” that sets out how the business will operate, both now and in the future.

File your biennial report

Every other year, your LLC will need to file an annual report to update the state about the standing of your business. California has a $20 filing fee for this document.

Obtain business insurance

Every business with employees needs to maintain workers’ compensation insurance and a commercial vehicle policy for company-owned vehicles. You may also want to get a general business liability policy, too.

Get a business bank account

You should sign up for a business bank account so you can write checks and make purchases in the name of the business instead of pulling from your personal accounts (a legal no-no). 

This is just the tip of the iceberg, though. For more detailed guidance, we recommend contacting an attorney or checking out the full California LLC Formation Guide.

Best LLC Formation Services in All 50 States

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