California Filing Fees

What are the Business Filing Fees in California?

Starting a business in California means paying a variety of government filing fees. We’ve compiled the most common ones here so that you’ll know what to expect.

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Are you thinking of starting a business in California? If so, you can expect to pay some filing fees to get your company going. Depending on the type of business you’re forming, you may also have to pay fees to renew licenses, file annual reports, or pay for permits. Limited liability companies (LLCs) and corporations have initial filing fees. Common law entities such as general partnerships or sole proprietorships don’t usually have initial filing fees but can be responsible for other fees such as annual or biennial reports and licenses or permits. Let’s take a look at the California filing fees you may be liable for and how we can help.

Step 1: Pay your California business’s initial filing fees

If you’re forming a corporation or an LLC in California, you have to pay a filing fee to the state Secretary of State. The filing fee for an LLC is slightly less than a corporation’s filing fee, and both must be paid before becoming a legal business entity. You can find the most up-to-date fee schedule on the state’s website.

Expect a turnaround time of two to four weeks. California offers service with a 24-hour turnaround time is available, and same-day service is available as well. However, not all Secretary of State offices can provide expedited services, and doing so does cost quite a bit more.

When time is of the essence, using an expedited filing service such as the one we provide can reduce your filing time and help make the whole process easier.

Step 2: Reserve your California business’s name 

In California, you may be able to claim your business’s name for 60 days before you file your paperwork with the state. This step isn’t required, but it allows you to lock in the name you want so no one else can claim it in the meantime. A small fee is charged for each name reservation. Prepaid phone service is available for people who reserve company names frequently.

We can also make the name reservation process simple through our business name reservation service, which is available for companies in California.

Step 3: Reserve a “doing business as” name in California

Fictitious business names, also known as trade names, assumed names, or DBAs (for “doing business as“), are required in California if you wish to operate your business under a different name than is on your official business formation documents. This can be helpful if you want to branch out and try different kinds of businesses, or if your official name doesn’t convey what products or services you offer.

File the fictitious business name statement with the county clerk or registrar/recorder’s office in the county where your business is located. Fees for filing a DBA vary from county to county.

Step 4: Obtain an Employer Identification Number (EIN)

The IRS issues employer identification numbers, also known as EINs or as federal tax identification numbers. This number is required for several reasons, including:

  • Hiring employees
  • Filing excise tax returns
  • Conducting banking operations
  • Filing employment tax returns
  • Filing ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms) paperwork

In California, you also need an employer payroll tax account number to be able to hire employees and pay taxes. Simplify the process by using our EIN number filing services.

Step 5: Draft an operating agreement, corporate bylaws, or partnership agreement for your California business

Operating agreements are the governing documents that define the relationship between an LLC and its members. California doesn’t require LLCs to file operating agreements.

A corporation must keep corporate bylaws at its place of business. Bylaws, which are exclusively internal documents, also aren’t filed with the state. Technically, partnerships don’t require written partnership agreements in California, but creating these important documents is key to helping the business run smoothly.

If you want to draft an operating agreement but don’t know where to start, we have an LLC operating agreement template that can allow you to tailor the document to your business’s needs.

Step 6: Apply for your California business’s necessary licenses and permits

California doesn’t require a statewide business license. However, most cities in the state require a business license. The license fee varies greatly from city to city.

If you sell goods in the state, even on a temporary basis, you almost certainly need a seller’s permit. Other regulatory permits or professional licenses may be required depending on your type of business.

Because licensing and permitting vary greatly according to location and industry, there’s no easy way to determine what types of licensing you need without doing research. The good news is that we offer a Business License Report service that can handle this research for you.

Step 7: Pay registration fees for out-of-state businesses

If your business is headquartered in a state other than California, it’s considered a foreign (out-of-state) business. Your foreign company must be registered with the state for foreign qualification, which allows you to do business in California.

When you register your foreign company in California, you’ll need a Foreign Qualification or Certificate of Authority. These are also known as Certificate of Good Standing, Certificate of Existence, or Certificate of Status depending on what your home state uses. This document verifies that your company is active, is in good standing, paid all necessary fees, and is up to date on all annual reports, licenses, and permits. Fees for these certificates vary from state to state. If you need a Certificate of Good Standing to let your California-based company do business in another state, the fee is usually $5 to $10, depending on how the request is made.

Step 8: Check California’s annual report requirements and fees

Corporations in California must file an annual Statement of Information, with a small fee. LLCs only have to file biennial Statements of Information. California corporations and LLCs also must pay minimum state taxes.

To stay on top of this filing requirement, check out our annual report service.

Step 9: Keep your California business legally compliant

You can report most changes to your California corporation or LLC when you file your annual or biennial Statement of Information. The changes you can make this way include:

  • Business’s address of record
  • Name or address of the registered agent
  • Name or address of company’s officers, directors, members, and partners

These changes are included in the filing fee.

If you need to change the Articles of Incorporation of a corporation, you must pay a fee. LLCs that need to change their Articles of Organization must do so as well.

Keeping track of compliance issues can distract you from growing your business. We offer help through both our amendment service and our Worry-Free Compliance service, which lets you change two amendments per year.

Let us help keep your California business on the right track

Staying in compliance with California’s regulations can be time-consuming and provoke a little anxiety. But we are here to help. From formation to compliance and beyond, our wide range of tools and services can help you tackle the necessary tasks your business needs to complete to run smoothly.

FAQ

  • Are there penalties for paying my fees late in California?

    Yes, corporations and LLCs that file their Statement of Information late in California pay a late fee.

  • What happens if I can't pay my fees to the California government?

    California corporations and LLCs may be able to arrange for payment plans for the minimum $800 state tax due every year. If the tax or other fees go unpaid, penalties will accrue, and the company’s status may be suspended.

  • Who receives the fees for forming my California business?

    Filing fees for forming a California business all go to the California Secretary of State.

  • What is usually the biggest fee I will pay when I form my California business?

    The largest fee associated with forming a business in California is the $800 in annual business taxes that corporations and LLCs must pay. 

  • What payment methods can I use to pay my LLC or corporation filing fees to the California government?

    You can pay online by credit card or directly from your bank account using Web Pay. You can also mail a check to pay your fees.

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