California LLC Articles of Organization

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In this lesson, we will walk you through filing your Articles of Organization with the California Secretary of State. This is the document that officially creates your California LLC.

The California Secretary of State issued some great news: California LLCs can be formed online.

LLC University® recommendation

While you can still file by mail, we recommend the online filing (via BizFile) as it’s easier and the approval time is slightly faster.

However, you’ll find instructions below for both the online filing as well as the mail-in filing.

California LLC filing fee

The filing fee for an LLC in California is $70. This is a one-time filing fee.

The $70 LLC fee is the same for both online and mail-in filings.

Note: The “LLC filing fee” (the fee to create a California LLC) is the same thing as the “Articles of Organization fee”. The Articles of Organization is the document, that once approved by the Secretary of State’s office, creates your California LLC.

California LLC approval

California has sped up their processes. LLC approval time used to be 10-15 business days, however, that’s no longer the case.

California LLC approval time is now 3-5 business days. That’s for both online and mail-in filings. However, it’s important to note that you’ll need to allow for a few extra business days for mail time.

Note: Filing times may take longer due to the current global situation and government delays. For the most up-to-date LLC processing times, check How long does it take to get an LLC in California.

Once your California LLC is approved, the state will send you a stamped and approved copy of your Articles of Organization (along with a welcome letter). They will arrive by email if you file online or arrive by mail if you file by mail.

Prior LLC University® lessons

Before forming your California LLC, make sure you have read the prior lessons:

How to avoid back-to-back $800 franchise tax payments

As you may know, all LLCs in California must pay an $800 Franchise Tax each year, regardless of income or activity. If you’re forming your LLC late in the year (October – December), you may want to forward-date your filing to January 1st to avoid paying two (2) $800 payments back-to-back.

For more information, please see how to avoid $1,600 in California LLC franchise tax.

Are you a licensed professional in California?

If you are a California licensed professional (architect, attorney, chiropractor, dentist, doctor, physical therapist, etc.) the state doesn’t allow you to form an LLC. For more information, please see most California licensed professionals can’t form LLCs.

Need to save time? Hire a company to form your LLC:
Northwest ($39 + state fee) or LegalZoom ($149 + state fee)

(check out Northwest vs LegalZoom)

How to form your California LLC online with BizFile (filing your Articles of Organization)

Get started:

  1. Go to the BizFile homepage
  2. Scroll down and click “Limited Liability Company Formation Online
  3. Click “Start”
  4. Review the privacy warning and then click “I Accept” if you agree to the terms

Some important notes about privacy:

  • If you are thinking about using your home address in your LLC filing, you may want to reconsider.
  • As the state mentions in their personal information in public filings page, the information you list in your LLC’s Articles of Organization will become public record and may appear in google searches.
  • As mentioned in our California Registered Agent lesson, if you hire the Registered Agent company we recommend, you can use their address in your LLC filing (and keep your address off public records).

1. Limited Liability Company Purpose Statement and Name

Purpose Statement:

You can’t change or edit anything in this LLC purpose statement section. It states that your California LLC can engage in any lawful activities.

Limited Liability Company Name:

Enter your desired LLC name in this box, but leave out the identifier (ending).

LLC Identifier:

Select your preferred LLC identifier.

As per Section 17701.08 of the California Corporations Code, your LLC must have one of the following identifiers at the end of its name:

  • LLC (most common)
  • L.L.C.
  • Ltd Liability Co.
  • Limited Liability Co.
  • Ltd. Liability Company
  • Limited Liability Company

Note: Your LLC name can’t include any of the following words: Inc., Incorporated, Corp., Corporation, bank, trust, trustee, insurer, insurance company, or any other words that suggest your LLC issues insurance policies.

Name Reservation:

An LLC name reservation is not required to form an LLC and it’s often unnecessary. Most filers don’t check this box off. If you have a name reservation that’s already been filed though, check the box and enter your reservation number.

2. Business Address

Initial Street Address of the Designated Office in California:

Enter your LLC’s Designated Office address.

You can begin typing the address in the first box (“address look-up tool”) and then select it in the list or you can manually enter your address in the boxes below.

Some notes about your LLC’s Designated Office address:

  • it must be in California
  • it must be a street address
  • it can’t be a PO Box address
  • it can be a home address
  • it can be an office address
  • it can be a friend or family member’s address
  • this doesn’t have to be where business activities take place

If you want to keep your address off public records:

  • As mentioned earlier, the address listed here will go on public records and may appear in Google searches.
  • If you hire the California Registered Agent we recommend, you can use their address for your LLC’s Designated Office address.

Initial Mailing Address:

Select whether or not your LLC’s mailing address (where you can receive documents) is the same as its Designated Office address.

Some notes about your LLC’s mailing address:

  • it can be the same address as your designated office, but it doesn’t have to be
  • you can use any address you’d like, as long as you can get mail there
  • it can be located in the U.S. or outside the U.S.
  • the address can be a PO box

3. Service of Process

If you hired a Commercial Registered Agent, select “California Registered Corporate Agent (1505)”, search for the company in the list, then select them.

If you, a friend, or a family member will be your LLC’s Registered Agent, select “Individual” and enter the name and contact information.

Some notes about your LLC’s Registered Agent (Service of Process) address:

  • the address must be a street address in California
  • a PO box address is not allowed
  • like the other address fields in your LLC filing, this address will be listed on public record

4. Management Structure

Select whether your LLC will be Manager-managed (select “One Manager” or “More than One Manager”) or Member-managed (select “All LLC Member(s)”).

  • A Member-managed LLC is where all the owners have the ability to bind the LLC in contracts and agreements, as well as run the business and day-to-day operations.
  • A Manager-managed LLC is where one, or a few designated people (called “managers”), have the ability to bind the LLC in contracts and agreements, as well as run the business and day-to-day operations. The other members cannot bind the LLC in contracts and agreements, and they can’t take part in running the business and day-to-day operations. While the members initially vote-in the managers, after that, the members take a passive/investor role.

Some notes about members and management:

  • Most California LLCs choose to be Member-managed
  • LLC Members (owners) don’t get listed in your Articles of Organization; they get listed in your LLC Operating Agreement

5. Organizer

Enter the name and email address of the LLC Organizer.

File Date:

As mentioned earlier (how to avoid back-to-back $800 franchise tax), if you’re forming your LLC later in the year — October through December — and you don’t need your LLC open right away, you can forward date your filing to January 1st.

Otherwise, your LLC effective date (the date your LLC goes into existence) will be the date the Secretary of State receives your filing.

If you want your LLC to be marked effective when it is received, select “No, I do NOT want a Future File Date.”

If you want your LLC to be marked effective on a future date (which can’t be more than 90 days ahead), select “Yes, I would like a Future File Date” and then select a date from the calendar.

6. Submission Review

Review the information you entered and make changes if needed. If everything looks good, click “Next” to proceed to the payment section.

7. Payment

Select whether you want a “Filing Only ($70)” or a “Filing + Certified Copy ($75)”.

What’s the difference?

With the Filing Only ($70) you get what’s called a “plain copy” of your approved Articles of Organization. For $5 extra you can get a “certified copy”. The only difference is that a certified copy has a state stamp/seal on certifying the document. Most people don’t need the certified copy, however, if you’re not sure, go ahead and treat yourself; it’s just five more dollars.

Then enter your billing and credit card info and submit your LLC filing to the state.

Congratulations! Your California LLC filing has been submitted to the Secretary of State.

You’ll see a “Submission ID Number” on the next page. Save this number before closing the window. You can use it to check the status of your filing here: Status of Online LLC Formation

Note: Your Submission ID Number isn’t the same thing as your LLC’s Entity Number. You’ll find your LLC’s Entity Number on your Articles of Organization (once it’s approved by the state).

California LLC approval (online filing)

After the California Secretary of State receives your LLC filing, it will be approved in 3-5 business days. However, during peak filing season (December through January), it can take 6-8 business days.

Once your California LLC is approved, you’ll receive an email from the state containing a copy of your stamped and approved Articles of Organization (along with a welcome letter).

Next Step: Operating Agreement

Once you file your Articles of Organization, and it is approved by the state, you can then proceed to the next lesson: California LLC Operating Agreement

California Secretary of State Contact Info

If you have any questions, you can contact the California Secretary of State at 916-657-5448. Their hours are Monday through Friday from 8am to 5pm, Pacific Time.


How to form your California LLC by mail

  • The video below starts with an overview of California LLCs, then at 7 min. 45 sec. you can see the Articles of Organization being completed.
  • Download the California LLC Articles of Organization (Form LLC-1)
  • Prepare a check or money order for $70 and make it payable to “Secretary of State”.
  • Mail your signed Articles of Organization and payment to:

Secretary of State
Business Entities
PO Box 944228
Sacramento, CA 94244-2280

The Mail Submission Cover Sheet is private (not on public records):

  • Contact Person: Enter your name and phone number
  • Entity Information: Enter your LLC name. Leave ‘Entity Number’ and ‘Comments’ blank.
  • Return Address: Enter the address where you’d like your LLC approval sent to. This can be any address you’d like; it doesn’t have to match the address in the Articles of Organization.
California LLC - Formation Documents

California LLC approval (mail filing)

After the California Secretary of State receives your LLC filing, it will be approved in 3-5 business days. However, during peak filing season (December through January), it can take 6-8 business days.

Allow a few extra days to account for mail time, so maybe about 1 to 2 weeks total.

Once your California LLC is approved, the Secretary of State will send you an approved copy of your Articles of Organization in the mail (along with a welcome letter). They will be mailed to the address you listed in your Mail Submission Cover Sheet.

Here’s what an approved California LLC Articles of Organization looks like:

California LLC Articles of Organization Approved

Matt Horwitz


Matt Horwitz
Founder & Educator, LLC University®
Matt Horwitz has been the leading expert on LLC education for the past decade. He founded LLC University in 2010 after realizing people needed simple and actionable instructions to start an LLC that other companies weren't offering. He's cited by Entrepreneur Magazine, Yahoo Finance, and the US Chamber of Commerce, and was featured by CNBC and InventRight.
 
Matt holds a Bachelor's Degree in business from Drexel University with a concentration in business law. He performs extensive research and analysis to convert state laws into simple instructions anyone can follow to form their LLC - all for free! Read more about Matt Horwitz and LLC University.

CALIFORNIA LLC GUIDE

Follow the lessons below to form your California LLC.

​​Overview

  1. ​​Name Search
  2. ​​Registered Agent
  3. ​​Articles of Organization
  4. ​​Operating Agreement
  5. ​​EIN Number
  6. ​​Statement of Information
  7. ​​$800 Annual Tax

42 comments on “California Filing Forms”

Disclaimer: Nothing on this page shall be interpreted as legal or tax advice. Rules and regulations vary by location. They also change over time and are specific to your situation. Furthermore, this comment section is provided so people can share their thoughts and experience. Please consult a licensed professional if you have legal or tax questions.

  1. Hi Matt,

    Thank you for such an informative guide on forming LLCs. The videos are extra-helpful.

    I have a question about the “Business Address”. The current form’s item 2 is Business Address, which according to the instructions should be
    “where copies of the organizational documents, operating agreement financial and other business records must be kept.”

    1) I don’t want to use my home address because I don’t want it to be publicly available. Would it be visible to the public if I list my home address in this field?

    2) Can I put my address provided by my Registered Agent in this field instead, even though it’s not where the “business records are kept”?

    • Hi Arthur, you’re very welcome! Thank you for the nice comment. Minus the Mail Submission Cover Sheet, everything else is public record. You can list the address of your Registered Agent for #2 (Business Address) if they allow it. Some do, but most don’t… and some will even charge fees if they start getting a lot of your mail. In the case of privacy, I recommend using Northwest Registered Agent as they’ll let you use their address across your entire filing for privacy. Hope that helps!

  2. Thanks a lot for such a useful information. I have only one question left:

    Instruction says:
    6. “The person signing LLC-1(i.e the organizer(s)) need not be a member or manager of the LLC”.
    But on the video, you have mentioned that LLC owner “John Doe” is filling form up him self, and he can be a Service Of Process individual.

    Can “John Doe” sign it as organizer? Or who can sign it if not him?

    Best,
    Sergii K

    • Hi Sergii, you’re welcome. Apologies for the confusion. You can certainly sign as the LLC Organizer. The LLC Organizer is the person (or company) completing the Articles of Organization and submitting it to the state. We’ve expanded upon this further here: LLC Organizer vs Member.

  3. Love all the great info, but one small question. When we send the check for $70 to “California Secretary of State” do we make it payable to “Secretary of State” or “California Secretary of State”?

    • Thanks Mihail! Both “Secretary of State” and “California Secretary of State” will work. So whichever you prefer :)

  4. What is the process for forming a holding company and a Operating company?

    • Hi Eric, the holding company (also called the parent LLC) should be formed first (which will be owned by you). Then form the 2nd company (the child LLC). If the Articles of Organization asks for LLC Members, list “Parent LLC”. If LLC Members are not asked for in the Articles of Organization (which they are not in the California Articles of Organization), then you can organize the LLC yourself (or have someone else organize it). That person is known as the LLC Organizer. Have the LLC Organizer sign a Statement of LLC Organizer stepping down as Organizer and listing the LLC Member as “Parent LLC”. Then create an Operating Agreement where “Parent LLC” is the Member of “Child LLC”. Make sure for the signature section (of the Operating Agreement and all documents) to enter the name of “Parent LLC”. Then one line below enter “Your Name, Member”, “Your Name, Manager”, or “Your Name,” followed by any applicable title. This way, you are signing on behalf of “Parent LLC”. Hope that helps!

      • Thanks alot…One more since the child company will be the one operating doing business.Will this make it the companies to separate entities?

        • Hey Eric, if the LLCs are set up correctly, then yes, they are separate entities. Hope that helps.

    • Hi Eric, please check with an accountant on this as there’s a few ways to do it. Thanks.

  5. How would I check the status of the submission of articles of org? I mailed mine in on March 27th and still have not gotten any approval yet…

    • Hey Matheus, if you check the Current Processing Dates on the Secretary of State’s website, you can see they are processing LLC formations received on March 30th. You’ll need to account for processing time (10 – 15 business days) and some days for mail time. So while you could call and check the status, if you just remain patient, you’ll likely get your approval docs in the mail within a couple weeks. Hope that helps.

  6. On my LLC-12 form #1 (company name) do i list the (holding company) parent company or (operating company) child company? For the #5 member or manger section 5b do list the child company there? Then do my statement of lieu. I hope I’m asking the question the right way

    • Hi Eric, I know you were setting up a Parent LLC and a Child LLC. In what states were those setup? Did you create 2 LLCs?

  7. I’m in california, actually do i need to file two separate LLC1 forms when doing it the way you explained?

    • Hi Eric, to make sure we’re still on the same page, did you form 2 LLCs, both located in California? One LLC is owned by you (the Parent) and one LLC is owned by the Parent LLC (the Child), correct? If so, both LLC’s have reporting requirements. That means both have to file their own Statements of Information, Annual Franchise Tax, Form 568, etc. Hope that helps clarify.

  8. O I see, yes both in california i confused myself with the state of lieu. Thinking that I ONLY needed to file one LLC1 form

    • Okay, cool. Just wanted to double-check. The fact that one LLC owns the other doesn’t change things in regards to filing requirements in CA. I like to think of the Statement of LLC Organizer as the “hand off” from the Organizer to the Member(s). Hope that helps :)

  9. Hi Matt, boy your website make this so easy! Written very clear that a 3rd grader could understand. Thank you for taking the time to offer this information and help us all out.
    My questions is this. After the I fill everything out and send it into the state, how are all the members officially recorded and recognized as members. In my situation it will be myself and my partner as members. How does that officially work? I see there is nothing addressing this in the actually form submission.

    • Hi Alan, thanks for the awesome comment! Happy to hear we’ve been able to make things easy for you. And great question. California doesn’t require Member information on the Articles of Organization. You can document that via the LLC Operating Agreement and you can also have the person who signed the Articles of Organization (the LLC Organizer) sign a Statement of LLC Organizer, appointing the LLC Members. So the Statement of Organizer + the Operating Agreement will do it. Hope that helps!

  10. Hello Matt if my LLC was processed today and says active.Can i file for my EIN or do i have to wait to get my form from the state?.On the state site does show my enity number

    • Hi Eric, in that case, your California LLC was approved. You can proceed with the EIN application (before the stamped and approved Articles of Organization arrives in the mail). Hope that helps.

  11. Hi Matt. I am so happy I discovered this site! Thank you for making it so clear.
    The one question I have is about the California LLC addresses in the form.
    We just bought a rental property and want to form an LLC for protection. I expect all the legal mail related to LLC’s will come to me at my place of residence. I’m confused as to where, or if, I need to enter the rental property address. The form I downloaded from your link is now slightly different than the one in the video.
    Thanks in advance, and keep up the good work!

    • Hey Mark, you’re very welcome! Thanks for the nice comment. In order to have your rental property protected by your LLC, the LLC needs to own the rental property (not have its address in your Articles of Organization). Hope that helps.

  12. I am wanting to become an Amazon FBA, and was thinking of doing an LLC-S to ensure that any taxes I might owe are seperated from my personal taxes.

    I am wondering the timing of forming an LLC-S. Can I start my FBA and in a few months, if I am successful, form my LLC? If so, can I capture my start up and profit under the LLC even though the items/profits were purchased/earned prior to the LLC being formed?

    • Hi Marie, I think you are confusing the LLC’s personal liability protection (keeping personal assets separate from business assets) with how the LLC is taxed. Unless your LLC is earning a certain amount of net income, keeping the LLC taxed in its default status (LLC taxed as Sole Proprietorship) is often better since you’ll pay less in taxes. You can find more information on S-Corp taxation here: S-Corp taxation for LLC. You can start the FBA as a Sole Proprietorship and file a partial year’s return and then later form the LLC (and you’d file a different Schedule C), but no, you shouldn’t move income/expenses to an LLC when it doesn’t exist. Hope that helps.

  13. Planning to form a LLC in January. I have several business ventures that all relate to Real Estate. What are your suggestions regards to having each venture separate?

    • Hi Tamica, it’s challenging to offer a black and white answer as it depends on how much your personal net worth is, the potential liability of each venture, and more details. It’s a question much better suited for an attorney. Hope that helps. Thanks for your understanding.

  14. I am a licensed architect that provides construction management services as well. I want to form an LLC in California. Are these services considered a professional service and thus may not be a LLC? I registered these services with the Sec. of State in 2016 as an LLC and it was registered. I dissolved this a year later. Any idea why the LLC was approved then, but not now?

    • Hi Patrick, the Secretary of State hasn’t always checked on this, which is why it went through. But that doesn’t mean you’re going against the the law. Architects are most often considered to be rendering professional services. Instead of an LLC, you’ll want to consider a Professional Corporation. We recommend have a conversation with an attorney. Hope that helps.

  15. Thank you for all your help! My husband and I are starting a sports league for adults and using an LLC. I am a nurse and understand that I can’t be the registered agent, but can we do a member managed LLC and I be one of the owners as well. It is just him and I.
    Thanks
    Sarah

    • Hi Sarah, what makes you think you cannot be the LLC’s Registered Agent… are you referring to the restrictions for licensed professionals and California LLCs? If so, that restriction only applies if the LLC you are trying to form is going to offer the professional services for which you are licensed. A sports league doesn’t fall into that category. So you can be an LLC Member and you can also be the LLC’s Registered Agent if you’d like. Hope that helps.

  16. I purchased several rental homes in the state of Louisiana. I am a resident of the state of California . My plan is to start a LLC in the state of California . The question is whether or not I can register my out of state property under a LLC f firmed and operated out if the state of California

    • Hi Barbara, yes, you can register your Louisiana property under your California LLC. Before you can do that however, you’ll need to register your California LLC as a foreign LLC in Louisiana. Foreign registration allows an out-of-state LLC (which in this case is your CA LLC) to do business in another state (Louisiana). Having said that, it’s also a good idea to speak to a few real estate attorneys. In this example mentioned, it’s just one CA LLC (registered to do business in Louisiana)… you may want to examine 1 LLC vs multiple LLCs… in addition, examine foreign LLC registration vs. a Louisiana LLC (or LLCs) owned by your CA LLC. There are a number of ways to structure this. Unfortunately, there isn’t one ideal setup that works across the board. Additionally, once you have your LLC (or LLCs) set up, you’ll need to transfer title of the properties from yourself to your LLC(s). Just forming an LLC, but holding property in your personal name does nothing. Hope that helps.

  17. Hi Matt! First of all, thank you so much for the time you’ve put in to creating this resource. I sincerely appreciate it!

    I am considering using Northwest as my Registered Agent. For the “Initial Mailing Address”, would it be advised to use my personal address? Is the Initial Mailing Address public record?

    • Hi Courtney! You’re very welcome :) Yes, all the addresses on the California Articles of Organization are public record. You can use either your address or the address of Northwest if you hire them to be your LLC’s Registered Agent. Hope that helps!

  18. Hi Matt,
    Thanks for this informative site. I am a real estate broker and want to open an office. I have registered an LLC under a certain name (XYZ). I think I can register it as the broker on record. My question is, can the business name be different than the XYZ, for instance ABC real estate. In other words, should the fictitious name match the LLC name?

    Thanks

    • You’re welcome Farid. Your LLC will need to register a DBA (aka Fictitious Name in CA) for ABC Real Estate. You’ll also need to register your LLC and its Fictitious Name with the California Department of Real Estate. Hope that helps.

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Matt Horwitz founder of LLC University
Matt Horwitz
Founder & Educator
LLC University®