Last updated November 20, 2020


Deal alert! Our favorite company, Northwest, is forming LLCs for $39 (60% off!) See details.

California LLC
Articles of Organization Instructions

How to form an LLC in California
This Quick Start Guide is a brief overview of how to form an LLC in California.

Detailed Lessons:

 

California LLC Costs:
California state fee: $70
Statement of information: $20 (every two years)
Annual franchise tax: $800 (every year)

Need help?
Hire a reliable service to form your California LLC:
Northwest ($39 + state fee) or LegalZoom ($149 + state fee)

★ Check out Northwest vs LegalZoom

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.

In 2018, 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

  • Note: 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.

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 California 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

Video Transcript:

The following information is provided for educational purposes only and in no way constitutes legal, tax, or financial advice. For legal, tax, or financial advice specific to your business needs, we encourage you to consult with a licensed attorney and/or CPA in your State. The following information is copyright protected. No part of this lesson may be redistributed, copied, modified or adapted without prior written consent of the author. A Limited Liability Company is a hybrid between a Corporation and a Partnership. An LLC protect your assets in the event of a lawsuit. In order to form your LLC, you must file LLC Formation Documents with the Secretary of State. Once your documents are approved and sent back to you, your LLC is now in existence and authorized to do business in the State. We have spent considerable time to make the details of this video simple and easy to understand. However, we cover a lot of ground and you are going to hear a lot of new terminology. We do recommend that after you watch this video, you watch it a second time in order to fully comprehend all the information provided. Please make sure you have watched the first Lesson on researching your LLC’s name. Your desired LLC name must be available for use before you proceed with filing your LLC Formation Documents. Your LLC is required to list a Registered Office and a Registered Agent within your LLC Formation Documents. The Registered Office is a physical address (it cannot be a PO Box) that is located in the State where your LLC is formed. A Registered Agent is a person or a company who agrees to accept legal mail and important documents on behalf of your LLC. The Registered Agent is located at the Registered Office and is generally accessible during normal business hours. As we mentioned, a Registered Agent can be a person or a company who has an address in the State where your LLC is formed. You, as an individual, can be your LLC’s Registered Agent. However, your LLC cannot be its own Registered Agent. For individuals who have an address in the State, it is most common that they serve as the LLC’s Registered Agent. Having said that, the individual person you choose as the Registered Agent does not need to be a member of the LLC. It can be a friend or a family member, or, frankly, anyone you know who agrees to accept Service of Process on behalf of your LLC. Service of Process is the delivery of legal mail and important documents sent from the State or a law firm to your LLC. Correspondence from the State can include items such as Annual Report notices, late notices, and copies of Formation Documents. Legal documents can include items such as subpoenas, and/or complaints for legal action. Again, the purpose of designating a Registered Agent is to authorize someone to accept Service of Process on behalf of your LLC. Whoever agrees to be your LLC’s Registered Agent must agree to do so. Some states require that they sign your LLC Formation Documents, but California does not require this. You will just need to list their name and address within your LLC Formation Documents. Takeaways. The purpose of a Registered Agent and its Registered Office is to be a point of contact for the State and to accept Service of Process for your LLC. You or someone you know can be your LLC’s Registered Agent, so long as you have an address in the State. Of you don’t have an address in the State that you can use, or don’t want to serve as your LLC’s Registered Agent, you can hire a Commercial Registered Agent. Using a Commercial Registered Agent will also help protect your privacy as the information listed in the LLC Formation Documents will become public record. A Commercial Registered Agent is a company that specializes in receiving Service of Process on behalf of businesses nationwide. They typically charge between $100 and $300 per year. If you decide to use a Commercial Registered Agent, we recommend Northwest Registered Agent, LLC. They have been in the business for more than two decades and have built up a solid reputation. Their fees are among the most affordable, and their support is top-notch. We’ve joined forces with them in order to provide Registered Agent services nationwide to your clients. There’s a link below this video where you can find instructions on how to sign up for their Registered Agent services. Now, let’s discuss your LLC Formation Documents. The name of the LLC formation document for the State of California is called the Articles of Organization. This document is not complicated and contains basic information, including listing your Registered Office and Registered Agent. We will walk you through the details of the Articles of Organization in just a couple minutes, and we will make sure you get it filled out correctly. Once your Articles of Organization are completed, you will need to submit them to the State along with the filing fee. You will find the filing fee amount, accepted forms of payment, and the address where to send your Articles of Organization to below this video. Your Articles of Organization do not need to have original signatures. You can file your original, or you can file a copy if you prefer. It is a good idea however, to keep a copy for your business records. Once you mail the filing fee, along with your Articles of Organization, the State will review and process your paperwork. If there are any issues with your Articles of Organization, the State will mail back a letter with instructions on what needs to be corrected. If there are no issues with your filing, the State will mail back a stamped approved copy of your Articles of Organization within approximately 10 – 15 business days. Once you receive your stamped and approved Articles of Organization, your LLC is now a legally formed business in the State of California. Please keep a copy of this document with your business records. Do not order your EIN (also known as your Federal Tax ID Number) or start to use your LLC for any business purposes until you have this approval. California has additional ongoing requirements (and fees) that must be submitted in order for your LLC to remain in compliance. Failure to file these items on time will result in the State charging late fees and they may dissolve (or shut down) your LLC. The first of these requirements is the initial Statement of Information. It is due within 90 days of approval of your LLC and the filing fee is $20. Your next requirement will be your Annual LLC Franchise Tax. Your Annual LLC Franchise Tax will be due every year and will be a minimum of $800. Then, every two years, you will have to file an updated Statement of Information. The cost will remain the same at $20. These additional filing requirements are discussed further in Lessons 5 and 6. Don’t worry, we will walk you through completing the paperwork for both. We are now ready to fill out the Articles of Organization. You can download this document below the video. Let’s get started. Here we are, inside the Articles of Organization. This is a 1-page PDF document. The form can be filled out on the computer or it can be printed, and then filled out by hand. If you fill it out by hand, please use blue or black ink. Make sure to print the document on white paper that is letter-sized (that’s your standard 8.5 by 11 inches). Also, please note that I have a professional version of Adobe Acrobat. You may just have a simple version of Adobe Reader, and you may not have as much functionality in order to edit and type inside the document. If that’s the case, simply print the document and then fill it out by hand. You’ll notice at the top of the Articles of Organization, they mentioned the filing fee. The next paragraph that says a separate non-refundable $15 service fee, this is only if you drop the application off in person so this is not applicable. There’s also a notice here regarding the minimum $800 Annual Franchise Tax fee. We have details and instructions and documentation on that for you in Lesson 6. Before we get started, one other thing to note at the bottom of this document, you will have a PO box and the address where to send these documents to. Make sure that you double-check and you cross-reference this address with the address that we have listed below this video. You may be watching this video in the future, and we want to make sure that you have the most up-to-date address and you’re not just looking at the address that you see on the video right now. And one last thing, if you’re filling out this document on the computer, they did kind of mess it up a little bit, so down underneath Service of Process, they have like this extra line, and then down here there’s an extra line, but those don’t need to be filled out. All right. let’s get started. To save time, I’ve already filled this document out, so let’s go through each section together. Under Section 1, I’m going to list the name of my LLC. For this example, I’ve used “ABC Widgets, LLC”. Make sure that you include the letters “LLC” or “L.L.C.” at the end of your name. And in this example, I’ve used a comma, but the comma is not required so it’s a personal preference. You can use one if you’d like, or you can leave it out. Section 2, you don’t need to do anything there. It just says that the LLC is authorized to do any and all lawful activities within the State. Next in Section 3, you’re going to list the address of the LLC. This cannot be a PO Box, so this could be your home address, or could be a business address. Next in Section 4, we’re going to include the name of the Registered Agent and the Registered Office. For this example, let’s say that I’m John Doe. I’m going to be the Registered Agent for this LLC, or for my LLC. So, I’m going to put my name here, and again I’m going to put my address once again. Let’s take a look at another document if we were to use a Commercial Registered Agent. I have one filled out over here. Let’s scroll down. Let’s say for this example I’ve used Northwest Registered Agent. One thing to make note of if you’re using a Commercial Registered Agent which is already registered with the State of California (which most likely they are), you don’t even have to include their address. You simply just list their name under Section A. So in this case I’ve just listed “Northwest Registered Agent, Inc.” and they include their Registration Number there. So pretty much the documents are very similar: if you have a Commercial Registered Agent you’re just going to list the company name on A. You don’t even need to list the name on B. For this example, this is myself acting as a Registered Agent for the LLC. If it was a family member at a different address, I would simply just put their name there and enlist their address in B. Under Section 5 for Management, you’re going to check off that the LLC will be managed by all Limited Liability Company (Members), and that’s it. It’s a pretty simple document. Down below, you’re just going to print your name, and then once you print this document out, you’ll simply sign above the line here that says “Organizer”. One question that customers do ask is whether or not this document needs to be notarized. It does not. You’ll simply just print it out, sign it, send this in with your filing fee, and in about 10-15 business days you’ll get back this document with your stamp of approval. Pretty simple, let’s just do a quick one-through once again. At the top, Section 1, you’re going to list the name of the LLC. Section 2, there’s nothing to be done there. Next in Section 3, you’re going to list the address of the LLC. Now this doesn’t have to be an official business address or anything of that sort, it can be a home address or it can be a business address if you do have one. Under Section 4, you’re going to list the name and the address of the Registered Agent if it’s an individual person. If it’s a Commercial Registered Agent that is registered with the State, over in this example we’re just going to list their name on line A and we’ll leave line B blank. so for this one, I’ve used myself as the Registered Agent and I’ve included my address. If you’re using a friend or family member, you just switch and put their name on A and their address on B. Section 5 for Management, you check off “All Limited Liability Company (Members)” will be managing the business, and you’re going to print your name here, print this document out, and sign on this line. Again, once you submit everything to the State, you’re going to get back a copy of your Articles of Organization with a stamp of approval, and that will arrive in approximately 10-15 business days. And that concludes this Lesson.

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
Founder & Educator, LLC University®
Forming an LLC shouldn't be so complicated. Our step-by-step guide will make the process a breeze – and no complex legal jargon! LLC University® teaches people how to form an LLC for free in all 50 states. We hope you find our free guides and resources helpful in your business journey.
×

Copyright protected

Warning: This site is copyright protected and we enforce our rights to the fullest extent of the law. It is illegal to reproduce, distribute, or create derivative works without our written consent.

This does not apply to personal, non-distributive use.