After you start a California LLC, there are two main types of ongoing filings. The first is the Statement of Information with the state, and the other is taxes.
Paying taxes is an important part of running a business, but figuring out which taxes you need to pay can be a pain.
This lesson will provide you with general resources and the basics of California LLC tax filing requirements.
What taxes does a Limited Liability Company pay in California?
Each LLC has a different tax situation, so the taxes paid for a California LLC varies.
The amount of taxes owed for your LLC depends on rules like:
- how your LLC is taxed
- state and local tax rules
- any sales and use tax requirements, or
- whether you have employees
Additionally, some business types are required to register for industry-specific taxes.
Pro Tip: We recommend hiring an accountant to ensure your LLC meets all of its tax obligations.
We also recommend getting an EIN Number for your LLC. An EIN is also called a Federal Tax Identification Number. They mean the same thing.
Not only will an EIN number be used to open an LLC bank account, but it will also be used for filing taxes with the local, state, and federal governments.
LLC pass-through taxation (Who pays the taxes?)
By default, LLCs don’t pay taxes.
Instead, the LLC Members are responsible for reporting the income (or losses) on their personal 1040 tax return. The Members pay taxes on any LLC profits. This is because of LLC pass-through taxation.
Simply put, pass-through taxation means the responsibility for reporting tax information from an LLC “passes through” the LLC to the LLC Members.
How are LLCs taxed in California?
By default, a California LLC is taxed by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) based on the number of Members the LLC has. Then the California Franchise Tax Board honors this and taxes your LLC the same way at the state level.
An LLC with 1 owner (Single-Member LLC) is taxed like a Sole Proprietorship.
An LLC with 2 or more owners (Multi-Member LLC) is taxed like a Partnership.
The above are referred to as the “default status“. Meaning, they are automatically applied based on the number of LLC Members.
Alternatively, you have the option of requesting an “elective status” for your LLC. This is done by filing an extra form with the IRS. Once granted, this elective status means the IRS will treat your LLC as a Corporation (either an S-Corporation or C-Corporation) for tax purposes.
Note: Your California LLC Operating Agreement should also include information about how your LLC is taxed.
Federal Income Taxes
There are several different options for how the IRS can treat your LLC for tax purposes.
Single-Member LLC taxes (default status)
The IRS treats all Single-Member LLCs as Disregarded Entities for tax purposes. This just means that the IRS doesn’t expect the LLC to file its own federal income tax return.
Instead, the owner of the Single-Member LLC files the return (and pays the federal income taxes).
How the LLC pays federal income tax is determined by who owns the LLC:
- If the LLC is owned by an individual, the LLC is taxed like a Sole Proprietorship.
- If the LLC is owned by another company, the LLC is taxed as a branch/division of the parent company.
Multi-Member LLC taxes (default status)
If an LLC has two or more owners, the LLC is taxed like a Partnership.
The LLC needs to file a 1065 Partnership Return and issue a Schedule K-1 to the LLC owners.
The K-1s report each owner’s distributive share of profits. And the K-1 income “flows through” to the owners. The income taxes are then paid by each owner on their personal income tax return (Form 1040).
Husband and Wife LLC taxes
In community property states like California, a husband and wife LLC has the option to file taxes as a Single-Member LLC (aka Qualified Joint Venture) instead of a Multi-Member LLC.
On your EIN Application, you can choose to have your husband and wife California LLC taxed as a Qualified Joint Venture. If you already have an EIN for your LLC, you can send a letter to the IRS requesting that your LLC be taxed as a Qualified Joint Venture.
Otherwise, a husband and wife California LLC will be taxed in the default status as a Partnership.
Electing to have your LLC taxed as a Corporation
Instead of the default statuses above, a Limited Liability Company (LLC) can be taxed like a Corporation.
Note: We recommend speaking with an accountant before making a corporate election.
There are two types of corporate elections:
LLC taxed as an S-Corporation (elective status)
By filing Form 2553 with the IRS, your LLC can request to be taxed like an S-Corporation.
Being taxed as an S-Corp can help businesses (with established profits) save money on self-employment taxes.
Tip: There are additional expenses to having your LLC taxed as an S-Corporation Most new business owners shouldn’t make this tax election until their business is established and revenue is consistent. Once there is at least $70,000 in annual net income per LLC Member, we recommend speaking to your accountant about this option.
LLC taxed as an C-Corporation (elective status)
By filing Form 8832 with the IRS, your LLC can request to be taxed like a C-Corporation.
Being taxed as a C-Corp can help large employers save money on healthcare fringe benefits.
Note: This election is not common. Most of our readers don’t choose to have their LLC taxed as a C-Corporation.
California State Income Tax for California LLCs
Single-Member LLCs in California: The LLC itself usually doesn’t file a state-level return. However, the owner files a personal state-level return that includes the LLC’s profits or losses.
Multi-Member LLCs in California: The LLC itself may need to file a Partnership return at the state-level. And the owners file a personal state-level return that include the LLC’s profits or losses.
There are other types of California business tax that apply to certain industries and types of businesses.
We recommend hiring an accountant to prepare and file your state income taxes.
You can also contact the California Franchise Tax Board for more information about California state taxes.
California Annual Franchise Tax
All LLCs in California are required to file and pay the California Annual Franchise Tax every year.
The California Annual Franchise Tax is a “privilege tax”, meaning this tax is paid to the California Franchise Tax Board for the privilege of doing business in the state.
This $800 fee must be paid annually regardless of business income or activity.
For more information on due dates and step-by-step instructions on how to file and pay this fee, read our California LLC Annual Franchise Tax guide.
You can also contact the California Franchise Tax Board at 800-852-5711. Their hours are Monday through Friday from 8am to 5pm Pacific Time.
Local Income Tax for California LLCs
You and/or your LLC may need to file and pay income taxes with your local municipality (town, city, county, etc.).
We recommend hiring an accountant to prepare and file your local income taxes.
You can also contact your municipality to check on their requirements.
California Sales Tax
If you sell products to consumers in California, you may need to collect sales tax and get a Seller’s Permit. You can get a Seller’s Permit using the California Department of Tax & Fee Administration: Online Services.
A Seller’s Permit is the license that allows you to collect sales tax on retail sales in the state where you do business. It’s sometimes also called a:
- resale license
- wholesale license
- sales tax permit/license
- reseller permit
They all mean the same thing and we may use these terms interchangeably.
The California Seller’s Permit is free and valid for as long as your LLC is conducting business.
You can read more information about California sales tax from these California resources:
- CalGOLD Permit & License Search
- California Department of Tax & Fee Administration: Your Seller’s Permit
For more information on permits, read California Business Licenses and Permits.
And if you have any questions about whether you need a Seller’s Permit, you can contact the California Department of Tax & Fee Administration at 608-266-2776. Their hours are Monday through Friday from 7:30am to 5pm Pacific Time.
Tip: Save time by hiring an expert. We recommend using TaxJar. They'll help you register for, collect, and pay sales tax.
California LLC Payroll Taxes
If your California LLC will have employees, you must submit payroll taxes. Payroll taxes are essentially a group of taxes and filings, including:
- Federal income tax withholding
- State income tax withholding
- Social Security tax
- Medicare tax
- Federal unemployment taxes (FUTA)
- State unemployment taxes (SUTA)
- Local/county deductions
- Employee deductions
As an employer in California, you need to set up payroll, withhold payroll taxes from employees’ paychecks, and then submit those filings and taxes to various state and government agencies.
Although you can file payroll taxes yourself, the calculations can be burdensome and very complex. And if done improperly can lead to penalties and fines. Most people hire a payroll company or ask their accountant for help.
Our favorite payroll company is Gusto Payroll. They’ll automate and take care of your payroll taxes.
For more California payroll tax resources, please see these resources from the Employment Development Department:
Managing your books & staying organized
You can keep track of income and expenses using Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets. Or you can use software to help automate things and save time.
The accounting software we recommend is Quickbooks Online.
Working with an accountant
As you can see, figuring out the different types of taxes you owe can be complicated, let alone how to properly fill out all the forms. And doing taxes improperly or missing deadlines can be harmful to your business
We strongly recommend working with an experienced accountant in California to help make sure you file your federal, state, and local taxes correctly.
Check out our guide on how to find an accountant.
California Franchise Tax Board Contact Information
There are other types of California business tax that apply to certain industries and types of businesses.
You can contact the California Franchise Tax Board at (800)852-5711 for more information about California state taxes. Their hours are Monday through Friday from 8am to 5pm, Pacific Time.
California LLC Taxes FAQs
Do I have to pay an annual fee for my LLC in California?
Yes, all California LLCs have to pay an annual fee by filing a California LLC Annual Franchise Tax fee every year. This is separate from the federal, state, and local taxes that you pay.
The LLC Annual Franchise Tax is filed with the California Franchise Tax Board. It is not a tax paid to the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration.
The Annual Franchise Tax for California LLCs costs $800 per year. This is paid every year for the life of your LLC. And you must pay it regardless of business revenue or activity.
You also have to pay a $20 fee every 2 years called the California LLC Statement of Information. The first fee and Statement of Information Form are due within 90 days of starting your LLC.
And you pay this fee to the California Secretary of State.
How much is an LLC in California?
California LLC Costs include:
$70 $0 to form your California LLC (to file your LLC Articles of Organization). (It’s free until July 2023).
$20 to file your LLC Statement of Information every 2 years.
$800 for your LLC Annual Franchise Tax fee paid every year for the privilege of doing business in California.
Do I need to file a California state tax return for my LLC?
Maybe – it depends on what type of LLC you have.
Single-Member LLC taxed as a Sole Proprietorship: No. You only need to file your personal tax return (Federal Form 1040 and California Form 540) and include your LLC profits on the return.
Multi-Member LLC taxed as a Partnership: Yes. Your LLC must file a IRS Form 1065 and a California Partnership Return (Form 565).
You can get Forms 540 and 565 using the California Franchise Tax Board: Forms and Publications Search.
LLC taxed as a Corporation: Yes. Your LLC must file tax returns with the IRS and the California Franchise Tax Board to pay your California income tax. Check with your accountant to make sure you file all the correct documents.
How do I know my LLC tax classification?
You can tell your LLC’s tax classification by looking at how many Members are in your LLC.
This is because LLCs receive their tax classification from the IRS based on the number of Members (owners) your LLC has.
If you have one Member, your LLC is taxed as a Sole Proprietorship.
If your LLC has more than one Member, your LLC is taxed as a Partnership.
This is called being taxed in your default status. Meaning, you don’t have to file any paperwork to let the IRS know that’s how your LLC will be taxed because they tax LLCs that way by default.
However, in order for your LLC to be taxed as a Corporation, you or your accountant would have to file paperwork with the IRS letting them know you’ve chosen to be taxed as a Corporation.
And then the IRS would mail you an Approval Letter to confirm you’ve chosen the Corporate tax election for your LLC.
Note: Being taxed as a Corporation is rare for LLCs, so most people don’t need to worry about this.
And if you’re still unsure about how your LLC is taxed, we recommend calling your accountant or the IRS (1-800-829-4933). To speak to a live person at the IRS, press option 1, option 1 again, and then option 3.
How to start an LLC in California?
Here are the steps for starting an LLC in California:
- Choose an LLC name and make sure it’s available
- Choose who will be your California Registered Agent
- File the California LLC Articles of Organization
- Complete and sign an LLC Operating Agreement
- Get a Tax ID Number (EIN) from the IRS
- Open an LLC bank account
- Check whether you need a business or sales tax license in California
IRS: Tax Information for Businesses
California DTFA: Tax and Fee Rates
California DTFA: Limited Liability Company
California DTFA: Business Taxes and Fees in California
California Franchise Tax Board: Forms and Publications
California Franchise Tax Board: Forms and Publications Search