How to Incorporate in California: Step-by-Step Guide

How to Incorporate in California

If you’re wondering how to incorporate in California, you’re on the right page.

California is one of the most popular states for LLC and Incorporation formation in the US.

California is known as the home of small business. The Small Business Administration reveals that 99.2% of employees in California work for small businesses.

California is also a thriving business hub for entrepreneurs and the business community.

So, you can see why so many small businesses decide to incorporate in California.

I’ve helped hundreds of entrepreneurs just like you incorporate their business in California.

Together, we can:

  • Choose the correct business type for you
  • Register your business as an LLC or S-Corporation
  • Apply for any relevant business licenses to operate in California

If you’re looking to incorporate in California, email me at


How to Incorporate a Business in California

The authority to Incorporate in the state of California is under the Business Entities Section of the California Secretary State.

This is the government agency that is responsible for all the forms. Record keeping and filing. The DBA (Doing Business as) fictitious business names are usually filled at the county level and not the Secretary of State.

Other kinds of permits and licenses may be required at the county or even city level in California. The point of contact is usually at the County Treasurer’s Office.

Before you begin these particular process, make sure that you seek the advice of an experienced business lawyer to assist you with the basic steps of incorporating a business in California.


1. Do proper name search to ensure that your company name is available

Your lawyer can assist you through this process.

Your particular corporate name in the state of California does not necessarily require any of the suffixes, Corporation (Corp), or Incorporated (Inc.) unless the business is a closed Corporation.

A closed corporation means a corporation whose articles contain, in addition to the provisions that are required by Section 202, that all corporations that issued shares in classes shall be held of record by not more than a specified number of persons exceeding 35, and a statement “This Corporation is a closed Corporation.”

You should also be aware that California does not restrict the names, and business individuals who would wish to incorporate in the banking business, trust business, or any other professional business are subject to the rules that regulate those specific areas.


2. Register your LLC or Corporation with the California Secretary of State

Your lawyer can be able to get you the required filing of the Articles of Incorporation this is for corporate structures and for LLCs, the Articles of Organizations. One thing you need to note is that the Bylaws for the Corporations and the Operating agreements for the LLCs are not filled with the Secretary of State, but rather are kept at the corporate office.


3. Get a Business Lawyer to draft your Operating Agreement (for LLC) or Bylaws (for Corporation)

Email me at to get your Operating Agreement or Bylaws drafted.


4. Applying for your EIN

EIN is a Tax ID used to identify your business with the IRS.

You will need an EIN to start your business and open a bank account.

If you have a Social Security Number (SSN), you can apply for your EIN online on IRS’s website here.

If you don’t have an SSN or ITIN, you can email me at to apply for your EIN.


5. Obtain any specific licenses and permits that are required

Some of these permits may include:

  • Trucking licenses
  • Electrician’s Licenses and permits
  • Liquor licenses among others

You should also note that this specific licenses cannot be obtained at the Secretary of State but the Governor’s Office of Economic Development.


What Forms Do I Need to Incorporate in California?

You need the following forms to incorporate in California:

  • Articles of Incorporation – There are usually five types and depending on whether the corporation is closed, professional, common interest or non-profit mutual benefit.
  • Corporation Disclosure Agreement – This form is filled annually for publically traded stock-issuing corporations.
  • Certificate under Corporations Code Section 1505 – this particular form is usually issued to designate an agent of process.
  • Name Reservation Form – This form is usually used to verify and reserve a corporate name before the Articles are filled. It is usually valid for 60 days.
  • The Statement of Information – this form is to be filled within 90 days of the original incorporation and then annually. The form provides the state information about the corporate officers and the structure.

You should also note that there is a different structure for non-profits. The Statement of information form restates the original information of the business, such as the nature of the corporation and the contact information.


Costs for Incorporating in California

The fees for incorporation in California are usually $100 for Article filling, plus an additional $15 over the counter handling fee. The cost to incorporate in the state of California will also involve filing an initial report that is known as the California Statement of Information within 90 days of your incorporation that costs a flat rate fee of $25 and a $75 service fee.

On an annual basis, the Secretary of State requires that all the corporations file an annual report by the end of the anniversary month that costs $25.

Lastly, while it is possible to file your own article so incorporation, it might be a smart move for entrepreneurs and new business owners to choose to look for an experienced lawyer or attorney to help ensure that you have completed all the necessary paperwork and requirement that are needed by law.



If you’re looking to incorporate in California, email me at to get started