File with the California Secretary of State
Only corporations, LLCs and Limited Partnerships need to file with the Secretary of State’s office. The Secretary of State must approve all business names before they can be registered. For corporations, you must file Articles of Incorporation; Limited Partnerships use the Certificate of Limited Partnership; LLCs are Articles of Organization.
Secretary of State Offices
- Sacramento Headquarters: 1500 11th Street, 916.657.5448
- Fresno: 2497 West Shaw #101/102, 209.243.2100
- Los Angeles: 300 S. Spring, 213.897.3062
- San Diego: 1350 Front Street #2060, 619.525.4113
- San Francisco: 235 Montgomery Street, Ste 725, 415.439.6959
File a fictitious business name with the county
Counties need to keep track of business names to avoid customer confusion over local businesses using the same name. Also, customers can find out the basics of a company if they want to file a complaint. If you do not file, most banks will not open an account for your business and you will not be eligible to file a lawsuit in California.
Corporations, LLCs and Limited Partnerships do not need to file if they filed with the Secretary of State. There are exceptions, so research this issue thoroughly. For Sole Proprietors and Partnerships, most have to file with the county unless the last name of the person(s) is in the business name. Again, be sure to research this matter thoroughly.
Obtaining a FEIN
A partnership or sole proprietorship must obtain a federal employer identification number from the IRS. Corporations and LLCs must also obtain an FEIN, but they first must file with the Secretary of State. There is no cost for a FEIN. Use IRS Form SS-4.
Obtaining a Business License
A generic business license means just registering with the city tax collector. Most cities in California require all business structures to register. Some businesses, such as those that sell alcohol or serve food, need additional licenses and permits. The fee is different throughout the state. For more information, call your City Tax Collector or your County Clerk’s office if your location is outside the city limits. For these agencies, look in the telephone book under Government.
Any business structure that sells tangible products must obtain a Seller’s Permit. This permit is obtained from the California Board of Equalization, which collects taxes from retail businesses. For more information, visit their Web site or call 800. 400.7115.
There are zoning permits, police permits, building permits, fire certificates, state occupational licenses, export licenses and many more. Contact the following agencies for more information:
CalGold EPA: Call (800) GOV-1-STOP to find your local permit center
The Office of Small Business: 916-322-5790