Register a Business
Generally, all businesses that wish to conduct business in California need to register and form their legal entity with the California Secretary of State’s Office, file appropriate taxes, register as an employer, and obtain business licenses and other permits from appropriate cities or counties. Depending on your business type there may be additional permits, licenses or certifications that your business needs to acquire.
Use the Business Registration Section of the California Business Navigator to find out what forms and steps you need to take to form your legal entity, pay taxes, register as an employer, sell tangible goods and register at the city and county level in California.
California Secretary of State (SOS)
Filing Not necessary for sole proprietors, but if you intend to form a corporation, limited liability company or partnership, you must file with the SOS.
State Income Tax
All businesses are required to file state income tax with the Franchise Tax Board (FTB).
If you will be selling tangible property, consult the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration (formerly the Board of Equalization).
If you plan to have employees, you will need to consider the following:
- Wages, Hours, & Working Conditions: Businesses with employees must comply with laws establishing minimum standards for wages, hours, and working conditions. Consult the California Department of Industrial Relations.
- Employment Development Department (EDD) Registration: An employer is required to file a Registration Form within 15 days after paying more than $100 in wages to one or more employees. Consult the EDD.
- Worker’s Compensation: Businesses with employees must maintain Worker’s Compensation Insurance coverage. Consult the California Department of Industrial Relations.
Import and Export Goods
For information on importing and exporting goods, consult the following department:
- Department of Tax and Fee Administration: Sales and Use Tax – Interstate and Foreign Commerce
- Department of Public Health: Food and Drug Branch Export Document Program
- Department of Food and Agriculture: California State Trade Export Program (STEP)
Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Employers with employees, business partnerships, and corporations, must obtain a Federal Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS. Businesses can obtain appropriate federal income tax forms using the IRS website. You can contact them at (909) 388-8108.
Importing and Exporting Goods
For information on importing and exporting goods, consult the following departments:
- U.S. Customs and Border Protection – Importing – Licenses/Permits
- U.S. Department of Commerce – Export License – Commerce Control List
- U.S. Department of Agriculture – Exporting Goods
- U.S. Department of Agriculture – Importing Goods
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration – Importing Food Products into the U.S.
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration – Exporting Food Products from the U.S.
Use CalGOLD, our online permit assistance tool, to identify local, state, and federal permit information for businesses. The online tool provides online resources, application forms, and contact information for the various agencies that administer and issue these permits. For permits and registrations administered by the State of California, CalGOLD also includes a Forms and Fee Finder with direct links to applications and fee information. Simply enter your city and type of business. If your business is not listed, select “General Business Information.”
Most local governments require a business license. If your business will be located in an incorporated city, you would obtain this from the city. If your business will be located in an unincorporated area, you would obtain this from the county. You can find the appropriate local contact information on CalGOLD.
Whether you will be a home-based business or will occupy commercial space, consult your local planning department to be sure your business activities are permitted. If your business will be located in an unincorporated area, you would obtain this from the county. You can find the appropriate local contact information on CalGOLD.
Fictitious Business Name
A Fictitious Business Name or Doing Business As (DBA) statement is required when: the business name does not include the surname of the individual owner(s) and each of the partners; or the business name suggests the existence of additional owners; or the nature of the business in not clearly evident by the name of the business. You can find the appropriate local contact information on CalGOLD.
The Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz) was created by Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. to serve as the State of California's leader for job growth and economic development efforts. GO-Biz partnered with the State's Information Technology Leadership Academy 22 to create the California Business Portal.