Small Business Tips

How to Register a Business Name In California

Manasa Reddigari

Want to contribute to the fifth-largest economy in the world? Consider starting a business in the Golden State. But to hang your shingle in California, you’ll have to register your business name first.

Read on to learn how to register a business in California.

Why do you need to register a business name?

Registering a business name reserves it in a state or local database for use by your business. It’s a good idea to register a business in California for a few reasons:

  • The Secretary of State (SOS) or your county clerk’s office may make you register your business name.
  • You can keep other businesses from operating under the same name. This way, another business owner cannot come along and reuse the same name. This can save you time and money in legal hassles down the road.
  • You can establish your business in a formal way. Entering your business name into an official state directory puts it on the map. This may help increase its visibility in the business community.

Do I have to register my business name?  

In California, business name registration requirements depend on your business entity type.  

Partnerships, LLCs and corporations must register their businesses at the state level. And if the business owner wants to operate under a name other than his or her own? He must also file an extra fictitious business name statement at the county level. This is a “doing business as” (DBA) statement.

Sole proprietors in California don’t have to register at the state level. But they must file a fictitious business name statement at the county level.

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How to register a business in California

Use the guidelines below for how to register a business in California.

To register the name of a partnership, LLC or corporation:

  • Check existing names and reserve a name not already in use by mail or in person with the Secretary of State.
  • File a fictitious name statement with your county clerk’s office, if applicable.
  • Register your business as a legal entity (e.g., LLC or corporation). This involves filing articles of organization with the SOS with the chosen name. For example, you must file Articles of Organization (Form LLC–1) with the Secretary of State’s office to form an LLC.

To register the name of a sole proprietorship:

  • File a fictitious name statement with your county clerk’s office if applicable.

Business name registration is one step of many in the business registration process. Other key steps for how to register a business in California include:

  • Registering with the IRS (i.e., get an EIN number)
  • Getting relevant licenses and/or permits. Use the CalGOLD tool to determine which, if any, licenses your business needs.
  • Registering for payroll with the Employment Development Department (EDD).

How much does it cost?

In California, the cost of registering a business name depends on the form you file and where you file it. And filing fees are always subject to change.

You can reserve a business name for $10 with the SOS, for example. But it costs $70 to file articles of organization for an LLC. That fee goes up to $100 for a general stock corporation filing articles of incorporation.

The cost of filing a fictitious business name statement varies by county. For example, it now costs $53 to file the statement in San Francisco County. It only costs $26 in Los Angeles County.

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