How to Register to Do Business in California

how to register a business in california

At Harvard Business Services, Inc., one of the most frequently asked questions is: “Am I doing business in California?” While it may seem like an easy question to answer, you would be surprised at how difficult it is for clients to make this determination, especially if it means they’ll be on the hook for more taxes.  That is what it all boils down to—taxation. When qualified as a foreign corporation or LLC doing business in California, the entity is responsible for the minimum $800 Franchise Tax, and possibly income tax, as well.

How exactly do you determine whether or not your company is technically “doing business” in a particular state?  If it’s not already crystal clear, answer “yes” to any of the following key questions, and you can assume you are:

  • Is the company making money in the state?
  • Do you have a physical presence, nexus, storefront, or brick and mortar in the state?
  • Are you hiring employees in the state?
  • Do you hold any assets in the state?

The California Secretary of State provides specific guidelines. Per the State of California Franchise Tax Board, a business is considered to be doing business in California in the current year if it meets one of the following qualifications:

  • The entity is actively engaging in any transaction in the state for the purpose of financial gain or profit.
  • The entity is organized or commercially domiciled in this state. To be commercially domiciled in California means it is the principal place from which the entity’s trade or business is directed or managed.
  • The entity’s California sales exceed either the annual threshold amount (annually adjusted for inflation) or 25 percent of total sales. Sales include sales made by an agent or an independent contractor of the entity.
  • The entity’s California real property and tangible personal property exceeds either the annual threshold amount (annually adjusted for inflation) or 25 percent of its total real property and tangible personal property.
  • The entity’s California compensation exceeds either the annual threshold amount (annually adjusted for inflation) or 25 percent of the total compensation paid by the entity.

If you’re checking any of these boxes, we can help file your “foreign Qualification” with the California Secretary of State.  Give us a call today at 800-345-2677 ext. 6133 or email us at

Live Chat Now To Foreign Qualify


Learn more: Foreign Qualification for LLCs and Corporations

*Disclaimer*: Harvard Business Services, Inc. is neither a law firm nor an accounting firm and, even in cases where the author is an attorney, or a tax professional, nothing in this article constitutes legal or tax advice. This article provides general commentary on, and analysis of, the subject addressed. We strongly advise that you consult an attorney or tax professional to receive legal or tax guidance tailored to your specific circumstances. Any action taken or not taken based on this article is at your own risk. If an article cites or provides a link to third-party sources or websites, Harvard Business Services, Inc. is not responsible for and makes no representations regarding such source’s content or accuracy. Opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of Harvard Business Services, Inc.

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There are 2 comments left for How to Register to Do Business In California

Akash Mistry said: Wednesday, September 29, 2021

I have an Inc registered in Delaware. I want to use a physical office address in the state of California. Will I be required to file for Foreign Qualification? Do I need to pay any extra taxes apart from paying taxes in DE?

HBS Staff replied: Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Hello! Thank you for reading our blog. A member of our sales team will be reaching out to you to discuss this further. 

Terry Campbell said: Friday, February 7, 2020

I live in California and started a drop-shipping online store with no employees, just myself. I am now at the stage of registering my online store but have a few questions: 1 If I register the store as an LLC, in California does "LLC" need to be attached to the online store name and the URL? 2 Do I need an EIN etc? I have no idea where to start. 3 If I do not go ahead with it as an LLC, what type of registration do I need to do? 4 Someone had mentioned registering the business in Delaware or Nevada, is this a good idea? Thank you. Terry Campbell

HBS Staff replied: Friday, February 7, 2020

Thanks for the questions, Terry. Our team will reach out by email to assist you further.

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