California Business Portal

How Do I Start My Business?

At the Federal Level
Employers with employees, business partnerships, and corporations, must obtain a Federal Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the I.R.S. Businesses, you may obtain appropriate federal income tax forms from this location. You can contact them at (909) 388-8108. 

At the State level
  • Registering A Business: The business entities section of the California Secretary of State's office processes filings, maintains records and provides information to the public relating to business entities. Before transacting intrastate business in California a business must qualify/register with the California Secretary of State. Not necessary for sole proprietors, but if you intend to form a corporation, limited liability company or partnership, you would file with the Secretary of State's Office. For out-of-state businesses, see here, or you may also call the office at 916-653-6814. Please keep in mind, if you plan to operate your business in other states, you will need to check in with them individually about incorporating your business in that State.
  • Sales and Use Tax: Obtain a sellers permit. If you plan on selling tangible personal property, you will need to obtain a Sellers Permit from the California State Department of Tax and Fee Administration. Consult their webpage on the sales and use tax information here.
  • Business Income Tax:  All businesses are required to submit an annual Business Income Tax Statement to the State of California Franchise Tax Board
  • EmployeesIf at some point you choose to have any California employees check in with the following departments:
At the Local Level
Keep in mind your city and county may have specific requirements that you may need to adhere to, you should check in with them separately and depending your type of operations you may have additional permits that you would need to acquire.
  • CalGOLD website: for permitting information and requirements.  At the website input your city and type of business, select "General Business Information" to populate a list of local and state and federal permits required.
  • Business License (Often referred to as a Business Tax Certificate) You may need to obtain a business license (often referred as a business tax certificate) from each city where your plan to operate your business. Generally if your business is located within an unincorporated area you would obtain your business license from the county instead of the city.
  • Zoning – Whether you will be purchasing or leasing space or conducting a new activity on space you currently use, or operating a home business, first consult your local planning department to be sure your business activities are permitted in that location. Your city may require you to have a home occupational permit. Check with the local city planning department to determine if your location is properly zoned for your specific use. The planning department can also assist you with identifying the correct zoning area to locate your proposed business. 
  • Building Department permits - If you are planing to do any tenant improvements or doing any new or remodeling construction activities, you should check in with the local city Building Department. 
  • Fictitious Business Name – A Fictitious Business Name (FBN) 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. Typically this is done with your county tax assessor or registrar, which you need to contact to be certain of their requirements and procedures for such a filing. 
Here are some additional resources that may be useful:
  • Small Business Development Center (SBDC): provides assistance to small businesses starting, growing and offer free advice and consulting. To find an SBDC closes to you, click this link and enter your zip code. They may be better equipped to advise on local requirements.
  • California Business Portal: a one stop shop where business owners can find information about permits, regulations, incentives and resources to locate, start and grow a business. 
  • California Tax Service Center's website: provides an overview about income tax, payroll tax and sales and use tax. See fact sheet for more information.

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