This is unfinished but if I sit on it long enough, they’ll change the rules and it’ll be outdated. Also, feel free to comment on it so I can refine it. I wrote this in May 2007 after starting an LLC, Safe and Secure SF LLC. The company doesn’t exist any more but the instructions below are correct.
How to become a San Francisco, CA LLC Corporation
Good books on the subject:
I found several books that gloss over the hard stuff and dwell on the easy stuff. They’ll say “Then after you’ve filed with the state, you can…”And I say, “Woh! That ‘file with the state’ part is the horrid, byzantine, slow, red-tape part I need help with!” Here are two good books that cover this stuff:
- How to Form your own California LLC Before the Ink Dries
- How to Form a California Corporation or LLC From Any State by Kevin Finck.
You can probably find them at your library.
Some of the links below don’t work. They worked when I wrote this guide in May 2007. If you find working links, please leave a comment and I’ll update this page!
Here is a somewhat useful “How to” guide. (click on the right to get pages)
Verify that your business name hasn’t already been taken. There are subtleties like that “McDonalds” might not be a registered company in California but if you’re in the fast food business, it’d be bad ju-ju to try and register it. Go to the California Business Search page and the SF Ficticious Business Name Search to look for your company name. You should also Google for it and check the US Patent and Trademark Office.
Fill out an Articles of Organization Form with the state. Go to the California Secretary of State Business Portal website. Go to the forms page. Fill out the Articles of Organization (LLC-1) form. Mail it with a check for $70. The wait time was about 5 weeks for getting forms back when I did it.
Get a Federal Employer Identification Number (FEIN). Check out the IRS page to see if you need a FEIN. Then call the nice person at 800-829-4933 to actually get the number on the phone. He’ll ask simple questions like your name, SS#, address. You’ll get the number on the phone immediately. It will look something like “01-0000000″When you get your “filed” Articles of Organization form back in 5 weeks or so, there will be a file number on it. This is your Secretary of State (SOS) number. It will look something like “200700000000″
Also in the packet when you get acknowledgment back from the state, one of the forms you’ll get is a Statement of Information. It will have a stamp on it saying how you have to file and pay ($20) within 3 months. Do so. Then you’ll have to file another one every 2 years. If you want to talk to a human to verify this, call the Secretary of State at 916-657-5448 ext. 140.
Also in the packet, you’ll also get back from the state in the same envelope a “Form FTB 3522“. It will tell you how you have to pay your $800/year LLC tax to the Franchise Tax Board. You have to pay “on or before the 15th day of the 4th month after beginning of the LLC’s taxable year”.
Have a Meeting. The required purpose of the meeting is to create a document that says (paraphrased) “On this day we had a meeting of the owners/shareholders of the company. Here are the names of the owners/shareholders and their titles.”
Ok, now that you have a FEIN, meeting minutes, and Articles of Incorporation stamped with your SOS (Secretary of State) number, you can do fun things like open a bank account in your company’s name. :-)
To open a business checking account, bring your FEIN (I didn’t get any paper, just the number the federal guy on the phone gave me), meeting minutes, Articles of Incorporation stamped with your SOS number, and all of the corporate managers (Charlotte and I) to a bank that does business banking. We chose Washington Mutual.
If you want to market your company with a name other than your registered name (IE: Calling it “SpeedyCorp” instead of “SpeedyCorp LLC”), go to the San Francisco County Clerk’s website to file a Fictitious Business Name (FBN). Call 415-554-4950 if you need a human. (I didn’t so I don’t know the particulars)
You can now fill out the Board of Equalization forms to get a permit to sell stuff (and charge state sales tax) To confirm this, you can call the SF BoE at 415-356-6600. When it comes time, look for form BOE 400 SPA on this page.
After waiting and receiving back the California Articles of Organization info, fill out a Business Registration Certificate from the SF Office of the Treasurer and Tax Collector. Talk to a human at 415-554-4400.
Dislaimer: I am a delicate flower.