How to Start a Business in Los Angeles, CA

Are you ready to start a business in Los Angeles? You’re not alone. Los Angeles is a mecca for entrepreneurs starting new businesses.  Some of the smartest innovators started here, including names like Elon Musk (Tesla), Jessica Alba (The Honest Company), Blaine Vess (StudyMode), and companies like Snapchat, SpaceX, TrueCar, Demand Media, and Hired all have locations in Los Angeles.  As one of the nation’s largest counties, Los Angeles has the largest population estimated at four million. The city is an epicenter for global business with 100 languages spoken and diverse with all nationalities. 

LA has a thriving startup community and the county provides several business resources, available throughout this guide. Get prepared to register your business and understand the process of getting a business started in Los Angeles.

There are over half a million-business registered in Los Angeles. Follow these quick and easy steps to meet the requirements for starting a business in LA. 

   Pick a Name

Once you’ve picked a name for your Los Angeles business, you must file your name with the county’s recording office. The state of CA requires every owner using a fictitious business name (or DBA) to file their fictitious business name statement. For Los Angeles owners, they must do so with the Los Angeles County Registrar/County Clerk. 

In compliance with statute 17910 for California a trade name, fictitious, Alias, or assumed name, should follow these regulations:

Every person who regularly transacts business in this state for profit under a fictitious name shall do all the following:
-File  a fictitious business statement in accordance with this chapter not later than 40 days from the time registrant commenced to transact such business.
-File a new statement after any change in the facts, in accordance with subdivision (b) of Section 17920.
-File a  new statement when refiling a fictitious business name statement, remember to protect your
intellectual property idea, design, trademark, patent, or copyright.  

Perform a fictitious business name search fictitious business name statements indexed with the Los Angeles County Clerk.  Remember to check that your name is unique to your industry, this is where you would find out.

So, Where Do You File Your Fictitious Business Name?

View the filing application in Los Angeles county, you can file:

  • Online
  • In-Person
  • By Mail
  • Third Person
Los Angeles Office Locations for Business Filings

Pick Your Business Structure

Are you going into business alone or do you have more than one owner or investors? Review your options for forming your business. Forming a business type or entity will have long term tax and legal impact, so it’s important to determine what makes the most sense for you.  Always recommended to consult with an attorney and tax advisors before deciding on your business formation.    

Types of Business Formations

Sole Proprietorship

A sole proprietorship is the simplest form of business.  A single owner operated by one person, an extension of the individual owner, not an entity.   If the sole proprietor hires employees, they work as agents of the employer, but the owner is still liable for the actions of his/her workers.

  • Advantages: You have full control. However they must comply with licensing and taxation regulations like all forms of business.  Lastly, sole owners keep all profits, startup costs are low, it’s easy to change structure later if circumstances change and easier to close a business. Moreover, operating as a sole proprietorship you are taxed as a self-employed person.
  • Disadvantages: As a sole proprietor you are personally liable for all debts and actions of the company. 


A partnership is an association of two or more people to carry on as co-owners a business for profit. 

Types of partnerships

There are the two main types of partnerships: 1) General Partnership is a typical partnership in which all partners are general. 2) Limited Partnerships are partners who run the business. They have liability for all partnership debt. As limited partners they may fully finance or partially finance the business and as a result, don’t have liability for debts beyond the money they put in. 3) Limited Liability Partnerships carry less than full liability for the actions of other general partners. 

  • Advantages: There’s no double taxation, low cost of organization, diversified pool of capital and resources, all partners are entitled to manage the partnership and minimal formalities  and regulatory reporting requirements.
  • Disadvantages: The partner may be held personally responsible for the debts and obligations of the partnership, any lack of business continuity, difficulty in transferring interest in partnership, high cost of legal and organizational expense.   


Corporations are considered entities separate from their owners.  This is the most common form of corporation. Corporations have shareholders and elect its board of directors to oversee the operations of the corporation’s business. They are formed under state or federal law and are an entity that exists as a separate being or an artificial person. 

  • Advantages of incorporating limited liability for shareholders, business continuity, ability to raise capital, centralized management, transferability of ownership.
  • Disadvantages of incorporating are corporate formalities that include reporting requirements, double taxation and high legal expense.
Types of Corporations

Here are a few main types of corporations to consider: 1) S Corporations formation differs that the taxes pass through to the corporation’s shareholders.  Advantage protects shareholders against the business liabilities. 2) C Corporations under federal income tax are taxed separately from its owners. 3)  Nonprofit Corporation is a business with tax exempt status determined by the IRS, it supports a social cause.  Its not for profit which is formed only for certain nonprofit purposes. These are public charities called 501(c)(3) tax-exempt nonprofits. 

The United States of America recognizes you as a business according to your business formation and is required for tax purposes. If you need legal advice for selecting a business structure, our Los Angeles business lawyers are ready to answer all your legal questions.  Call Stone & Sallus at 310-889-0233 we are here.

Obtain a Federal Identification Number

Reminder, don’t forget to pay all your business taxes, here some information to help.

  • Federal Tax Id Number:  Most businesses need to register with the IRS to get their employer identification number (EIN), and it is necessary to get one, even if you don’t have employees. You can use your social security card number as a sole proprietor or for all other business formations, obtain an EIN.  Visit the IRS online to apply for an EIN or download the SS-4 Form and mail it in.
  • State Tax Id Number: Once you have an EIN, you can get a state tax ID number, also known as SEIN, employer payroll tax account number, or state ID number. Use e-Services for business to register for your state tax ID number. If your business needs to file state taxes or hire employees, it is more than likely that you need a state tax identification number. Even if your business has already gone through the process of obtaining an employer identification number (EIN), California requires you to register for a separate state tax ID number if you plan to hire employees or file payroll taxes

Apply for Licenses and Permits

In some states they require certain professionals to have licenses, permits or certifications. As a retail business or manufacturer, or wholesaler you will need to register for a seller’s permit and use tax.  Most states require businesses to obtain a sales tax permit before sales are made. Make sure you comply with your state’s licenses and permits as it pertains to your business. CALGOLD provides an easy way to find out what applies to your business.   

Decide on an Agent for Service of Process

Once you register, you must appoint a representative to receive all your mail and legal notices.

The agent’s name is kept on file with the secretary of state.  The responsible party will be notified, depending on whoever you appoint. The appointed may be any individual such as yourself, an accountant, or your attorney. The agent must be available during normal business hours and have a physical address in California. In the circumstance that Stone & Sallus is acting as your registered agent, we will discreetly and immediately contact you on legal matters and notices. 

Register Your Business

In the state of California and county of Los Angeles a business must register with the Secretary of State. To cover any legal concerns, speak with an attorney prior to registering or have them handle it for you. When registering a business in Los Angeles, have this information prepared to stay in compliance and legally operate your business:

  • Legal business name or DBA doing business as (if you chose)
  • Business start date
  • Business type (formation/structure)
  • Business address and/or mailing (if not the same)
  • Contact person ( responsible to receive legal mail)
  • Sales tax permit (depends on your product/service) California Department of Tax and Fee Administration has many field offices where you can obtain your permit or online.
  • Check with the California Secretary of State if your business has to be registered with them to meet compliance laws.

Register with the Los Angeles Office of Finance for Your Business Tax Certificate

  • Register for a business tax registration certificate (BTRC) in LA. Your business must meet certain criteria. Check out the Los Angeles Office of Finance to register in LA. All individuals or entities conducting business activities within the City of Los Angeles are required to apply for and obtain a Business Tax Registration Certificate with the City of Los Angeles Office of Finance. 

Good luck with your business venture. Remember it’s always a good idea to have legal professionals review business contracts, leases, or vendor relationships. Visit us at Stone & Sallus website for a consultation.  We are legal professionals ready to assist with your new business.