If you are starting a business in California, there are a few things you need to do before registering your business with the California Secretary of State.
One of the first tasks you must do when filling out the California Articles of Incorporation form is to select a registered agent. A registered agent is the contact person for your company in any legal matters that arise and receives mail correspondence from the state.
What is the role of a registered agent?
The role of a registered agent is to receive service of process-this is a legal term that essentially means to obtain official paperwork from anyone who wishes to speak with your company. This can include lawsuits, subpoenas, or other documents received by any government entity within the state of California.
The registered agent is then responsible for forwarding mail from the official office address on file to you or your attorney and acts on their behalf.
While your company may choose any individual for this role, it is recommended to choose someone with experience with businesses or corporations to help streamline the paperwork process. In addition, a California registered agent should be reliable, responsible, and have a physical street address within state limits.
Who can be a registered agent?
There are a few options to choose from when appointing a registered agent:
- A business employee or owner can serve as a registered agent.
- An individual that you trust to receive official business documents on your behalf with a physical address (P.O. Box is not allowed)
- A third-party registered commercial agent service Northwest Registered Agent can help take the burden of managing tax forms and annual reports off of your plate.
If you have decided that you would like a third-party agent, you must make sure several criteria are met before making your final decision. The first is to make sure the agency has physical offices in California–this means that someone from their office will be present in person on business days for all registered agent correspondence.
Their physical presence can help avoid any misdelivery or unnecessary delays in delivering a document that can be crucial to your business.
In addition, look into how long they have been in business and what kind of reputation they have with their clients: you will want an agent who will be easy to contact. An established company is more likely to fulfill your needs as a client, so make sure to research any company before deciding on one.
California registered agent requirements
California requires each registered agent to meet the following criteria:
- Must maintain a physical address in the state of California
- Be over 18 years old.
- Must ensure documents are delivered and processed in a timely fashion.
- Must be available from regular business hours from 9 AM-5 PM
What are the best registered agent services in California?
There are several local registered agent services available throughout California, as well as commercial registered agent services that offer a one-stop-shop.
Here are some other popular commercial registered agent services in California:
- Northwest Registered Agent is one of the leading registered agent service providers in California. They have been around since 1998 and started with registered agent services but have expanded into other services like online limited liability company processing, official mail forwarding.
- ZenBusiness specializes in fast filings speeds and offers a registered agent service as well. In addition, Zenbusiness also provides additional services like DBAs, websites, and EINs.
- Incfile is a popular online filing service that has grown in popularity recently thanks to their $0 plus state filing fees package. They are known for their online LLC formation services and offer filings for nonprofits, S and C Corps, and various tax and compliance filing options.
Benefits of using a commercial registered agent company
One of the main benefits of using a commercial resident agent company is that it is much faster and more reliable than using a residential provider. Your business will be your registered agent, so you don’t have to worry about misdelivery or incomplete service of the process.
A commercial resident agent company has years of experience helping other businesses in situations just like yours. They also have the resources and staffing necessary to receive the services of the state properly.
LLC’s that use third-party registered agents are often more difficult for the state to locate because they have more than one possible registered agent. This can lead to your service of process being delayed or even lost inadvertently.
Managing companies across multiple states
A commercial registered agent service can help make managing LLCs across different states much more accessible since each state requires a registered agent based in the state of incorporation. In addition, companies like Northwest Registered Agent can serve as your one point of contact for registered agent services if you decide to expand outside of California.
Commercial registered agent companies are required by law to have a physical office space in California, so you can be assured that your documents will always be handled properly.
A third-party registered agent service can help keep your address from being on public records, making it more difficult for people to find you and send you junk mail.
You can have a registered agent forward any business mail that comes to their office straight to the address of your choosing. No one else will be privy to your business information.
Commercial registered agents are experts at what they do, so they also include other small business services such as:
- Mail forwarding
- Annual report reminders
- Scanned and stored legal documents (avoid managing your paperwork)
What to do after selecting a California registered agent service?
1. Perform a California business name search
Once a business decides who will serve as their registered agent, they can select a California business name. The California website maintains public records of companies that have corporations filed in the state. Be sure to choose a unique business entity name to avoid running into issues with the Secretary of State.
One of the best ways to develop a unique business name is by using a business name generator.
2. How to file
Once you select your California registered agent, the next step is to fill out the California business forms that align with the type of business entity you are starting.
Most of the entity forms require the following information:
- Entity name
- Entity address
- Registered agent name and address
- Management structure
Once you are done filling out the forms, you will need to file them with the California Secretary of State Bizfile.com platform. Due to the volume of applications California received they strongly suggest filing online to optimize processing time.
3. Register a domain name
Registering a domain name early is essential because it ensures that someone else can’t take it while you’re putting your business together. Our domain name check tool will help you search for available names quickly.
4. Register California name reservation form
If you have a California business name picked out but are not quite ready to register, one option is to fill out a California Name Reservation form. The name reservation will lock your name in place for 60 days to give you time to get things in order to start your business.
5. Prepare an operating agreement
An operating agreement is a document that spells out the requirements, privileges, and duties between business owners. It contains how to handle everything from day-to-day operations to what happens if one of the partners dies or wants to leave the business. The operating agreement is essentially a partnership agreement for different types of businesses.
This should be written by an attorney and reviewed by an attorney. Each state has different laws governing operating agreements, which must be considered when creating one. Operating agreements are sometimes referred to as partnership agreements or member agreements, even though they may apply to non-partnership entities such as LLCs.
6. Get a tax ID from the IRS
A tax id is a reference number assigned by the IRS used when tax returns are filed. The tax id numbers are also referred to as an Employer Identification Number or EIN.
Tax ids can be obtained from the IRS website in a few simple steps.
7. Stay on top of annual filings
California requires each corporation to file a statement of information form with the Secretary of State to stay in good standing.
How do I find someone’s registered agent?
To find someone’s registered agent you should perform a business name search through the Secretary of State database. Once you locate the business you should be able to access the filing documentation as it is all public record.
Who should be my California registered agent?
A commercial registered agent service that is mentioned in the articles above is a great option to be your registered agent.
Does a sole proprietor need a registered agent?
In most cases, they do not. Sole prop businesses have a straightforward structure in California, and there is no legal requirement to be registered with the state or any local agencies.
Do corporations require registered agents?
Yes, every California corporation, including LLCs, C-Corps, etc., is required to have a registered agent with the state.
How do I change my California registered agent?
There may be situations where you need to change your registered agent if you have issues getting correspondence in a timely fashion.
You can change your California registered agent by filling out the Change of Registered Agent form and filing it with the California Secretary of State.
How much does a registered agent cost?
Registered agent cost will depend on the state where you incorporate. In general, you can expect to pay $50-$300 per year for a registered agent service.
Many new businesses start with one corporate officer, usually the owner, serving as both president and secretary. If that person is also acting as your registered agent, it’s generally safe from legal liability.
Can I use a virtual office as a registered agent?
A virtual office is a business address that offers you the appearance of having an office and isn’t actually in your control. When registered agents are required, we strongly suggest using a commercial registered agent service instead of a virtual office for liability reasons. Also, virtual offices are a bit of a grey area when it comes to state statutes. Check with the Secretary of State in Sacramento to get the official ok.
Is the registered agent liable for the business?
No, the only thing the registered agent could be liable for is negligence in the performance of their duties. Making sure mail correspondence is sent to the business owner in a timely fashion is the most common type of negligence scenario.
Can I be my own California registered agent?
As long as you meet the California state requirements for statutory agents, you can be your registered agent.
Some of the advantages of being your own registered agent are:
– Ease of responsibility
– You are familiar with all details about the company, and if you need to start legal proceedings against yourself, you can be involved fully.
The disadvantages of being your own registered agent:
– Missing a delivery if you are using your home mailing address
– The requirement to be available during business hours
Yes, you can be your own registered agent in California, however, it is recommended to work with a professional service like Northwest Registered Agent, as they can offer a variety of services for your business at a minimal cost.
How does a business choose a registered agent in California?
A business officially appoints a registered agent in the state of California by filling out the California Articles of Organization form and submitting it to the Secretary of State.
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