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Most businesses must register with the US Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to obtain an Employer Identification Number (EIN). Think of it as a social security number for your business. If you plan to hire employees, you will need to complete this step in order to pay payroll taxes. Most business owners find an EIN helpful for other business purposes, such as opening a bank account. You can apply for an EIN online for free.
If you choose to structure your business as a Partnership, Corporation, or Limited Liability Company, you will need to incorporate your business entity with the California Secretary of State. Visit their website to make sure your business name is available and get tips on filing.
If you've chosen a business name that is different from your first and last name (for instance, if your business is called "Jane's Grocery" instead of "Jane Doe Inc."), you will first need to make sure that no one else is using that name. Check to see if the name is still available, and then be sure to register the name to yourself so someone else doesn't take it. This helps to avoid confusion from having a lot of businesses with the same name, and will protect your business by ensuring that no one starts doing business using your business name.
All companies doing business within the City of Los Angeles must register their business with the City and pay business taxes each year (or file for an exemption if you qualify). It's easy to do online, or visit the Office of Finance to complete your application in person.
The State of California requires businesses that sell goods and products to obtain a California Sales Tax Certificate Number (also called a Seller's Permit). This will enable you to charge and submit sales taxes for items that you sell.
If you have employees, you will need to obtain a Payroll Tax Account Number with the State of California in order to file and pay your payroll taxes. Apply online or in person to receive your Payroll Number and more information about state-required employment taxes and reporting requirements.