What Is the Minimum Franchise Tax for California LLCs and Corporations?

California LLC and Corporation Franchise Tax

California LLCs and corporations are required to pay an annual $800 minimum franchise tax, applicable from formation through dissolution. Explore tax rules, payment procedures, and planning considerations to ensure compliance and minimize liabilities.

May 17, 2024

California limited liability companies (LLCs) and corporations must pay a minimum annual franchise tax, regardless of income or business activity level. The franchise tax represents a fee for the privilege of doing business in the state. This guide examines franchise tax requirements, calculation methods, payment processes and potential exemptions.

The following sections outline critical factors California LLC and corporation owners must grasp regarding minimum franchise tax obligations. We detail tax rules, payment procedures, timing considerations, penalty risks and reduction strategies.

1. Annual Minimum Franchise Tax Amounts

    • $800 Minimum for LLCs, Corporations and Limited Partnerships: Applicable from formation through dissolution.
    • Applies Irrespective of Gross Receipts or Net Income Levels: Tax owed even if no revenue earned.
    • Required for Active, Operating Businesses: Conducting any business activities triggers tax.
    • Holding Companies and Dormant Entities Also Owe: No exemptions exist based on company type.
    • Foreign Companies Doing Business in CA Covered: Out-of-state firms subject to same minimums.


    • ABC Consulting LLC owes $800 franchise tax in 2024 despite generating zero revenue as a newly-formed entity.
    • Import Enterprises, Inc. must pay the $800 minimum tax although no imports occurred during its first year.
    • Purple Holding Company, LLC faces an $800 franchise tax bill for 2024 even with no active operations.
    • Widgets Unlimited, LP, a Nevada-based partnership, owes $800 because 15% of its sales come from California.
    • Tech Startup, Inc.’s $800 franchise tax applies from 2024 onward until formally dissolved, regardless of income.

Planning Considerations:

    • Build $800 franchise tax into annual cash flow projections as unavoidable business expense.
    • Do not assume tax no longer applies if gross receipts or net income falls to zero.
    • Remember holding companies and inactive businesses still owe the $800 minimum payment.
    • Out-of-state companies must account for the tax when assessing trade activity levels with California.
    • Only dissolution permanently halts future franchise tax accrual.


    • Is the $800 fee really a “tax”? Yes, the franchise tax represents a mandatory levy on incorporated businesses for state privileges.
    • Do franchise taxes count as deductible business expenses? Yes, for federal and California income tax filing purposes.
    • How long do newly-formed LLCs and corporations have before the tax applies? It’s owed the year of formation, not the following year.
    • What if my business loses money – do I still owe $800? Yes, the minimum applies regardless of profit or loss status.
    • Can I ever pay less than $800 annually? No, it’s an absolute minimum although greater amounts may be owed based on income.

2. Impact of Initial Year of Business

    • 15-Day Rule for LLCs: Owe $800 if operating for at least 15 days in formation year or subsequent years.
    • Prorated Minimum for Short Years: Corporations multiply annual rate by share of year remaining post-formation.
    • Formation Date Determines Tax Inception: Organizing documents may predate business activity commencement.
    • Tax Generally Due 3.5 Months Post Formation: $800 owed by 15th day of 4th month for full 12-month periods.
    • Part-Year Calculations Based on Months: Count formation month if 15 days or greater – 11 month short year = $733 owed.


    • ZYX Properties, LLC formed July 5, 2024 owes $800 franchise tax for 2024 by October 15, 2024 having exceeded 15 day in existence threshold.
    • PQR Financial, Inc. incorporated December 15, 2024 with a resulting short year. It owes $133 for the 2 month period by April 15, 2025.
    • Green Energy Solutions, Inc., formed September 30, 2024, recognizes a 3 month short tax year for which $200 is owed by January 15, 2025.
    • For both PQR and Green Energy, the full $800 franchise tax also applies for the entire 2025 tax year, due April 15, 2025.
    • Car Parts Distribution, LLC began operating informally in May 2024 but filed formal organization papers on August 1, 2024, making this the official formation date for $800 tax commencement.

Planning Considerations:

    • Consider potential franchise tax short year implications when determining optimal business formation timing. Delaying major income recognition until after partial initial tax year concludes may help minimize overall liabilities.
    • Strive to submit formal organizational documents as soon as possible post deciding to form an LLC or corporation. The longer the delay, the less benefit obtained from lower prorated tax amounts in the initial short year.
    • Remember both the prorated short year amount and the full $800 tax for the subsequent year often come due around the same time. Careful cash flow planning must account for paying both taxes simultaneously to avoid underpayment penalties.
    • If a business starts operating informally and generating profits prior to submitting formal paperwork, evaluate the forgone tax savings from partial year proration compared to the advantages of immediate liability protection and other benefits of official formation.


    • What happens if I form an LLC but never conduct business? Still owe $800 tax if in existence over 15 days as “doing business” includes merely holding organizational papers.
    • How does California define a “short tax year”? Any tax period less than 12 months, usually occurring in the first and last years an entity operates.
    • What does “prorated” mean for short year franchise taxes? The annual tax amount is proportionally reduced to reflect a partial 12 month period.
    • Will I owe taxes in both the short first year and full second year simultaneously? Yes, it’s common to have two tax bills come due close together.
    • Does a short year affect other state filing obligations like Statement of Information? No, the short period only impacts franchise tax calculations, not other compliance duties.

3. Failing to Pay Franchise Tax Consequences

    • 5% Late Payment Penalty: Assessed immediately after due date with fees compounding monthly.
    • 0.5% Monthly Interest Charges: Interest owed on balance from original due date until full payment.
    • $250 Late Filing Fee After 60 Days: Penalty increases for extended delinquencies.
    • Suspension of Rights to Conduct Business: Franchise Tax Board may halt company operations until resolution.
    • Loss of Name Rights: Others can register same LLC/corporation name once suspended.


    • UVW Software LLC failed to pay its $800 franchise tax by the March 15, 2024 deadline. It owes a late penalty of $40 ($800 x 5%) effective immediately, which increases by $40 each month unpaid.
    • Gourmet Foods, Inc. allowed franchise tax to go delinquent for 7 months creating a total balance of $828 = $800 tax + (0.5% x $800 x 7 months interest) + $280 penalty ($40 late fee x 7 months).
    • Best Brands Corp waited until November 15 to pay its franchise tax for the year, over 60 days past due. In addition to late penalties and interest, a flat $250 failure to file fee applies for two month plus delinquencies.
    • Shiny Objects Distribution Co. LLC has its rights to transact business suspended after ignoring three notices regarding overdue franchise taxes from the prior two years.
    • Competitor Quick Fix Co., Inc. claims the “Shiny Objects Distribution” name after discovering it went abandoned when the prior company lost name exclusivity rights from franchise tax lapses.

Planning Considerations:

    • Build franchise tax payment deadlines into accounting systems with automated alerts to avoid overlooking.
    • If cash shortages cause payment delays, prioritize becoming current as soon as possible before penalties compound.
    • Do not ignore notices of pending suspension due to nonpayment. Loss of business privileges causes major disruptions.
    • For habitually delinquent entities no longer operating, consider formal dissolution to end future taxes versus suspension.
    • Stay current on taxes to retain exclusive rights to LLC/corporation name. Rebuilding brand under a different identity proves costly.


    • How long does it take for penalties and interest to accrue? Late fees apply immediately with interest charged from original due date forward.
    • What’s the maximum potential penalty? No limit exists. Penalties and interest compound until reaching 25% of tax owed plus $250 if over 60 days late.
    • Will I receive a warning before suspension? Yes, typically three notices are mailed: 30 days after due date, at 60 days late and prior to suspension.
    • How quickly can names be claimed once suspended? Immediately. Others can register an identical name as soon as rights lapse.
    • Can penalties ever be waived? In limited cases like destruction of records from natural disasters or death/serious illness of key tax personnel.


Graphic related to the $800 minimum franchise tax for California businesses

Did You Know? California charges an annual LLC/corporation franchise tax of $800 minimum with essentially no exemptions, even for holding companies or newly-formed businesses with no income.

Every California LLC and corporation owes an unavoidable $800 minimum franchise tax each year, with essentially no exceptions. The tax applies from the year of formation, with short period proration available only for corporations. Failing to timely pay triggers immediate late penalties, interest charges and potential business rights suspension.

Careful planning to submit formation papers at optimal times while budgeting for the ongoing expense helps manage franchise tax obligations effectively. Owners must remain vigilant to avoid costly mistakes jeopardizing financial health and operational standing.

Test Your California Franchise Tax Knowledge

Questions: Annual Minimum Franchise Tax Amounts

    • 1. What’s the minimum franchise tax for CA LLCs and corporations?
      • A) $100
      • B) $500
      • C) $800
      • D) $1,000
    • 2. Which entity types are subject to the franchise tax minimum?
      • A) LLCs
      • B) Corporations
      • C) Limited partnerships
      • D) All of the above
    • 3. When do inactive businesses stop owing franchise tax?
      • A) Never
      • B) After 5 years of no income
      • C) Upon formal dissolution
      • D) When net income hits zero
    • 4. Which business activity level triggers franchise tax liability?
      • A) Merely holding a name
      • B) When income exceeds costs
      • C) $500,000 in gross receipts
      • D) 100 employee headcount
    • 5. How much franchise tax do out-of-state companies operating in CA owe?
      • A) None
      • B) $400
      • C) Same as in-state
      • D) Double in-state amount

Answers: Annual Minimum Franchise Tax Amounts

    • 1. C) $800 is the minimum franchise tax that applies to LLCs, corporations and limited partnerships operating in California.
    • 2. D) All three entity types – LLCs, corporations and limited partnerships – are subject to the same $800 minimum franchise tax each year from formation onward.
    • 3. C) Only formal dissolution, not inactivity or revenue declines, ends the ongoing $800 franchise tax requirement. Merely holding a business name triggers the tax.
    • 4. A) No minimum business activity or income level is required for the $800 franchise tax to apply. Holding organizational documents alone is enough.
    • 5. C) Out-of-state firms conducting business in California owe the same $800 annual franchise tax as in-state companies. No discounts or surcharges apply.

Questions: Impact of Initial Year of Business

    • 1. What’s the franchise tax for an LLC that operated for 10 days in its formation year?
      • A) $0
      • B) $133
      • C) $267
      • D) $800
    • 2. What’s the short year franchise tax for a corporation formed on Dec. 1?
      • A) $0
      • B) $67
      • C) $200
      • D) $800
    • 3. When’s the franchise tax due for a business formed on Feb. 15?
      • A) Feb. 28
      • B) March 15
      • C) May 15
      • D) June 15
    • 4. What business action date marks the official franchise tax start point?
      • A) First sales booking</
      • B) Filing organizational documents
      • C) Reaching break-even profitability
      • D) Hiring first employee
    • 5. What fraction of a year counts as a full month for short year calculations?
      • A) 1 day
      • B) 5 days
      • C) 10 days
      • D) 15 days

Answers: Impact of Initial Year of Business

    • 1. D) An LLC operating for 10 days would owe the full $800 franchise tax for the year as the 15-in-existence test was not met to qualify for proration.
    • 2. B) A corporation formed Dec. 1 has a one month short year for which 1/12 of the annual $800 tax, or $67, would be owed under short period proration rules.
    • 3. C) For a business formed Feb. 15, the franchise tax would be owed 3.5 months later on May 15, the 15th day of the 4th month after formation.
    • 4. B) Filing formal organizational documents like articles of incorporation or articles of organization triggers the official franchise tax effective date and calculations.
    • 5. D) When determining the length of a short year, 15 days or more in a given month counts as a full month for prorated tax amount calculations. Anything under 15 days rounds down.

Questions: Failing to Pay Franchise Tax Consequences

    • 1. What’s the penalty for paying franchise tax 10 days late?
      • A) $40
      • B) $80
      • C) $250
      • D) $800
    • 2. What monthly interest rate applies on unpaid franchise taxes?
      • A) 0.25%
      • B) 0.50%
      • C) 1.00%
      • D) 2.00%
    • 3. What payment delinquency period triggers a $250 late filing fee?
      • A) 30 days
      • B) 45 days
      • C) 60 days
      • D) 90 days
    • 4. How can the FTB penalize habitual franchise tax delinquency?
      • A) Impose double taxes
      • B) Revoke naming rights
      • C) Suspend business privileges
      • D) All of the above
    • 5. How does business suspension impact LLC/corporation name rights?
      • A) Forfeited automatically
      • B) Reserved for 90 days
      • C) May be claimed by others
      • D) Both A and C

Answers: Failing to Pay Franchise Tax Consequences

    • 1. A) Franchise tax payments made even one day late incur an immediate 5% penalty equal to $40 on the $800 minimum tax.
    • 2. B) Overdue franchise taxes accrue interest at a 0.5% monthly rate, or 6% annually, on unpaid balances from the original deadline until received.
    • 3. C) Businesses failing to pay franchise tax within 60 days of the deadline are assessed an additional $250 late filing fee penalty.
    • 4. D) The FTB may eventually suspend business rights entirely, prohibiting operations until payment, and forcing name forfeiture for consistently delinquent entities.
    • 5. D) When a business is suspended, its name is automatically forfeited and may be claimed by other LLCs/corporations immediately with no mandated waiting period.


This article provides general information about minimum franchise tax requirements for California LLCs and corporations. It does not constitute legal or tax advice. Consult with a licensed attorney or tax professional for guidance specific to your situation. Rules are subject to change – verify all information against current FTB regulations. Compliance is the responsibility of each individual business.


California Franchise Tax Board – Businesses

FTB Publication 1060 – Guide for Corporations Starting Business in California

California Business Entities – Tax Information