Updated July 22, 2020:

California Secretary of State File Numbers are assigned to all entities in the state of California by the Secretary of State. This can be found in the LLC form that was submitted when applying for a limited liability corporation. The business will either have a seven-digit corporation number or a 12 digit file number. They can call the office of the Secretary of State to see which one they have if they don't have their original application form. The ID number and type can also be found on the California Secretary of State's website.

There are three types of identifying numbers in California for business returns. They include the following:

  • Secretary of State number, which is a 12 digit number that begins with a 19 or 20
  • California Corporation Number, which is an eight-digit number that begins with a C
  • LLC Temp Number, which is a nine-digit number

All corporations in California have an SOS file number, no matter if they are a C corporation or an S corporation. They'll receive this after they file the Articles of Incorporation with the Secretary of State when they are forming their corporation. Choosing an S corporation status is a tax election that is filled with the Internal Revenue Service and isn't related to the corporation's SOS File Number. The original incorporation stays valid.

How to Receive a California Secretary of State File Number

When a California business tax return is filed, it is required to put the filing number on the tax forms. The filing number is not the same as the tax identification number. This is a separate number that the California Secretary of State assigned when the company registered with the office.

If the number needs to be located, the owner can look at paperwork or receipts they received from the California Secretary of State from the year the business was registered. The owner can also ask the office of the Secretary of State to look up the filing number but will need to give the business name, address, and tax ID number.

How to Form a Corporation in California

When forming a corporation in California, it is necessary to choose a name that isn't too similar to an existing business to avoid misleading the public. The name should include the words "Incorporated," "Limited," or "Corporation," but it doesn't always need to. A free name check can be done by sending the California Secretary of State a Name Availability Inquiry Letter. Online or email inquiries will not be accepted. 

A name can be reserved for up to 60 days when a Name Reservation Request Form is submitted and a $10 fee is paid. This form can be filed in person or through the mail.

The Articles of Incorporation must be filed next. The corporation is legally created when this is filed with the Secretary of State. It must include the company's purpose, name, street address for the registered agent, and how many shares the corporation can issue. It costs $100 to file this document, and it must be turned in through the mail or in person.

A registered agent must be appointed, as well. Each corporation in California needs to have one, and that person will receive any legal papers on behalf of the corporation if it issued. A corporation cannot elect to be their own agent for service of process. The agent can be a corporate agent who has filed with the Secretary of State or a person who lives in California. The agent cannot have a post office box and needs to have a street address in the state of California. 

Initially, smaller companies tend to name an officer or director to be their agent. Another agent can always be chosen at a later time. The Secretary of State keeps a list of private services companies who are able to be an agent for service of process, but it is not limited to that list. A corporate records book will need to be set up to keep track of all essential papers, such as stock certificates, minutes of shareholder and director meetings, and stock certificate stubs.

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