How to Form a Limited Partnership in California

Introduction on what is Limited Partnership in California and how to get started.

Updated on
Jan 24, 2024
min read
Starting a Company
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Understanding the Distinction

When it comes to business partnerships in California, it's crucial to grasp the distinction between a general partnership and a limited partnership (LP). In a general partnership, profits are evenly shared among partners, who also bear equal liability for the company's debts and obligations.

On the other hand, a limited partnership, not to be confused with an LLC, comprises at least one general partner and one limited partner. Limited partners, often referred to as "silent partners," lack managerial responsibilities and have limited liability, restricted to their invested capital. This absence of active involvement in daily business operations sets them apart.

Additionally, the general partnership operates informally and doesn't necessitate the filing of formation documents or associated fees in California. It comes into existence when partners commence business transactions.

In contrast, forming a limited partnership involves a formal process with the California state government, accompanied by a requisite formation fee.

Steps: How to Establish a California Limited Partnership in Six Key Steps

Step 1: Select an LP Name

Choosing an Appropriate Name:Unlike general partnerships, limited partnerships in California cannot operate under individual partner names and must possess a distinct business identity.

Selecting an LP name is a critical step as it forms the initial impression on potential customers. Several considerations must guide your choice:

  • Adherence to Legal Naming Requirements: All California limited partnerships must conclude their business names with "limited partnership," "LP," or "L.P." Forbidden terms include those referencing other business types like "corporation" or "incorporated," as well as terms associated with specific business types like "bank" or "law office."
  • Descriptive Naming: Consider incorporating language that elucidates your business activities, such as including "real estate" for a realtor or indicating values like environmental friendliness with the term "green."
  • Aesthetic Appeal: Opt for a name that resonates positively when spoken aloud and visually on paper.

It's important not to become overly attached to a name before either reserving it with the state or officially forming the business. The process of acquiring your business name in California involves initial research, a Name Availability Inquiry Letter to the Secretary of State, and name reservation through a Name Reservation Request form, confirmed when filing the Certificate of Limited Partnership.

Step 2: Designate a Registered Agent

Mandatory Registered Agent:Every California limited partnership is obligated to designate a registered agent who handles official correspondence from the government and forwards it to the business. The registered agent is accountable for receiving legal documents, including service of process and legal notices.

It's highly recommended to opt for a registered agent service, which not only streamlines these requirements but also safeguards personal and business addresses from public records.

Step 3: File the Certificate of Limited Partnership

Formalize Your Limited Partnership:The formation of your LP is initiated by filing a Certificate of Limited Partnership with the California Secretary of State. This document necessitates key details:

  • LP Name
  • Designated Office Address
  • Agent for Service of Process
  • All General Partner Information
  • Signatures of Registered Partners

Filing Fee: California charges a $70 filing fee for limited partnership formation, with processing times averaging around 10 business days, subject to seasonal variations.

Step 4: Create a Limited Partnership Agreement

Valuable, Though Non-Mandatory:While not obligatory under California state law, crafting a limited partnership agreement remains a valuable practice. This document outlines essential operational principles, detailing agreements between general and limited partners.

Although the content of such agreements varies with the nature, size, and specifics of the business, it generally encompasses:

  • Partnership Duration
  • Roles of General and Limited Partners
  • Initial and Ongoing Capital Contributions
  • Profit and Loss Allocation
  • Management Structure
  • Voting Rights and Meeting Procedures
  • Accounting Practices
  • Terms for Transfer and Dissolution

Step 5: Fulfill Taxation Requirements

Federal EIN and State Taxes:Federal tax requirements mandate limited partnerships to acquire an Employer Identification Number (EIN). An EIN serves as the business counterpart to a Social Security Number, essential for employee hiring, bank account setup, and tax obligations. Obtain an EIN at no cost through the IRS.

State taxation in California entails the Franchise Tax, levied on the business's net income, requiring a minimum annual payment of $800, regardless of income. Additional state taxes may apply, depending on the nature of the business and its location. For precise tax assessments, consult the California Tax Service Center.

Step 6: Secure Business Licenses and Permits

Industry-Specific Licensing:While general business licenses aren't mandatory in California, certain industries require specialized permits or licenses. For instance, businesses involved in the sale of goods must obtain a seller's permit. Various industry-specific permits are essential for compliance with state and local regulations.

Local Requirements:The specific city or locality of your business may impose additional taxes and regulatory prerequisites. Major California cities, such as Los Angeles, San Diego, San Jose, and San Francisco, offer resources for local tax and licensing information.

Post-Formation Steps: Ensuring Your California LP's Success

  1. Open a Business Bank Account: Separate business and personal finances to protect personal assets and simplify tax filing. Utilize your EIN to establish a business account at a bank or credit union.
  2. Business Insurance: If your LP hires employees, comply with mandatory unemployment and workers' compensation insurance. Additionally, consider general liability insurance and industry-specific policies.
  3. Income Reporting: Limited partnerships pass income through to partners, who report profits or losses on personal tax returns. Submit an annual information return to the IRS.
  4. Annual Reporting: California does not mandate annual LP reporting but requires prompt updates, such as changes in the registered agent or general partner departures, with the Secretary of State.
  5. Accounting: Seek professional accounting assistance to manage business finances effectively, especially during tax time, ensuring accurate record-keeping and compliance.

Disclaimer: The content on this page is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal, tax, or accounting advice. Seek the counsel of a licensed professional for specific questions related to these topics.

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