Q: I'm a CA resident and registered a DE LLC, (no hard assets, just IP rights and R&D expense. Do I need to register in CA?
the entity is a R&D single member LLC. Work is done in the garage and expense is paid from personal account to vendors/suppliers in all states.
A: The correct answer is "yes." Anytime a business entity conducts business activities in California, it must qualify to do business. And, I always advise my clients to follow the law.
As a practical matter, the only way it will come up is if you have income, or if you get sued. In that case, if you want to continue "to do business" in California, you will have to go back to the beginning and pay all taxes and fees. If it's taxes, you are good to go. If you got sued, once you are up to date on your taxes, you can file an Answer to the Complaint and be on you way, with no other penalty.
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