Many entrepreneurs who want to form a Limited Liability Company (LLC) think they must hire a lawyer to handle the paperwork. They’re mistaken! While it’s helpful to consult an attorney about which business entity type is right for your business and get answers to other legal questions, you’re not required to have an attorney file your LLC’s Articles of Organization with the state. In fact, you may complete and submit your LLC registration paperwork on your own — or work with an online business filing company like CorpNet.
Before I get into the filing requirements for LLCs, let’s revisit the potential benefits of the Limited Liability Company business structure:
- Personal liability protection for the business owner – An LLC is a separate legal entity from its owners (“members”). Generally, if someone sues the company or the business cannot pay its debts, the member’s personal assets are protected from plaintiffs and creditors.
- Tax simplicity – By default, an LLC is taxed as a Sole Proprietorship or General Partnership, with all its profits subject to income and self-employment (Social Security and Medicare) taxes. The company does not have to file its own income tax return; all profits, losses, and tax responsibilities flow through to the LLC members’ personal tax returns.
- Tax flexibility – If an LLC meets the IRS’s eligibility requirements, its owners may choose to have the company taxed as an S Corporation. That can help reduce the LLC members’ Social Security and Medicare tax burden because only their wages and salaries are subject to those taxes; profits paid to them as distributions are not.
- Management flexibility – An LLC may be member-managed or manager-managed. So, business owners may choose how hands-on or hands-off they want to be with the day-to-day operation of the LLC.
- Unlimited members allowed – An LLC may have as many members as it wants, which can open growth opportunities by bringing in new owners and their financial contributions.
- Credibility – Prospective customers, investors, and vendors may feel more confident doing business with a company operating as a legally formed entity vs. one operating as a Sole proprietorship or General Partnership.
Filings Requirements for Registering an LLC
LLC filing requirements can vary depending on where a company is located, the type of business it conducts, whether it will have employees, and other factors.
What forms and reports will you need to file to register your LLC? I encourage you to research your state and local governments’ requirements and engage an attorney and accountant (or other financial consultant) if you need assistance determining what’s required for your business.
Below is a list of some of the filings, applications, and reports you may need to submit:
- Articles of Organization – This document (sometimes known as a Certificate of Organization or another name) registers your company as an LLC in a state. It certifies your business as a statutory entity.
- Employer Identification Number Application – Form SS-4 must be filed to request an EIN from the IRS. All LLCs must have an EIN regardless of whether they have employees. An EIN is a federal tax identification number used for tax reporting and other purposes, such as setting up a business bank account, applying for business licenses, and filing a Beneficial Ownership Report.
- Beneficial Ownership Report – Most business entities, including LLCs, must file a BOI Report with the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN). In 2024, new LLCs must file the report within 90 days of their formation. In 2025 and after, all new LLCs must file their BOI report within 30 days of their creation.
- Initial Report – Some states require LLCs to file an Initial Report that collects various pieces of information about the entity. Examples of the details requested include the business name, address, type of business activity, LLC members’ and managers’ names and addresses, and registered agent’s name and address. (Also, some states require LLCs to submit annual reports to verify the entity’s information on record is up to date.
- Business Licenses and Permits – Depending on where an LLC is registered or conducts business and the types of services or products it sells, it may need to apply for licenses or permits from the federal, state, or local governments. Examples of possible licensing requirements include seller’s permit, zoning permit, general business license, sign permit, cosmetology license, food and beverage license, etc.
- DBA Filing – If an LLC will market its products and services under a business name that’s different from its legally registered name, it must file a DBA. DBA stands for “doing business as” — some states refer to it as a fictitious name or trade name. A hypothetical example of a DBA: Suppose Linda Michaels registers her LLC as Michaels Greenhouse, LLC, but she wants to advertise her custom floral design line of business under the name “Linda’s Floral Creations.” She could file to use Linda’s Floral Creations as a fictitious name. The DBA would allow her to use that name without forming a separate business entity for her floral design activities.
- Payroll Tax Registration – If an LLC will have employees, it must follow all state and local payroll rules, including those related to state unemployment insurance and state and local taxes. Some taxes and other deductions must be withheld from employees’ pay. Accounts must be set up with the appropriate state and local government agencies to handle those payroll requirements.
In addition, most states require LLCs to designate a registered agent to accept service of process on their behalf. Because a registered agent must meet specific criteria (such as constant availability during standard working hours daily from Monday to Friday) to serve in that capacity, it can be beneficial to contract a professional registered agent rather than appoint an employee or try to manage the responsibility yourself.
Tips for Choosing an Online Filing Company
You’ll find no shortage of business formation service providers out there! I encourage you to review their capabilities and track records carefully because not all demonstrate the same level of professionalism, quality, experience, and reliability.
Some qualities to look for in an online filing company include:
- Comprehensive services in all 50 states
- A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau (view CorpNet’s BBB rating)
- Trustpilot rating of Excellent (view CorpNet’s Trustpilot rating)
- Various levels of formation packages to accommodate different needs and budgets
- State payroll tax registration services (most providers do not offer this service)
- Free year of registered agent services with its formation packages
- Business name availability check included with formation packages
- EIN application filed with a basic formation package and free with higher tier packages
- FinCEN BOI Report filing for a low incremental cost
- S Corporation election Form 2553 filed for a low incremental cost with all formation packages
- Custom LLC Operating Agreement and minutes free with premium package
- Business License Research Package available (determines all licenses and permits at the federal, state, and local levels; provides you with the proper license and permit applications and filing instructions)
- Free online access to LLC formation documents
- Free online portal for tracking upcoming business compliance requirements
File Your LLC Without Extra Legal Fees
With CorpNet covering all LLC formation filing needs and meeting all the criteria I mentioned, why incur additional legal fees when we can handle the paperwork for you? Our team of filing specialists will ensure your forms and applications are completed accurately, promptly, and cost-effectively.
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