Many business owners will ask themselves what is a registered agent and then question if they really need one. The answer to both questions is yes!
A registered agent is a person or company with the authority to accept service of process (legal documents and government notices) on behalf of a business. When selecting a registered agent, the business must designate one who has a physical location within the state where the business is registered to operate.
What Does a Registered Agent Do?
A registered agent (also sometimes referred to as a resident agent or statutory agent) has an important role for any business. This person or company is responsible for accepting service of process on behalf of a business.
Some examples of the documentation a registered agent will receive for you include:
- Official federal and state correspondence
- Subpoenas for information
- Tax notices from the IRS and local tax authorities
- Summonses to appear in court
- Wage garnishment notices when ordered to withhold a portion of your employee’s wages and send it directly to a person or organization to which that worker owes money
- Corporate filing notifications
Important paperwork, as mentioned above, will be delivered to your registered agent’s physical location (not a post office box) in the state where you operate your business.
Who Can Be a Registered Agent for a Corporation or LLC?
Most states allow individuals (who are at least 18 years old and a resident of the state) and companies registered in their jurisdictions to provide registered agent services to businesses. Typically, an LLC or corporation may not serve as its own registered agent.
A registered agent’s location is sometimes referred to as a registered office, and it must have office hours from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. from Monday through Friday at the location disclosed as the registered agent address in a corporation’s Articles of Incorporation or an LLC’s Articles of Organization. If a corporation or LLC has physical operations in other states, it must designate a registered agent in each of those states.
Below are the individuals and entities a business may consider designating as its registered agent:
- One of the business owners (i.e., an LLC member or corporate shareholder) who resides in the state
- An employee who lives in the state
- A friend or family member who meets the state’s age and availability requirements
- An online business filings company that offers registered agent services in the state
- A registered agent services provider that serves the state where the business is located
- An attorney or law firm that offers registered agent services in the state
- An accountant or accounting firm that offers registered agent services in the state
- A tax preparer or tax preparation firm that offers registered agent services in the state
Businesses that operate in multiple states or plan on expanding can benefit from choosing a registered agent that provides services nationally. Doing so offers consistency and convenience because all important notices and documents are delivered through one registered agent services provider. Also, renewing registered agent services is simplified since there’s just one company to submit renewal payments to.
Does Your Business Really Need One?
If your business forms an LLC, incorporates, or foreign qualifies, you must appoint and maintain a registered agent. It is a business compliance requirement you don’t want to ignore. The law requires that your business appoints a registered agent as soon as you form your LLC or corporation.
Here are the benefits of having a formal registered agent:
- Time – A registered agent helps ensure your legal documents are received and responded to promptly. By being available all day on all work days, your registered agent won’t miss any critical mail deliveries. That gives you peace of mind because you’ll know important paperwork won’t slip through the cracks.
- Privacy – Having a registered agent provides some privacy for you as a business owner. A registered agent’s name and address are public information. Rather than your business’s physical address going on the public record with the state, your registered agent’s information will appear there instead.
- Expansion – If you choose a registered agent, like CorpNet, that is recognized nationally, you’ll be able to expand your operations into other states more easily. Having a single point of contact that is familiar with your business streamlines that process.
- Compliance – Your registered agent will make sure you’re informed about any paperwork you need to review and on which you need to take action. That will help you stay in good standing because you’ll avoid missing filing deadlines that could result in fines for noncompliance. This is another good reason to consider designating a registered agent who covers all states. Different states have varying requirements and filing deadlines, and a registered agent that is authorized to serve businesses in the entire United States will know what you need to do and when.
What Are The Risks if You Don’t Have One?
If you fail to designate a registered agent or don’t pay your registered agent’s fees, bad things can happen, including penalties and fines.
Ultimately, you could even lose your corporate status and be prohibited from doing business within the state if the state’s Secretary of State deems your corporation defunct as a result of your noncompliance.
Also, without a registered agent, you might neglect to respond to certain notices. That could put your business at risk of suspension or termination. And in the case of a legal notice (like a lawsuit), you might receive a default judgment—which rarely will be in your company’s best interest.
The moral of the story is: Designate a registered agent and maintain the relationship, so your business stays in good standing!
Should You Be Your Own Registered Agent?
As I mentioned earlier, most states allow a business to designate an employee or owner of the company as its registered agent. While this might sound like a cost-effective and efficient way to go, note the following potential drawbacks.
Here are the top drawbacks of serving as your own registered agent:
- It will result in your name and address becoming part of the public record filed with the state. If you run your business from home, that could jeopardize your privacy.
- Because you receive all of your mail at your business address, your legal documents and relevant compliance notices might become lost in the shuffle with advertisements and other non-emergent correspondence.
- If you are served with a lawsuit, it might happen in front of your customers and staff members. Talk about awkward and embarrassing!
- If you or the employee you designate as your registered agent spends a lot of time out of the office during the workweek or goes on vacation, you will risk not receiving critical documents on time.
- If you move your business or the employee serving as your registered agent leaves your company, you must update your information with the state. In the midst of significant changes like that, it might be difficult for you to remember to do that.
To avoid these downsides, I encourage you to consider hiring a third-party registered agent instead—especially since it won’t cost you very much to use outside registered agent services.
Where Can You Find a Registered Agent?
Some states provide lists of authorized registered agents on their websites. You might also speak with your attorney about recommendations on registered agent services.
I believe you’ll get the best value, however, from securing a registered agent that serves all 50 states and that also provides the full spectrum of business formation and compliance document filing services.
Prices for registered agent services vary from provider to provider, and the more states you need services in, the more you’ll pay. Generally, contracting services for one state will cost you from $100 to $200.
Can You Change Your Registered Agent?
If you’re unhappy with your existing registered agent, you can change it at anytime. If you decide to change your registered agent, you will typically need to complete and file a form with the Secretary of State’s office in the state (or states) in which your business operates. Filing fees from state to state vary. In some states, a change to your registered agent may involve filing an amendment to your Articles of Organization or Articles of Incorporation.
Tips When Hiring a 3rd Party Registered Agent
As you’re evaluating registered agents to find one that will be the right fit for your business, carefully assess if they have a track record that demonstrates their capabilities and reliability.
- Are they authorized to act as your agent in the states in which you’ll operate your business?
- Do they have experience in dealing with the varied rules and filing deadlines in multiple states?
- Will they assist you in organizing and maintaining your business’s important documents? For example, will they keep copies of your Articles of Incorporation, Bylaws, Operating Agreement, and state reports and enable you to access them online via a secure server? FYI, CorpNet does all of that and more via our Compliance Portal. It’s included with our registered agent services.
Your registered agent should be someone you trust completely to communicate with you immediately when legal and time-sensitive compliance documents are received on your behalf. Because a registered agent’s role is crucial for ensuring your business addresses lawsuits and government notices promptly, you should carefully review your available options (and consider talking with your attorney) before selecting one.
Some Key Takeaways
Now that we know what a registered agent is and why you need one, let’s circle back on some of the highlights as you embark on finding a registered agent to assist your business.
- A registered agent is an individual or company that you have chosen to accept legal documents and government notices on your behalf.
- A registered agent must be available Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. to receive documents.
- The law requires that you must appoint a registered agent if your business is an LLC or corporation.
- When you form your LLC or corporation, you should include your registered agent’s information in your Articles of Organization or Articles of Incorporation.
- By designating a company that provides registered agent services in all 50 states, you will have a single point of contact if you decide to extend your business to other states. That will help ensure your business stays compliant with the varied requirements from state to state.
- If your LLC or corporation fails to appoint a registered agent, you could face default judgments (in the case of a lawsuit), fines, and penalties. You might also risk having your business suspended or terminated.
- Although a business owner or an employee may be allowed to be your registered agent, there are advantages to hiring a third party.
- Look for a registered agent who has a proven track record of reliability and experience.
Appoint CorpNet as Your Registered Agent
CorpNet can act as your company’s registered agent in any state ensuring your corporation or LLC stays compliant with any service of process, legal notices, or official mailings.