If you’re looking to start an LLC for $0, then you’re in the right place. We will show you exactly how to start an LLC in any US state. Limited Liability Companies (LLCs) are easy to create, it involves a few steps that include naming your LLC, getting a registered agent, filing your LLC with State, and drafting your operating agreement.
When you file an LLC, you must pay a bare minimum filing fee to the Secretary of State. In many states, this filing fee is tax deductible. Hence, you can easily set up your LLC for $0. Apart from the filing fee, there is no additional formation fee to be paid. You can select the state from the list below to know the state fees and steps to start an LLC in that state. On this page, we have shared the step-by-step guide on how to start an LLC. It is recommended to read this article word by word so you don’t miss any important points 🙂
On this page, you’ll learn about the following:
How to Form an LLC
Before you start planning to set up an LLC for $0, you must know even when there is no additional fee to form your LLC, there can be State fees for formation, annual reports, and other mandatory taxes. Now, let’s know what an LLC is all about. LLC is a business structure that is a mix of both a sole proprietorship and a partnership. It comes with a bunch of advantages. There are a few more things you must know,
- For an LLC, members’ personal assets are not affected by business debts. However, in some cases, if the LLC is sued for business debts, courts might pierce the corporate veil and use the owner’s personal assets to meet their corporate liabilities.
- You can choose a management type in your LLC. It can be member-managed or manager-managed.
- LLCs have pass-through taxation, which means LLCs do not have to pay any corporate income taxes. They only have to pay personal income taxes based on the income of each member.
- Compared to other business structures, LLCs are cheaper to form. Some states have tax deductions on the LLC filing fee (paid to the state government). Hence, it is much cheaper to form an LLC than other business structures.
- You can eliminate all the hassles of setting up your LLC if you select a professional LLC formation service. They will make things easier and better for you. (Recommended)
This is pretty much the basics of an LLC. You can read our guide on the Limited Liability Company to learn more about this type of business structure. As we move forward, here is the step-by-step guide to forming an LLC. Read the basic steps carefully to understand the process.
STEP 1: Select a State
The very first step to starting your LLC is to choose the state you want to start your business in. Ideally, your LLC should be located in the state where you live or where you plan to do business. Different state has different rules and regulations when it comes to forming an LLC. It is necessary to know about the fees, costs, taxation, and other policies in the state before you establish your business. If you hire a professional LLC formation service, you will get all the assistance at once without any delay.
Following is the list of states where you can form your LLC. Select the state you want to establish your LLC and get insights into the regulations, fee structure, taxation, and other information of that state. If you plan to operate your business in different states, you will have to register it as a foreign LLC in that particular state.
Delaware is one of the most desirable states to start your LLC. More than 60% of Fortune 500 companies and about 50% of public sectors have incorporated their businesses in Delaware. Apart from that, Texas, Florida, Wyoming, and California are some of the best states to start your LLC.
Kentucky is the cheapest state to form your LLC. The state filing fee is the lowest among all other states ($40). On the other side, the annual compliance fee is $15 only, which is also quite low compared to other states.
Wyoming and South Dakota are the two states that do not have any corporate income taxes. Also, there is no gross receipt tax to be paid in these two states. In Wyoming, there is no personal income tax as well.
STEP 2: Name Your LLC
In our guide, the next step is to name it. However, before you name your business/LLC, you must know whether the name is available for use or not. You should perform an LLC name search and confirm the availability of your desired name before you start your LLC. One has to visit the Secretary of State portal (link shared in state LLC formation pages) to search and register the name of your LLC. Meanwhile, here are the general LLC naming guidelines,
- The company name should include “Limited Liability Company” or abbreviations like LLC or L.L.C.
- The company name should not include words that might confuse your company name with any government agency (i.e., FBI, State Department, Treasury, etc.).
- Words like Bank, Attorney, University, College, and some others are restricted. They may require additional paperwork on top of a licensed individual like a doctor or lawyer as part of the company.
These are some of the most important points to be noted while naming your LLC. It is recommended to go through our complete guide on LLC name guidelines before you name your LLC. Every state has a minimum business name reservation fee. This fee is mandatory to pay when you reserve your LLC name.
LLC name search, check if the name is available, and finally reserve it for the future; all these steps require no money (other than name reservation fees) if you are setting up your LLC on your own. You can do these steps for free. On the other side, if you hire a professional, the name search service comes for free with their LLC formation package. The only difference is, hiring a professional will help you speed up the process.
Recommended: You can do name search, business domain, website, emails, and a lot more in one place by hiring a professional service. We recommend using –
ZenBusiness – ($0 for LLC Formation)
When it comes to Name Search, ZenBusiness helps you to know if your chosen name is available or not. If it is not available, then you will be notified immediately. So, it will be easier to check name availability by clicking a few times with ZenBusiness.
Reserve Your Business Name
Name reservation is recommended if you’re not registering your LLC immediately. LLC names can be reserved for up to 3 months, depending on the state rules. Within this time, you can register your LLC under the reserved name. If you fail to do so, then the name might be available to use by other LLCs. A reservation fee is required to pay along with the name reservation form submission. In most states, it is not mandatory to reserve an LLC name if you register your LLC right away.
Doing Business As (DBA) or Trade Name
“Doing Business As (DBA)” or Trade Name, or Fictitious Name, is a sort of assumed LLC name. DBA’s name is different from your legal name. It is used as a trading name under which you can conduct your business. Instead of reserving your LLC name beforehand, you can file a DBA as well. You can get the DBA filing form from the Secretary of State’s online portal. Depending on the state, the filing fee varies. DBA filing would also be helpful for you if you change your LLC name in the future. You can read our guide on how to file a DBA to know more about this.
If your desirable name is not available in the state or taken by some other entity, then think of another name according to the naming guidelines. You can add additional words or numbers to your desired names and use them. You can check if your desirable or ‘fictitious name’ is available or not from the SOS website.
Yes, you can change your LLC name in the future. However, the process is a bit complicated, and LLCs have to pay a state fee to change the name. To change the LLC name legally, one has to go through several steps, from searching for a new name available to filing the amendments. It is wise to go for DBA filing instead of changing the name legally. Hiring an LLC formation service will make this part easy for you as they will do the needful on your behalf.
STEP 3: Choose a Registered Agent
A registered agent (known as an agent for service of process, statutory agent, or resident agent) is a person or an organization who receives legal documents on your company’s behalf. The official documents would include official correspondences like state filing notices and legal summons. Anyone aged above 18 years and has the right to conduct business in the state can be a registered agent. This person has to have a physical street address in the state. You can be your LLC’s registered agent as well if you fulfill the eligibility requirements.
However, it is always recommended to hire a professional registered agent service. As your own registered agent, you will have to share your personal address for all legal and public communication. This may harm your privacy, especially if you’re conducting your business from home. Hence, it is better to hire a professional service to take care of all your legal and state-related papers and privacy. You can use their address for official activities. We reviewed some of the best LLC services here, and all of them provide registered agent service as an add-on with their LLC setup packages.
Note that availing services of professional registered agents would be your best option since you will be sure that whoever is handling your legal affairs knows their stuff well. Besides, if you are only looking for registered agent service, not the entire LLC formation package, you can go for this standalone registered agent service.
You can be your own registered agent if you are a resident of the state where you are forming your LLC. However, it is recommended to get a professional Registered Agent to handle your LLC’s paperwork. Remember being your own registered agent means you may have to share your home address and make it public.
The cost of having a registered agent service depends on which state you are forming your LLC in and, moreover, which registered agent service you are hiring. The cost can go up to $300. ZenBusiness offers a standalone registered agent service at $99 (It’s quite good).
There are a few reasons why you shouldn’t be your own registered agent. The address of the registered agent is used to communicate with the SOS or for any legal activities. If you are your own registered agent, you might have to upload your personal address to the public forum. Besides, the registered agent must be at the address during business hours. It won’t be easy for you as you also have to take care of other things in your LLC. Hence, it is wiser to appoint a separate entity as your registered agent.
STEP 4: File LLC Formation Documents
LLC formation documents are the most vital while forming an LLC. These documents are commonly called the Certificate of Formation. Depending on the state, the same document is called by different names, such as Articles of Organization or a Certificate of Organization.
You need to fill in the form (online or in PDF) and send it to the Secretary of State after paying the state fee. Depending on the state, the filing fee varies. The state filing fee starts from $40 (Kentucky filing fee) and can go up to $500 (Massachusetts filing fee). Read our guide on the cost of LLC to know how much you have to spend on forming an LLC in different states. You can file the Certificate of Formation via mail, online, fax, email, or by phone, depending on the state rules.
Even if you are setting up your LLC for free (DIY), you must pay this fee to the Secretary of State to register your business. But, if you buy a formation package from experienced service providers, you can get everything done without any complications. Another reason for hiring a professional is they can speed up your process.
Recommended: Online LLC Formation service can fill up and submit all these documents on your behalf in much lesser time along with lifetime customer support and 100% accuracy. We recommend using –
ZenBusiness – ($0 + State Fees) Online LLC Setup
There are different methods of filing your LLC formation documents. One can file their LLC documents via postal mail, in-person visit to the Secretary of State’s office, online submission, email, and fax. Depending on the state rule, you can file your LLC documents via any of these methods.
Depending on the state, it can take up to 10 working days or more to form an LLC. In some states, it takes less than 24 hours to form an LLC if you file it online.
The cost of filing LLC formation documents depends on which state you are forming your LLC in. The state filing fee can start from $50 and go up to $500. It depends on the state.
STEP 5: Create an LLC Operating Agreement
The LLC operating agreement is not mandatory, but it is encouraged. This legal document outlines the organizational structure and roles of members in your LLC. The operating agreement is a formal agreement between the members of the LLC. Take note that you should have already decided if your LLC is member-managed or manager-managed.
Here are the six main sections of an operating agreement:
- Capital Contributions
- Management and Voting
- Membership Changes
An operating agreement is a document that most states do not require to file officially with the Secretary of State. However, this is one of the most important documents for an LLC. Hence, having an Operating Agreement is always recommended. You can draft your operating agreement on your own. You can also hire a professional. If you hire a good LLC formation service, they will take care of your operating agreement as well.
Recommended: You can get operating agreement templates at a reasonable price with LLC formation service. You don’t need to worry about drafting it as they will take care of it on your behalf. We recommend using –
ZenBusiness – ($0 + State Fees) Online LLC Setup
It is not always necessary to file an operating agreement. In some states, there is no mandatory rule to file an operating agreement. However, it is recommended to file an operating agreement as it is a legal document that records all the important information about your LLC.
To draft your operating agreement you need to mention some important details about your LLC. Such as the ownership, management, dissolution, voting, and some more details, You can read our guide on Operating Agreement to learn more about it.
STEP 6: Get an EIN
The Employer Identification Number (EIN) is a 9-digit number issued by the IRS. This number is required to identify the type of business structure for general tax purposes. It’s like a Social Security number (SSN) for your LLC. The EIN is vital when you plan to hire employees or open a business bank account. It is also known as Federal Employer Identification Number (FEIN) or Federal Tax Identification Number (FTIN).
To obtain the EIN, one has to fill up the form (online or by mail) and send it to IRS. For online filing, you need the EIN Assistant. If you do not have an SSN, still, you can get your EIN by filling up the form and submit to IRS before you proceed to apply for the EIN.
- Mail to: Internal Revenue Service, Attn: EIN Operation, Cincinnati, OH 45999
- Fax: (855) 641-6935 | Fee: Free
Recommended: This hassle will be reduced when you hire an LLC formation service. They take care of obtaining EIN and all other things for your LLC. We recommend using –
ZenBusiness – ($0 + State Fees) Online LLC Setup
You can get your EIN by applying through the IRS official website. This is the fastest way to get your EIN. There is no fee charged to get EIN through IRS.
Yes, EIN and the Tax ID (federal) are the same things. LLCs need to obtain EIN or the Federal Tax ID to pay their annual taxes, get business licenses, open business bank accounts, and hire employees.
EIN is needed when you file and pay your business taxes. Every LLC needs to obtain EIN for not only paying taxes, but opening a business bank account, hiring employees, and so on. Read the need for EIN to know why EIN is important!
Congratulation, you are now done with all the necessary steps to form your Limited Liability Company. If you do it yourself, it should take you a long time to understand and do all the steps properly.
However, if you use ZenBusiness, it should be way faster. You will always have a live chat option and phone support with experts for any help you need. Their worry-free service will make things easier for you.
After Starting an LLC
After forming your LLC, there are still some things that you will need. The most important thing is to separate your business and personal assets. LLCs have limited liability protection that protects your personal assets from business liability. This is called a corporate veil. However, the corporate veil can be lifted or pierced by the court if the LLC is sued. In that case, the owners of the LLC become personally liable for their corporate debts. A few things like appointing a legit registered agent, having enough capital, and filing all the major documents with the state can save the LLCs from being pierced into the corporate veil.
Apart from those main steps, there are more things to do after starting an LLC for a business owner. You’ll have to deal with your assets and taxes depending on the management structure. Here are other important things to address when starting an LLC.
- Set Up Business Accounting: It is vital to have a business accountant who will help you take advantage of tax benefits. It will save you and your business tons of money in taxes annually.
- Get Licenses and Permits: You need to check if your business will require any business licenses or permits so that you can stay compliant. Licensing requirements would vary per state and county or city laws.
- Separate Personal Assets From Business: Your LLC offers limited liability protection. It is vital to use dedicated business banking and credit accounts to avoid mixing them with your personal accounts. Otherwise, your personal assets (your home, car, and other valuables) would be at risk if your LLC gets sued.
- Understand Your LLC’s Federal Tax Options: LLCs get taxed as pass-through entities. It means all of the business’s profit goes through the LLC member’s tax returns. The member pays self-employment taxes and income tax on their share of business income after tax. Meanwhile, LLCs can also be taxed as S corporations (S corps) or C corporations (C corps). The former allows LLC members to be taxed as employees. It reduces the tax burden in certain circumstances.
- Register Your LLC for State Taxes: There are several taxes that you might need depending on the nature and location of your business.
- Get Business Insurance: Generally, businesses with employees must get workers’ compensation insurance. Meanwhile, general liability insurance is not a legal requirement, but it is highly recommended to protect your business assets from lawsuits.
LLC Formation Review
Time needed: 5 minutes.
To recap, here’s the step-by-step tool. Click on the steps in this list to read the full detail.
- Choose a state
The first thing you should do is choose the state where you will operate your LLC because requirements vary per state.
- Name your LLC
Next, you must choose a company name, including the phrase “limited liability company” or one of its abbreviations (LLC or L.L.C.).
- Choose a registered agent.
In most states, it is mandatory to select a registered agent for your LLC. Get a professional Registered Agent from LLC formation services to get things done hassle-free.
- File formation documents
Filing a formation certificate is necessary when forming an LLC. Depending on the state, it can be called any of the following: Certificate of Formation, Articles of Organization, or Certificate of Organization.
- Create operating agreement
An operating agreement is not a strict requirement, but something encouraged when you start your LLC.
- Get an EIN
The Employer Identification Number (EIN), also called Federal Tax Identification Number, identifies a business entity like a social security number but for a company.
When and Why You Should Form an LLC
The right time to set up an LLC is when you want your business to grow, protect your assets and build strong customer relationships.
A limited liability company, or LLC, is a business entity that limits the personal liabilities of the owners. These owners are known as members and have the power to decide how to run the day to day operations of their business. In most cases, the profits of the LLC are passed on to the members, allowing them to reap the benefits. The LLC also acts as a legal shield to limit personal exposure to debts incurred by the business.
Unlike a sole proprietorship or a partnership, an LLC offers some benefits in terms of taxation. In most states, the LLC is not subject to separate taxes. This means that the owners pay the appropriate income taxes on their business earnings. On the other hand, C corporations are taxed under Subchapter C of the IRC. Usually, an LLC’s profits are taxed at the shareholder level.
When it comes to forming a new business, the best way to minimize the risk is to separate your business finances from your personal ones. Among other things, an LLC allows you to choose your own name for your business. However, you should be careful to avoid a similar naming scheme used by other businesses in your state. Having a unique naming scheme will go a long way in gaining credibility as a business owner.
One of the most important steps in forming an LLC is choosing a name for your new business. There are numerous online services you can use to search for possible names. Make sure to check with your state’s secretary of state database to find out if the name you want is available.
Another important step in forming an LLC is to select a registered agent. An LLC’s registered agent is usually one of the owners and is responsible for receiving and forwarding legal documents. They typically reside in the same state as the LLC and are available during normal business hours (8 am to 5 pm) on weekdays.
Another thing to know about forming a LLC is that you can opt for a multi-member structure. Although the concept of a multi-member LLC may sound daunting, it’s actually a fairly simple process. If you have more than two people involved in your new endeavor, it might be worth your while to hire a lawyer.
Another aspect of forming an LLC is the formation of an operating agreement. This document lays out the duties and responsibilities of the managers and owners of the company, as well as the details of how the business will be run. Typically, a well-written operating agreement will keep you and your fellow owners on the same page. It can also help you avoid conflicts that might arise later on.
Finally, you should check your state’s Secretary of State website to get a good idea of the various filing requirements and fees. Some states charge as little as $100 for a limited liability company, while others require hundreds of dollars.
You can start an LLC for free. For that, you need to follow a few simple steps. First, select the state you want to set up your LLC, get an LLC name, find a registered agent, file your certificate of formation, and finally, get your EIN to start your LLC for free. Other than the state filing fees, you don’t have to bear any costs to form an LLC.
If you are a resident of the state you are willing to start your LLC, then you can file your LLC. However, it is always worth having a professional than doing it by yourself to manage legal complexities and paperwork.
The cost of an LLC depends on the state. On average, the registration fee ranges from $50 to $500, along with annual report fees.
An LLC or limited liability company protects your assets and increases your business’s credibility. These are the most affordable legal business entities in terms of formation and maintenance. However, LLCs aren’t ideal when attracting investors.
Both LLC and Sole Properitership have their advantage and disadvantages. When it comes to single-member LLC vs Sole Proprietorship, both have similar tax benefits also.
To renew your LLC, you need to file an Annual Report every year by paying a stipulated fee. If your LLC is expired, then submit a renewal form to activate the LLC operation.
A limited liability company (LLC) takes about a week on average to form. If the business entity is filing it online, then it may take less than 24 hours. The above-mentioned simple steps will help you in your LLC filings with the state. You will get multiple filing options like by mail, online, email, or/and fax. Choose any available mode of filing, comply with regulatory requirements, and registration requirements to form your LLC in the selected state. For more information, leave a message below.