To start an LLC in North Carolina, you are required to file the Articles of Organization with the North Carolina Secretary of State.
The document can be filed by mail, in person, or online and costs $125 to file.
In addition to the articles of organization, there are several other steps to follow to get your LLC ready for business.
In this guide, we will walk you through all of the steps you need to follow in order to:
- Register your LLC in North Carolina
- Protect your LLC and personal assets
- Register and stay compliant with local, state, and federal taxes.
If you would rather a professional company form your LLC for you, here are our two recommendations:
Form your LLC with ZenBusiness ($49 for services + state fees)
Form your LLC with LegalZoom ($149 for services + state fees)
Form Your LLC In North Carolina: 5 Steps
Step 1: Choose a name for your North Carolina LLC
Choosing a name for your business is one of the first and most important steps to forming your LLC.
North Carolina Naming Requirements
There are certain guidelines to follow when naming your business in North Carolina:
- Your name must include Limited Liability Company, LLC or Limited LC
- You may be required to fill out additional paperwork if your entity involves specific words such as Bank, University, Attorney, etc.
- Your name must be easily distinguishable from a government agency (ie. FBI)
- Your name must be different from any other corporation or LLC established in North Carolina
Check if the name is available in North Carolina
Your LLC’s name must be distinguishable from other LLCs filed in North Carolina.
You can check availability on the Secretary of State business name database here.
Tips on naming your business
In addition to the requirements from the State, there are some general naming guidelines that may help you down the road as well.
We've put together a full guide here for naming your business here but will also cover the most critical pieces below:
Is your URL available? Social media handles?
You can check for domain availability here:
Find a domain starting at $0.88
powered by Namecheap
As soon as you resonate with a name (or names), secure the domain and social media handles as soon as possible to ensure they don't get taken.
Other general naming tips
- Consider SEO when naming your business
- Consider naming your business something that reflects what you do and/or who you are
- Keep it simple! Easy to spell, easy to pronounce and easy to remember
- Try not to pick something too limiting that could impact your businesses growth in the future!
Check out our full naming guide here.
Here is a video covering all factors to consider when naming your LLC:
Do I need a DBA?
A DBA is a new name a business operates under their legal name. DBA can also be referred to as a fictitious name, assumed name, or trade name.
If you are forming an LLC, you have already registered your business name and do not need a DBA.
However, if you would like to conduct business under a different name, you can register a DBA.
Learn how to file a DBA here.
Do I have to register my business name?
When starting a corporation, LLC or limited partnership, your business name will be registered automatically once you file your articles of organization with the State.
Step 2: Appoint a Registered Agent in North Carolina
As apart of the LLC filing process, you are required to appoint a registered agent in North Carolina.
What is a registered agent?
A registered agent is an individual that is responsible for receiving your legal documents and can act as your business point of contact with the state.
What does it take for someone to be a registered agent?
The registered agent must have the following:
- Physical street address in North Carolina
- Be 18 years or older
- Be available (in person) during normal business hours
- North Carolina resident or business entity authroized to do business in North Carolina
Can I elect myself or a member of my team to be the registered agent?
The answer is yes!
A member of the business (or yourself) can be elected to be the registered agent of Wyoming as long as they meet the above requirements.
What type of documents will my registered agent receive?
Your registered agent will receive documents such as tax forms, legal docs, official government correspondence (ie. annual report), and summons/ notice of a lawsuit.
Step 3: File Articles of Organization
In order to make your LLC official in the state of North Carolina, you will need to file the articles of organization through the Secretary of State.
There are two ways to do this:
Fill out PDF & upload file online with the State of North Carolina ($125 filing fee)
Download form & file by mail ($125 filing fee), and mail to this address:
The Secretary of State
Business Registration Division
P.O. Box 29622
Raleigh, NC 27626
North Carolina Filing Article Requirements
Here are the items you will be expected to provide:
- The company name (please note the name must end with either "LLC or Limited LC"
- Your business mailing address
- A signed "Consent to Appointment" by your registered agent. When filing online, check the box saying you have consent. When filing by paper, include a signed document by your agent.
- An email address for future correspondence
- Name and signature of the organizer
- Payment for the filing fee ($125)
How long will it take to form my LLC in North Carolina?
Filing the Articles of Organization may take up to two weeks.
If you'd like to expedite the process, you have the option to pay an additional fee.
Step 4: Draft your North Carolina LLC Operating Agreement
Although it's not required in North Carolina to have an operating agreement, you may thank yourself later down the road for having one.
It's important to note that if you do plan to create an operating agreement in North Carolina, you will not need to file this with the state. It can be used solely for internal legal purposes. This varies state by state.
Here are three reasons why this document is critical to have:
- Protects your business’s limited liability status
- Solidify member agreements (everything is recorded in writing and there is no room for miscommunication)
- Prevent the state from managing your agreements based on their default rules (in the case that the state needs to step in to help manage your business)
Here are two different types of sample agreements you can download:
- Single Member Operating Agreement
- Multiple Member Operating Agreement
What is the purpose of an LLC operating agreement?
An LLC operating agreement is a legal document that outlines the ownership and operating procedures of your LLC.
The reason you may find this helpful is that it can essentially cover you in the case that there is confusion or conflict down the road. The document will hold everyone accountable and ensure the owners of the business are on the same page.
Am I required to file my operating agreement with the state?
In this state, you are not required to file your operating agreement with the state.
This agreement should be used internally and kept on file for future reference.
Step 5: Register a North Carolina LLC Employee Identification Number (EIN)
EIN's are a 9 digit number given to you by the IRS to help identify businesses for tax purposes.
How Do I Apply for an EIN?
It's very easy (and free) to apply for an EIN. You can apply through the IRS a few different ways:
Apply for an EIN from the IRS online
Apply for an EIN via mail or fax
Internal Revenue Service
Attn: EIN Operation
Cincinnati, OH 45999
Fax: (855) 641-6935
Do I need a social security number to get an EIN?
No, you do not need a social security number to get an EIN. Here are the steps to follow when filling out the form (if you do not have a SSN):
- Fill out IRS Form SS-4
- Leave section 7b blank
- Call the IRS at (267) 941-1099 to complete your application
Why do I need an EIN?
An EIN is essential for your business to operate. Here's what this 9 digit number allows you to do:
- Open a business bank account
- Hire employees
- File and manage Federal and State Taxes
Here is a video that explains everything you need to know about getting an EIN:
How much does it cost to get an EIN?
It is free to get an EIN with the IRS! The process is easy, quick and can be done online or by mail/fax.
Is it required to get an EIN for my LLC?
If you have operate an LLC with employees or with more than one member, it is required by the IRS that you have an EIN.
How To Protect Your Small Business From Your Personal Assets
Once you have formed your LLC, it's critical that you take the right steps to protect your small business from your personal assets.
If done properly from the start, this could save you months, if not years of time, and potential legal issues that could arise.
To protect your small business and your personal assets, follow these two steps in the beginning:
1. Open a separate business bank account
2. Get small business insurance
We get into all the specifics for each of these below:
Open A Business Bank Account
By opening a bank account specifically for your business, you are protecting yourself (and your personal assets) from any potential risk.
Basically, try and avoid mixing your personal and business accounts at all costs.
1. Choose a bank
There are hundreds of banks out there, and it can be overwhelming to find one that's right for your business.
Here are some factors you may want to consider when determining which business bank account you need:
- Location - Is your bank close enough that you can easily make deposits or get cash?
- Low Fees - Make sure to understand any and all fees associated with setting up and maintaining your bank account. Ask for a list - banks usually try to keep this hidden and in the fine print.
- Online Banking Services - Make sure you can easily navigate through your online portal and you have easy access to everything you need.
- Line of Credit - What do your options look like (even if you don't need this now, you may need this down the road).
- Every bank has something that differentiates them from the rest, so make sure whatever that is applied to your needs and values.
Learn more about the 13 Best Banks for Small Business in 2020 and what makes each of them unique.
2. Gather the proper documents
The next step to opening your business bank account is preparing the documents you need to get everything set up.
- Social Security Number or EIN (Employer Identification Number)
- A copy of your LLC’s articles of organization, certificate of formation or an equivalent document
- LLC operating agreement or an equivelent document which states the individuals authorized to sign on behalf of your LLC
3. Open your account & verify all information is correct
For most banks and industries, you have the option to open your account online or in person.
Once your account is set up, verify that deposits are going through properly and funds going in and out are being tracked and accounted for.
Get Small Business Insurance
There are three main types of business insurance that you may want to consider getting to manage risks for your North Carolina LLC:
- General Liability Insurance: this insurance protects your business from lawsuits.
- Professional Liability Insurance: covers claims of malpractice and other business errors (typically used for providers such as consultants or accountants.
- Workers Compensation Insurance (required in North Carolina if you have 3+ employees, excluding business owners): provides coverage for employee's job-related illnesses, injuries, or deaths.
How Much Does Business Insurance Cost?
The cost of small business insurance depends on the type of insurance your business needs, but typically ranges between $700 and $3,800 a year.
You can get a free quote for your business insurance here.
Holding Your LLC Compliant
In order to legally operate your North Carolina LLC, you will need to:
- Secure the proper business licenses and permits
- Register for taxes in North Carolina
- Understand federal taxes and reporting to the IRS
- File Your North Carolina annual report
We dive into each of these requirements below.
Secure the proper business licenses and permits
Depending on your industry, there are certain licenses and permits you may need in order to comply with state and federal regulations.
To understand the type of licenses and permits you need for your small business, please refer to the below resources:
- North Carolina Business Development Website
- Contact your local office for business permiting and license requirements
- Federal Business Permitting and Licenses
Register For Taxes In North Carolina
Depending on the scope of your business, you may be required to register for the following taxes:
1. North Carolina Sales Tax
Register for North Carolina Sales Tax and Seller's Permit
2. North Carolina Employer Tax
Register for North Carolina Employer Tax and Unemployment Insurance Tax
North Carolina Sales Tax
If you are selling a physical product (digital goods/services or traditional goods/services) you will need to register for a North Carolina seller's permit.
- Goods & Services that require sales tax: physical property such as furniture, home appliances, and motor vehicles.
- Goods & Services that are tax exempt: prescription medicine, groceries, and gasoline.
For a list of taxable services, download this PDF from the Department of Revenue website.
What is a seller permit?
A seller's permit is a certificate that allows a business to collect sales tax on taxable sales.
The application for a seller's permit is FREE and will never expire. You will need the following information to register:
- Date of first sale in North Carolina
- Personal identification info (SSN, address)
- Partner or Responsible Person, if applicable (name, title, SSN, address)
- Specifics about the items you plan to sell (start date, type of business, etc)
North Carolina Employer Tax
If you have one or more employees in North Carolina, you are required to register for unemployment insurance tax through the NC Division of Employment Security.
You are also required to register for Employee Withholding Tax through NC Department of Revenue.
Why do I need to register for unemployment insurance tax?
In order to provide unemployment insurance to those that qualify for benefits, the state is responsible for collecting unemployment tax from employers.
Federal LLC Taxes: Reporting Income to the IRS
There are two different forms for reporting your income to the IRS each year.
- Form 1065 Partnership Return: Typically, Multi-member LLCs use this form
- Form 1040 Schedule C: Typically, single-member LLCs use this form
All businesses are different when it comes to tax structures, so we recommend that you speak with a tax expert to ensure you are complying with all neccessary rules and regulations for your business.
Learn more about what's involved when filing your state and federal taxes here
File Your North Carolina Annual Report
You are required by law in North Carolina to file your LLC annual report with the State.
This costs $200 and can be filed one of two ways:
File Your North Carolina Annual Report
By April 15th each year, you are required to file your annual report and pay the non-refundable fee of $200
File your annual report online with the State of North Carolina
Download the annual report and mail to the following address:
Secretary of State
P.O. Box 29525
Raleigh, NC 27626
When is the annual report due in North Carolina?
The report is due each year by April 15th.
What happens if I'm late on filing my annual report?
The state of North Carolina will not charge any late fees if you miss your filing deadline.
However, North Carolina will dissolve your LLC within 60 days if you fail to file an annual report.
To learn more about filing your annual report in North Carolina, check out this video from the North Carolina Department of the Secretary of State:
Forming your LLC in North Carolina doesn't have to be difficult as long as you follow the steps diligently in this guide.
We hope you found this guide helpful!
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