Starting a business is stressful, not to mention if you want to register as a limited liability company (LLC). An LLC takes aspects of different business types and combines them into one big (and sometimes complicated) establishment. But no fear, we’re here to clear it up for you.
How is an LLC Different?
LLCs differ from say, a sole proprietorship, in the sense that the business owners aren’t usually personally responsible for its debts or lawsuits. When it comes to the IRS, though, LLCs have this odd assortment of tax flexibility, which can cause varying degrees of confusion when tax season comes.
LLCs can technically choose their tax status – they can pick if they want to be treated like a sole proprietorship, partnership or corporation. If there’s only one owner (also known as a “member”) it’ll automatically be treated as a sole proprietorship. If there’s more than one owner, it’ll automatically be treated as a partnership. However, if you want your LLC to be taxed like a corporation, you can fill out a form with the IRS to change this tax status (here are all the hard details from the IRS if you’re looking to file your taxes as an LLC).
So the real answer is, LLCs don’t differ in the eyes of the IRS because they’re filed the same way as other business types, and they’re usually filed on the owner(s) income taxes. They do, however, require more paperwork and higher fees. But the real reason an LLC is a common choice for business owners is that if for some reason your business must file for bankruptcy or gets sued, being an LLC would mean your personal assets are covered. In the eyes of the law, your business is separate from you.
(Here’s a disclaimer, though – banking, trust and insurance industry-related businesses can’t be LLCs, and several states won’t let accountants, doctors, architects or healthcare workers be LLCs, either.)
Articles of Organization
If you want to start an LLC, you’ll have to file articles of organization in the state where you want to operate. They often only require basic information, nothing too complicated. Remember, the requirements and stipulations do vary by state, so you’ll definitely want to check specifically for what your state requires. However, most states will require these basic things before you file your articles of organization.
- A business name, and it has to end with “LLC.” It also has to be unique, and can’t be the same as another LLC in your state. They’ll also want it to not be confusing – such as including the word “bank” when you’re not a bank (Legal Zoom lets you search to see if your name is available).
- Location – where will your business be physically located?
- Names and addresses of the owners (a.k.a. members).
- A registered agent – this is the person or entity that accepts the legal papers of your LLC. It can be you or a co-owner. You can also appoint your business attorney as your registered agent, or you can get registered agent services from online legal services.
It’s very important to make sure you’ve got all the local licensing requirements down. Counties and cities may have more specific requirements than the state does (FaaSfunds is in Charlotte, N.C., so we have a specific set of rules – the rules and applications for your city/county will be found on a similar local website). Certain industries are regulated more heavily than others as well, like food and beverage. Contact your secretary of state office to figure out these specific rules.
You could also draft an LLC operating agreement, which isn’t required but is recommended. It simply outlines organization and structure for your LLC – like who will do what within the LLC, how much money has gone into it and who contributed it, along with other operating procedures. It’s a legal document, so once signed, it’s binding. By creating terms and having all active parties agree to them, it creates less confusion about everyday business.
How To File Articles of Organization
First, you’ll file the articles online or by mail. These details vary by state – in North Carolina, the form is available to fill out online and has a $125 filing fee. Once you fill out the form, submit it and pay the fee, you’ll receive confirmation in the form of a certificate from the state, which can take a few weeks.
What About After?
If you haven’t made an LLC operating agreement yet, now could be a good time. You should also apply for an employer identification number (EIN) if you have employees. This is essentially a social security number for businesses and is important in separating business finances from personal finances. This way, you can start to establish credit as a business and apply for loans and credit cards without intertwining your personal finances.
If you want to know more about building business credit or getting a loan for your new LLC, let FaaSfunds help. We’ve got industry experts to provide you with credit advice and proven loan-matching software. Check us out today.