STEP 1: Name your LLC
Choosing a company name is the first and most important step in starting your LLC. Be sure to choose a name that complies with Alabama naming requirements and is easily searchable by potential clients.
1. Follow the naming guidelines:
- Your name must include the phrase “limited liability company,” or one of its abbreviations (LLC or L.L.C.).
- Your name cannot include words that could confuse your LLC with a government agency (FBI, Treasury, State Department, etc.).
- Restricted words (e.g. Bank, Attorney, University) may require additional paperwork and a licensed individual, such as a doctor or lawyer, to be part of your LLC.
2. Is the name available in Alabama? Make sure the name you want isn't already taken by doing a name search on the State of Alabama website.
4. Is the URL available? We recommend that you check to see if your business name is available as a web domain. Even if you don't plan to make a business website today, you may want to buy the URL in order to prevent others from acquiring it.
After registering a domain name, consider setting up a professional email account (@yourcompany.com). Google's G Suite offers a business email service that comes with other useful tools, including word processing, spreadsheets, and more. Try it for free
FAQ: Naming an LLC
What is an LLC?
Do I need to get a DBA or Trade Name for my business?
Most LLCs do not need a DBA. The name of the LLC can serve as company’s brand name, and you can accept checks and other payments under that name as well. However, you may wish to register a DBA if you would like to conduct business under a name other than that of your LLC. Learn more here.
STEP 2: Choose a Registered Agent
You are required to nominate a Registered Agent for your Alabama LLC.
What is a Registered Agent? a Registered Agent is a person or business that agrees to send and receive legal papers on behalf of your LLC. Such papers include service of process of legal action (if you are sued) and state filings.
Who can be a Registered Agent? a Registered Agent must be a resident of Alabama or a corporation authorized to transact business in Alabama. You may elect an individual within the company including yourself.
Learn more about the role of a registered agent and why you should consider hiring a professional service.
STEP 3: File the Certificate of Formation
To register your LLC, you will need to file the Certificate of Formation with the State of Alabama. This can be done online or by mail.
When filing, you will need to state whether your LLC will be member-managed or manager-managed. We recommend learning more about these two options before you file.
How to File Online
Select "non-subscriber" and fill out the online form.
Note: If you wish to subscribe to Alabama Interactive, the annual fee is $95. However, this service is designed for attorneys, serial entrepreneurs, and real estate investors who need to track many LLCs simultaneously. It is not recommended for most LLC owners.
How to File by Mail
Mail the following to the Office of the Judge of Probate in your Registered Agent's county:
- One (1) signed original Certificate of Formation document
- Two (2) completed copies
- $100 check payable to the Secretary of State
- Additional check payable to the Judge of Probate's Office in your Registered Agent's county. Exact fee varies by county. Contact your local Probate Office for more information.
Note: DO NOT mail any of these documents or payments directly to the Secretary of State. Your local Probate Office will submit all payments and paperwork on your behalf.
If you’re expanding your existing LLC to the State of Alabama, you need to form a Foreign LLC.
STEP 4: Create an Operating Agreement
An operating agreement is not required in Alabama, but it's a good practice to have one.
What is an operating agreement? An operating agreement is a legal document outlining the ownership and operating procedures of an LLC.
Why are operating agreements important? An operating agreement is an important document because it ensures that all business owners are on the same page and reduces the risk of future conflict.
For more information on operating agreements, read our Alabama LLC operating agreement guide.
Recommended: Use our free Operating Agreement Tool to draft a customized operating agreement for your LLC.
FAQ: Creating an Operating Agreement
Do I need to file my operating agreement with the state?
No. The operating agreement is an internal document that you should keep on file for future reference. However, many states do legally require LLCs to have an operating agreement in place.
STEP 5: Obtain an EIN
What is an EIN? The Employer Identification Number (EIN), or Federal Tax Identification Number, is used to identify a business entity. It is essentially a social security number for the company.
Why do I need an EIN? An EIN is required for the following:
- To open a business bank account for the company
- For Federal and State tax purposes
- To hire employees for the company
Where do I get an EIN? An EIN is obtained from the IRS (free of charge) by the business owner after forming the company. This can be done online or by mail.
FAQ: Getting an EIN
How do I get an EIN if I don’t have a social security number?
What tax structure should I choose for my LLC?
When you get an EIN, you will be informed of the different tax classification options that are available. Most LLCs elect the default tax status.
However, some LLCs can reduce their federal tax obligation by choosing S corporation status. We recommend consulting with a local accountant to find out which option is best for you.
Considering Using an LLC Formation Service?
We reviewed and ranked the top 5 LLC formation services.
Find out which is best for you.
State Taxes for your Alabama LLC
Depending on the nature of your business, you may be required to register for one or more forms of state tax:
- If you are selling a physical product, you’ll typically need to register for a sellers permit through the Alabama Taxation website.
- If you have employees in Alabama, you will need to register for Unemployment Insurance Tax through the Alabama Department of Labor website.
- Employers who are required to pay Employee Withholding Tax will need to register with the Alabama Department of Revenue.
Business Banking for Personal Asset Protection
Using dedicated business banking and credit accounts is essential for personal asset protection.
When your personal and business accounts are mixed, your personal assets (your home, car, and other valuables) are at risk in the event your LLC is sued. In business law, this is referred to as piercing your corporate veil.
You can protect your business with these two steps:
1. Opening a business bank account:
- Separates your personal assets from your company's assets, which is necessary for personal asset protection.
- Makes accounting and tax filing easier.
2. Getting a business credit card:
- Helps you separate personal and business expenses.
- Builds your company's credit history, which can be useful to raise capital later on.
Recommended: Compare business credit card offers at CreditCards.com. Learn more.
Accounting for your LLC
Even if you haven’t officially opened for business – it’s critical to get your books in order. A well managed accounting system will help you:
- Track your business finances, including bills, expenses, and income.
- Simplify your annual tax filings.
The right software makes accounting easy. Look for software that:
- Syncs with your bank automatically.
- Matches transactions to invoices, bills and purchase orders.
- Can be accessed from your phone.
Recommended: FinancePal is a one stop shop to meet all your accounting and tax filing needs.
Alabama Business Permits and Licenses
To operate your LLC you must comply with federal, state, and local government regulations. For example, restaurants likely need health permits, building permits, signage permits, etc.
The details of business licenses and permits vary from state to state. Make sure you read carefully. Don't be surprised if there are short classes required as well.
Fees for business licenses and permits will vary depending on what sort of license you are seeking to obtain.
Find out how to obtain necessary licenses and permits for your business or have a professional service do it for you:
Federal: Use the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) guide.
State: Use the State of Alabama's Licensing Section.
Local: Contact your local county clerk and ask about local licenses and permits.
Recommended: If you are a first-time entrepreneur, consider having a professional service research your business’ licensing requirements. Our friends at Startup Savant have reviewed and ranked the top five license research services.
Insuring Your Business
Business insurance helps you manage risks and focus on growing your business. The most common types of business insurance are:
- General Liability Insurance: A broad insurance policy that protects your business from lawsuits. Most small businesses get general liability insurance.
- Professional Liability Insurance: A business insurance for professional service providers (consultants, accountants, etc.) that covers against claims of malpractice and other business errors.
- Workers' Compensation Insurance: A type of insurance that provides coverage for employees’ job-related illnesses, injuries, or deaths. In Alabama, businesses with five or more employees are required by law to have workers' compensation insurance. Note that officers and LLC members are counted as employees. Get a free quote with ADP.
How much will the right insurance cost you? Click here to find out.
If you plan to hire employees, stay compliant with the law by following these steps:
- Verify that new employees are able to work in the US
- Report employees as "new hires" to the State
- Provide workers' compensation insurance for employees
- Withhold employee taxes
- Print compliance posters and place them in visible areas of your work space
Find more information at the Alabama Department of Labor.
Recommended: A payroll service saves you time and makes it easier to follow these requirements.
We understand that creating an LLC and getting your business up and running comes with many challenges. To help you succeed, we compiled the best local resources in every major metro area in Alabama. You can get free assistance in the following areas:
In Alabama all businesses are required to purchase an annual license to do business known as the Business Privilege License. You must purchase a license in every county where you do business. Licenses can be purchased from the local County Probate Judge.
Business Privilege Tax
Every LLC that conducts business in Alabama is required to submit an annual PPT form, or privilege tax form for pass-through entities, before the third week of April. This tax is between 0.00025% - 0.00175% of the net worth of your LLC. The exact tax rate depends on your business' income during the previous taxable year. The minimum Business Privilege Tax amount is $100.
How to Obtain a Certificate of Good Standing
A Certificate of Good Standing, known in Alabama as a Certificate of Compliance, verifies that your LLC was legally formed and has been properly maintained. Several instances where you might need to get one include:
- Seeking funding from banks or other lenders
- Forming your business as a foreign LLC in another state
- Obtaining or renewing specific business licenses or permits
You can order an Alabama LLC Certificate of Compliance online.
Order a Certificate of Good Standing
Request a Certificate of Compliance Online through the Alabama Department of Revenue
Fee: $10 (Nonrefundable)
Dissolve Your Alabama LLC
If at any point in the future you no longer wish to conduct business with your LLC, it is important to officially dissolve it. Failure to do so in a timely fashion can result in tax liabilities and penalties, or even legal trouble. To dissolve your LLC, there are two broad steps:
- Close your business tax accounts
- File the Articles of Dissolution
When you are ready to dissolve your LLC, follow the steps in our Alabama LLC Dissolution Guide.
Report LLC Income
Avoid Automatic Dissolution
LLCs may face fines and even automatic dissolution when they miss one or more state filings. When this happens, LLC owners risk loss of limited liability protection. A quality registered agent service can help prevent this outcome by notifying you of upcoming filing deadlines, and even submitting reports on your behalf for an additional fee.
Recommended: Incfile offers a reliable registered agent service and excellent customer support.
Forming a foreign LLC allows your company to operate as one entity in multiple states. If you have an existing LLC and want to do business in Alabama, you will need to register as a foreign LLC. This can be done online or by mail.
Register as a Foreign LLC in Alabama
OPTION 1: File Online with the State of Alabama
Select "Non-Subscriber", located down the page, to begin application
Fee: $150 by Mail, $250 Online (Nonrefundable)
Office of the Secretary of State
PO Box 5616
Montgomery, AL 36103