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Forming a Corporation in Alabama is Easy

You can start a corporation in Alabama by filing the Certificate of Incorporation with the Secretary of State. In this guide, we will show you how to form a corporation in Alabama yourself.

If you’d like to know more about hiring a professional service to set up a corporation for you, take a look at our Top 7 Business Formation Services review.

Follow our step-by-step How to Start a Corporation in Alabama guide to get started today.

Step 1: Name Your Alabama Corporation

Choosing a business name is the first step in starting a corporation. You must choose a unique name that complies with Alabama corporation naming requirements.

1. Alabama naming guidelines:

  • You MUST reserve your corporation’s name online or by mail before registering it.
  • Your name must contain the word “corporation,” “incorporated,” or an abbreviation of one of these terms. Exceptions include nonprofit corporations, banks, trust companies, savings and loan associations, and insurance companies.
  • Any banking-related name needs a letter from the Alabama Banking Commissioner’s Office, and any insurance-related name needs a letter from the Alabama Insurance Commissioner’s Office.
  • Any name using a professional designation in the name (e.g., engineering, attorney) requires a copy of the license of one officer/member or a letter from the governing agency allowing the use of the name without licensing.
  • Your name must be different from any name on the record with the Secretary of State (words or abbreviations indicating the type of company such as LLC, Inc., etc. are not taken into account when determining distinguishability).
  • Your name cannot include words that could confuse your corporation with a government agency (FBI, Treasury, State Department, etc.).
  • Your name cannot include any words that indicate or imply that the corporation is engaged in a business that is not authorized by law to pursue.

Read the Alabama state statute regarding corporation naming guidelines for more information.

 2. Is my corporation name available in Alabama?

Your Alabama corporation name must be unique and distinguishable from other business names in Alabama. Use the Alabama Secretary of State’s Business Entity Search Portal to determine if your desired business name is available.

For more information about Alabama corporation name searches, visit our How to Name a Business guide and select Alabama from the drop-down menu.

3. Alabama Name Reservation Form

You must complete the Name Reservation Request Form for Domestic Entities before you register your corporation. This can be done online or by mail with the Alabama Secretary of State. The filing fee is $25 for mailed requests, $27 for online subscribers, and $28 for online non-subscribers.

4. Is the URL available?

Before you register your Alabama corporation, you should see if a good URL is available for your desired business name. Even if you aren’t planning on creating a business website now, we advise buying a web domain right away to prevent other businesses from taking it.

We recommend using GoDaddy to search for your options.

Find a Domain Now

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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

Need Help Naming Your Business?

Use our Business Name Generator to brainstorm your business's perfect name. For more help, visit our free How to Name a Business guide.

FAQ: Naming an Alabama Corporation

How do I name my business?

Naming your business involves several variables. From naming guidelines to brainstorming your brand, we have it covered.

To learn more, visit our How to Name a Business guide and select Alabama from the drop-down menu.

Do I need to get a DBA (Doing Business As) or trade name for my business?

You will need to set up a DBA to operate under a name other than your legal name. Some states also require certain business types to file a DBA.

To learn more about state DBA guidelines, visit our How to File a DBA guide and select Alabama from the drop-down menu.

Step 2: Choose an Alabama Registered Agent

You must appoint an Alabama registered agent when you register your corporation with the Secretary of State.

What is a Registered Agent? A registered agent is an individual or entity that has been appointed by an LLC or corporation to receive service of process, government correspondence, and compliance documents on behalf of a business. To learn more, read our What is a Registered Agent guide.

Who Can Be a Registered Agent? Your registered agent can be an individual, business entity, or professional registered agent service. Any member of the corporation or individual can serve as your Alabama registered agent as long as the person:

  • is 18 years or older
  • has a physical address in the state where business activity is conducted
  • is available (in person) during normal business hours

Designating someone else to serve as a registered agent for your LLC or corporation has its benefits. To learn more about hiring a registered agent service for your corporation, read our Should I Use a Registered Agent Service guide.

Recommended: ZenBusiness includes registered agent service with their incorporation package ($39 for the 1st year + State Fees).

FAQ: Choosing an Alabama Registered Agent

Is a registered agent service worth it?

Using a professional registered agent service is an affordable way to manage government filings for your Alabama corporation. For most businesses, the advantages of using a professional service significantly outweigh the annual costs.

For more information on how to set up a registered agent in your state, visit our What is a Registered Agent guide and choose Alabama from the drop-down menu.

What happens if I don’t have a registered agent?

If you don't have a registered agent, there are negative consequences in most states. Your business could be penalized with lawsuits and fines, lose good standing with the state, and could eventually be dissolved.

Step 3: Hold an Organizational Meeting

Before you officially file the Certificate of Incorporation in Step 4, you will need to hold an organizational meeting to complete the following tasks:

  • Fill out and execute the Certificate of Incorporation
  • Create and approve bylaws
  • Select your initial director(s)
  • Determine your share structure
  • Execute an Incorporator’s Statement

Create and Approve Corporate Bylaws

Bylaws are the rules that determine how your organization will be governed and run. You can think about the bylaws as a constitution for your corporation. It makes the rules and priorities clear for everyone involved.

A corporation’s bylaws will supplement any rules set forth by the federal government or the state.

In your bylaws, be sure to include:

  • How the corporation will be governed, including the role of directors and officers
  • How meetings are held, voting procedures, electing officers or directors
  • How records will be kept and managed
  • How disputes will be handled
  • How bylaws will be added/amended in the future
  • The date of the annual shareholder meeting
  • How to negotiate contracts
  • Fiduciary duties to the corporation (i.e. acting in the best interests of the corporation)
  • What constitutes a quorum for voting purposes

What is a Quorum? A Quorum is the minimum number of members that must be present at a meeting to make the proceedings of the meeting valid, including any of the votes held therein.

A cube with LLC printed on its sides

Ready to get started? These bylaws templates can be customized to suit the needs of your incorporated business.

Appoint Initial Directors

You must appoint at least one director who will oversee your Alabama corporation until the first shareholder meeting.

A corporate director is in charge of the adoption, amendment, and repeal of operational bylaws as well as the election, supervision, and removal of officers.

After forming the corporation, the incorporator(s) — or initial director(s), if named on the formation documents — should call an organizational meeting. During this initial meeting, either the incorporator(s) will elect the board of directors or the initial director(s) will appoint the officers. 

Choose a Share Structure and Strategy

A share of stock is the unit of ownership of a corporation. Each share of stock represents a percentage of ownership of the company. For example, if a corporation issues one share of stock the shareholder (stock owner) would then own 100% of the corporation. 

Shares can be structured into classes. Each class, termed a share class, holds different rights and privileges. You can have multiple classes and each class can hold any number of shares.

Authorized Shares: the number of shares the corporation is allowed to issue.
Issued Shares: the total number of shares actually issued to shareholders.
Share Class: a group of shares that has a unique set of rights and privileges.

In Alabama, the standard Certificate of Incorporation form for corporations only has space to list one share class. If your corporation has more than one class of stock, you can attach that information separately and check the box on the Certificate of Incorporation that indicates there is additional information attached.

NOTE: We recommend starting with a high number of authorized shares. Many attorneys suggest 10 million. By starting with a high number, you have the flexibility to issue shares as needed without paying legal fees to increase your initial authorized shares amount.

Create and Execute an Incorporator’s Statement

The incorporator(s) should sign an Incorporator’s Statement with complete names and addresses of each initial director and store it in the corporate records book. 

This document names the initial director(s) that will serve until the board of directors is elected during the first shareholder’s meeting. It should be stored with the rest of your corporate records.

FAQ: Initial Directors & Share Structure

What is a Corporate Director?

A corporate director is in charge of the adoption, amendment, and repeal of operational bylaws as well as the election, supervision, and removal of officers.

What is a Share Class?

A share class is a group of shares that has a unique set of rights and privileges compared to other shares of the same corporation. 

Step 4: File the Alabama Certificate of Incorporation

You will need to file the Alabama Certificate of Incorporation to set up a corporation in Alabama. The Certificate of Incorporation is the document that officially creates your Alabama corporation and you can file it online or by mail with both the Secretary of State. The filing cost is $100 plus any applicable county fees.

This document will cover the basics of your corporation, including:

  • Corporate name and principal address
  • Corporate service of process agent name and street address
  • The number of authorized shares the corporation is allowed to issue

In Alabama, the standard Certificate of Incorporation form for corporations only has space to list one share class. If your corporation has more than one class of stock, you can attach that information separately and check the box on the Certificate of Incorporation that indicates there is additional information attached.

File the Alabama Certificate of Incorporation

Option 1: File Online With the Alabama Secretary of State

File Online


OR


Option 2: File the Certificate of Incorporation by Mail

Download Form


Filing Cost: $100

Filing Address:
Secretary of State, Business Services
P.O. Box 5616
Montgomery, AL 36103-5616

Note:
Depending on the county that your corporation is filing from, you may not be able to file online. Alabama’s Online Services will notify you if this is the case.

FAQ: Filing the Alabama Certificate of Incorporation

What is an S corporation?

An S corporation is a tax designation that can be used by corporations and LLCs alike. S corporations are taxed as pass-through entities. This means that S corps do not pay federal taxes on their business income. Instead, the profits of the business “pass-through” to the owners of the S corp, who are also known as shareholders.

Read our What is an S Corporation article to learn more.

What is a C corporation?

A C corporation is the default structure of an incorporated company. It’s a separate legal entity from its owners with a basic operational structure consisting of shareholders, officers, directors, and employees.

Read our What is a C Corp article to learn more.

How many authorized shares should my corporation list?

New corporations should list a high number of authorized shares on their Alabama Certificate of Incorporation. Most legal and business professionals recommend 10 million shares be authorized when a corporation is formed.

What is an authorized share vs an issued share?

Authorized shares are the number of shares that a corporation is allowed to issue. This number is initially set by the incorporator on the corporation’s formation documents and can be increased later by going through a legal process. Issued shares are the shares that have actually been distributed to shareholders.

Step 5: Get an EIN for Your Alabama Corporation

What is an EIN? An Employer Identification Number (EIN), or Federal Tax Identification Number (FTIN), is used by the federal government 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

How 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

Get an EIN

Option 1: Request an EIN from the IRS

Apply Online

- OR -

Option 2: Apply for an EIN by Mail or Fax

Download Form

Mail to:
Internal Revenue Service
Attn: EIN Operation
Cincinnati, OH 45999

Fax: (855) 641-6935

Fee: Free

Considering Using an Incorporation Service?

We reviewed and ranked the top 7 incorporation services. 
Find out which is right for your business. 

Best Incorporation Services

How to Run an Alabama Corporation

It is very important to adhere to the formalities of running a corporation. In order to protect your personal assets, and not allow creditors or municipalities to pierce your corporate veil, you must:

  • Maintain up-to-date bylaws
  • Set up a corporate records book
  • Hold required annual meetings
  • Give notice of meetings when applicable
  • Keep accurate meeting minutes

Maintain Your Alabama Corporation Bylaws

You must maintain up-to-date bylaws to protect your corporate veil. 

If you want to amend a section or article of your corporation’s bylaws, you must call a special meeting with the board of directors. During this meeting, a copy of your proposed changes should be distributed to the board members. Depending on your bylaw structure, either a majority vote or minimum vote will be required to pass the amendment.

After the first meeting, notices must be sent to the corporation’s shareholders. A second meeting will need to be held with all voting parties to either approve or disapprove your proposed amendments.

Set up a Corporate Records Book

Think of this as the hard-copy record book where all critical corporate documents are kept, like your Alabama Certificate of Incorporation, bylaws, meeting minutes, stock certificate ledger, stock transfer documents, etc.

You should keep the corporate records book at your principal location. Corporate records book kits can be purchased online, or you can use a large generic binder to store your records.

Hold Periodic Board Meetings and Record Minutes

You must hold regular corporate meetings to maintain your business's management structure.

Annual Shareholders Meeting

Corporations in Alabama must hold an annual shareholder meeting. The first annual shareholder meeting should occur soon after formation. During this meeting, the shareholders elect the board of directors. Your corporate bylaws should note the date of your annual shareholders meeting.

Special Meetings

Corporations might also need to conduct “special” board of director’s meetings. These meetings are called to discuss important business matters that will affect the corporation. Your state may have unique meeting notice requirements for special meetings.

Notice of Meetings

If your corporation has more than one shareholder, you will need to provide formal notice of meetings to owners (shareholders), employees, and officers before the meeting occurs. The notice must provide the following information:

  • Whether the meeting is a regular or special meeting
  • Where the meeting will be held
  • When the meeting will occur

When a meeting must be held at the last minute, without formal notice of the meeting, a waiver of notice must be signed by all eligible people stating that they are giving up the right to receive formal notice as laid out in the bylaws and formation documents. 

Meeting Minutes

Meeting minutes are legally required in Alabama. Well-recorded minutes are indispensable during disputes and court actions. 

For single-shareholder corporations (common for small business owners), minutes general only need to record the following:

  • The date of the meeting
  • A note that it was a joint meeting of the shareholders and board of directors
  • When the next election of the board of directors will meet if that date is part of your corporate bylaws

Several companies offer corporate minutes templates. To learn more, read our review of the Best Corporate Meeting Minutes Templates.

Taxes, Annual Reports, & Licensing

Alabama State Corporation Tax Requirements

Depending on the nature of your business, you may be required to register for one or more forms of state tax:

Alabama Sales Tax

If you are selling a physical product, you’ll typically need to register for a seller's permit through the Department of Revenue’s My Alabama Taxes website. This certificate allows a business to collect sales tax on taxable sales.

Sales tax, also called "Sales and Use Tax," is a tax levied by states, counties, and municipalities on business transactions involving the exchange of certain taxable goods or services.

Read our sales tax guide to find out more.

Alabama Employer Taxes

If you hire employees, you will need to register for Alabama employer taxes through the Department of Revenue’s My Alabama Taxes website. This includes Employee Withholding Tax, Unemployment Insurance Tax, and Disability Insurance.

Alabama Corporation Licenses and Permits

Do I need business licenses and permits?
To operate your corporation in Alabama, 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.

Obtain the correct Alabama business licenses and permits for your corporation, or have a professional licensing service do it for you:

File the Alabama Annual Report and Business Privilege Tax Return

You must file the Alabama Business Privilege Tax Return and Annual Report (Form CPT) each year. Alabama provides detailed instructions about how to fill out the report.

Corporate Dissolution & Alabama Good Standing

How to Get an Alabama Certificate of Good Standing

A Certificate of Good Standing verifies that a corporation was legally formed and has been properly maintained. Alabama has two forms that serve this purpose: a Certificate of Existence and a Certificate of Compliance.

A Certificate of Existence verifies that your Alabama corporation is on record with the state. A Certificate of Compliance shows if your corporation has filed its annual reports and paid its taxes. Several instances where you might need to get one of these forms include:

  • Seeking funding from banks or other lenders
  • Forming your business as a foreign corporation in another state
  • Obtaining or renewing specific business licenses or permits

To order a Certificate of Existence in Alabama, you must complete an Application for Certificate of Existence of Registered Entities form. You can submit this form to the Secretary of State in person, by mail, or online.

To order a Certificate of Compliance in Alabama, you must fill out the online order form with the Alabama Department of Revenue.

File a Certificate of Existence

Option 1: Request a Certificate Online

Request Online


OR


Option 2: Request a Certificate by Mail

Download Form


Fee: $27 online for subscribers, $28 online for non-subscribers; $10 by mail

Mailing Address:
Office of the Alabama Secretary of State
Business Services Division/Business Entities
P.O. Box 5616
Montgomery, Alabama 36103-5616

File a Certificate of Compliance

Request a Certificate of Compliance With Alabama’s Department of Revenue

Request Online

Fee: $14

How to Dissolve a Corporation in Alabama

If at any point you would like to permanently stop doing business, or close your business, it is important to officially dissolve your corporation. Failure to do so in a timely fashion can result in tax liabilities, penalties, or even legal trouble.

There are five main steps to close your Alabama corporation:

  • Stop doing business
  • Hold a board meeting, vote on dissolution, and record the meeting in the corporation minutes
  • File the Articles of Dissolution with the Judge of Probate in the county where the corporation was formed
  • Close your federal and state business tax accounts with the IRS and Alabama Department of Revenue
  • Close your business bank accounts

File Dissolution Documents

You must dissolve or close your corporation in Alabama by filing the Domestic Business Corporation Articles of Dissolution with the Judge of Probate in the county where the corporation was formed. 

Is a Corporation Right For You?

An LLC provides limited liability protection without corporate complexity.
Find out if an LLC is the right structure for you.

LLC vs. Corporation | Form an LLC

Protect Your Business & Personal Assets

Open a Business Bank Account

To maintain personal asset protection, it is essential to have dedicated business banking and business credit accounts.

When your personal and professional accounts are mixed, personal assets like your home or vehicle are at risk in the event your Alabama corporation is sued. This is also known as piercing the corporate veil.

You can protect your Alabama corporation by following these two steps:

1. Get a Business Bank Account

Opening a business bank account protects your personal assets and legitimizes your corporation. Separating your professional account from your personal account also simplifies your business’s tax filing and accounting processes.

To open a bank account for your Alabama corporation, you will need an Employer Identification Number (EIN) and your corporation’s formation documents.

For a look at our favorite business checking accounts, visit our Top 5 Small Business Bank Accounts review.

A cube with LLC printed on its sides

Recommended: Find the right bank for you, read our review of the Top 5 Banks for Your Small Business

2. Open a Business Credit Card

Much like a business bank account, a dedicated business credit card will help your Alabama corporation separate your personal and professional expenses. 

In addition to this, a business credit card will also help build your business’s credit history, which can be used to raise capital for your corporation. A higher business credit score will also help your business obtain loans and higher credit limits later on.

Small business credit cards also offer benefits that personal credit cards do not, such as business-specific cash back rewards and travel perks.

A cube with LLC printed on its sides

Recommended: Learn about the best small business credit cards.

Accounting for your Corporation

It's important to get your books in order, even if you haven't officially opened for business. A well-managed accounting system will help you:

  • Track your business finances, including bills, expenses, and income.
  • Simplify and file your annual taxes.

You can maintain your accounting in two ways:

  • Use a DIY accounting software. This can come with an increased risk of errors especially when starting a new business.
  • Hire an accounting service. They can provide comprehensive advice to help optimize your bookkeeping and taxes as well as additional services such as payroll etc.
A cube with LLC printed on its sides

Recommended: For most small businesses, we recommend using a reputable accounting service. Schedule a free tax consultation for your business now to avoid costly errors in the future.

Get Insurance

Business insurance helps you manage risks and focus on growing your Alabama corporation. The most common types of business insurance are general liability insurance, professional liability insurance, and workers’ compensation.

Properly Execute Legal Documents

Signing a legal document improperly can leave you open to personal liability. You must sign as a representative of the business and not as yourself. When signing legal documents on behalf of your Alabama corporation, follow this formula to avoid problems:

  1. The formal name of your business
  2. Your signature
  3. Your name
  4. Your position in the business as its authorized representative

Alabama Corporation FAQ

Why Form a Corporation?

There are a number of good reasons to form a corporation. Some of the advantages include:

  • Limited liability protection
  • Unlimited capital generation
  • Corporate tax benefits
  • A more formal management structure
  • Appeal to investors

To fully realize the benefits of incorporating, you will want to consider your company’s capital needs, profits, and management and ownership structure to make sure forming a corporation is the best business structure for you.

To learn more about what business structure is best for you, read our How to Choose a Business Structure guide.

What Type of Corporation Should I Form?

The best type of corporation for your business depends on many factors. Here are some different types of corporations:

  • C corporations (C corps) are owned by stockholders, have a board of directors, and hold annual meetings.
  • S corporation (S corp) is a type of tax classification. Unlike a C corp, an S corp can pass-through income to its shareholders for tax purposes. S corps are limited to 100 shareholders. 
  • Professional corporations are generally for corporations that require certain licensed individuals (e.g., doctors, attorneys, etc.).
  • Nonprofit corporations use profits to advance the company’s mission rather than distributing them to shareholders.

You should carefully consider your business’s structure, goals, and financial situation before selecting your corporate structure.

Should I Form a Corporation or an LLC?

A limited liability company (LLC), unlike a sole proprietorship or a general partnership, offers personal asset protection in the event that your business is subject to legal action. Additionally, unlike corporations, LLCs are also simple to form, simple to maintain, and are able to avoid “double taxation.” 

That being said, corporations have an easier time raising capital than an LLC and they enjoy several tax benefits that LLCs do not, such as a lack of self-employment tax.

Deciding which is better—a corporation or an LLC—depends on your business’s specific situation. Your company’s size, structure, goals, and more will determine if it is better to form a corporation or form an LLC.

To learn more about which business structure is best for you, read our guide to choosing a business structure.

What is the Best State to Start a Corporation In?

While several states have laws designed to make them more attractive for corporations, the best state to incorporate in is generally the one where you are located and do the majority of your business. 

Certain corporate tax benefits or other laws may look appealing, but you may end up complicating things and paying taxes and meeting compliance regulations in multiple states.

Can a Non-Citizen Start a Corporation in the USA?

Yes, non-citizens can start a corporation in the United States. You will need a physical mailing address in the US as well as a US bank account.

For more information about opening a company in the USA, read our guide.

How Do I Choose a Business Name?

There are many things to consider when choosing a business name, including your brand, name availability, and the naming laws in the state you are incorporating in. You can read more details about how to name your business in our step-by-step guide.

How Much Does It Cost to Incorporate?

The cost of incorporating (filing formation documents such as Articles of Incorporation, a Certificate of Formation, etc.) is between about $45 and $300, depending on your state. There may also be attorney’s fees and a registered agent fee, among others.

To learn more about the cost of setting up a corporation in each state, visit our state-specific corporation guides.

What is a Registered Agent?

A registered agent accepts tax and legal documents on behalf of your business. Most states require your corporation to have a registered agent. The agent can be a professional service, yourself, or a colleague given they meet the state's criteria.

For more information, check out our What is a Registered Agent page.

What Forms Do I Need to Start a Corporation?

Every state requires corporations to file a formation document such as a Certificate of Formation, a Certificate of Incorporation, or the Articles of Incorporation. Some states may require additional documents, such as a state tax registration form. Check our state-specific formation guides for more details.

Professional corporations that require licensed individuals may need certain permits and licenses to operate their businesses.

Do Corporations Have Yearly Filings?

Many states require corporations to file an annual report or other annual corporation paperwork, but requirements can vary.

How Are Corporations Taxed?

Owners of C corps pay taxes on profits paid (salaries, bonuses, and dividends), then everything else is filed under the corporate tax rate. Because of this, corporations are said to be “double taxed.” They are taxed first when the company makes a profit and then taxed again when dividends are paid to shareholders.

S corps are taxed differently, with profits passing through to the owners’ individual tax returns. For more information, check out our What is an S Corporation page.

What is the Corporation Tax Rate?

The U.S. federal corporate tax rate is 21%. Corporations might also have to pay additional state or local corporate taxes depending on where they decide to do business.

Alabama Corporation Quick Links

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