Follow our step-by-step How to Start an LLC in Iowa guide to get started today.
- Name Your Iowa LLC
- Choose a Registered Agent
- File the Certificate of Organization
- Create an Operating Agreement
- Get an EIN
- File the Biennial Report
- Keep Your Company Compliant
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Step 1: Name Your Iowa 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 Iowa 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 Iowa? Make sure the name you want isn't already taken by doing a name search on the State of Iowa website.
To learn more about searching for an Iowa LLC name, read our full guide.
3. Is the URL available? We recommend that you check online 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.
Find a Domain Now
Once you have verified your name is available, you may now select a professional service to complete the LLC formation process for you.
We reviewed and ranked the best LLC services. Find out which is best for you.
Step 2: Choose a Registered Agent in Iowa
You are required to nominate an Iowa registered agent for your Iowa LLC.
What is a registered agent? A registered agent is an individual or business entity responsible for receiving important legal documents on behalf of your business. Think of your registered agent as your business's point of contact with the state.
Who can be a registered agent? A registered agent must be a resident of Iowa or a corporation, such as a registered agent service, authorized to transact business in Iowa. You may elect an individual within the company, including yourself.
Recommended: Check out these best registered agent services.
Step 3: File Your Iowa LLC Certificate of Organization
To register your Iowa LLC, you'll need to file a Certificate of Organization with the Iowa Secretary of State. You can apply online, by mail, or by fax. If filing a hard copy, you must draft your own Certificate of Organization in accordance with the Iowa state statutes.
Now is a good time to determine whether your LLC will be member-managed vs. manager-managed.
File the Certificate of Organization
OPTION 1: File the Certificate of Organization Online With Iowa Fast Track Filing
- OR -
OPTION 2: File by Mail or by Fax
Fee: $50 (Nonrefundable)
Online Filing: After logging in, click "File a Document," located in the top menu.
Lucas State Office Building
321 E 12th St
Des Moines, IA 50319
Fax: (515) 242-5953
Note: The state of Iowa does not have a standard Certificate of Organization to file by mail or fax. Instead, you must create your own Certificate of Organization by following the provided requirements.
For help with completing the form, visit our Iowa Certificate of Organization guide.
If you’re expanding your existing LLC to the state of Iowa, you will need to form a foreign LLC.
Step 4: Create Your Iowa LLC Operating Agreement
An operating agreement is not required in Iowa, 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? A comprehensive operating agreement 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 Iowa LLC operating agreement guide.
Recommended: Download a template or create a free operating agreement using our tool.
Step 5: Get an EIN for Your Iowa LLC
You can get an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS for free. It is used to identify a business entity and keep track of a business’s tax reporting. It is essentially a Social Security number (SSN) for the company.
Why do I need an EIN? An EIN number 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.
FOR INTERNATIONAL APPLICANTS: You do not need an SSN to get an EIN. Learn more here.
Step 6: File the Biennial Report
Iowa requires LLCs to file a biennial report every other year with the Iowa Secretary of State. This can be done online for $30 or by mail for $45. In the Fast Track Filing portal, you can choose whether to file the report online or print a paper form.
Biennial reports are due every odd-numbered year between January 1 and April 1. While the state does not charge late fees if you miss your filing deadline, it may administratively dissolve your LLC after a few months for failure to file a biennial report.
Steps After LLC Formation
Read all the steps you’ll need to maintain your LLC’s personal liability protection, open a business bank account, get business insurance, and stay up to date with state reporting requirements.
Visit our After Forming an LLC guide to learn more.
Step 7: Keep Your Company Compliant
Iowa LLC Licenses & Permits
To operate your LLC, you must comply with federal, state, and local government regulations. Fees and requirements for licenses and permits will vary depending on what sort of business license you need.
Find out how to get the necessary business licenses and permits for your LLC with our Iowa Business License guide.
Recommended: Consider having a professional service research your business’s licensing requirements. Read our best business license services review.
Iowa LLC Tax Filing Requirements
In order to keep your business in good standing, it's important to stay up to date on your Iowa LLC taxes.
Depending on the nature of your business, you may be required to register for one or more forms of state tax.
Iowa Sales Tax
Iowa has a base state sales tax of 6%, but the state notes that most sales subject to this tax will likely have an additional 1% local sales tax applied as well.
Iowa Employer Taxes
If you have employees in Iowa, you will have to register for Unemployment Insurance Tax through the Iowa Workforce Development website. You will also need to sign up for the Employee Withholding Tax through the Iowa Department of Revenue on behalf of your employees.
Iowa's current individual income tax rates range from 4.4% to 6% as part of a graduated system. Your bracket will depend on your LLC's total revenue.
State tax returns are due each year by May 1. To calculate your tax or determine your tax bracket, visit the Iowa Department of Revenue website.
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 workplace compliance posters and place them in visible areas of your work space
Find more information on the Iowa WorkForce Development website.
Recommended: Check out our Hiring for Your Small Business Guide for resources like sample job descriptions, payroll service reviews, and more.
Common Questions About Iowa LLCs
What is an LLC?
LLC is short for “limited liability company.” It is a simple business structure that offers more flexibility than a traditional corporation while providing many of the same benefits. Read our What is a Limited Liability Company guide for more information.
Or, watch our two-minute video: What is an LLC?
How do I name my Iowa LLC?
You must follow the Iowa LLC naming guidelines when choosing a name for your LLC:
- Include the phrase "limited liability company" or one of its abbreviations (LLC or L.L.C.).
- Do not use words that could confuse your business with a government agency (FBI, State Department, CIA, etc.).
- Receive the proper licensing when using the words such as lawyer or doctor.
If you are having trouble coming up with a name for your LLC, use our LLC Name Generator. That will not only find a unique name for your business but an available URL to match.
After you get your business name, get a unique logo using our Free Logo Generator.
Do I need to get a DBA or assumed name for my business?
Most LLCs in Iowa do not need an assumed name (known generally as a DBA name). The name of the LLC can serve as your 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 another name.
To learn more about DBAs in your state, read our How to File a DBA guide.
Can I be my own registered agent?
Yes. You or anyone else in your company (i.e., other LLC owners) can serve as the registered agent for your LLC. You can also choose to have your registered agent be an Iowa-based or foreign business entity authorized to do business in Iowa. Your LLC as an entity cannot act as your agent.
Read more about being your own 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 LLC. For most businesses, the advantages of using a professional service significantly outweigh the annual costs.
For more information, read our article on Iowa registered agents.
Can I file an LLC online in Iowa?
Yes. You can file your Certificate of Organization online using the Iowa Secretary of State's Fast Track Filing portal.
What is the processing time to form my Iowa LLC?
If filing online, your Certificate of Organization is immediately processed. If filing by mail or fax, processing times can reach up to two weeks.
What is the difference between a domestic Iowa LLC and foreign LLC?
An LLC is referred to as a "domestic LLC" when it conducts business in the state where it was formed. A foreign LLC must be formed when an existing LLC wishes to expand its business to another state.
Read our What Is a Foreign LLC article to learn more.
How much does an LLC cost in Iowa?
The cost to start an Iowa LLC with the Secretary of State Business Services Division is $50.
To learn more, read our guide on the cost to form an Iowa LLC.
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.
How do I get an EIN if I don’t have a Social Security number?
An SSN is not required to get an EIN. You can simply fill out IRS Form SS-4 and leave section 7b blank. Then call the IRS at (267) 941-1099 to complete your application. Learn more here applying as an international applicant.
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, which means they are taxed either as a sole proprietorship (single-member) or a partnership (multi-member).
Do I need an EIN for my LLC?
All LLCs with employees, or any LLC with more than one member, must have an EIN. This is required by the IRS.
Learn why we recommend always getting an EIN and how to get one for free in our Do I Need an EIN for an LLC guide.
What is the minimum wage in Iowa?
The minimum wage in Iowa is $7.25 per hour.
How often do I need to pay employees?
Iowa allows wages to be paid in any frequency, as long as it is on a reliable schedule and happens once per month.