How to Start an LLC in Iowa (2024 Guide)
Wondering how to start an LLC in Iowa? We’ve got you covered.
To get started, you'll need to pick a suitable business name, choose an Iowa registered agent, and file your Certificate of Organization with the Secretary of State ($50 processing fee).
You can do this independently, consult with a business attorney for specialized legal guidance, or join the other 65% of our readers and hire a specialized Iowa LLC formation service (recommended).
Northwest ($29 + State Fees)
LegalZoom ($249 + State Fees)
How to Form an LLC in Iowa in 6 Steps
In order to form your LLC in Iowa, there are certain steps you’ll need to complete:
- Name Your Iowa LLC
- Choose a Registered Agent
- File the Certificate of Organization
- Create an Operating Agreement
- Get an EIN
- File a Beneficial Ownership Information Report
Step 1: Name Your Iowa LLC
Before you get started, you will need to pick a suitable name for your Iowa LLC.
This will need to comply with all applicable naming requirements under Iowa law and be both succinct and memorable, as this will make it easily searchable by your potential clients.
1. Important Naming Guidelines for Iowa LLCs:
- Your name must contain the words “limited liability company,” “limited liability,” or a suitable abbreviation (e.g., L.L.C, L.C., LLC, etc.).
- Your name must be distinguishable from all other names that have been registered with the Iowa Secretary of State.
- Your name cannot contain language that in any way suggests that your LLC is related to or sponsored by a state or federal agency (e.g., “city,” “state,” “FBI,” etc.).
For more information, we recommend having a look at Iowa’s official LLC naming guidelines.
2. Is the name available in Iowa?
To check whether your desired name has already been taken by any other business entities in Iowa, you can perform a business entities search on the Secretary of State’s website.
If you’re not going to start your LLC right away, it might be a good idea to consider reserving your name for up to 120 days. You can do this online, but keep in mind that a $10 processing fee will need to be paid.
For more information, you can have a look at our Iowa LLC Name Search guide.
3. Is the URL available?
You should 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 right away, this is an extremely important step as it will prevent others from acquiring it, potentially saving you both time and money in the long term.
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Once you have verified your name is available, you may now select a professional service to complete the LLC formation process for you.
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If you need additional information before getting started, you can have a look at our in-depth comparison of the Best LLC Services in 2024 instead.
FAQ: Naming an Iowa LLC
LLC is short for “limited liability company.” It is a simple business structure that offers more flexibility than a traditional corporation while still providing liability protection for your personal assets. Read our What is a Limited Liability Company guide for more information.
Or, watch our two-minute video: What is an 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.
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.
Step 2: Choose a Registered Agent in Iowa
After you find the right name for your LLC, you will need to nominate an Iowa registered agent. This is a necessary step in your Certificate of Organization, which is the document used to file and register your LLC with the Secretary of State.
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 (e.g., service of process). Your registered agent will need to be physically present at your LLC’s registered office address during normal business hours.
Who can be a registered agent? A registered agent must be a resident of Iowa or a corporation that is authorized to transact business in the state. This can be a registered agent service (recommended), business attorney, or an LLC member (including yourself).
FAQ: Nominating a Registered Agent
Yes you can, as long as you are a resident of Iowa.
If this is not the case, you can use a different LLC member, work with a business attorney, or use a registered agent service.
For more information, we recommend having a look at our What is a Registered Agent overview.
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.
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 do this 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.
Before you get started, we recommend taking some time to ensure you have all of the required information, including:
- Your LLC’s finalized name, principal office address, and business purpose
- Your LLC’s registered agent name and physical street address.
- The names and addresses of your LLC’s members and organizers
- Your LLC’s duration period
- Your LLC’s management structure (e.g., member-managed, manager-managed, etc.).
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 FaxRead Requirements
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.
Note: If you're expanding your existing business to the state of Iowa, you'll need to register as a foreign limited liability company (LLC).
FAQ: Filing Iowa LLC Documents
Yes. You can file your Certificate of Organization online using the Iowa Secretary of State's Fast Track Filing portal.
Filing your Certificate of Organization can take around seven business days to get processed according to the Secretary of State. Having said that, the Iowa Secretary of State’s Office also offers an expedited filing service for an additional fee:
- Five-Day Service: $15
- Two-Day Service: $50
An LLC is referred to as a "domestic LLC" when it conducts business in the state where it was formed. A foreign limited liability company 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.
The cost to start your LLC independently is $50, which includes filing your Certificate of Organization. If you decide to use a business attorney, hire a registered agent service, reserve an LLC name in advance, or use an expedited filing service, your total cost could be significantly higher.
To learn more, read our guide on the cost to form an Iowa 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.
FAQ: Creating an Iowa LLC Operating Agreement
No. The operating agreement is an internal document that you should keep on file for future reference. However, many other states legally require LLCs to have an operating agreement.
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.
Get an EIN
Option 1: Request an EIN from the IRS
- OR -
Option 2: Apply for an EIN by Mail or Fax
Internal Revenue Service
Attn: EIN Operation
Cincinnati, OH 45999
Fax: (855) 641-6935
FAQ: Getting an EIN
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.
All LLCs with employees, or any LLC with more than one member, must have an IRS Employer Identification Number (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.
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).
However, some LLCs can reduce their federal tax obligation by choosing the S corporation (S corp) status. To learn more, read our LLC vs. S Corp guide.
Step 6: File a Beneficial Ownership Information Report
Beginning January 2024, LLC owners must file a Beneficial Ownership Information (BOI) Report with the US Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN). Existing LLCs can file their report any time between January 1, 2024, and January 1, 2025, while new LLCs must file their report within 90 days of formation.
This contains similar information to that of your Certificate of Organization, such as your LLC name and member information, and can be filed online for free. Failure to file an accurate report on time can result in a $500 per day fine.
Note: There are certain filing exemptions, such as for large companies (i.e., more than 20 full-time employees), tax-exempt entities, and publicly traded companies.
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Maintain Your Iowa LLC
After you’ve successfully formed your LLC, there are a couple of steps you’ll need to periodically take in order to maintain it, including:
- Filing your biennial report
- Sorting out your taxes
File the Biennial Report
All Iowa LLCs are required to file a biennial report with the Secretary of State by April 1 every two years in order to keep their business records both up-to-date and accurate. This is typically done through the Fast Track Filing portal, where you can choose to file the report online or print a paper form.
Your biennial report will also need to be accompanied by the appropriate filing fee: $30 for online submissions and $45 for paper submissions. It’s important to ensure you file this report in a timely manner as missing the April 1 deadline will result in a notification of delinquency from the Secretary of State Business Services Division.
Note: If you still haven't filed your biennial report by August 8, the state will dissolve your LLC and you’ll have to apply to have it reinstated.
Sort Out Your Taxes
Regardless of where your LLC is registered, you will be required to pay certain federal taxes. This includes corporation and employer taxes (for LLCs filing as a C corporation) and federal income tax and self-employment taxes (for LLCs taxed as pass-through entities).
In addition, there are a number of different Iowa business taxes you’ll be required to pay at a local and state level, which can vary depending on the nature of your business.
Below are some of the most common taxes in Iowa:
In addition to your federal tax responsibilities, there are several different types of state income taxes to be aware of, which we’ve explored below in greater detail:
- Individual Income Tax: These are currently between 4.4% and 5.7%, but are set to change to a flat rate of 3.9% in 2026. Each member of your LLC will need to file Form IA-1040 in order to report their income to the state.
- Corporation Income Tax: If your LLC elects to be taxed as a corporation, it will be obligated to pay corporate income tax at a rate of 5.5% on all taxable income up to $100,000 — going up to 7.1% above this figure. To pay and file this tax, you’ll need to submit Form IA-1120 to the Department of Revenue.
- Pass-Through Entity Tax: Qualifying LLCs can choose to pay a pass-through entity tax (PTET) – equal to the state’s highest individual income tax rate (5.7%) – instead of paying an individual income tax rate at a member level. You can do this by filing Form IA 1065.
Note: In addition to submitting your tax returns by paper using the forms linked above, you can also file electronically using GovConnectIowa, Iowa’s online portal for managing your tax accounts and business filings in one location.
Sales and Use Taxes
Sales and use tax is imposed at a flat rate of 6% on the sale, rental, or use of tangible personal property and certain services in Iowa. On top of this, some local jurisdictions may impose an additional local option sales tax of up to 1%, meaning the total tax rate can reach up to 8%, depending on the location.
You can file your Iowa sales and use tax returns online through GovConnectIowa which – depending on your LLC’s sales and use tax liability – will need to be done on a monthly, seasonal, or annual basis.
For monthly and seasonal filers, the due date will be the 20th day of the month following the reporting period, while for annual filers returns are due on or before January 31 each year.
Note: For your LLC to be able to sell tangible personal property and services in Iowa, it will need to fill out an Iowa Business Tax Permit Registration and file it with the Department of Revenue.
Steps After LLC Formation
After forming your LLC, you will need to get a business bank account and website, sort all required business licensing, and get business insurance, among other things.
Visit our After Forming an LLC guide to learn more.