Understanding North Carolina LLC Laws

The rules for starting and running a North Carolina limited liability company (LLC) are laid out by North Carolina LLC laws

In this guide, we offer simple explanations to North Carolina LLC laws about:

To learn more about starting an LLC, visit our form an LLC guide.


LLC Formation Requirements

North Carolina LLC laws set out the requirements for forming an LLC. The State of North Carolina has created the NC Secretary of State online business creation portal and PDF Articles of Organization form to simplify the process.

North Carolina LLC Formation Statute

The following LLC formation statutes are from Chapter 57D of the North Carolina Limited Liability Company Act and Chapter 55D of the North Carolina Business Corporation Act:

Section 55D-10. Filing requirements. 

(a) To be entitled to filing by the Secretary of State under Chapter 55, 55A, 55B, 57D, or 59 of the General Statutes, a document must satisfy the requirements of this section, and of any other section of the General Statutes that adds to or varies these requirements.

(b) The document must meet all of the following requirements:

(1) The document must be one that is required or permitted by Chapter 55, 55A, 55B, 57D, or 59 of the General Statutes to be filed in the office of the Secretary of State.

(2) The document must contain the information required by Chapter 55, 55A, 55B, 57D, or 59 of the General Statutes for that document. It may contain other information as well.

(3) The document must be typewritten, printed, or in an electronic form acceptable to the Secretary of State.

(4) The document must be in the English language. A name need not be in English if written in English letters or Arabic or Roman numerals, and the certificate of existence or a document of similar import required of foreign corporations, foreign nonprofit corporations, foreign limited liability companies, and foreign limited liability partnerships need not be in English if accompanied by a reasonably authenticated English translation.

(5) A document submitted by an entity must be executed by a person authorized to execute documents (i) under G.S. 55-1-20 if the entity is a domestic or foreign corporation, (ii) under G.S. 55A-1-20 if the entity is a domestic or foreign nonprofit corporation, (iii) under G.S. 57D-1-20 if the entity is a domestic or foreign limited liability company, (iv) under G.S. 59-204 if the entity is a domestic or foreign limited partnership, or (v) under G.S. 59-35.1 if the entity is any other partnership as defined in G.S. 59-36 whether or not formed under the laws of the State.

(6) The person executing the document must sign it and state beneath or opposite the person's signature, the person's name, and the capacity in which the person signs. Any signature on the document may be a facsimile or an electronic signature in a form acceptable to the Secretary of State. The document may but need not contain a seal, attestation, acknowledgment, verification, or proof.

(7) If the Secretary of State has prescribed a mandatory form for the document, the document must be in or on the prescribed form.

(8) The document must be delivered to the office of the Secretary of State for filing and must be accompanied by the applicable fees. (1955, c. 1371, s. 1; 1967, c. 13, s. 1; c. 823, s. 16; 1989, c. 265, s. 1; 1989 (Reg. Sess., 1990), c. 1024, s. 12.1(a); 1991, c. 645, s. 15; 1999-369, s. 1.1; 2001-358, ss. 3(a), 4; 2001-387, ss. 173, 175(a); 2001-413, s. 6; 2013-157, s. 7.)

Section 57D-1-20. Filing requirements.

(a) A document required or permitted by this Chapter to be filed by the Secretary of State must be filed as provided in Chapter 55D of the General Statutes.

(b) A document submitted on behalf of a limited liability company must be executed by one of the following:

(1) A manager or other company official.

(2) If the document is the articles of organization, a person acting in the capacity of an organizer or a member as provided in G.S. 57D-2-21(a)(2).

(3) If the LLC has never had any members, an organizer.

(4) If the LLC is in the hands of a receiver, trustee, or other court-appointed fiduciary, by that fiduciary. (2013-157, s. 2)

Section 57D-2-20. Formation.

(a) One or more persons may cause an LLC to be formed by delivering executed articles of organization to the Secretary of State for filing in accordance with this Chapter and Chapter 55D of the General Statutes. An LLC may also be formed through the conversion of another eligible entity into an LLC pursuant to Part 2 of Article 9 of this Chapter.

(b) An LLC is formed at the time the articles of organization filed by the Secretary of State become effective. Filing of the articles of organization by the Secretary of State is conclusive proof that all conditions to the formation of the LLC have been satisfied except in a proceeding by the State to cancel or revoke the articles of organization or involuntarily dissolve the LLC.

(c) If initial members are not identified in the articles of organization of an LLC in the manner provided in G.S. 57D-3-01(a)(1), the organizer or organizers shall either identify the initial members of the LLC or dissolve the LLC. Unless otherwise provided in the articles of organization, all decisions to be made by the organizers require the approval of a majority of the organizers. (2013-157, s. 2.)

Section 57D-2-21. Articles of organization.

(a) The articles of organization must include the following information:

(1) A name of the LLC that satisfies the provisions of G.S. 55D-20 and G.S. 55D-21.

(2) The name and address of each person executing the articles of organization and whether the person is executing the articles of organization in the capacity of a member or an organizer.

(3) The street address, and the mailing address if different from the street address, of the LLC's initial registered office, the county in which the initial registered office is located, and the name of the LLC's initial registered agent at that address.

(4) The street address, and the mailing address if different from the street address, of the LLC's principal office, if any, and the county in which the principal office, if any, is located.

(5) If the LLC is to render professional services and is subject to G.S. 57D-2-02 as a professional limited liability company, the professional services to be rendered by the LLC.

(b) The articles of organization may include any other provision that is or may be included in an operating agreement. (2013-157, s. 2.)

What This Means: Key Takeaways*

The North Carolina LLC statute provides the requirements for setting up (or forming) an LLC. The State of North Carolina offers online and mail-in LLC filing to meet these requirements.

Required Information for North Carolina LLC Formation:

  • LLC’s name. The LLC name must meet NC naming requirements in Section 55D-20 and 55D-21 of Chapter 55D of the North Carolina General Statutes 
  • The name and address of the person signing the articles of organization and whether they are a member of the LLC or just an organizer
  • Registered agent’s name, North Carolina street address and mailing address, and county
  • The street and mailing address of the LLC’s principal office

Optional Information for North Carolina LLC Formation:

  • LLC organizers can add their own provisions as long as the provisions don’t conflict with LLC statute. Or, provisions can be placed in the operating agreement.

Recommended: For help with completing the LLC formation forms, visit our North Carolina LLC Articles of Organization guide.

Registered Agent Duties and Appointment

North Carolina LLC laws define the duties and appointment of the LLC registered agent.

North Carolina LLC Registered Agent Statute

The following registered agent statutes are from Chapter 57D of the North Carolina Limited Liability Company Act and Chapter 55D, Article 4 of the North Carolina General Statutes.

Section 57D-2-40. Registered office and registered agent.

Each LLC must maintain a registered office and registered agent as required by Article 4 of Chapter 55D of the General Statutes and is subject to service on the Secretary of State under that Article. (2013-157, s. 2.)

G.S. Section 55D-30. Registered office and registered agent required. 

(a) Each domestic corporation, nonprofit corporation, limited liability company, limited partnership, and limited liability partnership, each foreign limited liability partnership maintaining a statement of foreign registration, and each foreign corporation, nonprofit corporation, limited NC General Statutes - Chapter 55D 12 liability company, and limited partnership authorized to transact business or conduct affairs in this State must continuously maintain in this State: 

(1) A registered office that may be the same as any of its places of business or any place where it conducts affairs; and 

(2) A registered agent, who must be: a. An individual who resides in this State and whose business office is identical with the registered office; 

b. A domestic corporation, nonprofit corporation, or limited liability company whose business office is identical with the registered office; or 

c. A foreign corporation, foreign nonprofit corporation, or foreign limited liability company authorized to transact business or conduct affairs in this State whose business office is identical with the registered office. 

(b) The sole duty of the registered agent to the entity is to forward to the entity at its last known address any notice, process, or demand that is served on the registered agent. (1901, c. 5; Rev., s. 1243; C.S., s. 1137; 1937, c. 133, ss. 1-3; G.S., ss. 55-38, 55-39; 1955, c. 1371, s. 1; 1957, c. 979, s. 17; 1989, c. 265, s. 1; 2000-140, s. 101(a); 2001-358, ss. 44, 45; 2001-387, ss. 173, 175(a); 2001-413, s. 6.) § 55D-31. Change of registered office or registered agent. 

G.S. Section 55D-31

(a) An entity required to maintain a registered office and registered agent under G.S. 55D-30 may change its registered office or registered agent by delivering to the Secretary of State for filing a statement of change that sets forth all of the following: 

(1) The name of the entity. 

(2) The street address, and the mailing address if different from the street address, of its current registered office, and the county in which it is located. 

(3) If the address of the entity's registered office is to be changed, the street address, and the mailing address if different from the street address, of the new registered office, and the county in which it is located. 

(4) The name of its current registered agent. 

(5) If the current registered agent is to be changed, the name of the new registered agent and the new agent's written consent (either on the statement or attached to it) to the appointment.

(6) That after the change or changes are made, the addresses of its registered office and the business office of its registered agent will be identical. 

(b) If a registered agent changes the address of the agent's business office, the agent may change the address of the registered office of any entity for which the agent is the registered agent in this State by notifying the entity in writing of the change and signing and delivering to the Secretary of State for filing a statement that complies with the requirements of subsection (a) of this section and recites that the entity has been notified of the change. 

(c) A domestic corporation, limited liability company, limited liability limited partnership, registered limited liability partnership, foreign corporation, foreign limited liability company, or foreign limited liability partnership may change its registered office or registered agent by including in its annual report required by G.S. 55-16-22, 57D-2-24, 59-84.4, or 59-210 the information and any written consent required by subsection (a) of this section. (1901, c. 2, s. 31; Rev., s. 1176; C.S., s. 1133; G.S., s. 55-34; 1955, c. 1371, s. 1; 1957, c. 979, ss. 6, 7; 1965, c. 298, NC General Statutes - Chapter 55D 13 s. 1; 1967, c. 823, s. 17; 1973, c. 262; c. 469, s. 3; 1989, c. 265, s. 1; 1991, c.

What This Means: Key Takeaways*

A registered agent’s job is to accept service of process (legal summons to a lawsuit). 

A North Carolina registered agent must:

  • Maintain a registered office in North Carolina (i.e., no P.O. boxes)
  • Be an individual, a North Carolina corporation or LLC, or foreign corporation or LLC with a business address that is the same as the registered office address

Registered agent information is kept on file by the State of North Carolina. If you change your registered agent or if your registered agent resigns, you must file a change of registered agent form.

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Operating Agreements

North Carolina LLC laws provide guidelines for creating and maintaining an LLC operating agreement.

The following operating agreement statutes are from Chapter 57D of the North Carolina Limited Liability Company Act.

Section 57D-2-30. Scope, function, and limitations of operating agreements.

(a) The operating agreement governs the internal affairs of an LLC and the rights, duties, and obligations of (i) the interest owners, and the rights of any other persons to become interest owners, in relation to each other, the LLC, and their ownership interests or rights to acquire ownership interests and (ii) the company officials in relation to each other, the LLC, and the interest owners. Subject to the limitations set forth in subsections (b), (c), (d), and (e) of this section, the provisions of this Chapter and common law will apply only to the extent contrary or inconsistent provisions are not made in, or are not otherwise supplanted, varied, disclaimed, or nullified by, the operating agreement. The provisions of the operating agreement are severable and each will apply to the extent it is valid and enforceable.

(b) The operating agreement may not do any of the following:

(1) Supplant, vary, disclaim, or nullify the provisions of this Chapter or their application to the extent the provisions:

a. Concern the functions of, including the filings and payments to be made, and the manner in which they are to be made by or to the Secretary of State, the Attorney General, the courts, or any other governmental official, agency, or authority, including Articles 1 and 9 of this Chapter, G.S. 57D-2-21(a), 57D-2-22(a), 57D-2-23, 57D-2-24, 57D-2-40, 57D-6-02(1), 57D-6-03(a) through (c), 57D-6-04, 57D-6-05, 57D-6-06, the last sentence of G.S. 57D-6-07(c), 57D-6-09, and 57D-10-01; except, the operating agreement may provide the forum in which disputes concerning the LLC or the rights and duties of interest owners and other parties to the operating agreement are to be resolved and other decisions and the manner in which decisions of interest owners and other parties to the operating agreement are to be made.

b. Apply to persons who are not parties to or otherwise bound by the operating agreement, including the extent to which G.S. 57D-5-03 may be applicable to such persons or for which they may be entitled to recovery or other relief thereunder, or the extent to which G.S. 57D-1-02, 57D-6-08(1), 57D-6-10, 57D-6-11, 57D-6-12, and 57D-6-13 are applicable to such persons.

c. Are set forth in this section, G.S. 57D-1-01, 57D-2-01(d), 57D-2-02, 57D-2-03, 57D-2-20, 57D-3-23, 57D-5-01, 57D-6-01, clause (ii) of 57D-6-02(2), and 57D-6-07(b) and (f).

(2) Recodified as G.S. 57D-2-30(b)(1)b.

(3) Diminish the rights and protections of the LLC under G.S. 57D-4-05 and G.S. 57D-4-06.

(4) Diminish the rights and protections of members under G.S. 57D-3-04(a), except as permitted by and otherwise subject to subsections (b) through (f) of G.S. 57D-3-04.

(5) Eliminate the right of a member to bring a derivative action under Article 8 of this Chapter unless the operating agreement provides an alternative remedy, which may include the right to bring a direct action in lieu of a derivative action or modifying the procedures provided in Article 8 of this Chapter governing derivative actions.

(6) Eliminate the right of a member to bring an action to have the LLC judicially dissolved under clause (i) in G.S. 57D-6-02(2), unless the operating agreement provides an alternative remedy.

(7) Recodified as G.S. 57D-2-30(b)(1)c.

(c) Oral or implied provisions in the operating agreement may not supplant, vary, disclaim, or nullify any contrary or inconsistent written provisions in the operating agreement to the detriment of the rights of persons who are not parties to the operating agreement to the extent that they reasonably rely on those written provisions in the operating agreement.

(d) In the event of a conflict between the operating agreement and a provision in any document of an LLC filed by the Secretary of State:

(1) The operating agreement shall prevail as to parties to the operating agreement and company officials.

(2) The document filed by the Secretary of State shall prevail as to persons who are not parties to the operating agreement and are not company officials to the extent that they reasonably rely on the document filed by the Secretary of State.

(e) Except as provided in or permitted by this Chapter or other applicable law, the laws of agency and contract, including the implied contractual covenant of good faith and fair dealing and the requirement that the terms of an operating agreement not be unconscionable at the time they are made, govern the administration and enforcement of operating agreements. (2013-157, s. 2; 2016-114, ss. 1(a), (b), (c), 2.)

Section 57D-2-31. Parties to, and other persons subject to or having rights under, the operating agreement.

(a) The LLC is deemed to be a party to the operating agreement and, therefore, is bound by and may enforce the provisions thereunder applicable to the LLC.

(b) A person who becomes an interest owner is deemed to assent to, and is bound by, and, subject to Article 5 of this Chapter, is entitled to the rights applicable to the interest owner's ownership interest provided under, and is otherwise deemed to be a party to, the operating agreement.

(c) A person need not be an interest owner to be a party to the operating agreement.

(d) An operating agreement may require amendments to the operating agreement be approved by persons who are not interest owners and may provide rights to persons who are not interest owners and not otherwise parties to the operating agreement.

(e) Any person bound by the operating agreement is bound by any amendment adopted, as provided in the operating agreement. (2013-157, s. 2.)

Section 57D-2-32. Remedies for breach of operating agreement or occurrence of identified events; reliance on operating agreement.

(a) An operating agreement may subject interest owners and other persons who are parties to or otherwise bound by the operating agreement to specified remedies for breach of the operating agreement or the occurrence of a specified event. Such remedies may include the recovery of reasonable attorneys' fees, the assessment of interest without the assessment being subject to the laws of usury, and the imposition of penalties that would otherwise be unenforceable as stipulated or liquidated damages.

(b) Unless otherwise provided in the operating agreement, an interest owner or other person who is a party to or bound by the operating agreement will not be liable to the LLC or an interest owner or other person who is a party to the operating agreement for that person's reliance on the provisions of the operating agreement. (2013-157, s. 2.)

What This Means: Key Takeaways*

An LLC operating agreement allows LLC members to create rules for how their unique LLC operates. These rules are often called “terms” or “provisions.”

Operating agreements are limited by state statute. For example, if the statute says LLC members can’t dissolve an LLC without all members agreeing, LLC members can’t change or override the statute with an operating agreement.

When an operating agreement is in place, it’s easier to navigate situations involving the operation of the LLC. And, if a lawsuit or dispute arises, LLC members (or the courts) have something to reference.

If a dispute arises that can’t be resolved by LLC members and there isn’t an operating agreement, the courts will use LLC statute to resolve disputes.

Creating an Operating Agreement

Some LLCs, such as professional LLCs or real estate LLCs, might need unique terms, while others might only need to cover standard provisions:

  • Each member’s responsibilities
  • How new members will be admitted
  • How existing members may transfer or terminate their membership
  • How profits and dividends will be distributed
  • The process for amending the operating agreement

Use our free operating agreement template or learn more with our What Is an Operating Agreement guide.

Annual Report Requirements

North Carolina LLC laws set out the requirements for annual LLC reporting. The State of North Carolina has created the NC annual report online portal to simplify the process.

North Carolina LLC Annual Report Statute

The following annual report statutes are from Chapter 57D of the North Carolina Limited Liability Company Act:

Section 57D-2-24. Annual report for Secretary of State.

(a) Excluding professional limited liability companies governed by G.S. 57D-2-02, each LLC and each foreign LLC authorized to transact business in this State must deliver to the Secretary of State for filing annual reports on a form prescribed by, and in the manner required by, the Secretary of State and as otherwise provided in subsection (b) of this section. Each annual report must specify the year for which the report applies and provide the information required by this subsection. The information must be current as of the date the limited liability company completes the report. If the information in the limited liability company's most recent annual report has not changed, the limited liability company may certify in its annual report that the information has not changed in lieu of restating the information.

The following information must be included in each annual report:

(1) The name of the limited liability company and, in the case of a foreign LLC, any different name that the foreign LLC is authorized under Article 3 of Chapter 55D of the General Statutes to use to transact business in this State, as provided in the foreign LLC's certificate of authority.

(2) In the case of a foreign LLC, the name of the jurisdiction under whose law the foreign LLC is organized.

(3) The street address, and the mailing address if different from the street address, of the limited liability company's registered office in the State, the county in which the registered office is located, the name of its registered agent at that office, and a statement of any change of the registered office or registered agent.

(4) The address and telephone number of its principal office.

(5) The names, titles, and business addresses of the limited liability company's principal company officials.

(6) A brief description of the nature of its business.

(a1) The Secretary of State shall also provide appropriate space and instructions on the annual report form for a limited liability company to voluntarily indicate whether or not it is a veteran-owned small business or a service-disabled veteran-owned small business.

(b) The Secretary of State must notify limited liability companies of the annual report filing requirement. The first annual report of a limited liability company is due to be delivered to the Secretary of State by April 15 of the year following (i) in the case of an LLC, the calendar year in which the LLC's articles of organization or articles of organization and conversion filed by the Secretary of State become effective or (ii) in the case of a foreign LLC, the calendar year in which the Secretary of State issues to the foreign LLC a certificate of authority to transact business in this State.

The limited liability company shall deliver an annual report by April 15 of each subsequent year until (i) in the case of an LLC, the effective date of its articles of dissolution filed by the Secretary of State or the effective date of either a certificate of dissolution for an LLC that is not reinstated under G.S. 57D-6-06(c) or a decree of dissolution that is filed by the Secretary of State as provided in G.S. 57D-6-05; (ii) in the case of a foreign LLC, the foreign LLC receives a certificate of withdrawal from the Secretary of State or the Secretary of State revokes the foreign LLC's certificate of authority under Part 3 of Article 7 of this Chapter; or (iii) in the case of either an LLC or foreign LLC, the effective date of a merger or conversion under Article 9 of this Chapter in which the limited liability company is a merging entity or a converting entity but not the surviving entity.

(c) If an annual report does not contain the information required by this section, the Secretary of State shall promptly notify the reporting limited liability company in writing and return the report to it for correction. If the report is corrected to contain the information required by this section and delivered to the Secretary of State within 30 days after the effective date of notice, it is deemed to be timely delivered.

(d) Amendments to any previously filed annual report may be delivered for filing by the Secretary of State at any time for the purpose of correcting, updating, or augmenting the information contained in the annual report. (2013-157, s. 2; 2017-90, s. 2(a).)

What This Means: Key Takeaways*

You can file your North Carolina annual report online.

Your North Carolina LLC annual report must state the following information (and must be current as of the date of filing):

  • The name of the LLC
  • The street address, mailing address, county of registered office, and registered agent’s name
  • The address and telephone number of the LLC’s principal office
  • A brief description of the nature of the business
  • The name, title, and business addresses of the LLC’s principal company officials

Annual Report Due Dates:

  • Annual reports are due by April 15 of the year following LLC formation. 

Late Filing of the North Carolina Annual Report:

  • If any information is missing on the annual report, you will receive notice. You have 30 days from the date of the notice to respond on time.
  • If you don’t file your annual report on time, you could face dissolution, and your LLC will not be able to defend itself against any action brought against it in court.

*This information is provided for educational and entertainment purposes only. Please consult a lawyer for legal advice.

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