This is the first and most important step in starting your LLC. Do some research to make sure the name you choose is suited to your business venture and is easily searchable by potential clients.
- Follow the naming guidelines: Your entity name must contain the words Limited Liability Company or the abbreviation L.L.C. or LLC. Restricted words (e.g. Bank, Attorney, University) require additional paperwork and may require a licensed individual, such as a doctor or lawyer, to be part of the LLC. Prohibited words are those that would confuse the name of your LLC with a federal or state agency (e.g. FBI, Secret Service, Treasury etc.)
- Is the name available in North Carolina? Make sure the name isn't already taken by doing a name search on the State of North Carolina website.
- Is the URL available? Check to see if the name of your LLC is available so that you can reserve your domain name. Even if you don't plan to make a website today, you may want to buy the domain name in order to prevent others from acquiring it.
An email address is also something to consider when choosing a name. Get a professional email (@yourcompany.com) with Google apps. Also get access to the top business tools, cloud storage, and business-grade security. - Try it for free
You are required to nominate a Registered Agent for your North Carolina 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? The registered agent must be a resident of North Carolina or a corporation authorized to transact business in North Carolina. You may elect an individual within the company including yourself.
Click here to learn more about the role of a registered agent, and why you may wish to consider hiring a professional registered agent service.
* Recommended: INCFILE.COM provides free registered agent service for the first year as part of their LLC Packages.
To register your LLC, you will need to file the Articles of Organization with the State of North Carolina. This can be done by mail.
When filing the Articles of Organization you will need to decide if your LLC will be member managed or manager managed. Read our article on the topic to learn more.
File the Articles of Organization for a Domestic LLC.Download PDF
Fee: Nonrefundable $125, made payable to "N.C. Secretary of State".
Follow the instructions on the form you choose.
Important: If you're expanding your existing LLC to the State of North Carolina you are forming a Foreign LLC. Learn how.
An operating agreement is not required in North Carolina, 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 your LLC. Learn more about operating agreements here.
* Recommended: Check out our free sample operating agreement
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 when filing state and federal taxes. In addition, banks may require an EIN to open a business checking account.
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 by one of two ways:
Click here to learn more about EINs and further details on how to register for one with the IRS.
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: Compare business credit card offers at CreditCards.com.
Do I need to register for State taxes?
- If you have hired Employees in North Carolina, you will need to register for Unemployment Insurance Tax and State income tax withholding on behalf of your Employees.
- Register for Unemployment Insurance Tax through the North Carolina Division of Employment Security.
- Register for Employee Withholding Tax through the North Carolina Department of Revenue.
- If you are selling taxable goods or services in North Carolina, you will need to register for North Carolina Sales Tax.
- Register for Sales and Use Tax through the North Carolina Department of Revenue.
- If your business falls within a specific industry, additional state taxes may apply.
*Recommended: Learn more about LLC taxes by reading TRUiC's LLC Tax Guide.
Set up your accounting system early to manage your finances and avoid future complications. It's important for many reasons including:
- Tracking the financial wellbeing of your business, including bills, expenses and income.
- Also makes filing your tax returns a lot easier.
Bookkeeping and accounting can be frustrating for many people but the right accounting software can make the process simple and hassle-free.
*Recommended: Xero has the features that all small businesses need.
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Do I need business licenses and permits?
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.
Find out how to obtain necessary licenses and permits for your business:
- Federal: Use the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) guide to federal business licenses and permits.
- State: For more information about business licenses and permits viewNorth Carolina's Business Development Website.
- an online resource to help you find the permits that you need for your LLC.
- Local: Contact your local Chamber of Commerce and ask about local licenses and permits.
- Alternatively, you can use a professional service to research all of your business licensing needs.
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.
What is Workers Compensation Insurance? This form of insurance is required for most businesses with employees, but varies by State. Click here to learn more.
What is General Liability Insurance? This is an important service, but is not required in most States. Click here to learn why.
How much will the right insurance cost you? Click here to find out.
Once a business decides to hire employees, certain legal obligations are required, such as:
- Ensuring that potential employees are eligible to work in the US
- Reporting employees as "new hires" to the State
- Providing workers compensation insurance for employees
- Withholding income taxes
- Printing compliance posters and place in a conspicuous location
- Ensuring payment of employees in specific increments as required by the state
A great resource for posting jobs and finding qualified employees is Indeed.com
*Recommended: Learn more about employee taxes by reading our article, Employee Taxes for Small Businesses.
How to Start a Business in North Carolina
5 easy steps to starting a business in North Carolina.
We have a far more detailed guide - How to Start a Business which will go over the points in more details.
Identify a suitable business idea that works for you - Check out our Business Ideas Tool.
Formally organize your Business into a company. An LLC is the most popular way to structure your business. Learn how to Form your LLC in North Carolina.
Complete important key steps after formation such as acquiring business licences & permits, registering for state taxes, and opening a business bank account.
Build your website and develop your brand. Learn more about marketing and brand establishment.
To maintain a North Carolina LLC, it is necessary to make periodic filings with the State of North Carolina. Learn how to keep your LLC in good standing and avoid state penalties.
North Carolina requires LLCs to file an annual report with the Secretary of State.
File a Report with the State of North CarolinaFile Online
Due Date: Due each year by April 15th.
Late Filings: North Carolina does not charge late fees if you miss your filing deadline. North Carolina will dissolve your LLC within 60 days for failure to file an annual report.
The IRS treats all multi-member LLCs as partnerships, unless they choose to be taxed as a C-Corp or S-Corp. Therefore, most multi-member LLCs are required to report their income to the IRS using a Form 1065 Partnership Return.
LLCs are considered “pass-through” entities and do not ordinarily pay income tax directly. Nevertheless, many states require LLCs to report annual income for or informational purposes. North Carolina requires most multi-member LLCs to report annual income.
File Online: North Carolina Department of Revenue
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A Certificate of Good Standing verifies that your LLC was legally formed and has been properly maintained. A Certificate of Good Standing is called a Certificate of Existence in North Carolina. 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
To order a Certificate of Existence in North Carolina, you go to the Secretary of the State’s website and create an account. Through this account you can order your certificate along with many other forms.
Fee for Certificate of Good Standing: $15.00
If 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
If you have an existing LLC and want to register to do business in North Carolina, you will need to form a foreign LLC.
File a Foreign LLC in the State of North CarolinaDownload PDF
Fee: $250 — Follow the instructions on the PDF.
Benefits of Forming a Foreign LLC
The major benefit of becoming a foreign corporation is that it allows your company to operate as one entity in many jurisdictions. For example, if you originally incorporate your LLC in the State of Delaware, you can file your existing domestic LLC as a foreign corporation in other states.