Last Updated: June 7, 2024, 2:44 pm by TRUiC Team

How to Start an LLC in North Carolina (2024 Guide)

Wondering how to start an LLC in North Carolina? We’ve got you covered.

To get started, you'll need to pick a suitable business name, choose a registered agent, and file your Articles of Organization with the North Carolina Secretary of State ($125 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 North Carolina LLC formation service (recommended).

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Northwest ($29 + State Fees)

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LegalZoom ($249 + State Fees)

Learn how to file an LLC in North Carolina

How to Form an LLC in North Carolina in 6 Steps

In order to form your LLC in North Carolina, there are certain steps you’ll need to complete:

  1. Name Your LLC
  2. Choose a North Carolina Registered Agent
  3. File Your Articles of Organization
  4. Create an LLC Operating Agreement
  5. Obtain an EIN
  6. File a Beneficial Ownership Information Report

Step 1: Name Your North Carolina LLC

Before you get started, you will need to pick a suitable name for your North Carolina LLC. 

This will need to comply with all applicable naming requirements under North Carolina law and be both succinct and memorable, as this will make it easily searchable by your potential clients.

1. Important Naming Guidelines for North Carolina LLCs:

  • Your name must include the words “limited liability company,” the abbreviations “LLC” or “L.L.C.,” or the combinations “Ltd. Liability Co,” “Limited Liability Co,” or “LTD. Liability Company.” 
  • 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 North Carolina PLLC.
  • Your name must be distinguishable from any other North Carolina limited liability company, corporation, limited liability partnership, or limited partnership.
  • Your name cannot contain language that states or implies that it was formed for any purpose other than what is permitted in its formation documents.
  • Your name cannot contain words that are deemed “offensive to accepted standards of decency.”
  • Professional LLC names must include the word “professional” or the abbreviation “PLLC” or “P.L.L.C.”

We recommend checking out the North Carolina Secretary of State's guidelines for a complete list of naming rules in this state ($10 filing fee).

2. Is the name available in North Carolina? 

To check whether your desired name has already been taken by another business entity in North Carolina, you can perform a North Carolina LLC Name Search on the 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. In North Carolina, you can do this for up to 10 years by filing an Application to Reserve a Business Entity Name. 

For more information, have a look at our North Carolina Name Search guide.

3. Is the URL available?

We recommend that you check 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 that 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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FAQ: Naming a North Carolina 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?

You must follow the North Carolina 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 do not need a DBA, known in North Carolina as an assumed business 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 North Carolina

After you find the right name for your LLC, you will need to nominate a North Carolina registered agent. This is a necessary step in your Articles of Organization (i.e., the document used to file and register your LLC with the Secretary of State.).

What is a registered agent? A North Carolina registered agent is an individual or business entity that is responsible for receiving important tax forms, legal documents, notice of lawsuits, and official government correspondence on behalf of your business. You can think of your registered agent as your business's primary point of contact with the state.

Who can be a registered agent? A registered agent must be a resident of North Carolina or a corporation, such as a registered agent service, authorized to transact business in North Carolina. You may elect an individual within the company (e.g., yourself, etc.) or use a business attorney.

Under 55D-30 of the NC General Statutes, the sole duty of the individual or company you appoint as your registered agent is to forward any notices, demands, or processes served against you to your LLC’s last known address.

Get Free Registered Agent Services

Form an LLC with Northwest Registered Agent to get one year of registered agent services free of charge.

FAQ: Nominating a Registered Agent

Yes. You can choose to act as your own registered agent, appoint a member of your LLC, work with a business attorney, or hire a professional registered agent service (recommended). 

Read more about being your own registered agent.

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 the North Carolina LLC Articles of Organization

To register your limited liability company, you will need to file Form L-01: Articles of Organization with the Secretary of State. You can apply online, by mail, or via PDF upload.

North Carolina LLC Formation Document

Before filing, make sure you have the information needed to complete your Certificate of Formation correctly. To file, you will need to have completed the following steps:

  1. Enter your complete LLC name. This will need to be compliant with the North Carolina naming guidelines discussed above.
  2. Enter the names and addresses of all persons executing the Articles of Organization, as well as whether they are executing in the capacity of a member or of an organizer (or both).
  3. Enter the name and full address of your registered agent. If you do not want mail to be directed to this address, you will also be required to provide a mailing address (Item 5)
  4. If applicable, select “a) if your LLC has a principal office, and provide a telephone number, street address, and county. If you do not have a principal office, select “b” instead.
  5. If applicable, provide any additional information in accordance with statutory law, such as the names and addresses of all members, as well as whether an executor should not be made a member. 
  6. List your business’s company officials. (This step is optional, but is meant to help LLC owners comply with federal banking regulations.). 
  7. Provide an email address if you want to participate in the Secretary of State’s free notification system. (This is also optional.) 
  8. If applicable, provide a delayed date of filing (up to 90 days in the future). If this is not done, your Articles of Organization will be effective on the time and date of filing. 

Note: Keep in mind that, unless specified otherwise, each person executing the Articles of Organization will become a member of the company as soon as the LLC is formed.

File the Articles of Organization

OPTION 1: File Form L-01 Online With the North Carolina Secretary of State

File Online

- OR -

OPTION 2: File by Mail or via PDF Upload

Download Form

State Filing Cost: $125, made payable to NC Secretary of State (Nonrefundable)

Mailing Address:
The Secretary of State
Business Registration Division
P.O. Box 29622
Raleigh, NC 27626

PDF Upload: Submit a Filing

For help with completing the form, visit our North Carolina Articles of Organization guide.

Note: If you're expanding your existing LLC to the state of North Carolina, you'll need to form a foreign LLC.

FAQ: Filing North Carolina LLC Documents

It normally takes between 15 and 18 business days for the Secretary of State to process your Articles of Organization. However, for an additional $100, you can expedite the filing process to a 24-hour turnaround.

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.

The cost to start a North Carolina LLC is $125.

To learn more, read our guide on the cost to form a North Carolina LLC.

Step 4: Create a North Carolina LLC Operating Agreement

In North Carolina, LLCs are not required to have an operating agreement, 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 small business owners are on the same page and reduces the risk of future conflict.

For more information, read our North Carolina LLC operating agreement guide.

FAQ: Creating a North Carolina LLC Operating Agreement

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.

Step 5: Get a North Carolina LLC EIN

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

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

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 about international applicants here.

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.

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.

However, some LLCs can reduce their federal tax obligation by choosing the S corporation (S corp) status. To learn more, read our S Corp vs. LLC guide.

Step 6: File a Beneficial Ownership Information Report

Beginning January 2024, LLC owners will need to 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 will need to file their report within 90 days of formation

This contains similar information to that of your Articles 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. 

Considering Using an LLC Formation Service?

We reviewed and ranked the top LLC formation services. Find out which is best for you.


Maintain Your North Carolina 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 an annual report
  • Sorting out your tax requirements

We’ve provided more information on how to complete each of these steps below.

File an Annual Report

After you have formed a North Carolina LLC, you will be required to file an annual report in order to keep your business in good standing with the state. This filing is meant to ensure that your business's information (e.g., address, name, registered agent, etc.) is up to date.

You can file your LLC’s annual report online or by mail, along with the $200 filing fee. The deadline for this is April 15 of each year.

Note: There are no penalty fees for filing your annual report late; however, you’ll be sent a Notice for Grounds for Administrative Dissolution or Revocation of Foreign Business and will then have 60 days to complete the report.

Sort Out Your Taxes

Though there is no state income tax, there are a number of different taxes you’ll be required to pay at a local, state, and federal level as a North Carolina LLC. Your LLC’s tax obligations can also vary depending on the nature of your business (e.g., industry, niche, profession, etc.). 

Below are the most common taxes in North Carolina:

Sales and Use Taxes

In North Carolina, sales and use tax is imposed at a general rate of 4.75%, though cities and counties across the state are able to impose their own additional rates that range from 0.00% to 2.25%. These local rates can combine with the general rate and up to a maximum of 7.50% in counties that impose a 0.50% transit rate (e.g., Durham, Orange, and Wake). 

Sales and use taxes apply to the sale, lease, rental, or use of tangible personal property and certain services, with the exception of some items such as certain foods, clothing, and prescription drugs. At the point of purchase, your LLC collects this tax from consumers and then remits it to the North Carolina Department of Revenue.

You can file your sales and use tax return by mail using the E-500 Form, or electronically by using the Online Filing and Payments system. 

Note: If your business plans to sell any taxable goods or services, it will need to register with the North Carolina Department of Revenue and obtain a Certificate of Registration.

Income Taxes

In addition to their federal obligations, LLCs in North Carolina are also required to pay certain statewide taxes on the income they generate. We’ve explored the two main types to be aware of in more detail below:

  • Individual Income Tax: For the current tax year, this is set at a flat rate of 4.75% on the taxable income of your LLC, regardless of how much it generates. You can use the NC Department of Revenue’s individual income tax estimator to get an idea of how much you’ll need to pay.
  • Corporate Income Tax: While this is currently set at a flat rate of 2.5% the state plans to completely phase out corporation tax over five years, starting in 2025. 

The simplest and quickest way you can file and pay both types of income taxes online using the NC Department of Revenue’s website.

Franchise Tax

LLCs taxed as corporations in North Carolina are required to pay franchise tax in order to operate in the state. Franchise tax is levied on the net worth of your business at different rates depending on its structure:

  • C Corporations: For C Corps, this tax is imposed at a rate of $1.50 per $1,000 of your corporation’s tax base and has a minimum tax amount of $200.
  • S Corporations: S Corps pay $200 in franchise tax for the first one million dollars of their tax base and $1.50 per $1,000 for the part of their tax base that exceeds this.
  • Holding Companies: Franchise tax is imposed in the same way on C Corps and holding companies, except that the latter can only pay up to a maximum of $150,000 in this tax.

You’ll need to submit franchise tax to the North Carolina Department of Revenue on an annual basis alongside your corporate income tax return by the 15th day of the fourth month after the end of your tax year.

Note: If your LLC is taxed under the default structure (i.e., as a disregarded entity like a partnership or sole proprietorship), it will not need to file franchise tax.

Privilege License Tax

In North Carolina, businesses and professional services needing a state-issued license to operate are also required to pay a privilege license tax. Your privilege license tax bill will depend on the business type or professional category your LLC falls into, with some of the most common ones, including:

  • Lawyers and other professional services
  • Dealers of installment plans
  • Loan-related services like pawnshops and check-cashing businesses
  • Banks
  • Newsprint publishers

This tax is charged annually and isn't divided throughout the year. This means that the entire tax amount is due as soon as you start a licensed business activity — regardless of when this is during the fiscal year.

Important: Since there's no online option for filing, paying, or renewing the privilege license, you’ll need to download and use the specific forms and instructions for your business category.

Keep in mind that, regardless of where your LLC is registered, you will also be required to pay certain federal taxes. This includes employer taxes, corporate income tax – for LLCs taxed as a C corporation  – and income and self-employment taxes (for LLCs taxed as pass-through entities or as an S corporation). 

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Steps After LLC Formation

Read all the steps you’ll need to maintain your LLC’s personal liability protection, open a business bank account to protect your personal assets, get business insurance, and stay up to date with state reporting requirements.

Visit our After Forming an LLC guide to learn more.

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