Follow our step-by-step How to Start an LLC in North Carolina guide to get started today.
- Name Your North Carolina LLC
- Choose a Registered Agent
- File the Articles of Organization
- Create an Operating Agreement
- Get an EIN
- File an Annual Report
- Keep Your Company Compliant
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Step 1: Name Your North Carolina LLC
Choosing your company's name is the first and most important step in starting an LLC in North Carolina. Be sure to choose a name that complies with North Carolina 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 North Carolina PLLC.
- Your name must be distinguishable from any other North Carolina limited liability company, corporation, limited liability partnership, or limited partnership.
For a complete list of naming rules in North Carolina, you can read the North Carolina Secretary of State's guidelines.
2. Is the name available in North Carolina? Make sure the name you want isn't already taken by doing a North Carolina LLC Name Search on the state's website.
To learn more about searching for a North Carolina LLC name, read our full 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 today, you may want to buy the domain name 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 North Carolina
Per North Carolina law, you must nominate a registered agent.
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. 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 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 including yourself.
Recommended: Check out these best registered agent services.
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.
Now is a good time to determine whether your LLC will be member-managed vs. manager-managed.
File the Articles of Organization
OPTION 1: File Form L-01 Online With the North Carolina Secretary of State
- OR -
OPTION 2: File by Mail or via PDF Upload
State Filing Cost: $125, made payable to NC Secretary of State (Nonrefundable)
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.
If you’re expanding your existing LLC to the state of North Carolina, you'll need to form a foreign 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.
Recommended: Download a template or create a free operating agreement using our tool.
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.
Step 6: File an Annual Report
North Carolina requires all LLCs to file an annual report. This filing keeps your business’s information up to date with the state.
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.
Step 7: Keep Your Company Compliant
North Carolina LLC Business 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 North Carolina Business License guide.
Recommended: Consider having a professional service research your business’s licensing requirements. Read our best business license services review.
North Carolina LLC Tax Filing Requirements
It's important to stay up to date on North Carolina LLC taxes.
Depending on the nature of your business, you may be required to register for one or more forms of tax:
If you are selling a physical product, you’ll typically need to register for a seller's permit through the North Carolina Department of Revenue website.
North Carolina’s base state sales tax is 4.75%. Counties and cities can add an additional local sales tax of up to 2.75%.
If you’re hiring employees, you’ll need to register for both Unemployment Insurance Tax with the North Carolina Division of Employment Security and Employee Withholding Tax with the Department of Revenue.
North Carolina has a flat individual income tax rate of 4.75%.
State tax returns are due each year by April 15. To calculate your tax or determine your tax bracket, visit the North Carolina Department of Revenue website.
Hiring Employees for Your North Carolina LLC
If you plan to hire employees for your North Carolina LLC, 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 workspace
Find out more information from North Carolina's Department of Labor.
Recommended: Check out our Hiring for Your Small Business Guide for resources like sample job descriptions, payroll service reviews, and more.
Common Questions About North Carolina 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 North Carolina 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.
After you get your business name, get a unique logo using our Free Logo Generator.
Do I need to get a DBA or assumed business name for my business?
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.
Can I be my own registered agent in North Carolina?
Yes. You or anyone else in your company can serve as the registered agent for your LLC.
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 North Carolina LLC. For most businesses, the advantages of using a professional service significantly outweigh the annual costs.
For more information, read our article on North Carolina registered agents.
How long does it take to form an LLC in North Carolina?
Filing the Articles of Organization can take up to four weeks, but can be expedited for an additional fee.
To learn more, go to our How Long Does it Take to Form an LLC in North Carolina guide.
What is the difference between a domestic 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 it cost to start a North Carolina LLC?
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.
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 about international applicants here.
What tax structure should I choose for my North Carolina 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.
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 North Carolina?
The minimum wage in North Carolina is $7.25 per hour.
How often do I need to pay employees in North Carolina?
North Carolina allows wages to be paid on regular paydays, either daily, weekly, biweekly, semi-monthly, or monthly.