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 Pennsylvania? Make sure the name isn't already taken by doing a name search on the State of Pennsylvania website.
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 Pennsylvania 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 Pennsylvania or a corporation authorized to transact business in Pennsylvania. 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 Certificate of Organization and Docketing Statement with the State of Pennsylvania. This can be done by mail.
When filing the Certificate 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.
Important: If you're expanding your existing LLC to the State of Pennsylvania you are forming a Foreign LLC. Learn how.
An operating agreement is not required in Pennsylvania, 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.
Opening a business bank account is an important first step, as it:
- Separates your personal assets from your company's assets, which is necessary for personal asset protection.
- Makes accounting and tax filing easier.
Getting a business credit card allows you to:
- Separate personal and business expenses.
- Build your company's credit history, which can be useful to raise money for your company later.
* Recommended: Compare business credit card offers at CreditCards.com.
Do I need to register for State taxes
- If you have hired employees in Pennsylvania, you will need to register for Unemployment Insurance Tax and State Income Tax Withholding on behalf of your employees.
- If you are selling taxable goods or services in Pennsylvania, you will need to register for Pennsylvania Sales Tax. Your sales tax registration needs to be renewed every 5 years.
- If your business falls within a specific industry, additional state taxes may apply.
*Recommended: Learn more about sales tax by reading our informative guide: Sales Tax for Small Businesses.
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: 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: Apply for or learn more about licenses, permits and registration with Pennsylvania's Department of State.
- 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
Discover the necessary employer services and information at the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry
A great resource for posting jobs and finding qualified employees is Indeed.com
How to Start a Business in Pennsylvania
5 easy steps to starting a business in Pennsylvania.
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 Pennsylvania.
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.
Many states require LLCs to file an annual or biennial report. These reports typically include basic information about your business and involve a filing fee.
LLCs are considered “pass-through” entities and do not ordinarily pay income tax directly. Nevertheless, some states require LLCs to report annual income for informational purposes. Pennsylvania requires multi-member LLCs to report income and withhold income from members residing out of state.
Instructions and Filing Form: Pennsylvania Department of Revenue
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A Certificate of Good Standing verifies that your LLC was legally formed and has been properly maintained. In Pennsylvania, a Certificate of Good standing is known as a Certificate of Subsistence. 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 Subsistence in Pennsylvania, simply place your order online through the Pennsylvania Department of State Business Entity Search tool.
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 Pennsylvania, you will need to form a foreign LLC.
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.