Last Updated: May 3, 2024, 3:23 pm by TRUiC Team

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

Wondering how to start an LLC in South 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 South Carolina Secretary of State ($110 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 South Carolina LLC formation service (recommended).

four point eight out of five

Northwest ($29 + State Fees)

three point nine out of five

LegalZoom ($249 + State Fees)

Cost to Start an LLC in South Carolina

How to Form an LLC in South Carolina in 6 Steps

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

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

Step 1: Name Your South Carolina LLC

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

This will need to comply with all applicable naming requirements under South Carolina law and be both succinct and memorable, as this will make it easily searchable by your 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.). Note that you can also abbreviate “Limited” as “Ltd.” and “company” as “Co.”
  • 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 LLC.

In most cases, your name must also be distinguishable from the name or fictitious name (DBA) of any other South Carolina business entity. However, your LLC can use a name that isn’t distinguishable if:

  • The current owner of the name consents to your LLC using it in a record and submits an undertaking in a form satisfactory to the Secretary of State
  • You provide the Secretary of State with a certified copy of a court’s final judgment establishing your right to use the name
  • Your LLC merges with the other company or acquires substantially all of its assets

We recommend checking out the for a complete list of naming rules for LLCs outlined on the South Carolina Legislature website.

2. Is the name available in South Carolina?

To check whether your desired name has already been taken by another business entity in South Carolina, you can perform a Business Name Search on the State of South Carolina's website.

If you’re not going to start your LLC right away, it might be a good idea to consider reserving your name for up to 120 days ($25 filing fee).

For more information, you can have a look at our South Carolina LLC Name Search guide.

3. Is the URL available?

You should check online to see if your business name is available as a web domain. Even if you don't plan to create a business website right away, this is an extremely important step as it 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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If you need additional information before getting started, you can have a look at our in-depth comparison of the Best LLC Services in 2024 instead.

FAQ: Naming a South Carolina LLC

LLC is short for “limited liability company.” It is a simple business structure that offers more flexibility than a traditional corporation while still providing your personal assets with legal protection from business debts. 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 South 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.

South Carolina does not offer DBA filings for LLCs.

Step 2: Choose a Registered Agent in South Carolina

After you find the right name for your LLC, you will need to nominate a South Carolina registered agent (known in the state’s formation documents as an “agent for service of process”). 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 registered agent is an individual or business entity 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 South Carolina or a corporation, such as a registered agent service, authorized to transact business in the state of South Carolina. You can choose to elect an individual within the company (e.g., yourself, etc.) or use a business attorney.

In order to be eligible, all prospective South Carolina resident agents must satisfy the following general requirements: 

  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Have a physical street address in South Carolina
  • Always be available at this specified address during normal business hours

Your agent must also sign their consent when you file the Articles of Organization with the Secretary of State.

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, or anyone else in your company, can serve as the registered agent for your South Carolina LLC; though new business owners are encouraged to hire a professional registered agent service.

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 South Carolina LLC Articles of Organization

To register your LLC, you'll need to file the South Carolina Articles of Organization with the Secretary of State. You can do this online or by mail.

South Carolina LLC Formation Document

Before filing, make sure you have completed your Articles of Organization correctly. You will need to have filled in the following sections:

  • The name of your LLC
  • The address of your initial designated office
  • The name and signature of your initial agent for service of process (registered agent)
  • The name and address of each organizer
  • Whether your LLC is member-managed or manager-managed
  • The names and addresses of all initial members/managers
  • When your Articles of Organization will become effective
  • The signature of each organizer

File the Articles of Organization

OPTION 1: File Online with the South Carolina Secretary of State

File Online

- OR -

OPTION 2: File by Mail

Download Form

State Filing Cost: $110, payable to the South Carolina Secretary of State. (Nonrefundable)

Mail to:
South Carolina Secretary of State's Office
Attn: Corporate Fillings
1205 Pendleton Street, Suite 525
Columbia, SC 29201

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

Note: If you're expanding your existing business to the state of South Carolina, you'll need to register as a foreign limited liability company (LLC).

FAQ: Filing South Carolina LLC Documents

Filing online is recommended as your forms will normally be processed within 24 hours. By comparison, if you mail your filing, it will typically take the Secretary of State’s Office between two and three days to complete processing once they receive your documents.

Note that filing times may take longer than these estimates depending on the Office’s workload volume.

An LLC is referred to as a "domestic LLC" when it conducts business in the state where it was formed. A foreign limited liability company 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 main cost of starting a South Carolina LLC is submitting your Articles of Organization with the Secretary of State, which costs $110. However, other fees can increase the starting cost, such as whether you choose to reserve a name ($25 fee), or adopt a fictitious name ($2).

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

Step 4: Create a South Carolina LLC Operating Agreement

A South Carolina LLC is not required to have an operating agreement, but it's a good practice for LLC members 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 LLC members are on the same page and reduces the risk of future conflict.

For more information on operating agreements, read our South Carolina LLC operating agreement guide.

FAQ: Creating a South Carolina LLC Operating Agreement

No. The operating agreement is an internal document that you should keep on file for future reference. However, many other states legally require LLCs to have an operating agreement.

Step 5: Get an EIN for Your South Carolina LLC

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 applying as an international applicant.

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 LLC vs. S Corp 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 South 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 responsibilities

We’ve broken down how to complete each of these steps in greater detail below.

South Carolina Annual Report

In order to remain in good standing in South Carolina, new LLCs taxed as corporations are required to file an initial report within 60 days of formation using Form CL-1. After this, these LLCs will need to continue to file an annual report alongside their state income tax return every year.

Depending on how your corporation is structured, this is done with one of two forms: 

Both S and C corporations are also subject to a business license fee, which is submitted with their returns. This license fee is equal to 0.1% of your business’s total capital and paid in surplus plus $15, with a minimum payable amount of $25.

Note: LLCs taxed as disregarded entities or partnerships are not required to file this annual report.

Sort Out Your Taxes

Regardless of where your LLC is registered, you will be required to pay certain federal taxes. This includes corporation and employer taxes (for LLCs filing as a C corporation) and federal income tax and self-employment taxes (for LLCs taxed as pass-through entities).

In addition, there are a number of different taxes you’ll be required to pay at a local and state level, which can vary depending on the nature of your business.

Below are some of the most common taxes in South Carolina:

Income Taxes

There are a number of taxes imposed by South Carolina on the earnings of individuals and entities from business activity located within the state. Depending on how your LLC is organized for taxation purposes, you may need to pay one or more of the following taxes:

  • Individual Income Tax: This is a variable rate tax levied at a rate ranging between 0% to 6.5%, depending on your taxable income. It is paid by the individual members of default-structured LLCs on the distributions they take from the business’s earnings.
  • Corporate Income Tax: If your LLC is treated as a C corp for tax purposes, it will be required to pay a flat tax rate of 5% on its total earnings and submit a corporate tax return.

Note: All the applicable annual report and tax return forms can be found using the South Carolina Department of Revenue’s Corporate Taxes and Individual Income Tax pages.

Sales and Use Taxes

South Carolina’s statewide sales tax is set at a base rate of 6%, though counties can also impose their own additional local sales tax rates up to a maximum of 3%. These rates are imposed on the sale, lease, and rental of most tangible goods and certain specific LLC services within South Carolina.

While you can file your sales and use tax return by mail using ST-389 (for local taxes) and ST-3 (for state taxes), it’s much easier to file online using the Department of Revenue’s free tax portal MyDORWAY. It’s important to note that taxpayers paying $15,000 or more for a filing period will be required to file online.

Note: If your LLC will be operating as a retailer (i.e., selling a physical product), it will need to first obtain a Retail License from the South Carolina Department of Revenue before it can make any sales of taxable items. You’ll need a separate Retail License for each business location (if you have more than one).

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Steps After LLC Formation

After forming your LLC, you will need to get a business bank account and website, sort all required business licensing, and get business insurance, among other things. 

Visit our After Forming an LLC guide to learn more.

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