How to Start an S Corp in Hawaii

Starting an S corporation (S corp) in Hawaii is easy, and electing an S corp tax designation could potentially save your business money in taxes. Our guide will walk you through the process of starting your Hawaii S corporation and provide you with tips on maintaining your S corp.

Want to form an S corp elsewhere? Check out our other How to Start an S corp guides to learn more.

We recommend using a professional formation service like Tailor Brands to get your S corp up and running in no time.

Factors to Consider Before Starting an S Corp in Hawaii

Before forming an S corp, you have to consider the following factors:

  • Is an S corporation the best strategy for your business?
  • S corporation restrictions
  • Are S corp tax advantages right for you?

Is an S Corporation the Best Strategy for Your Business?

For help with choosing the right structure for your business, visit our Choosing a Business Structure guide.

S Corporation Restrictions

S corps have several restrictions, such as being limited to one class of stock and 100 shareholders. Read our What Is an S Corporation guide for full details.

Are S Corp Tax Advantages Right for You?

An S corporation is a tax designation that can be elected by an LLC or corporation. With an S corp, business owners are considered employees of the company and must receive a reasonable salary. Since all S corps technically have employees, the s corp must run payroll. 

In order to benefit from a Hawaii S corp tax designation, your business needs to make enough money to offset payroll expenses. Furthermore, S corps are beneficial for business owners who take large distributions in addition to their salary.

To learn more about the tax advantages of an S corp, read our LLC vs. S corp guide and take a look at our S Corp tax calculator.

Businesses that elect S corp status will need to hire payroll and accounting services.

Payroll Services Review | Accounting Services Review

How to Form a Hawaii S Corp

There are two main ways to start an S corp:

  • By forming an LLC and electing S corp tax status from the IRS when you request your employee identification number (EIN)
  • By forming a corporation and electing S corp status from the IRS

We recommend not starting a corporation with the S corp tax status because the S corp negates all of the benefits of a corporation.

Recommended: If you have an existing LLC, visit our How to Convert an LLC to S Corp guide.

Steps for Forming an LLC and Electing S Corp Status in Hawaii

Starting a Hawaii LLC and electing S corp tax status is easy. You can use our guides to start an LLC with the S corp status yourself, or you can hire a service provider like Tailor Brands to guide you through this process.

There are five basic steps to start an LLC and elect S corp status:

Step 1: Name Your LLC

Step 2: Choose a Registered Agent

Step 3: File the Articles of Organization

Step 4: Create an Operating Agreement

Step 5: Get an EIN and File Form 2553 to Elect S Corp Tax Status

Step 1: Name Your LLC

Choosing a company name is the first and most important step in starting your LLC in Hawaii.

Be sure to choose a name that complies with Hawaii naming requirements and is easily searchable by potential clients.

1. Follow the naming guidelines for a Hawaii LLC:

  • Your name must include the phrase “limited liability company,” or one of its abbreviations (LLC or L.L.C.). "Limited" and “company” may be abbreviated as "Ltd." and "Co.," respectively.

  • Your name cannot be the same as or substantially identical to any existing business or trademark registered in the state.

  • Your name cannot include words that could confuse your LLC with a government agency (FBI, Treasury, State Department, etc.).

  • The following terms cannot be used without approval from the state commissioner of financial institutions: financial institution, bank, banker, banking, banc, savings bank, savings and loan, savings association, financial services loan company, credit union, trust company, intrapacific bank, international banking corporation, and trust.

  • Domestic insurance corporations must include the word "insurance" in their name; and in the case of a reciprocal insurer, the name must include one of the following words: reciprocal, interinsurer, interinsurance, exchange, underwriters, or underwriting.

  • Use of the following terms also requires state approval or certification: certified public accountant, public accountant, CPA, PA, cooperative, escrow, and escrow depository.

  • Your name must be permitted by law and not attempt to mislead or confuse the general public.

You can also read the Hawaii state statute about LLC naming guidelines for more information.

2. Is the name available in Hawaii? You can use the business name search on the Hawaii Business Express website to see if your desired LLC name is available.

3. Is the URL available? We recommend checking to see if your business name is available as a web domain. Even if you don't plan to create a business website today, you may want to buy the URL in order to prevent others from acquiring it.

Find a Domain Now

Step 2: Choose Your Hawaii Registered Agent

You must elect a registered agent for your Hawaii LLC.

An LLC registered agent will accept legal documents and tax notices on your LLC's behalf. You will list your registered agent when you file your LLC's Certificate of Formation.

Many business owners choose to hire a registered agent service. Many of these services will form your LLC for a small fee and include the first year of registered agent services for free.

Step 3: File the Hawaii LLC Articles of Organization

The Hawaii Articles of Organization is used to officially register an LLC.

File Your Hawaii Articles of Organization

OPTION 1: File Online With Hawaii Business Express

File Online

- OR -

OPTION 2: File Form LLC-1 by Mail, by Email, by Fax, or in Person

Download Form

State Filing Cost: $50 nonrefundable filing fee + $1 refundable State Archive Fee, payable to the State of Hawaii

Mailing Address:
Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs
Business Registration Division
335 Merchant St.
PO Box 40
Honolulu, HI 96810

Office Address:
Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs
335 Merchant St., Room 201
Honolulu, HI 96813

Fax: (808) 586-2733


Step 4: Create an LLC Operating Agreement

An LLC operating agreement is a legal document that outlines the ownership and member duties of your LLC.

For more information, read our Hawaii LLC Operating Agreement guide.

Our operating agreement tool is a free resource for business owners.

Step 5: Get an EIN and Complete Form 2553 on the IRS Website

An EIN is a number that is used by the US Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to identify and tax businesses. It is essentially a Social Security number for a business.

EINs are free when you apply directly with the IRS.

Elect S Corp Tax Status
During the online EIN application, the IRS will provide a link to Form 2553, the Election By a Small Business form.

Visit our Form 2553 Instructions guide for detailed help with completing the form.

This is the form to elect S corp tax status for your LLC:

Screenshot of IRS online EIN application.

Ready to start saving on your taxes?

We recommend using a formation service to start your Hawaii S corp for you, so you can focus on the things that matter most — growing your business.


Keep Your Hawaii S Corp Compliant

Once you’ve finished electing the S corporation designation for your business, you will need to make sure you follow Hawaii state and local laws to keep your business in good standing. Hawaii businesses will need to file an annual report and pay state taxes. Furthermore, your business may need to obtain local permits. 

Hawaii S Corp Annual Report

All Hawaii businesses, including your LLC that is taxed as an S corporation, will need to file an annual report with the Hawaii Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs. This report informs the state of Hawaii about any changes made to your business’s address or registered agent information. Even if your business does not undergo any changes, you still need to file an annual report or you risk your business being dissolved.

Visit our Hawaii Annual Report page for a step-by-step filing guide.

Hawaii S Corp Taxes

S corporations benefit from pass-through taxation, meaning the business’s profits pass-through to S corp owners’ individual tax returns. S corp owners make money from their reasonable salary and distributions, and Hawaii S corp owners can expect to pay the following taxes:

Federal Self-Employment Taxes

Self-employment taxes cover social security and medicare. The self-employment tax rate is 15.3%, and money you take as salary will be subjected to the self-employment tax. However, distributions are not subjected to this tax.

Federal Income Taxes

Your federal income taxes will depend on your tax bracket, and the cutoffs for individual tax brackets as well as the percent owed will change each year. Both your salary and distributions are subjected to federal income tax.

Hawaii Income Taxes

Hawaii has a gradual state income tax, so similarly to the federal income tax, your Hawaii state income tax rate will change depending on your income level. Hawaii income tax rates range from 1% to 11%. Compared to other states, individuals in Hawaii that are taxed at the higher brackets will pay significantly more in taxes. This can make Hawaii state income taxes rather expensive.

Register for a Hawaii Tax ID Number

After forming your business, you will need to register to obtain a Hawaii tax ID number. This is used to identify your Hawaii tax account and obtain required state tax licenses.

Hawaii General Excise Tax 

Rather than a sales tax, Hawaii has a general excise tax. This is a tax on your business’s gross income and ranges from 0.5% to 4.5%. Most businesses treat this like a sales tax and pass the additional cost onto consumers.

Depending on your business’s revenue and how much you pay, you will be required to pay this tax monthly, quarterly, or every six months. Visit Hawaii’s Department of Taxation website for more information.

Additional State Taxes

Your business may need to pay additional taxes based on your industry, location, and number of employees. Hawaii’s Department of Taxation oversees these taxes.

Additional taxes a Hawaii business may have to pay include:

  • Alcoholic beverage tax
  • Tour tax
  • Transient tax
  • Car sharing tax
  • Fuel tax
  • Cigarette tax

Visit Hawaii’s Department of Taxation website for more information.

Hawaii Local Taxes

Regardless of whether your business is on Maui or Oahu, each local jurisdiction may have their own laws and regulations. We recommend you check with your local laws to ensure your business remains in good standing.

Start an S Corp FAQ

What is an S corp?

An S corporation (S corp) is a tax designation for which an LLC or a corporation can apply.

Are taxes for LLCs and S corps the same?

No. The default taxes for an LLC and taxes for an S corp are not the same.

With an S corp, owners pay personal income tax and self-employment tax on a predetermined salary. They may then withdraw any remaining profits from the business as a “distribution,” which isn’t subject to self-employment tax.

With an LLC, all company profits pass through to the owners’ personal tax returns, and then the owners must pay personal income tax and self-employment tax on the entire amount.

What is a reasonable salary for an S corp?

S corp owners are required to earn a “reasonable” salary, which basically means a fair market rate based on the individual’s qualifications as well as their duties and responsibilities at the company. The purpose of this requirement is to prevent S corp owners from paying themselves an artificially low salary in order to pay less self-employment tax.

What is a distribution?

A distribution is a dividend that a shareholder/owner can take from the business profits that remain after a company pays all of its employee salaries. Shareholders must pay personal income tax on distributions, but distributions aren’t subject to self-employment tax.

Can I still use my DBA name if I elect to be an S corp?

LLCs and corporations that operate under a “doing business as” (DBA) name can choose the S corp election.

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