Starting a new legal entity for your business allows you to officially operate in North Carolina. Many entrepreneurs in your shoes choose the limited liability company (LLC) structure for its advantageous tax treatment and reduced legal requirements compared to a corporation. LLCs also provide protection for your personal assets if a business lawsuit or judgment arises.
Find out how to set up your own LLC in the Tar Heel State.
5 Steps to Start an LLC in North Carolina
The North Carolina Secretary of State manages the process of creating and administering your LLC.
Find the Right Name
You need a name that aligns with your business's brand identity. It should be easy for your customers to remember and completely different from the names of other North Carolina companies.
When you have a name or two in mind for your LLC, search the possibilities on the Secretary of State's name database. Once you've decided on a name and checked to confirm that it's unique, you should also see if the domain name you want for your LLC is still available.
You'll also need to add either "limited liability company", "L.L.C." or "LLC" to the business name to meet the state's naming guidelines. You can't use restricted words that might cause customers to confuse your business with a bank or government agency.
If you're not quite ready to start your LLC, you can reserve the name you want for 120 days. You'll need to submit the Application to Reserve a Business Identity Name form along with a $30 fee to the Secretary of State.
Select a Registered Agent
Your registered agent must be a person or business with a physical North Carolina mailing address. The Secretary of State keeps this address on file so your LLC can receive official notices, legal documents and other critical forms.
You can choose one of the LLC members to serve as the registered agent, select someone else who is at least 18 years old, or hire a professional registered agent service.
Submit the Articles of Organization
This document requires you to fill in the following information:
- Your name and address
- Whether you're an LLC organizer, owner (called a member), or both
- The physical and mailing addresses for your main business location
- Unique LLC name that meets the North Carolina naming requirements
- The name, mailing address, and street address for your LLC's selected registered agent
You can download and print a PDF to submit your Articles of Organization in person or by mail. You can also register an account with the Secretary of State's online business portal so you can file your LLC documents online.
Obtain Appropriate Business Licenses and Permits
North Carolina has more than 700 different permits and licenses for various occupations, regulations and industries. You'll need to figure out the right ones for your LLC, unlike in some states that have one generic license to cover most businesses.
You can reach out to Business Link North Carolina for a free consultation with the state's economic development partners. During this call, the person can help you determine the licenses and permits you need to legally operate your LLC in the state. You can also get more information from the state board that governs your industry.
Create an Operating Agreement
While you don't legally need this document to run a North Carolina LLC, having an agreement about how to handle various aspects of the business will come in handy as your company grows. For example, your operating agreement can detail:
- The desired tax structure for your LLC
- Checks and balances you'll use to make decisions and protect all LLC members
- Whether you'll hire managers for the LLC or have the members act as managers
- Roles and responsibilities for each member and manager
- Each member's initial financial contribution to the LLC
- The start and end of the LLC's fiscal year
- How you'll handle disagreements
- When and how you can add new members
- What happens if a member wants to leave the LLC
- Each member's share of LLC profits and losses
- Process for ending the LLC if necessary
The Next Steps After Forming an LLC in North Carolina
Your work isn't done once you file your Articles of Organization. Fortunately, we've gathered the next steps you'll need to complete to officially open your new North Carolina LLC.
Prepare to Pay Taxes
Your LLC will be responsible for federal and state business taxes. You can get a free employer identification number (EIN) from the IRS by completing a quick online form. Then, you can use this number to open bank accounts for your business as well as pay taxes.
You will also need your EIN to get a North Carolina tax ID through the state Department of Revenue. Depending on the type of LLC you have, North Carolina may charge:
- Sales and use tax
- Privilege license tax
- Unemployment insurance tax (if you have employees)
- Withholding tax (if you have employees)
Companies that hire workers must provide proof of workers' compensation insurance.
Open Business Bank Accounts
You'll also need separate bank accounts for your LLC to protect the limited liability you and the other members receive from this business structure. Once you have your EIN number, you can get checking, savings and credit card accounts for your business's operational expenses and financial needs.
Select a Payment Services Provider
Setting up a secure payment system protects the privacy of sensitive customer information like credit card data. A breach that results in fraud and identity theft can have serious financial consequences for your LLC and may irreparably damage the reputation of your brand.
When you use Pay.com, Level 1 security shields every transaction since we comply with the highest level of the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards (PCI DSS).
Beyond security, we also provide the seamless experience your customers expect from ecommerce. You can select the payment methods you plan to offer. You can also set up a branded checkout page to prevent customers from bouncing because they aren't sure they can trust the payment process on your site.
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Maintain Good Standing for Your LLC
Your LLC must meet certain requirements to keep operating legally in the state. North Carolina requires LLCs to submit an annual report. This carries a fee of $202 to send an electronic form or $200 if you send a paper copy. It's due on or before April 15, starting in the year after your LLC becomes official in North Carolina.
The LLC must also:
- Respond to correspondence from the Secretary of State within 30 days
- Officially notify the Secretary of State about a change in your principal office address or your registered agent's name or address within 60 days
- Pay charges, fees and penalties to the state within 60 days
- Officially notify the Secretary of State about membership changes
If you don't meet these requirements, North Carolina can legally dissolve your LLC. It will no longer exist as a separate business entity.
The Bottom Line
Although it takes some time and effort to set up your North Carolina LLC, we've attempted to make it as easy as possible with this five-step process. If you have the information you need to complete the Articles of Organization, you can create a limited liability company in the state in just a few weeks.
Once you're ready to start selling your products and services, you'll want to have Pay.com in place as your full-service payment infrastructure. From multiple methods of payment to high-level security tech like multi-factor authentication and tokenization, we offer an optimal experience for you and your LLC customers.