For businesses in industries like construction or real estate, where unforeseen circumstances and hazardous conditions may hold the owner responsible, consider starting an LLC. The protection gained means you will not be held personally liable, protecting you and your family from litigation or the debts of the business. An LLC may not be the best choice for business owners who plan on raising capital through outside investment. LLCs are not public structures and do not have shareholders, so taking a company public is not an option either. However, in the event that you'd like to take your business public you may switch to a public legal structure, like a C corporation, later on.
Despite being a relatively new option, the limited liability company (LLC) is now one of the most popular business structures among smaller organizations. While allowing business owners to remain free from a great deal of the regulations imposed on other types of companies, it still provides limited liability protection for its owners (members). This means that the personal assets of an LLC's ownership cannot be collected to fulfill the debts of the business.
For over 40 years Nolo has been publishing affordable, plain English books, forms and software on a wide range of legal and business issues, including estate planning, small business, personal finance, housing, divorce and intellectual property. Everything we publish is regularly revised and improved by our staff of lawyer-editors, to make sure that it's the best it can be. We pay close attention to changes in the law and we'll make sure your online legal documents stay legally up to date.
Get an Employer Identification Number from the IRS. If your LLC has more than one member, you will need this number so your LLC can pay federal and state taxes properly, hire employees, and open a company bank account. You can apply for this number: (1) online; (2) by contacting the IRS at (800) 829-4933; or (3) by completing and mailing in Form SS-4 to the address listed on the form.
The governing document of the LLC is called an operating agreement, and it is within this document that the members lay out all important provisions, such as standards for LLC governance, ownership parameters, and rules around member changes (adding or removing members, or what happens in case of death or incapacity of a member). The operating agreement is an internal document and is an agreement amongst the members or owners, which means it is not recorded with the state.
After you've completed the steps described above, your LLC is official. But before you open your doors for business, you need to obtain the licenses and permits that all new businesses must have to operate. These may include a business license (sometimes also referred to as a "tax registration certificate"), a federal employer identification number, a sellers' permit, or a zoning permit. For more on business licenses and permits, see the Licenses & Permits for Your Business area of Nolo's website.
If the LLC will be Manager governed, an elected set of Managers (who can be people other than Members), will make the business decisions. Under this structure, the business will more closely resemble a traditional corporation, with the Managers acting as directors, and the owners acting as shareholders. If an LLC elects to be governed by Managers, this decision must be stated in the Articles of Organization.
If you are foreign qualifying your business or wish to keep your contact information private, it may be wise to hire a professional Registered Agent service such as Swyft Filings. Our professional Registered Agent service ensures that your legal requirements will be fulfilled and that all communications will be relayed to your company in a timely manner.
Please do not place your social security number on filing or other documents you submit to the Secretary of State. Although we attempt to prevent disclosure of social security numbers, due to the large number of documents filed, we cannot guarantee that a social security number placed on a document will not be disclosed. It is the responsibility of the filer to ensure that a social security number is not contained on the filing.