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The Limited Liability Company (LLC) is a smart entity choice for many start-up businesses. The LLC provides personal liability protection and has the potential to save money on taxes. With a little research, you can learn how to form an LLC in Pennsylvania without an attorney.
Unlike a sole proprietorship or partnership where the small business owner can be personally liable for lawsuits against the business, the LLC is a separate legal structure, protecting for the business owner’s personal assets.
Besides the liability protection, the Limited Liability Company provides several other benefits over the sole proprietorship, partnership, and corporation because of the multiple tax options, ease of administration and management flexibility.
Forming an LLC in Pennsylvania can be both affordable and is simple enough for most people to start on their own. That said, it’s not a bad idea to have a legal professional like While the filing is pretty straightforward, it’s nice to have some support if you have questions, alerts when the annual report is due, forms like operating agreements, banking resolutions and more. There are companies like IncFile or ZenBusiness and others that do all of this for as little as $49.
To form a Limited Liability Company in Pennsylvania, file the Certificate of Organization with the Pennsylvania Department of State. The LLC filing fee is $125.
Approval for the LLC is typically around two weeks. Expedited filing is available if formation needs to happen faster. For an additional $100 filing is the same day, $300 receives 3-hour filing and $1,000 gets 1-hour filing.
If you have questions, contact the Pennsylvania Department of State.
HOW TO FILE THE CERTIFICATE OF ORGANIZATION AND FORM A PENNSYLVANIA LLC
The steps for filing online or by mail are largely the same. The screenshots show how to file online.
- Begin by creating an account on the Pennsylvania Department of State’s website.
- After logging into the account, scroll down to “Start or Manage Business Filings”, select “Domestic Limited Liability Company: and then select “Certificate of Organization – Domestic Limited Liability Company (8821)
Step 1: Veteran Status
If you are a Veteran or active reservist, check the box, otherwise leave it blank and then “Save and Continue”.
Step 2: LLC Name Search
Enter the name you want for the LLC. The name of the LLC also has to differ from other entity names registered with the Department of State. You can check on available Pennsylvania LLC names before filing to be sure the one you want is available.
The name of the LLC must also include a designator at the end of the business name. A designator is used to describe the type of business entity. Select the available designators from the drop-down box.
A comma may be used after the business name and before the designator. “Cowboy Cleaners LLC” and “Cowboy Cleaners, LLC” are both acceptable.
Enter the name and designator and click “Search”. If the name is available, there will be a message that says it appears to be available, but won’t be finalized until the Department of State reviews the application.
Step 3: Business Details
(a) Initial Registered Office – If the initial registered office is the physical address of the LLC or the address where the business records are stored, select (a) and enter the address below. A PO Box is not allowed.
(b) Commercial Registered Office Provider (CROP) – If hiring a commercial registered office service, they must first be registered with the Department of State. If they are, then select (b) and enter their name and county from the drop-down menus.
Step 4: Organizer Information
An LLC Organizer is someone involved with the formation of the Certificate of Organization. The Organizer may or may not become a member, such as a mentor, attorney or accountant, but any of the initial members can be listed as an organizer.
At least one organizer and their address must be listed. After all of the organizers have been listed, click on “Save and Continue”.
Step 5: Form Questions
Effective date of Certification of organization – If you want the LLC to start immediately, choose the box that says “The Certification of organization shall be effective upon filing in the Dept of State.”. If you want to LLC to start later, select the box that says “The Certification of organization shall be effective on (month date year hour, if any)” and enter the date of your choice. The main reason for delaying the LLC start date is when the filing is being done close to the end of a calendar year and the business isn’t going to have any activity until the start of the year. By delaying until the following year they will reduce the number of end-of-year filings.
Professional Company – If the services of the LLC have to be licensed by the state, enter “Applicable” in the drop-down menu and select the types of licenses services. For more information about professional licensing, see Pennslyvania Business Licenses and Permits in our state guide. Some common licenses are for Chiropractic, Dentistry, Law, Medicine, Optometry, Podiatric, Public accounting, Psychology, or Veterinarians.
Public Benefit – A public benefit LLC is one that intends to have a positive impact on society and the environment. Most filers will select “Not Applicable”.
Step 6: Docketing Statement
Name & Address – Enter the name and address of the person who will be responsible for filing the initial tax reports.
FEIN – The FEIN (Federal Employer Identification Number) is like the social security number for the LLC. We recommend leaving this field blank until the LLC is filed with the Department of State. If the name you plan to use can’t be registered, it will need to be revised with the IRS. More information about how to apply for an LLC FEIN.
Description of Business Activity – Provide some basic information about what the business does. If you want to keep the business purpose more open-ended, you can enter “Any lawful business activity for which a Limited Liability Company may be organized in Pennsylvania”.
Step 7: Attachments
This is an optional section and not used by most LLCs. Here you would include additional rules for the operation of the LLC.
Step 8: Declaration & Signatures
The person signing verifies they are authorized to execute the Certificate of Formation and they are the ones submitting this document to the Department of State.
Step 9: Review
Review that all of the information is correct.
Step 10: Pay and File
Pay and file the Certificate of Organization.
In under 2 weeks, the LLC will be approved if filing normally.
That concludes the basics of forming an LLC in Pennsylvania. Remember, even though you can do it yourself, there is more to an LLC than just the filing. If you have questions, work with an attorney or a specialized entity formation company such as IncFile or ZenBusiness to make sure everything is done correctly.
While not required, an Operating Agreement is recommended in many cases. An Operating Agreement is a legal document outlining the roles and responsibilities for the members of the LLC. Read more about when an LLC needs an Operating Agreement.
After filing the LLC, be sure to register for an Employer Identification Number (EIN) with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The EIN is basically a social security number for a business and will be needed before opening a business bank account. There is no cost to apply and it takes about 5 minutes to get. See how to apply for an EIN.
Last, before starting a business in Pennsylvania, you may still need to apply for business licenses, sales tax permits, self-employment taxes and more in Pennsylvania. See the Guide to Starting a Business in Pennsylvania for more information.