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 South Carolina 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 South Carolina 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, Swyft Filings and others that do all of this for only $49.
To form a Limited Liability Company in South Carolina, file the Articles of Organization with the South Carolina Secretary of State. The LLC filing fee is $125 when filing online and $110 when filing by mail.
Approval for the LLC is typically around 1-2 business days when filing online and less than 2 weeks when filing by mail.
If you have questions, contact the South Carolina Secretary of State.
HOW TO FILE THE ARTICLES OF ORGANIZATION AND FORM A SOUTH CAROLINA LLC
The steps for filing online or by mail are largely the same. The screenshots show how to file online.
- Begin by registering for an account on South Carolina Secretary of State’s website.
- Next, select the “Start a New Business Filing”.
Step 1: Business Name Search
First, we search the Secretary of State’s database to see if the name we want to use is available. You can also check on available LLC names in South Carolina before going through the filing process to be sure the one you want is available. The reason for this search is that the name of the LLC also has to differ from other entity names registered with the Secretary of State.
Enter the name you want to search for and click “Search” to see if the name has been reserved. If the name is available, a message comes up that says “This name is available” If you get that message, click on the “Add New Entity” button.
Step 2: Form Selection
Is the organization a South Carolina entity? – If you are filing an LLC for the first time and located in South Carolina, you will generally select “Domestic Entity”. If the LLC was formed in another state and wanting to do business in South Carolina, select “Foreign Entity”.
Choose a business type to see a list of forms – Open the drop-down menu and select “Limited Liability Company”.
Available Forms – Select the Start Filing buttor for “Articles of Organization” to form a new LLC.
Step 3: Contact Information
Enter the contact information for the person filing the Articles of Organization.
Step 4: New Entity Name
The name you checked earlier will automatically fill this field. Enter the name exactly as you like and enter the cororate ending. This ending describes the type of business entity. Available endings include:
- Limited Liability Company
- Limited Company
- Ltd. Co.
A comma may be used after the business name and before the corporate ending. “Cowboy Cleaners LLC” and “Cowboy Cleaners, LLC” are both acceptable.
Step 5: Agent Information
To have an LLC in South Carolina, a Registered Agent must be identified. The Registered Agent can either be a resident of South Carolina or a Registered Agent service. The Registered Agent must have a physical address in the state (PO Boxes are not allowed) and act as a point of contact to receive legal documents, tax notices, summons, subpoenas, etc on behalf of the LLC.
Even though the business owner can be the registered agent, their name and address become public record and with that comes a loss of privacy. This is more important for some entrepreneurs, especially when they are doing business from home.
Step 6: Initial Designated Office
Enter the street address, city, state and zip code of the initial designated office. This address can be the physical address of the LLC or it can be the address where the business records are stored. The initial office has to be an address in South Carolina but can not be a PO Box.
Step 7: Management
This section is asking whether the LLC is Member-Managed or Manager-Managed.
- Member-Managed LLCs have an active involvement in the management of the LLC.
- Manager-Managed LLCs are hired by the members to run the LLC, similar to a CEO of a corporation.
Most LLCs are member-managed and would not check the box.
Step 8: Member(s) Liable for it’s debts?
Most filers skip this step, but if one or more of the members will be liable for the debts and obligations of the LLC, check the box.
Step 9: Company Term
In this section, you can indicate how long the LLC will remain in existence. Most LLCs will choose a Perpetual duration and skip this step, however some businesses (usually investment related) will have a specific closure date. If you have a specific end date in mind, click the “Term Company” box and enter the date.
Step 10: Delayed Effective Date
If you want the LLC to start immediately as most filers will, leave this step blank. If you want to LLC to start later, enter a date less than 90 days in the future to start. 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.
Step 11: Organizer Information
An LLC Organizer is someone involved with the formation of the Articles 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.
Only one organizer is required, but more can be listed if desired.
Last, either an organizer or filer must select the drop-down menu for the “Who is signing this form” question.
Step 12: Summary of Forms
An LLC that plans to elect corporation tax status will need to file form CL-1. If the LLC plans to be taxed like a disregarded entity (sole proprietorship) or partnership can continue. The tax status will be filed with the IRS when the EIN is filed. By default, single-member LLCs are taxed like a sole proprietorship while multi-member LLCs are taxed like partnerships.
Step 13: Pay and File
If certified documents are required, check the boxes for “Certificate of Existence” or the “Articles of Organization”. Non-certified documents will be available once the entity is filed. Certified documents can be obtained at any time in the future.
After payment is submitted the LLC will be approved in 1-2 business days.
That concludes the basics of forming an LLC in South Carolina. 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 Swyft Filings 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 South Carolina, you may still need to apply for business licenses, sales tax permits, self-employment taxes and more in South Carolina. See the Guide to Starting a Business in South Carolina for more information.