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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 North 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 North 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 or ZenBusiness and others that do all of this for as little as $49.
To form a Limited Liability Company in North Carolina, file the Articles of Organization with the North Carolina Secretary of State. The LLC filing fee is $125 and approval is typically around one week. For an additional $100, you can opt for a filing in under 24 hours.
If you have questions, contact the North Carolina Secretary of State.
HOW TO FILE THE ARTICLES OF ORGANIZATION AND FORM A NORTH CAROLINA LLC
Start off by downloading the Articles of Organization. Enter the information into the form. If you file online, upload the saved PDF, otherwise mail in the form to the Secretary of State.
Step 1: LLC Name
Enter the name you want for the LLC. The name of the LLC has to differ from other entity names registered with the Secretary of State. Check on available North Carolina LLC names before filing to be sure the one you want is available.
Additionally, the name of the LLC must include one of the following designators at the end of the business name:
- Limited Liability Company
- Ltd. Liability Co.
- Limited Liability Co.
- Ltd. Liability Company
A comma may be used after the business name and before the designator. “Cowboy Cleaners LLC” and “Cowboy Cleaners, LLC” are both acceptable.
Step 2: LLC Organizers
Enter the name and address of each person responsible for executing the articles of organization and whether they are a member, organizer or both by checking the applicable boxes. Unless the articles of organization provide otherwise, each person executing the articles of organization in the capacity of a member of the limited liability company becomes a member at the time that the filing by the Secretary of State of the articles of organization of the limited liability company becomes effective.
An LLC Organizer is 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 the initial members will all be listed as organizers.
Step 3: Name of the Registered Agent
A North Carolina Registered Agent must be identified before forming an LLC. The Registered Agent can either be a resident of North Carolina or a Resident Agent service.
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 4: Street Address of the Registered Agent
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.
Step 5: Mailing Address of the Registered Agent
If you prefer to receive mail from the Secretary of State at an address different from the street address in #4, enter the address. This address can be a PO Box or an address out-of-state. If the mailing address is the same, leave this section blank.
Step 6: Principal Office
There are 2 parts to Step 6. Section “A” is used if the LLC has a principal office and Section “B” is used if the LLC does not have a principal office.
Section A – In this section, enter the street address, city, state and zip code of the initial principal office of the LLC. This address can be the physical address of the LLC or it can be the address where the business records are stored. You may not use a PO Box for the designated office.
Section B – This is usually selected if the principal office has not been secured yet. A principal office will need to be identified by the time the first annual report is due.
Step 7: Additional Provisions
This is an optional section and not used by most LLCs. Here you would include the business purpose or additional rules for the operation of the LLC.
Step 8: Company Officials
This section is optional but is used to list the company officials. This isn’t necessary for a single-member LLC, but a multi-member LLC may find it easier to create an Operating Agreement to list the officials as it is much easier to update the Operating Agreement than it is to update the Articles of Organization.
Step 9: Business Email Address
Another optional section, but enter an email address. The email does not have to be an official business email address, but will get a notification from the Secretary of State’s office when LLC documents are filed.
Step 10: Effective Date
If you want the LLC to start on today’s date choose Yes, otherwise select No and enter a date less than 90 days in the future to start.
If you want the LLC to start immediately, choose today’s date. 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 will not 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.
In this section, you can indicate how long it will remain in existence. Most LLCs will choose a Perpetual duration, however, some businesses (usually investment related) will have a specific closure date.
Step 11: Signature
Have an individual forming the LLC to sign and accept the terms and conditions. Click the submit button to save the information and proceed.
Step 12: File
At this point, the Articles of Organization can be mailed in or filed online. Online filings are approved a few days faster than the mailed in forms.
If you want to file online, set up an account with the Secretary of State
- Begin by visiting the North Carolina Secretary of State’s website.
- Click on the “Sign-In” link and then select “First Time User”
- Select “I want to” in the top menu and then “Create a Business Online”
Step 13: Online Filing
Filing Type – Select Creation to form a Limited Liability Company.
Requested Entity Name –
Has the entity been created in another state or country? – The answer for a new business starting out is likely no.
Entity Type – Choose “Limited Liability Company” from the drop-down menu.
Document Type – Choose “Articles of Organization Limited Liability” from the drop-down menu.
Customer Reference Number – Won’t apply to most filers.
Return Email – Enter an email address to correspond with the Secretary of State during the formation process.
That concludes the basics of forming an LLC in North 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 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 North Carolina, you may still need to apply for business licenses, sales tax permits, self-employment taxes and more in North Carolina. See the Guide to Starting a Business in North Carolina for more information.