How To Start An LLC in North Carolina 
Are you thinking about starting your own business in North Carolina? If so, you’ll need to decide what business structure to use. One popular option is a Limited Liability Company (LLC). An LLC offers several benefits, including limited liability for its owners and flexibility in how it’s taxed. In this guide, I’ll provide an overview of the process of starting an LLC in North Carolina and also highlight some of the key things you need to know before you get started. So if you’re ready to take the plunge into entrepreneurship, read on!
Why choose an LLC?
An LLC is a type of business structure that can help protect your personal assets in the event that your business is sued. Unlike a sole proprietorship or partnership, an LLC provides its owners with limited liability protection, which means that their personal assets are separated from the assets of the business, which is useful if the business is sued. In addition, an LLC can help to shield you from personal liability in the event that your employees or contractors cause damage or injure someone while working for your company. As a result, an LLC can provide peace of mind for business owners who want personal asset protection.
Related: How to start a business in North Carolina
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What are the steps to form a North Carolina LLC?
While it can be intimidating to form an LLC for the first time, with a little research and patience, you can learn how to form an LLC in North Carolina without an attorney.
Let’s break down the steps to complete the North Carolina LLC formation process.
Step 1: Choose a Name for the LLC
The first step in forming a North Carolina Limited Liability Company is to make sure the name you want is available.
It’s critical to do a name search before registering an LLC name, as the name of each LLC must be distinguishable from other entity names registered in the state of North Carolina. The North Carolina Secretary of State makes it easy to search and verify if your LLC name is available. Here is more information on how to do a North Carolina LLC name search.
In addition to the name needing to be unique, the name of the LLC must include one of the following phrases or abbreviations (also referred to as 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.
If you plan to use a different name from the one you register (perhaps you want to run multiple businesses under the LLC), you can file an assumed name (sometimes referred to as a fictitious business name, trade name, DBA, or Doing Business As name). To register an assumed name, file the Assumed Business Name Certificate, along with the filing fee to the Register of Deeds office in the county where the LLC is located.
Before settling on a name, you may want to see if a domain name is also available to match your business name and website address.
Step 2: Appoint a North Carolina Registered Agent
North Carolina law requires that every LLC in the state have an active Registered Agent. A Registered Agent will act as a central point of contact to receive legal documents, tax notices, summons, subpoenas, etc., on behalf of the LLC.
The basic requirements to be a Registered Agent in North Carolina include:
– The agent must be a North Carolina resident at least 18 years of age or a commercial Registered Agent service with a registered office in the state.
– The agent must have a physical address in the state (PO Boxes aren’t allowed).
– The agent must generally be available during normal business hours at the address provided to receive service of process.
Learn more about the requirements for a Registered Agent in North Carolina.
Any individual meeting the requirements can be the agent; however, the agent’s name and address become public record, and with that comes a loss of privacy. This is more important for some entrepreneurs, especially when doing business from home or still employed. Hiring a commercial Registered Agent service like Northwest Registered Agent will help keep the owner’s names from being publicly listed.
Step 3: File the North Carolina LLC Articles of Organization
The paperwork to officially create an LLC in North Carolina is called the Articles of Organization. To submit the paperwork, either file online through the North Carolina Secretary of State’s website or download and mail the Articles of Organization Form L-01 to the Secretary of State’s office.
Related: How to fill out the North Carolina Articles of Organization
When filling out the LLC Articles of Organization, a few sections and terms can be challenging to answer. Let’s go over a few of these sections to help get your LLC started right.
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.
An LLC Organizer is involved with the formation of the Articles of Organization. The Organizer may or may not become an LLC member, such as a mentor, attorney, or accountant, but the initial members will all be listed as organizers.
Principal Office – There are two parts to answering the Principal Office question. 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 LLC’s initial principal office. This address can be the LLC’s physical address, 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.
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.
Company Officials – This section is optional but is used to list the company officials. This section is optional but is used to list the company officials. This is most often used for LLCs where a member may hold a job with connections or holds professional licensing through the state of North Carolina.
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 the 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.
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What To Do After Starting A North Carolina LLC
Once the LLC has been formed, there are a few additional steps to take care of. Below is a list of the most common tasks.
Prepare a North Carolina LLC Operating Agreement
The operating agreement is a document that governs the framework of an LLC. This document covers items like ownership rights, member responsibilities, how profits and losses are distributed, and more.
Most states do not require an LLC to have an LLC operating agreement, but it is still worth considering. Without an operating agreement:
- The LLC could be subject to generic state rules that may be detrimental in the event of a lawsuit.
- Member’s personal liability protection may be diminished.
- Members may not fully understand their roles and responsibilities, which could lead to costly disputes in the future.
Related: North Carolina LLC operating agreement template
Obtain an EIN
If the LLC will hire employees or is owned by more than one member, an EIN is required.
The EIN or Employer Identification Number (also referred to as a Federal Employer Identification Number, FEIN, or Federal Tax ID Number) is a unique 9-digit tax identification number assigned to a business by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Similar to a social security number for an individual, the EIN identifies business entities for tax purposes. The EIN will be needed to hire employees, open a bank account, build business credit, register for business licenses and permits, file federal and state taxes, and more.
There is no cost for the EIN when registering through the IRS. The number is available immediately when applying through the IRS website; however, you can also register by phone, fax, or mailing IRS Form SS-4.
If an Employer Identification Number isn’t required, the LLC can use either the owner’s social security number or register for an EIN.
Related: How to Apply for an EIN
Open an LLC Bank Account
Opening a bank account for your LLC is important for liability protection as the account separates the business’s funds from the member’s personal funds.
Several documents will be needed to open a business bank account, such as:
- A banking resolution is a document that authorizes the members to open a business bank account on behalf of the LLC.
- Copies of the original formation paperwork from the state showing the creation of the LLC.
- Driver’s licenses of the members.
- Occasionally, the bank will request a North Carolina Certificate of Good Standing to prove the LLC is active and in good standing with the state.
Related: How to Open a Business Bank Account for your LLC
Apply for Business Licenses and Permits
Depending on what your business does and where it is located, there will likely be various business licenses and permits needed before starting the business. Some common registrations include:
- Business License – Some cities require businesses to obtain licensing before they can start.
- Professional License – Certain services, such as barbers, accountants, stylists, and others must be licensed.
- Sales & Use Tax Number – In order to sell products and certain services, registration with the North Carolina Department of Revenue will be necessary.
Related: What Business Licenses are Needed in North Carolina?
File the North Carolina LLC Annual Report
LLCs are required to file an annual report with the NC Secretary of State. The annual report is due by April 15th of each year and has an annual state fee of $200
Related: How to File a North Carolina LLC Annual Report
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North Carolina LLC FAQs
How much does it cost to start an LLC in North Carolina?
The Secretary of State’s filing fee to start an LLC in North Carolina is $125.
How long does it take to start an LLC in North Carolina?
It normally takes 4-6 business days to start an LLC in North Carolina when filing online or 2-3 weeks when filing by mail for the state to process the LLC paperwork.
What is the total expected cost of operating an LLC in North Carolina?
In addition to normal business expenses, every year, North Carolina LLCs will pay the $200 annual report fee.
How do you know if your LLC name is available in North Carolina?
One of the first steps in forming a limited liability company (LLC) is to choose a name for your business. But before you can register your LLC with the state of North Carolina, you need to make sure that your chosen name is available. The best way to do this is to search the North Carolina Secretary of State’s website.
You can search by LLC name or by keyword. If your chosen name is already taken, you’ll need to choose another one. Once you’ve found an available name, you can proceed with the LLC formation process.
Who can be a Registered Agent in North Carolina?
Anyone can act as a Registered Agent, provided they are at least 18 years old, reside in the state of North Carolina, and are generally available to receive documents during normal business hours.
Related: What are the requirements for a Registered Agent in North Carolina?
Do you need a business license if you have an LLC in North Carolina?
It’s sometimes thought that the LLC and business license are the same in North Carolina, but they aren’t. An LLC is referred to as a business entity, which is how the business is organized to conduct business. A business license is an approval from a government entity to operate legally.
Most businesses in North Carolina will need to register with a variety of government agencies. North Carolina business license requirements are based on what the business does or where it is located in the state, not on the type of entity.
Related: What business licenses are needed in North Carolina?
What is a Foreign Limited Liability Company?
A North Carolina foreign LLC isn’t a special type of LLC. Instead, it’s an LLC that was formed in another state but wants to operate physically in North Carolina. Physically operating means having a presence, such as having an office or hiring an employee.
Related: What is a foreign LLC?
What is a Professional Limited Liability Company?
Businesses that require occupational licensing in North Carolina, such as accountants, architects, veterinarians, etc., can file for a Professional Limited Liability Company (PLLC) instead of an LLC. Filing for a PLLC is very similar to that of an LLC.
Is an LLC the same as a corporation?
The LLC is one of four main types of business entities. You can learn more about each here:
What is a sole proprietorship?
What is a general partnership?
How to form a North Carolina corporation
What is the difference between LLC, Ltd., and Co.?
LLC, Ltd., and Co. refer to entity designators that can be used at the end of a Limited Liability Name in North Carolina.
Can you have a single-member LLC in North Carolina?
An LLC in North Carolina can be operated by one individual or many. An LLC owned by one person is referred to as a single-member LLC