Forming a limited liability company (LLC) is a great way to protect your personal assets and reduce your business risks. This guide will walk you through the key steps and considerations when starting an LLC.
What is an LLC?
An LLC is a legal structure that combines aspects of a partnership and a corporation. Like a corporation, an LLC protects your personal assets from business debts and liabilities. But similar to a partnership or sole proprietorship, profits and losses can pass through to the owners’ personal tax returns.
Benefits of an LLC:
- Personal asset protection
- Pass-through taxation
- Operational flexibility
- Increased credibility
Downsides of an LLC:
- More complex than a sole proprietorship
- Requires filing formal paperwork and fees
- Ongoing compliance requirements
Steps to Form an LLC
Forming an LLC involves several key steps, though requirements can vary slightly by state.
1. Choose a Business Name
- Name your LLC something unique but descriptive.
- Check your Secretary of State’s website to make sure the name isn’t already taken.
2. File Formation Documents
- Prepare and file Articles of Organization with your state.
- Appoint a registered agent for official correspondence.
3. Create an Operating Agreement
- This outlines ownership stakes, voting rights, rules, and regulations.
- While not required, it’s highly recommended for multi-member LLCs.
4. Obtain Licenses and Permits
- Get any licenses or permits required by your state and local government. Common examples include general business licenses, sales tax permits, and industry-specific licenses.
5. Set Up Accounting and Bank Accounts
- Establish separate business banking and accounting operations.
- Never co-mingle personal and business funds.
Maintaining Your LLC
Once your LLC is formed, be sure to stay compliant and take steps to maintain your liability protection:
- File an annual report with your Secretary of State to keep your LLC in good standing.
- Keep detailed financial records showing clear separation between personal and LLC funds.
- Hold official member meetings if you have a multi-member LLC. Document all major decisions in meeting minutes.
- Obtain adequate business insurance to protect your LLC assets in the event of a loss or lawsuit.
- Renew licenses and permits required for operating your business.
Forming an LLC provides invaluable benefits for new businesses. Follow the key steps outlined above when starting your LLC. Be sure to stay compliant with all legal and operational requirements. Reach out to an attorney or accountant for any questions or guidance. With the proper preparations, your new LLC can help shield your personal assets while reaping the rewards of business ownership.