You have a big idea, truckloads of ambition, dreams of a thriving Iowa LLC, and you’re mentally prepared to make it happen.
But the Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu once said, “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step,” and for you, that first step is filing the Certificate of Formation.
With such grand plans, the last thing you might want to do is file paperwork, but completing the Certificate of Formation is what authenticates your LLC, making it official in Iowa. It’s perhaps the most important step in starting your Iowa LLC. Following this guide will help take the tedium out of paperwork and get your business started quickly.
But before you dive into the Certificate of Formation, you should have a few pieces of information ready to help streamline the process.
Choosing an LLC Name
Before anything else, you will need to decide on an LLC name. You must include a business name on your Certificate of Organization, and if the Secretary of State deems that name unacceptable or unavailable, the document will be rejected, so make sure you nail down a good name right away.
But don’t start using a name on legal documents, state filings, or marketing materials unless you’ve confirmed that it complies with the state’s requirements. This means that it should use the term “limited liability company,” “limited company,” “L.L.C.,” “LLC,” “L.C.,” or “LC,” and it should be distinguishable from every other business name reserved or registered with the Secretary of State. Check to see if your desired name is already in use by searching for it using the state’s Business Entity Search function.
Once you’ve found your perfect name, include it on your Certificate of Organization to automatically register it. In the event that you’re not quite ready to file an LLC, you can place a 120-day hold on your name by submitting a name reservation request.
Choosing an Iowa Registered Agent
A registered agent is your LLC’s liaison to the state, the mediator who takes care of all your important legal, tax, and compliance documents, keeping your business in good standing. Without registered agent information on your Certificate of Organization, your filing will be rejected, so make sure you’ve made the necessary arrangements before you sit down to file it.
This agent can fall into one of two categories: an individual or a business entity. If you choose an individual, that person must be an Iowa resident with a physical address in the state, and if you appoint a business entity (like a registered agent service) it must be authorized to do business in Iowa.
Quick Note: If your first choice doesn’t work out, don’t worry. You can always change your registered agent in the future.
Preparing to File Your Iowa Certificate of Organization
Now for the main event: the Certificate of Organization. Here’s your opportunity to get your LLC officially on record and authorized to conduct business in Iowa.
The Certificate of Organization is the most crucial document to your LLC formation process, the catalyst for its authorization to officially do business. With that in mind, it’s surprising how quick and easy the document is. If you have all the necessary information ready beforehand, you’ll cruise right through this filing. Here’s what you need:
- The LLC name
- Registered office address
- Registered agent name
- Names and signatures for one or two organizers
- A delayed effective date, up to 90 days after filing (optional)
Unfortunately, like most business documents, the Certificate of Organization isn’t free. It costs $50, payable by credit or debit card through the Fast Track Filing portal when you submit it.
All Certificates of Organization must be filed online through the Secretary of State’s Fast Track Filing portal. The first step in the process is creating an account (if you haven’t already done so). Once you’re logged in, select the appropriate form and follow the onscreen instructions to complete it.
When you’ve successfully submitted your form and payment, your Certificate of Organization will be processed immediately. And that’s it! Your LLC is up and running in Iowa.
What About Foreign LLCs?
The process outlined above works for domestic LLCs (those formed in Iowa), but what if your business is expanding to Iowa from another state? Disregard the Certificate of Organization, as it’s not the form for you.
Rather, you will need to mail or hand-deliver an Application for Certificate of Authority to:
Secretary of State
Business Services Division
Lucas Building, 1st Floor
Des Moines, IA 50319
Or, you can fax it to (515) 242-5953.
This is called foreign qualifying and it gives your LLC authority to conduct business activities in the state. Resist the temptation to close deals, sell merchandise, hire employees, or take care of other business-related tasks before you’ve successfully foreign qualified, or your company could face serious fines and penalties.
Want Help Filing Your Certificate of Organization?
Let’s be honest: you’ve got a lot on your plate. Filing paperwork can take time away from your other tasks, ones more focused on setting your budding LLC up for success.
The good news is that you don’t need to file the Certificate of Organization yourself. But if an attorney is out of your price range, hiring an LLC creation service is a great option.
There’s no shortage of business incorporation services out there, but not all of them are equal. Each one offers different packages, costs, and processing times, so it’s important to find the right fit for your LLC.
While each service has optional upgrades and perks packages, on the most basic level, they will review your business information, prepare your formation documents, and submit them to the Iowa Secretary of State. They will complete everything outlined in this guide and notify you when your Certificate of Organization has been filed. You won’t have to lift a finger.
There are other benefits too. Some services will include a year of free registered agent service when you hire them. Other services offer order tracking, notifications on future documents (like Biennial Reports), assistance drafting your operating agreement, or coverage of certain LLC formation costs.
Which is the Best LLC Service?
All you need to do now is research every service extensively and make side-by-side comparisons for each option. Easy, right? Just kidding – we did all of that for you.
And from our meticulous research of reviewing and ranking the top LLC services, we’ve drawn the conclusion that IncFile and Northwest are your best overall options.
They might not have the brand recognition of LegalZoom, the industry giant, but both have amazing customer support, affordable prices, and include a year of registered agent service.