Think of all the people you communicate with regularly to run your LLC. Business partners, employees, banks, lawyers, and financial advisors all probably come to mind. But what about the state? It may not be at the top of your list, but running a successful LLC in Iowa requires consistent interaction with the state.
Formation documents, business information changes, lawsuits, professional licenses, and Biennial Reports – all of these (and more) require you to work with state agencies. The good news is that you don’t need to do it yourself.
Introducing the registered agent. An Iowa registered agent is an intermediary for your LLC, a person or company that handles your communication with the state. They’re a vital part of any LLC’s success. Before you file your Certificate of Organization, you’ll need to have a designated registered agent. How? Why? Who? Read on to find out.
What is an Iowa Registered Agent & is it Necessary?
An LLC cannot be formed or do business in Iowa without first having a registered agent on file with the Secretary of State. This is required by law and the penalties can be serious. Maintaining a registered agent doesn’t just keep you in good standing. It also provides an important service.
Think of your registered agent as your ambassador to the state, handling all your LLC’s important legal, tax, and compliance information. This can either be an individual, company or registered agent service, as long as they meet the state’s requirements (see below) and agree to take on the role.
As soon as they’re appointed, your registered agent must be consistently available in Iowa to receive and act on mailed documents and service of process. Here’s what the Secretary of State website specifically says:
And make sure you have a valid registered agent on file at all times, because the state isn’t messing around – any state that goes more than 60 days without a registered agent will be administratively dissolved.
What are the Requirements of a Registered Agent?
Even though there are plenty of potential agents out there, the state has a few restrictions on who an LLC may appoint. While making your decision, be aware that your agent must:
- Be an individual Iowa resident or a business entity authorized to do business in the state.
- Have a physical address in Iowa (P.O. boxes are not allowed).
- Have a mailing address in Iowa.
- Not be the LLC itself. One of the LLC’s members or managers, however, may take on the role.
You can even appoint yourself, provided you meet these requirements and don’t mind taking on the added responsibilities.
Here’s what the Iowa Statutes have to say:
Remember that you must include your registered agent’s information when you file your Certificate of Organization, or your application will be rejected. LLCs are required to complete this filing through the state’s Fast Track Filing portal.
Who can be a Registered Agent in Iowa?
Iowa’s registered agent requirements are pretty broad, so you’ll have no shortage of options. On top of that, your agent can be either an individual or a professional service. But think carefully before choosing, because each option has its own pros and cons. Let’s take a closer look.
You may choose to appoint a single person as your registered agent. Some LLC owners take on registered agent duties themselves. Others appoint one of their partners or managers. Some will even appoint a family member. As long as the proposed agent fulfills the state’s requirements, they’re a valid option.
In addition to being an Iowa resident, your agent must not currently be establishing residency or receiving benefits in another state, even if that residency is still forthcoming.
Some smart registered agent choices include attorneys, accountants, or other LLC partners, people who understand the ins and outs of business operations.
- Convenience – Having familiarity and mutual trust with your registered agent is extremely beneficial, and appointing an acquaintance can provide both. Plus, you’ll always know how to contact them.
- Cost – Hiring someone you know often won’t cost a dime. It’s certainly cheaper than a professional service.
- Scheduling – Part of a registered agent’s duty is being consistently available to receive mailed documents and service of process. If your agent goes on vacation or moves out of state, it will throw a wrench in your plans.
- Punctuality Risks – Some state communications and filings are very time-sensitive. If your agent is unavailable when documents are delivered, it could slow down the entire process and put you at risk for late fees and penalties. Even worse, a friend or family member could lose or misplace a document. So if you’d rather not interrogate Aunt Louise about the location of a particular tax form, you might consider using a registered agent service instead.
Registered Agent Service
If safety and reliability is your goal, hire a registered agent service. A business acting as your registered agent must be either a domestic entity in Iowa or a foreign entity who has foreign qualified in Iowa.
- Privacy – Some documents delivered to your registered agent will contain sensitive information. Do you want details about your lawsuit or taxes lost out there in the world? Definitely not. A friend or family member might misplace these documents, but a professional service will not. Plus, in Iowa, all registered agent names and addresses are available to the public. This might make an individual uncomfortable, but hiring a company will keep this personal information off the record.
- Reliability – Handling and processing time-sensitive documents is a registered agent service’s specialty, its area of expertise, its main game. Hire a professional service and you can be sure that your filings will be submitted properly and punctually, so you’ll never have to deal with late fees or other penalties.
- Location – Many registered agent companies offer service in most or all 50 states, so if business is booming and you decide to expand outside Iowa, you won’t need to find a new agent for each state.
- Cost – There’s no getting around it – hiring a service costs more than appointing an individual who’s willing to do it for free. However, for a reasonable price (roughly $100/year), you’ll receive premium services. Taking your car to a mechanic costs more than letting your neighbor try to fix it, but the mechanic gives you peace of mind that the job will get done right, and that may very well be worth the cost.
All of the other steps in the LLC formation process will keep you busy, but take some time to ensure you find a registered agent that fits with your business model, goals, and values. Do this, and your LLC will reap the benefits for years to come.
How to get a Free Registered Agent in Iowa
Here’s a pro tip: you can get the reliability of a registered agent service and the cost-effectiveness of an individual. The best of both worlds. When you hire certain LLC services to start your business, they’ll throw in free registered agent service.
How it Works
Hire a company like IncFile or ZenBusiness to form your Iowa LLC. In addition to taking care of your Certificate of Organization and other formation requirements, they will automatically include a registered agent. It’s a great two-for-one deal.
And an LLC service is pretty affordable – $50 for the Iowa LLC formation fee, plus a small service fee. That’s great value for the number of benefits you receive. Some services will even cover and consolidate your LLC formation costs.
Take this route and you’ll sweep all formation paperwork and registered agent duties off your plate. Plus, to keep track of everything, these services provide user-friendly online dashboards, so you can follow everything they’re doing to keep your LLC in good standing.
Registered Agent Changes and Resignation
You may have a wonderful registered agent, someone who takes care of everything efficiently and who you trust completely. But you know what they say: all good things must come to an end. At some point in the life of your LLC, you may need to change your Iowa registered agent.
To facilitate this change, use the Iowa Fast Track Filing portal or mail/hand-deliver a Statement of Change of Registered Office and/or Registered Agent form to:
Secretary of State
Business Services Division
Lucas Building, 1st Floor
Des Moines, Iowa 50319
There is no fee for this filing. You may also change your registered agent by including the new agent’s information on your Biennial Report.
The most likely reason you may need to change your agent is if your current agent resigns.
Anticipating a future resignation might be stress-inducing, but you can rest assured that you’ll never be blindsided by an agent’s departure. This is because the Secretary of State requires registered agents to notify their LLCs before submitting an official resignation.
Consequently, you should have adequate time to find a replacement, but that doesn’t mean you should take your time. If your LLC spends more than 60 days without an agent on file, it will be administratively dissolved, so don’t delay!
Have Questions or Concerns?
This guide contains almost everything there is to know about Iowa registered agents. However, you might have a unique situation that requires additional information. Reaching out to the Iowa Secretary of State is easy, and they’ll have the answers you need. Here’s how to go about it:
Visit Their Website
The Secretary of State’s Business Services Division contains a lot of useful information on the entire LLC formation process, registered agents included. You may find the answers you need on this FAQ page.
Give Them a Call
If you’d rather talk to a person, reach out to their Des Moines office at (515)281-5204.
Alternatively, you could reach out to Northwest Registered Agent (the best registered agent service in our opinion) via phone or email. They’re quick to respond and very knowledgeable.