Kentucky Foreign Qualification

Your business is growing, and you’re planning an expansion to other states. It’s a good problem to have!

But it’s not quite as simple as choosing another location. Because each state has different rules and requirements for business operations, you may need a “foreign qualification” in each state where you plan to do business.

It’s a common misconception that foreign qualification is only for businesses operating outside the U.S. But in this case, “foreign” refers to any business operating in a state that isn’t the state where the LLC was originally formed.

For example, if your LLC is registered in Washington and you are looking to open a second location in Kentucky, you may need to complete a foreign qualification in Kentucky before you can expand there.

Important Note: If you’d like to save time and have the foreign qualification paperwork taken care of for you, many of the best LLC services can handle this task for you.

What happens if I fail to foreign qualify before doing business in Kentucky?

Foreign qualifying is essentially asking permission to do business in the state of Kentucky. And the notion that “it’s easier to ask forgiveness than permission” doesn’t apply here. Failing to foreign qualify before starting a business in Kentucky yields consequences that are far costlier than registering in the first place.

If you fail to foreign qualify, your business will be prohibited from maintaining any action or lawsuit in Kentucky courts. Plus, the attorney general could stay any in-progress actions or proceedings your LLC commenced. And there are monetary fines too. Your LLC will be subject to a $2 fine for each day it has been transacting business without authorization in the state.

Two dollars might not seem like much, but when you consider that it adds up to $730 a year, it looks much more intimidating. You would also need to make up any LLC taxes that you should have been paying. That – combined with the fact that you could lose your legal standing in Kentucky – makes operating in the state without foreign qualifying a risky move.

Although, there are some things that would remain unaffected. Transacting business without authorization won’t, for example, invalidate your LLC’s current contracts; nor would it prevent you from defending an action in court.

Find more information on these penalties in Kentucky’s Revised Statutes, Section 14A.9-020.

What is considered “doing business” in Kentucky?

We’ve established why you shouldn’t do business without a foreign qualification. But what exactly does it mean to “do business” in Kentucky? The state statutes are fairly quiet on what specifically constitutes “doing business,” but according to other state and tax laws, you are considered to be “doing business” and required to foreign qualify in most states if:

  • You have a physical presence in the state. This can mean stores, offices, warehouses, or other physical structures.
  • You have agents, salespeople, or other representatives transacting business on your behalf in the state.

Depending on how you’ve structured your LLC, you also might be subject to specific business taxes in Kentucky. Without a foreign qualification on file, the state would be unaware of your LLC’s tax status, and this could lead to even larger penalties later on. So, foreign qualifying right away can help you stay in good standing with the state and avoid further fines. It’s important to always stay on top of your LLC’s taxation requirements to avoid any unwelcome surprises.

If you’re unsure whether or not you need to file for a foreign qualification in Kentucky, we suggest seeking legal counsel.

Could I be exempt from foreign qualifying in Kentucky?

The foreign qualification, however, isn’t a hard and fast rule for all LLCs performing any kind of action in Kentucky. Certain actions do not qualify as “doing business” and therefore don’t require a foreign qualification. Some examples are:

  • Maintaining, settling, or defending a suit in Kentucky courts
  • Carrying on activities solely related to internal affairs, such as meetings of LLC members and/or managers
  • Having a business bank account in the state
  • Holding offices for the transfer or exchange of your LLC’s own securities
  • Selling products or services through independent contractors
  • Securing and collecting debts, or creating and acquiring indebtedness
  • Transacting business in interstate commerce
  • Owning, without more, real or personal property
  • Facilitating a single transaction, completed within 30 days and not in line with a series of similar actions

You can find this list in more detail in the Kentucky Revised Statutes, Section 14A.9-010. After reviewing both lists, see if your business activities in Kentucky are included. If they are, you’re probably exempt from foreign qualifying. However, it’s wise to seek legal counsel if you’re unsure, or if you just want to double-check.

How to Foreign Qualify Your LLC in Kentucky

Foreign qualification in Kentucky is simple if you know where to find and send your forms. If you or your legal counsel has decided to foreign qualify your LLC in Kentucky, go to the Secretary of State Business Forms Library and scroll down to the Foreign Limited Liability Companies section. There you’ll find a link for the “Certificate of Authority.” Click it to begin your foreign qualification journey.

Unfortunately, online filing isn’t an option for this form, so you’ll need to download it and submit it via mail or in person. To streamline the process, gather all your information beforehand so you won’t have to stop and search while filling out your form. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Your LLC name (or alternate name if your real name is unavailable in Kentucky)
  • The state where you formed your LLC and the date you did so
  • Your principal office address
  • Your Kentucky registered agent’s name and address
  • The names and addresses of your LLC’s representatives
  • The size and function of your LLC
  • Signatures of authorized representative and registered agent

When you’re finished, you can mail your form to:

Secretary of State

P.O. Box 718

Frankfort, Kentucky 40602-0718

If you live near Frankfort and want to physically hand it in, that works too! Drop it off at:

Capitol Building, Room 154

700 Capital Ave.

Frankfort, Kentucky 40601

Foreign qualifying isn’t cheap, but Kentucky’s $90 fee is a lot less than some other states. You can pay this fee by including a check, made out to the “Kentucky State Treasurer” with your form.

After your form is in and your fee is paid, sit back, take a deep breath, and pat yourself on the back. Your LLC is foreign qualified and you’re embarking on another chapter in the life of your business.

Name Requirements to Remember

But we’re not done yet! Before submitting your document and payment, quickly check to make sure your LLC name follows Kentucky’s business naming guidelines. Your name must:

  • Contain the words “limited liability company” or “limited company” or the abbreviations “LLC” or “LC”
  • Not use the word “cooperative”
  • Be unique and distinguishable from all other business entity names on record with the Secretary of State (perform a Kentucky LLC name search to make sure the name you want is available)

You can also reserve your Kentucky business name if you’re not quite ready to foreign qualify your LLC.

Should I hire a service to file my Kentucky foreign LLC?

Considering all the work that goes into expanding your business to a new state, you’ve likely got a lot on your plate. Rather than trying to juggle everything yourself, you can bring on an individual or company to help you secure your LLC’s Kentucky foreign qualification.

For example, business attorneys understand all the legal nuances involved, providing peace of mind that the job will get done correctly. But if you go this route, be sure you have the budget for it. Lawyer fees for Kentucky foreign LLC qualifications can be a prohibitively expensive option for businesses operating on tight budgets.

If you’re operating on a limited budget, but still want to have your Kentucky foreign LLC professionally registered, go with an online business service provider. There are plenty of reputable companies that can help you out with Kentucky foreign qualifications, but here are a couple of our favorites:

  • MyCompanyWorks ($99): MyCompanyWorks is one of the only service providers offering foreign qualifications for less than $100. This company receives excellent customer reviews and has a great track record of success, making it a smart choice for a wide range of entrepreneurs.
  • IncFile ($149): IncFile offers a free LLC formation service that we have always appreciated, and its pricing for foreign qualifications is a reasonable $149. IncFile has the best customer feedback reputation in the industry, with tens of thousands of positive reviews available online.
  • Northwest Registered Agent ($225): Northwest is more of a premium service, with the best customer support in the industry, in our opinion. They also include a year of their namesake registered agent service with every foreign qualification. There’s a reason Northwest is our #1 pick among the best registered agent services!

Frequently Asked Questions

When Is the Best Time to Foreign Qualify an LLC?

We think you should foreign qualify your LLC before you begin conducting business in a new state. If you don’t, your business could be subject to a broad range of fines and penalties for operating an LLC in a state where you don’t have permission to do so.

How Long Does It Take Kentucky to Process a Foreign Qualification?

Kentucky processes business filings faster than most states, as they can get your LLC foreign qualified the same day you submit your paperwork in many cases. That said, it can take up to three business days, which is still quicker than you’ll find in most states.

Where Can I Learn More About the Kentucky LLC Licensing and Permitting Requirements?

Chances are, you’ll require at least one license or permit to operate your LLC in compliance with Kentucky state law. For more information about business licenses and more in this state, check out the Permits, Licenses, and Renewals page on the Kentucky One-Stop Business Portal website.

Do I Need to File an Annual Report for My Foreign LLC in Kentucky?

Yes. Whether you operate a domestic or foreign LLC in this state, you are required to file a Kentucky LLC Annual Report.

What Is the Total Expected Cost of Operating an LLC in Kentucky?

The overall costs of operating a Kentucky LLC can vary considerably based on the specifics of your business. However, we created a helpful guide to help you identify and plan for every expense your LLC will face in this state.

Should I Use an LLC Service, Hire an Attorney, or Foreign Qualify My Own LLC?

The answer to this question lies in your personal preferences, but we can give some general pointers. An attorney will cost the most by a mile, but also provides expertise you won’t find with the other options. The DIY route is free of charge but can require quite a bit of legwork and provides no peace of mind that the process is being completed correctly.

Using an LLC service means your business will be foreign qualified by professionals who know what they’re doing, while also costing significantly less than a lawyer. This “best of both worlds” attribute is what makes LLC services our preferred option.

How Do Online LLC Services Work?

Using an online LLC service removes much of the hassle from the foreign qualification process. With these services, all you need to do is provide them with the name, location, and industry your business operates in, along with some info about yourself and your Kentucky registered agent.

The service then registers your Certificate of Authority with the state to qualify your LLC to do business in Kentucky.

Are LLC Service Websites Legit?

Absolutely. There are quite a few reputable companies offering LLC formation service and foreign qualifications these days, including the two options we discussed earlier: MyCompanyWorks and IncFile.

In fact, while we certainly have our opinions about which ones offer the best pricing and features, every one of the incorporation services we discuss on this website is entirely legitimate and trustworthy.

Need to save time?

Let’s face it, there’s never enough time in the day, especially when you’re running a company. And properly registering your LLC in Kentucky involves research and time, time that you could be using to continue growing your business.

If the thought of paperwork, fees and state correspondence makes your head spin, consider using a service like Northwest Registered Agent to foreign qualify your business. Services like Northwest ensure that your forms are filed correctly and on time, potentially saving you thousands of dollars in penalties, not to mention a bunch of time and stress.

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