Maine Certificate of FormationYou have a big idea, truckloads of ambition, and dreams of a thriving Maine 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 Maine. It’s perhaps the most important step in starting your Maine 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 Formation, 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.

As you narrow down your name option, remember that Maine has certain rules for its business names. Your LLC name must contain the words “limited liability company” or “limited company,” or one of the following abbreviations: “L.L.C.,” “LLC,” “L.C.,” or “LC.” It also must avoid language that is obscene, promotes unlawful activity, or suggests affiliation with public institutions.

On top of all that, it needs to be distinguishable from every other business name on file with the Secretary of State. Unsure if your name is available? Perform a name search to find out.

Once you’ve found your perfect name, include it on your Certificate of Formation 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.

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Choosing a Maine 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. Your Certificate of Formation won’t be complete without registered agent information, so make sure you’ve reached out to a potential agent beforehand.

The good news is that you have an array of registered agent options. You can choose an individual, as long as that person is a Maine resident with a physical in-state address. Or, you can use a business entity, like a registered agent service, provided that entity is authorized to do business in Maine.

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 Maine Certificate of Formation

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Now for the main event: the Certificate of Formation. Here’s your opportunity to get your LLC officially on record and authorized to conduct business in Maine.

The Certificate of Formation has monumental weight in the LLC formation process, granting your LLC authority to conduct business in Maine. Considering this importance, you might think that the application is long and complicated, but it’s actually the opposite. In fact, if you gather the necessary information beforehand, you can complete it in one sitting. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • The LLC name
  • The filing date or later effective date (if applicable)
  • Designation as a low-profit LLC (if applicable)
  • Type of professional services (if a professional LLC)
  • Registered agent name and address (or commercial registered agent’s CRA number)
  • Authorized person’s printed name and signature
  • Contact person name, phone number, and email address

The Certificate of Formation comes with a $175 filing fee, payable by check (made out to “Maine Secretary of State”) or card. If you want to pay via credit card, make sure to include a Credit Card Payment Voucher.

Filing Options

You might prefer doing business online, but unfortunately, Maine doesn’t have an option for electronic filing, so you will need to submit your form by mail or in person.

Download and complete the paper application, including the Filer Contact Cover Letter. Then, mail the documents and payment to:

Secretary of State 

Division of Corporations, UCC and Commissions 

101 State House Station 

Augusta, ME 04333-0101

Typical processing time is 5-10 business days, but if you need to form your LLC as soon as possible, the Secretary of State also offers expedited processing. For an extra $50, you’ll receive 24-hour service, and for $100, your form will be processed immediately upon receipt.

What About Foreign LLCs?

The process outlined above works for domestic LLCs (those formed in Maine), but what if your business is expanding to Maine from another state? Disregard the Certificate of Formation, because your business will need to take a different route.

Out-of-state LLCs must instead foreign qualify by submitting a Statement of Foreign Qualification to Conduct Activities and a Certificate of Existence from its home state. The filing fee is a bit higher than the Certificate of Formation: $250. You might be tempted to start doing business without foreign qualifying, but resist the urge because this can lead to severe fines and penalties.

But after you’ve successfully foreign qualified your LLC, go right ahead and kick off your business activities.

Want Help Filing Your Certificate of Formation?

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 Formation 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 feature packages, on the most basic level, they will review your business information, prepare your formation documents, and submit them to the Maine Secretary of State. They will complete everything outlined in this guide and notify you when your Certificate of Formation 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 annual reports), assistance drafting your operating agreement, or coverage of certain LLC formation costs.

Important Post-Formation Compliance Issues

Once you’ve successfully filed your Certificate of Formation, your LLC is an official business entity in the state of Maine. However, this doesn’t mean that your responsibilities have come to an end. There are several other steps you’ll need to take if you want to operate a compliant LLC for years to come.

Acquire a Federal Tax ID Number (EIN)

While an EIN isn’t a requirement for Maine LLCs, we strongly recommend that every entrepreneur obtains one. An EIN enables your LLC to hire employees, open business bank accounts, file taxes, and take care of several other important aspects of LLC maintenance. Even if you operate a single-member LLC with no employees, you should still have an EIN for your business.

Set Up a Financial Infrastructure

One other crucial step is to solidify the financial aspects of your LLC, first by opening a business bank account. You must have separate bank accounts for your personal use and for business purposes, as this will help you keep your personal and business assets separate, a vitally important consideration for any entrepreneur. If you commingle these assets, you leave yourself wide open for lawsuits, as it would be easy for someone to claim that your business is simply an extension of your own personality and not a separate entity from you as a person.

The other portion of this step is to set up an accounting system. This can either mean that you hire an accountant to take care of your LLC’s bookkeeping, or you could acquire high-quality accounting software like QuickBooks. Either way, you need a reliable means of keeping detailed records for each financial transaction your LLC executes. This is another vital part of keeping your personal and business assets separated, and it will also be enormously helpful come tax time.

Acquire Licenses and Permits

The next step involves obtaining any industry-specific licenses and permits your LLC may need to operate in compliance with state laws. Depending on the nature of your LLC’s business, you may require several permits or you may be able to operate your LLC without any state-level licenses.

Thankfully, Maine makes it very easy to figure out your business’ licensing needs. All you need to do is visit the state’s Business Licensing page and you’ll find the license and permit applications you require. Make sure to check with your county and locality as well, as there may also be licensing requirements for your business on these levels.

Obtain Business Insurance

This step isn’t a requirement, but it is a strong recommendation. The exact insurance policies your business needs will vary based on the type of products and services you offer, but most LLCs should at least have a general liability insurance policy to protect against common perils like slip-and-fall accidents. In some industries, you might need several different insurance policies to cover all of your financial bases, so do your research ahead of time to determine which types of insurance you should purchase.

File Your Annual Reports

Each year, every LLC in Maine must file an annual report. This report includes some basic information about your business and keeps the state updated regarding any important changes to your LLC’s structure. The information you’ll need to file this report typically includes your business purpose, the names and addresses of each member or manager, your LLC’s principal business address, the registered agent’s name and address, and the signature of your LLC’s authorized person.

Frequently Asked Questions

About Filing the Maine LLC Certificate of Formation

How long does it take Maine to form an LLC?

It typically takes Maine’s Secretary of State 5-10 business days to process LLC formation filings. However, you can speed things up a bit by purchasing expedited processing. An additional $50 fee upgrades your turnaround time to 24-hour service, while an extra $100 will get your filing processed immediately.

Should I file my own Certificate of Formation, hire an attorney, or use an online service?

This question largely comes down to personal preferences, but we do have some general insights. The DIY route can be quite a bit of work, as you’ll need to complete each step of the formation process on your own with no assistance. As for hiring an attorney, this can be prohibitively expensive for new businesses, as a lawyer can charge hundreds or even thousands of dollars to form your LLC.

You can think of business services companies as a middle ground between these options. While most of these companies charge a fee to form your LLC, that fee will be significantly less expensive than an attorney’s fee. At the same time, you still aren’t going it alone. Instead, you have an experienced professional guiding you through the entire process.

What does Maine require for LLC formations other than the Certificate of Formation?

Unlike some states, Maine doesn’t require any related filings other than your formation articles. However, we still strongly recommend obtaining a federal tax ID number (EIN). An EIN allows your LLC to file taxes, hire employees, open business bank accounts, and more. Every LLC should have one, whether your state requires it or not.

How many small businesses are there in Maine?

Today, Maine has nearly 150,000 small businesses. Clearly, entrepreneurs in many different fields find Maine to be a great place to own and operate a business entity.

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