You have a big idea, truckloads of ambition, and dreams of a thriving Maryland 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 Articles of Organization.
With such grand plans, the last thing you might want to do is file paperwork, but completing the Articles of Organization is what authenticates your LLC, making it official in Maryland. It’s perhaps the most important step in starting your Maryland LLC. Following this guide will help take the tedium out of paperwork and get your business started quickly.
But before you dive into the Articles of Organization, you should have a few pieces of information ready to help streamline the process.
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Choosing an LLC Name
Before anything else, you will need to decide on an LLC name. You must include a business name on your Articles of Organization, and if the Department of Assessments and Taxation deems that name unacceptable or unavailable, the document will be rejected, so make sure you nail down a good name right away.
To be considered valid, your LLC name must comply with the state’s requirements, which means it must contain “limited liability company,” “limited company,” “L.L.C.,” “LLC,” “L.C.,” or “LC,” and be completely distinguishable from all other names reserved or registered with the Department of Assessments and Taxation. Unsure if your name is available? Search for it to find out.
Once you’ve found your perfect name, include it on your Articles of Organization to automatically register it. In the event that you’re not quite ready to file an LLC, you can place a renewable 30-day hold on your name by submitting a name reservation request.
Choosing a Maryland Resident Agent
A resident 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 Articles of Organization won’t be complete if you don’t include your resident agent’s information and signature, so be sure that you’ve reached out beforehand.
You can appoint either an individual or a business entity as your resident agent. If you go with an individual, that person must be a Maryland resident with a physical in-state address, and if you choose a business entity, like a resident agent service, it must be authorized to do business in the state.
Quick Note: If your first choice doesn’t work out, don’t worry. You can always change your resident agent in the future.
Preparing to File Your Maryland Articles of Organization
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Now for the main event: the Articles of Organization. Here’s your opportunity to get your LLC officially on record and authorized to conduct business in Maryland.
Considering how important the Articles of Organization are to the LLC formation process, the form itself is surprisingly short and simple. You’ll breeze right through it as long as you have the following information ready beforehand:
- The LLC name
- A business purpose
- The LLC address
- Resident agent name, address, and signature
- Signature of your LLC’s authorized person
- A return address
The last item you’ll need is a payment. The Articles of Organization costs $100, so have a check or credit card ready when you file.
Finally, processing time varies depending on which option you choose. If you’re in a hurry, consider the online option which will process within seven business days. For even quicker service, expedited processing in person can be done while you wait. Standard processing, through the mail or in person, is 4-6 weeks.
You’ve gathered your information and arranged your payment. Now it’s time to file. The state allows you to file online, by mail, or in person, so whether you prefer to do business digitally or want to leave a paper trail, there’s an option for you.
Take care of the entire process through the Maryland Business Express website. You’ll need to create an account if you don’t already have one. Simply click “Register Your Business,” log in, and you’re on your way. Online submissions are processed within seven business days.
Filing by Mail
Download, complete, and print the paper form, then mail it to:
State Department of Assessments and Taxation, Charter Division
301 W. Preston Street; 8th Floor
Baltimore, MD 21201-2395
Standard processing time is 4-6 weeks, but you can request expedited (seven business day) service for an additional $50.
If you live in Baltimore and need a break from the office, you can also hand-deliver it to the same address. Your filing will be processed that day.
What About Foreign LLCs?
The process outlined above works for domestic LLCs (those formed in Maryland), but what if your business is expanding to Maryland from another state? In this case, you can ignore the Articles of Organization and the instructions above. Your LLC will go a different route.
All out-of-state LLCs entering Maryland must instead foreign qualify by filing an LLC Registration Form either online or with a hard copy. Even though it might be tempting, don’t conduct any business in the state without first having foreign qualified, or you could find yourself facing serious penalties.
But after you’ve successfully foreign qualified, you’re free to kick off your business activities in Maryland.
Want Help Filing Your Articles 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 Articles 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 feature packages, on the most basic level, they will review your business information, prepare your formation documents, and submit them to the Department of Assessment and Taxation. They will complete everything outlined in this guide and notify you when your Articles of Organization have been filed. You won’t have to lift a finger.
There are other benefits too. Some services will include a year of free resident 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 Articles of Organization, your LLC is an official business entity in the state of Maryland. 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 Maryland 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, Maryland makes it very easy to figure out your business’ licensing needs. All you need to do is visit the state’s Business Express Licenses and Permits 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 Maryland 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 LLC’s name, mailing address, department ID number, federal tax ID number (EIN), the date and location of your LLC formation, the nature of your business, and your email address.
You will also need to answer a series of questions about your business operations each year to determine if you need to file a Business Personal Property Tax Return along with your annual report.
Frequently Asked Questions
About Filing the Maryland LLC Articles of Organization
How long does it take Maryland to form an LLC?
Online LLC formation filings take roughly seven business days to process, while mailed filings take 4-6 weeks. However, if you visit the Department of Assessments and Taxation in person, they will provide same-day service.
Should I file my own Articles of Organization, 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 Maryland require for LLC formations other than the Articles of Organization?
Unlike some states, Maryland 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 Maryland?
Today, Maryland has more than 600,000 small businesses. Clearly, entrepreneurs in many different fields find Maryland to be a great place to own and operate a business entity.
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