You have a big idea, truckloads of ambition, and dreams of a thriving Montana 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 Montana. It’s perhaps the most important step in starting your Montana 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 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.
The name you choose must adhere to Montana’s business name requirements. This means it should include a business type designator like “limited liability company” or “limited company,” or the abbreviations “L.L.C.,” “L.C.,” “LLC,” or “LC,” and avoid using any terms associated with other business types, like “corporation,” “partnership,” “Inc.,” or “LP.”
Even if you follow those rules, however, your name won’t be acceptable if it’s already in use. Perform a name search to find out if your name is distinguishable in the Secretary of State’s records.
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 120-day hold on your name by submitting a name reservation request.
Choosing a Montana 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. Registered agent information is a mandatory part of the Articles of Organization. Your application will be rejected without it, so have an agent ready before you file.
You can appoint either an individual – who is a Montana resident and has a physical in-state address – or an entity authorized to do business in the state, like a registered agent service.
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 Montana 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 Montana.
Considering the Articles of Organization’s immense importance to the LLC formation, the form is surprisingly short and simple. You’ll finish it in no time if you gather all the requisite information beforehand. Here’s what you’ll need:
- An indication of whether your business is an LLC or a PLLC
- The LLC name
- The LLC’s duration
- A principal office address
- The registered agent’s name and address
- An indication that your LLC will be managed by its members or managers
- Names and addresses for each member or manager
- Professional services to be provided (if any)
- The name, title, and signature of one of your LLC’s members or managers
- A contact person’s phone number and email address
It would be nice if starting an LLC were free, but unfortunately it’s not. The Articles of Organization costs $70, so have a credit card ready when you file.
Don’t go scouring the Secretary of State’s website for a paper application, because you won’t find one. Montana no longer accepts paper forms and directs all filing processes through its ePass portal. You’ll need to create an account if you haven’t already.
Then, once you’re logged in, go to “Action Items” and click “Form a Domestic Limited Liability Company.” From there, just follow the instructions and you’ll breeze right through.
Standard processing time is 2-5 business days, but if you don’t have that kind of time, the Secretary of State offers two faster options. You can request priority handling (24-hour service) for an extra $20 or expedited handling (one-hour service) for $100.
What About Foreign LLCs?
The process outlined above works for domestic LLCs (those formed in Montana), but what if your business is expanding to Montana from another state? Disregard the Articles of Organization, as it’s not the form for you.
You’ll need to use the ePass filing system to foreign qualify your LLC. This just means registering as a foreign entity and obtaining authority to do business in the state. Like the Articles of Organization, foreign qualifying an LLC in Montana costs $70. While it might be tempting to start doing business before you’ve foreign qualified, don’t! This can result in severe penalties and fines.
Once the state has granted your LLC authority, however, you’re free to kick off your business activities in Montana.
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 Montana Secretary of State. 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 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 Articles of Organization, your LLC is an official business entity in the state of Montana. 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 Montana 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, Montana makes it very easy to figure out your business’ licensing needs. All you need to do is visit the state’s Department of Revenue License Lookup 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 Montana 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, registered agent name and address, principal office address, an indication that your business is managed by its members or managers, and the names and addresses of your LLC’s members or managers.
Frequently Asked Questions
About Filing the Montana LLC Articles of Organization
How long does it take Montana to form an LLC?
The state can typically process LLC formations in 2-5 business days. If you need your LLC formed faster, you can request priority handling (24-hour service) for an extra $20 or expedited handling (one-hour service) for $100.
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 Montana require for LLC formations other than the Articles of Organization?
Unlike some states, Montana 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 Montana?
Today, Montana has more than 120,000 small businesses. Clearly, entrepreneurs in many different fields find Montana to be a great place to own and operate a business entity.
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