You have a big idea, truckloads of ambition, and dreams of a thriving New Hampshire 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 New Hampshire. It’s perhaps the most important step in starting your New Hampshire 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.
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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 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.
Before choosing a name and running with it, confirm that it complies with the state’s business name requirements. It must include the term “Limited Liability Company,” or the letters “L.L.C.,” “LLC,” or a similar abbreviation. Additionally, it must be distinguishable from every other business name already on record with the Secretary of State. How do you determine if your name is already in use? Perform a name search using the state’s business search function.
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.
IMPORTANT: Don’t forget to get your business domain name so nobody else can use it. This will protect your brand and make things much easier for you down the road. Secure it easily through GoDaddy.
Choosing a New Hampshire 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. Every New Hampshire LLC must designate an initial registered agent on their Certificate of Formation before submitting it. Otherwise, it won’t be accepted.
There are plenty of registered agent options available. You can appoint an individual, as long as they are a New Hampshire resident, or a business entity – like a registered agent service – provided they are authorized to do business in the state. You can even take on the role yourself if you’re prepared for the added responsibilities.
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 New Hampshire Certificate of Formation
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 New Hampshire.
The Certificate of Formation is the most crucial document in your LLC’s formation process, yet it’s surprisingly short and simple. You’ll only need a few pieces of information to complete it, so gather them beforehand and you’ll breeze right through. Here’s what you will need:
- The LLC name
- Principal office address and mailing address (if different)
- Business phone number and email address
- The LLC’s business purpose
- Registered agent name and address
- Whether the LLC is managed by members or managers
- Member or manager names, addresses, and titles
That’s all! Unfortunately, the Certificate of Formation isn’t free. It costs $100, so be ready to pay this fee with a check or credit card when you file.
Appreciate the simplicity of online filing? Prefer the reliability of leaving a paper trail? Either way, The Secretary of State has a filing option for you. You can submit your Certificate of Formation online, by mail, or in person.
Take care of the entire process online through the state’s NHQuickStart filing portal. You will need to create an account if you haven’t done so already. After you’re logged in, click “Business Services,” then “Create a Business Online,” and finally “I am creating a new Domestic Business/Trade Name.” Select Limited Liability Company from the drop-down box and follow the instructions to complete the form. Your filing will be processed in 3-7 business days.
Download, complete, and print a hard copy of the application. After you fill it out, mail it with your payment to:
Corporation Division, NH Dept. of State
107 N Main St, Rm 204
Concord, NH 03301-4989
Mailed filings take somewhat longer to process, approximately 1-3 weeks.
Or, if you live in Concord, you can hand-deliver your finished form instead. Drop it off at the State House Annex, 3rd Floor, Rm 317 at 25 Capitol St. Forms delivered in person incur an additional $25 expedited charge, but are processed while you wait.
What About Foreign LLCs?
The process outlined above works for domestic LLCs (those formed in New Hampshire), but what if your business is expanding to New Hampshire from another state? Disregard the Certificate of Formation, as it’s not the form for you.
Alternatively, you will need to foreign qualify your LLC by filing an Application for Foreign LLC Registration either online or as a hard copy. Do this before conducting any business activities in New Hampshire. If you jump the gun, your LLC might end up facing serious fines and penalties.
But after you’ve successfully foreign qualified, you’re free to kick off business activities in the state.
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 New Hampshire 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 New Hampshire. 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 New Hampshire 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, New Hampshire makes it very easy to figure out your business’ licensing needs. All you need to do is visit the state’s Business Information 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 New Hampshire 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 state business ID number, the purpose of your business, the name and address of your registered agent, your principal business address, your business email address, and your LLC members’ names and addresses.
Frequently Asked Questions
About Filing the New Hampshire LLC Certificate of Formation
How long does it take New Hampshire to form an LLC?
If you file your Certificate of Formation online, your LLC will likely be formed within a week. However, if you choose to mail your documents, it could take up to three weeks.
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 New Hampshire require for LLC formations other than the Certificate of Formation?
Unlike some states, New Hampshire 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 New Hampshire?
Today, New Hampshire has more than 136,535 small businesses. Clearly, entrepreneurs in many different fields find New Hampshire to be a great place to own and operate a business entity.
The Best LLC Formation Services
If you want to use a reputable online service to form your LLC, there are dozens of options. We invite you to check out our full list of the best available LLC formation services, but we’ll also share a couple of the most popular options below.
ZenBusiness ($49 + State Fee)
ZenBusiness is the best LLC formation service available. That said, ZenBusiness receives outstanding customer feedback, with more than 9,800 reviews available online and very few negative reviews among them.
LegalZoom ($79 + State Fee)
For most people, LegalZoom is the first name that comes to mind for LLC services due to their massive advertising budget. LegalZoom’s pricing and features may not compete on an equal playing field with ZenBusiness, but its brand power is notable and it receives good customer reviews.
For a side by side comparison, check out our LegalZoom vs ZenBusiness review.