You have a big idea, truckloads of ambition, dreams of a thriving North Carolina LLC, and you’re mentally prepared to ake 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 North Carolina. It’s perhaps the most important step in starting your North Carolina 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.
Recommended ✔If you want to make sure your LLC is formed correctly, hire an LLC service. Below are the top two that will take care of all the legal paperwork:
If getting the most value out of an LLC service is your priority, choose ZenBusiness. They charge one of the lowest rates online and include all the most important features when starting a business. Read Review. If you're on a strict budget and prefer using the cheapest LLC service, choose IncFile. They will form an LLC for free (plus state filing fee) and give you great features along the way. Read Review.
If getting the most value out of an LLC service is your priority, choose ZenBusiness. They charge one of the lowest rates online and include all the most important features when starting a business. Read Review.
If you're on a strict budget and prefer using the cheapest LLC service, choose IncFile. They will form an LLC for free (plus state filing fee) and give you great features along the way. Read Review.
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.
A good name isn’t solely a memorable, descriptive one. “Good” also means following the state’s requirements. So, your name must include a business type designator like “limited liability company,” “limited company,” “L.L.C.,” “LLC,” “L.C.,” or “LC.” Further, it cannot include any of North Carolina’s restricted or prohibited words. Even if your name meets these requirements, it must be one that isn’t already in use, distinguishable from every other business name on record with the Secretary of State. Not sure if yours 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 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 North Carolina 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. When filing the Articles of Organization, you will need to include registered agent information, or else your form won’t be complete.
You have a lot of options for who to appoint. Your agent can be an individual resident of North Carolina or a business entity authorized to do business in the state, like a registered agent service. Once you designate an agent on your Articles of Organization, their information becomes part of your LLC’s public record.
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 North Carolina Articles of Organization
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 North Carolina.
Despite its immense importance to the LLC formation process, the Articles of Organization is relatively short and simple. You only need several pieces of information to complete it, and if you gather everything beforehand, you’ll fly right through it. Here’s what’s required:
- The LLC name
- The name and address of each person executing the filing
- A registered agent’s name and address
- The principal office address and phone number
- Names, titles, and addresses for each company official (optional)
- A business email address (optional)
- A delayed effective date (if applicable)
Like most government filings, this one comes with a fee, a $125 fee, to be exact, so have your checkbook or credit card ready when you file.
Whether you do all your business electronically or keep hard copy files for everything, there’s a filing option for you. You can choose one of three methods: online, mail, or in person.
This method is slightly faster than the other two – it’s typically processed in 3-5 business days. You will need to create an account and upload a completed PDF form. Find instructions for all steps of the process here.
Download, complete, and print the paper form. Then include your payment and send it to:
Business Registration Division
P.O. Box 29622
Raleigh, NC 27626-0622
If you’re local to Raleigh, you can also hand-deliver your form to 2 South Salisbury Street Raleigh, NC 27601.
The Secretary of State typically processes paper submissions within 5-7 business days. Not fast enough? You can request 24-hour service for an additional $100 fee or same-day service for $200.
What About Foreign LLCs?
The process outlined above works for domestic LLCs (those formed in North Carolina), but what if your business is expanding to North Carolina from another state? In this case, the Articles of Organization won’t be necessary.
Instead, your all-important form will be the Application for Certificate of Authority which, like the Articles of Organization, you can file online, by mail, or in person. Filing this form is called foreign qualifying, and it authorizes your LLC to do business in the state. Don’t pursue any business activities without first having foreign qualified, because it can lead to some fairly serious penalties.
But after you’ve successfully received your Certificate of Authority, you’re free to kick off your business activities in North Carolina.
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 perks packages, on the most basic level, they will review your business information, prepare your formation documents, and submit them to the North Carolina Secretary of State. They will complete everything outlined in this guide and notify you when your Articles of Organization 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.