You have a big idea, truckloads of ambition, and dreams of a thriving North Dakota 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 North Dakota. It’s perhaps the most important step in starting your North Dakota 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.
You might be excited about your new LLC name, but don’t go using it on your Articles of Organization or any marketing collateral before you’ve confirmed that it meets the state’s requirements. This means that it must include the words “limited liability company,” or the abbreviations “L.L.C.” or “LLC.” On top of that, it cannot imply unlawful activity or any other activity other than the ones you designate in your Articles of Organization.
After you’ve navigated all these rules, you also need to confirm that your name hasn’t already been taken. Perform a name search to find out if your desired name is already in use.
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 Dakota 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 Articles of Organization won’t be complete unless it includes registered agent information, so be sure you have someone lined up before you begin filing.
Your registered agent can be either an individual – as long as they are a North Dakota resident – or a business entity authorized to do business in the state, like a registered agent service.
Once you designate a registered agent on your Articles of Organization, their information will become 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 Dakota 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 Dakota.
Without the Articles of Organization, your LLC formation process is non-existent. It’s the document that officially puts you on the map. Even so, the form itself isn’t excessively long or difficult. If you gather all the necessary information beforehand, it’ll be smooth sailing. Here’s what you’ll need:
- The LLC name
- Principal office address
- Registered agent name and address
- If applicable, a delayed effective date (up to 90 days following the filing)
- The LLC’s duration
- A business purpose
- A name, address, and signature for each organizer
- Name, email address, and phone number of the LLC’s contact person
Unfortunately, the Articles of Organization aren’t free. It costs $135, so have a credit card or checkbook ready when you fill it out.
You’ve collected your information. You’ve arranged your payment. Now, all that’s left is to officially submit the Articles of Organization. You have three filing options: online, by mail, and in person.
If you’d like to complete the entire process from your desk, you can do so via North Dakota’s First Stop online service. Create an account if you haven’t already, then select “Articles of Organization” and follow the instructions.
Print the form that you find on First Stop, fill it out, then mail it to:
Secretary of State
State of North Dakota
600 E Boulevard Avenue Dept 108
Bismarck ND 58505-0500
Live near Bismarck? You can drop off the Articles of Organization to the same address as part of your daily errands.
No matter which route you take, the Secretary of State’s typical processing time is 2-3 weeks, even up to four weeks in peak filing times.
What About Foreign LLCs?
The process outlined above works for domestic LLCs (those formed in North Dakota), but what if your business is expanding to North Dakota from another state? Don’t worry about the Articles of Organization. You’ll be taking a different path.
All out-of-state business entities need to foreign qualify by filing a Certificate of Authority Application. Like the Articles of Organization, this document requires a $135 filing fee. You might be excited to get going in North Dakota, but hold off on doing business in the state until you’ve successfully foreign qualified. Doing so can result in some serious fines and consequences.
After you’ve successfully received your Certificate of Authority, you’re free to kick off your business activities in North Dakota.
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 North Dakota 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 North Dakota. 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 North Dakota 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, North Dakota makes it very easy to figure out your business’ licensing needs. All you need to do is visit the state’s Licensing 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 North Dakota 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 the business activities of your LLC, its principal office address, whether the LLC is managed by its members, a manager, or a board, and the name and address for each member, manager, or board member.
Frequently Asked Questions
About Filing the North Dakota LLC Articles of Organization
How long does it take North Dakota to form an LLC?
It takes North Dakota 2-3 weeks to process most LLC formation filings. During peak periods, it can take as long as a month. These turnaround times apply to all filing options, and the state offers no expedited 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 North Dakota require for LLC formations other than the Articles of Organization?
Unlike some states, North Dakota 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 North Dakota?
Today, North Dakota has more than 74,000 small businesses. Clearly, entrepreneurs in many different fields find North Dakota 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.