Think of all the people you communicate with regularly to run your LLC. Business partners, employees, banks, lawyers, and financial advisors all probably come to mind. But what about the state? It may not be at the top of your list, but running a successful LLC in South Dakota requires consistent interaction with the state.
Formation documents, business information changes, lawsuits, professional licenses, and Annual Reports – all of these (and more) require you to work with state agencies. The good news is that you don’t need to do it yourself.
Introducing the registered agent. A South Dakota registered agent is an intermediary for your LLC, a person or company that handles your communication with the state. They’re a vital part of any LLC’s success. Before you file your Articles of Organization, you’ll need to have a designated registered agent. How? Why? Who? Read on to find out.
What is a South Dakota Registered Agent & is it Necessary?
An LLC cannot be formed or do business in South Dakota without first having a registered agent on file with the Secretary of State. This is required by law and the penalties can be serious. Maintaining a registered agent doesn’t just keep you in good standing. It also provides an important service.
Think of your registered agent as your ambassador to the state, handling all your LLC’s important legal, tax, and compliance information. This can either be an individual, company or registered agent service, as long as they meet the state’s requirements (listed below) and agree to the appointment.
As soon as they’re appointed, your registered agent must be consistently available in South Dakota to receive and act on mailed documents and service of process. Let’s take a look at what the South Dakota Secretary of State has to say:
On the Secretary of State website, you’ll see distinctions made between commercial and non-commercial registered agents. The only difference is this: commercial agents have registered their information with the state and non-commercial ones have not. But both types are equally valid. Find a list of current commercial registered agents here.
Regardless of whether you choose a commercial or non-commercial agent, make sure that you have one on file at all times. If your LLC goes more than 60 days without a registered agent on file, it can be administratively dissolved.
What are the Requirements of a Registered Agent?
Generally, the state is pretty flexible when it comes to registered agent appointments. However, there are a few non-negotiable requirements. According to these requirements, your agent must:
- Be an individual South Dakota resident or a corporation authorized for business in the state.
- Have a physical address in South Dakota (P.O. boxes are not allowed).
- Have a mailing address in South Dakota.
You can even appoint yourself as the LLC’s agent, as long as you meet the requirements and don’t mind the added responsibilities.
Whether commercial or non-commercial, an individual or company, you will need to include the agent’s name and address on your Articles of Organization. Here’s a look at the form’s registered agent section:
When you’ve got potential options for your registered agent, review each one to make sure that they meet these requirements. If they do, you’re good to go! If not, you’ll need to keep looking.
Who can be a Registered Agent in South Dakota?
South Dakota’s registered agent requirements are pretty broad, so you’ll have no shortage of options. On top of that, your agent can be either an individual or a professional service. But think carefully before choosing, because each option has its own pros and cons. Let’s take a closer look.
You may choose to appoint a single person as your registered agent. Some LLC owners take on registered agent duties themselves. Others appoint one of their partners or managers. Some will even appoint a family member. As long as the proposed agent fulfills the state’s requirements, they’re a valid option.
In addition to being a South Dakota resident, your agent must not currently be establishing residency or receiving benefits in another state, even if that residency is still forthcoming.
Some smart registered agent choices include attorneys, accountants, or other LLC partners, people who understand the ins and outs of business operations.
- Convenience – Having familiarity and mutual trust with your registered agent is extremely beneficial, and appointing an acquaintance can provide both. Plus, you’ll always know how to contact them.
- Cost – Hiring someone you know often won’t cost a dime. It’s certainly cheaper than a professional service.
- Scheduling – Part of a registered agent’s duty is being consistently available to receive mailed documents and service of process. If your agent goes on vacation or moves out of state, it will throw a wrench in your plans.
- Punctuality Risks – Some state communications and filings are very time-sensitive. If your agent is unavailable when documents are delivered, it could slow down the entire process and put you at risk for late fees and penalties. Even worse, a friend or family member could lose or misplace a document. So if you’d rather not interrogate Aunt Louise about the location of a particular tax form, you might consider using a registered agent service instead.
Registered Agent Service
If safety and reliability is your goal, hire a registered agent service. A business acting as your registered agent must be either a domestic entity in South Dakota or a foreign entity who has foreign qualified in South Dakota.
- Privacy – Some documents delivered to your registered agent will contain sensitive information. Do you want details about your lawsuit or taxes lost out there in the world? Definitely not. A friend or family member might misplace these documents, but a professional service will not. Plus, in South Dakota, all registered agent names and addresses are available to the public. This might make an individual uncomfortable, but hiring a company will keep this personal information off the record.
- Reliability – Handling and processing time-sensitive documents is a registered agent service’s specialty, its area of expertise, its main game. Hire a professional service and you can be sure that your filings will be submitted properly and punctually, so you’ll never have to deal with late fees or other penalties.
- Location – Many registered agent companies offer service in most or all 50 states, so if business is booming and you decide to expand outside South Dakota, you won’t need to find a new agent for each state.
- Cost – There’s no getting around it – hiring a service costs more than appointing an individual who’s willing to do it for free. However, for a reasonable price (roughly $100/year), you’ll receive premium services. Taking your car to a mechanic costs more than letting your neighbor try to fix it, but the mechanic gives you peace of mind that the job will get done right, and that may very well be worth the cost.
All of the other steps in the LLC formation process will keep you busy, but take some time to ensure you find a registered agent that fits with your business model, goals, and values. Do this, and your LLC will reap the benefits for years to come.
How to get a Free Registered Agent
Here’s a pro tip: you can get the reliability of a registered agent service and the cost-effectiveness of an individual. The best of both worlds. When you hire certain LLC services to start your business, they’ll throw in free registered agent service.
How it Works
Hire a company like IncFile or ZenBusiness to form your South Dakota LLC. In addition to taking care of your Articles of Organization and other formation requirements, they will automatically include a registered agent. It’s a great two-for-one deal.
And an LLC service is pretty affordable – $150 for the South Dakota LLC formation fee, plus a small service fee. That’s great value for the number of benefits you receive. Some services will even cover and consolidate your LLC formation costs.
Take this route and you’ll sweep all formation paperwork and registered agent duties off your plate. Plus, to keep track of everything, these services provide user-friendly online dashboards, so you can follow everything they’re doing to keep your LLC in good standing.
Registered Agent Changes and Resignation
You may have a wonderful registered agent, someone who takes care of everything efficiently and who you trust completely. But you know what they say: all good things must come to an end. At some point in the life of your LLC, you may need to change your South Dakota registered agent.
You can make this change online or by submitting a Statement of Change form by mail or in person. All three options cost $25 and require the name and address of both your new and old registered agents. If you’d rather not deal with any of it, you can hire a registered agent service as your new agent and they will handle the paperwork for you.
Registered agent changes are fairly common, and you might need to file one for a number of reasons. However, the most common is your current agent’s resignation.
But don’t worry, you’ll never be blindsided by a resignation. After a registered agent submits an official Statement of Resignation, they stay on file with the LLC for 30 days. This gives the business time to find and appoint a replacement.
But once that 30-day window closes, the countdown begins. You have 60 days to bring on a new agent. Take any longer and the state will administratively dissolve your LLC. So make sure you file your registered agent change right away!
Have Questions or Concerns?
This guide contains almost everything there is to know about South Dakota registered agents. However, you might have a unique situation that requires additional information. Reaching out to the South Dakota Secretary of State is easy, and they’ll have the answers you need. Here’s how to go about it:
Visit Their Website
The Secretary of State’s Business Services page some great information on registered agents and the LLC formation process in general, so you’ll likely find answers to your quesitons there.
Give Them a Call
Sometimes it’s nicer, though, to speak with a person. If you prefer to talk on the phone, reach out to their Pierre office at (605) 773-4845.
Alternatively, you could reach out to Northwest Registered Agent (the best registered agent service in our opinion) via phone or email. They’re quick to respond and very knowledgeable.