If you’re looking for a reliable DIY guide for starting an LLC in Indiana, look no further. Below you’ll find all the information you need to launch your business and handle any associated costs. Follow each step carefully and your LLC will be established and ready to hit the ground running.
That said, the process can be complex, with various filings and costs, so if at any point you need help, you can hire an online incorporation service – they’ll take care of the paperwork so you can spend more time growing your business.
While LegalZoom and IncFile are by far the most well known and widely-used, a lesser-known LLC service called Northwest delivers incredible customer experiences and overall value. They strike a balance between IncFile and LegalZoom by offering premium services for roughly the same price.
Whether you decide to hire a service or go it alone, follow these steps and your LLC will be prepared to start raking in profits right away.
Step 1: Name Your LLC
What’s in a name? Quite a bit, actually. Your business name is your Indiana LLC’s identity, its personality, its reputation. Find a name that sticks in customers’ minds – while conveying your brand qualities – and you’ve struck gold. A unique, memorable name can draw in new customers and keep existing ones coming back.
Your LLC name is going to appear everywhere: business cards, marketing collateral, websites, legal contracts, bank accounts, invoices, directories, and much more. So be sure that it conveys your product, service, brand, and values.
While you can (and should) be creative with your business name, there are certain state requirements that it must follow.
As you whittle down your LLC name options, be aware of the state’s business name requirements, which say that every LLC name must contain a business type designator like “limited liability company,” “L.L.C.,” or “LLC.” Additionally, it must be available, distinguishable from every other business name reserved or registered with the Secretary of State.
But in the case that your desired name is already taken, you’ll probably want a way to make it distinguishable without completely discarding it. Typically, the following changes will not be enough to make it unique:
- Using different business identifiers at the end (i.e. LLC or LLP)
- Adding/deleting/changing articles, punctuation, capitalization, or hyphenation
- Using a plural or possessive form of the same word
- Exchanging of “and” and “&”
- Exchanging of Arabic, Roman, or spelled-out numbers
So, if your business name is unavailable, you must include or change at least one distinguishable character or key word to make it unique.
Consider this: your friend Fanny wants to open a flower shop in West Lafayette, Indiana. The name she wants, Flowers by Fanny, LLC is already in use. So she comes up with a new one: Fanny’s Florals and Design, LLC. This name is similar to the original but includes new words, distinguishing it in the Secretary of State’s records.
Determine the Name is Available
Of course, you will only need to make distinguishable changes if your name is already taken. Don’t make the mistake of ordering business cards, creating advertisements, and using a name on documents like the Articles of Organization without first confirming it’s available. Use the Secretary of State’s INBiz Business Search to see if there’s an existing business using your desired name.
Maybe you pegged a distinguishable name right away, or maybe it took some modifications, but either way, once you have a unique name, you can lock it down by filing a name reservation.
Optional: Name Reservation
You may have fallen in love with a particular name, but still have some preparation and paperwork to sort out before starting your LLC, and you’re worried that someone will swipe it in the meantime. To calm your nerves, you can reserve that name in Indiana for a total of 120 days.
Think about Fanny. After making her name distinguishable, she’s ready to make it official, but if she’s waiting on some paperwork to start her LLC, she can place a hold online through the INBiz web portal. First, create an account if you don’t already have one. Then, once you’re logged in, select “Secretary of State Business Division,” then “Name Reservation.” Simply follow the onscreen instructions, pay the $10 fee, and submit your form. As long as it’s available, your name will be reserved immediately.
Step 2: Choose a Registered Agent
Fanny’s LLC is quickly taking shape, and if it’s going to operate in Indiana, she’ll need a go-between for state and legal communications. This is called the registered agent.
A registered agent is a key component of your budding LLC, handling all of its sensitive communication with the state so you don’t have to. As stated on the Secretary of State Division of Business Services website, the registered agent “is the legal representative and contact for the business.”
Taxes, lawsuits, maintenance requirements, and more – the registered agent takes care of it all. If you had to do this yourself, it would pile additional tasks onto your already-full plate. Plus, your agent makes your business available to receive documents even when you’re out of town or away from the office. This is especially important if your physical office is outside Indiana.
But maintaining an agent isn’t just a convenience, it’s required. Every LLC operating in Indiana must have a registered agent on file at all times, or they can be administratively dissolved.
Now for the practical application, the “how-to.” Putting your registered agent on the record is as simple as including the name and address on your Articles of Organization. Your agent must also give consent to the appointment by checking a box. Once this document has been successfully submitted, your agent’s information will be listed on your LLC’s public record.
You have two options for who can serve as a registered agent: an individual or a company.
Individual as Registered Agent
You may think that an individual registered agent would need specialized training or experience, but this isn’t the case. Anyone can serve as your registered agent, as long as they are an Indiana resident, have a physical address in the state, and are at least 18 years old.
Attorneys, consultants, and other third parties can be quality options, but family members and friends are equally valid. You can even appoint yourself if you’re prepared to accept the additional responsibilities.
Registered Agent Service
It can be a lot easier, though, to use an LLC formation service like IncFile or Northwest Registered Agent, so we highly recommend it. Not only will they take care of business formation requirements, but they’ll also include a free registered agent service. Or, if you’d rather start your Indiana LLC on your own, you can use a national registered agent service to cover your agent duties.
During the life of your LLC, you may, at some point, need to change your registered agent. Perhaps you want to switch from an individual to a professional service, or maybe your existing registered agent resigns. Either way, you’ll want to make the change as soon as possible because operating without an agent on file can lead to administrative dissolution.
Step 3: File the Formation Documents with the State
This is where the LLC formation process kicks into high gear. Let’s check back in with Fanny.
She’s reserved her unique business name, designated a registered agent, and she’s ready to get her LLC off the ground. It’s time for Fanny to take on the most important LLC document: the Articles of Organization. This filing creates a record for Fanny’s Florals and Design, LLC with the Indiana Secretary of State, giving it the authorization to commence business in the state.
When you’re prepared to start your business, you can file the Articles of Organization online, by mail, or in person, so you can choose the easiest and most practical option for you. The filing fee is $95 for online submissions and $100 for hard copy filings.
You can take care of the entire process through the INBiz website, although you will need to create an account (if you haven’t already). From the homepage, click “Start a New Business,” sign in, and get started. Online forms are processed within one hour.
Filing by Mail
Download a paper application, complete it, and mail it (with your fee payment) to:
Secretary of State
Business Services Division
302 W. Washington St. Room E-018
Indianapolis, IN 46204
Filing In Person
If you live in Indianapolis, you can also hand-deliver your completed form to the same address.
Standard processing time for mailed and in-person filings is 3-5 business days.
Step 4: Create an Operating Agreement
The operating agreement is the framework that holds up an LLC, the vital underpinning that establishes processes for its procedures, activities, and conduct. Essentially, it serves as your company’s bylaws.
Adopting an operating agreement is optional for Indiana LLCs. There are no laws that require it. But if you want what’s best for your business, you should create one. This agreement not only customizes your processes and optimizes efficiency, but it also protects your assets in legal disputes and legitimizes your LLC to banks, courts, government agencies, and more. Think twice before you start doing business without one.
Let’s say our friend Fanny sells a percentage of her company to two other owners. Her operating agreement could stipulate how the LLC’s assets would be distributed among them in the case of dissolution. But if she decides to maintain sole ownership, the agreement could be used in court as evidence that the LLC’s assets are separate from her personal ones. These are just two examples, but the operating agreement governs everything from member duties to the tax structure.
If you’ve decided to draft an agreement, there are two ways to go about it:
- Write it yourself. Don’t be intimidated by this option. There are plenty of free online templates that serve as helpful guides. You can create an effective document from most of the templates out there, but we recommend this one, courtesy of Northwest Registered Agent. It’s got everything you need to draft a solid agreement.
- Hire an attorney. If you want to be absolutely sure that you don’t miss any important details, an attorney can write or review the agreement for you, ensuring that it complies with state law, includes all necessary information, and avoids the state’s default laws.
What are default laws?
Each state has its own set of generic, baseline laws for how LLCs should operate. These laws, however, only govern matters not included in your operating agreement. Take dissolution, for example. If your LLC ever dissolves, your operating agreement would determine what happens to its remaining assets and debts. But if you fail to include it in the agreement, the state will make that decision for you.
Because default laws are broad and not tailored to your specific business, they often aren’t in your LLC’s best interest, so it’s best to avoid them by being as comprehensive as possible in your agreement.
Step 5: Get an EIN
There’s simply no way to avoid taxes. In fact, it’s illegal to try, so don’t do it.
Federally, LLCs are classified as “pass-through” entities, businesses that don’t file corporate tax returns, but whose owners include income and losses on their individual returns. Still, there are certain circumstances that require LLCs to pay federal taxes, like classifying as a corporation or partnership, hiring employees, or selling merchandise. So, in Fanny’s case, if she plans on hiring additional florists and selling bouquets, she will need to apply for an EIN.
The Employer Identification Number (EIN) is a nine-digit number that the IRS will use to identify your company’s tax accounts, so if you pay any business taxes, it’s extremely important to have one. Click the “Do I need an EIN?” link on this page to see if you fall into this category. If so, apply for an EIN one of three ways:
Need to get this done quick? File online – it’s by far the most efficient method. You can only complete the process between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. EST, Monday through Friday, but you’ll receive your number immediately upon finishing the digital form. Keep in mind that you will need to provide a valid individual taxpayer number (like a Social Security Number) as part of the process.
You might prefer the feel and security of a paper form. In this case, download Form SS-4, complete it, and fax it to (855) 641-6935. You will receive your EIN within four business days.
Or, there’s always trusty postal mail. However, this is the slowest option, as processing typically takes around four weeks. If that doesn’t deter you, fill out Form SS-4 and send it to:
Internal Revenue Service Operation
Attn: EIN Operation
Cincinnati, OH 45999
Okay, so you’ve filed the Articles of Organization, designated a registered agent, adopted an operating agreement, and filed for an EIN. Time to start doing business, right? Sorry, there are a couple of additional steps you may need to take first. But don’t worry, you’re almost there!
Step 6: Taxes, Licensing & Income Reporting
For all intents and purposes, most LLCs will be official after completing all the prior steps. Still, it’s important for business owners like Fanny to keep looking ahead, as there are certain maintenance requirements to keep an Indiana LLC running smoothly and in good standing with the state.
Before you start doing business, create a plan for the following potential LLC requirements:
As mentioned earlier, LLCs are almost always classified as “pass-through” entities, which means that they don’t pay income taxes directly to the federal government. That responsibility falls instead on the owners, who must include business income and losses on their personal 1040 tax returns and/or Schedule C. LLCs are flexible with tax structure, so you can choose to have yours taxed like a corporation instead. In this case, it would need to file a separate corporate tax return.
As an Indiana LLC, your state income taxes will be as simple as your federal ones. Income and losses should be reported on the owners’ personal returns as opposed to a separate corporate return (unless you’ve elected to have your LLC taxed like a corporation). And unlike some other states, Indiana does not impose a “franchise” or “privilege” tax on its LLCs, so you won’t need to worry about that either.
This doesn’t mean, however, that you’ll be free from all business-related taxes in the state. There are certain circumstantial taxes your LLC will owe if it meets specific conditions. Your LLC will be responsible for one or more of these taxes if it:
- Sells products (Sales Tax)
- Hires employees (Withholding Tax)
- Sells food and beverages (Sales Tax and Food-and-Beverage Tax)
- Rents accommodations for less than 30 days (Innkeeper’s Tax)
- Rents motor vehicles (Motor Vehicle Rental Tax)
- Distributes gasoline or special fuel (Prepaid Fuel Tax)
- Sells tires (Tire Fee)
- Sells fireworks (Sales Tax and Safety Fee)
- Sells prepaid wireless cards (Prepaid Wireless Service Charge)
See any that apply to your business? You can register for all of these taxes through the INBiz website.
Plus, depending on your LLC’s location, it may owe a local tax to its city, municipality, or county. Consult your local government’s website to find out.
The Articles of Organization may have already made your business legitimate, but your LLC might still need to obtain a license before doing business. This all depends, however, on the type of business you run.
Consider our friend Fanny, who may need a Nursery Dealer License from the Department of Natural Resources before opening her flower shop in Indiana. And if she decides to serve sandwiches there, she will also need licensure from the Department of Health. Determine which licenses your LLC needs by visiting the Indiana Professional Licensing Agency website.
Certain cities and counties require their own specific licenses on top of any state ones, so you should also check with your local government.
Once you’ve taken all the steps to start your LLC, you’ll be off and running, making deals and growing the company. But when you’re rolling along and things are moving 100 miles per hour, don’t forget that Indiana requires all of its businesses to submit one important recurring filing: the Business Entity Report.
After your LLC has kicked off its business activities in Indiana, it will need to file a Business Entity Report every two years, due during its anniversary month. You can file online or by delivering a hard copy to:
Secretary of State
Business Services Division
302 W. Washington St. Room E-018
Indianapolis, IN 46204
If you’re short on time and/or money, file online, as your report will cost $32 and be processed in one hour. Hard copy submissions, on the other hand, cost $50 and take 3-5 business days to process.
And we’ve come to the end. It’s a long process, and not always easy, but the reward is well worth it. If you’ve made it this far, congratulations! Your Indiana LLC is ready for takeoff. So go ahead and start with that big sale, promotional campaign, or business deal. Maybe you’ll see Fanny out there in the business world, selling her beautiful floral creations.
Need Help Creating Your LLC?
If you even skimmed this guide to look over the steps, you likely got a sense of how many moving parts there are when starting an LLC. Can you do it all yourself? Absolutely. We have complete confidence in you.
But if you’d rather hand it off to someone else and not have to worry about it again, we recommend using an LLC formation service. This way, you can go about your other business responsibilities with the confidence that everything will be submitted correctly and punctually.
Plus, an LLC formation service can handle maintenance items like Annual Reports, so you can take them off your to-do list. And on top of that, many services also provide a registered agent.
Sound good? Whether you know that you’ll need an LLC service or you’re just exploring your options, take a look at IncFile and Northwest Registered Agent. These are two of the top services available. And you can take our word for it because we’ve done a whole lot of research on the topic.
Compare the Top LLC Services
Since you may be new to the LLC formation process, you might also be unfamiliar with IncFile and Northwest. As a reference point, they provide very similar services to the industry giant, LegalZoom. Check out our comparison guides for more information: