If you’re looking for a reliable DIY guide for starting an LLC in Missouri, 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 LLC formation service – they’ll take care of the paperwork so you can spend more time growing your business.
Recommended: Compare the Top LLC Services
If you’re new to the process of starting an LLC, you might also be unfamiliar with the LLC formation services that are reliable and offer great value – like ZenBusiness. As a reference point we compared them to the two most well known LLC formation services, IncFile and LegalZoom. See our comparison guides for more information:
Step 1: Name Your LLC
What’s in a name? Quite a bit, actually. Your business name is your Missouri 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.
Any name you use must include the words, “limited company,” “limited liability company,” “LC,” “LLC,” “L.C.,” or “L.L.C.,” and avoid terms associated with other business types like “corporation,” “incorporated,” “limited partnership,” “limited liability partnership,” or any forms/abbreviations. Plus, the name cannot imply affiliation with any government agency. On top of all that, you can’t use a name that’s already taken, so confirm that your name is distinguishable from all others on record with the Secretary of State.
But what, exactly, makes a name “distinguishable?”If your name is unavailable, making changes to the following elements will NOT distinguish it:
- Business type designators like LLC, Ltd., Inc., or LP
- The articles “a,” “an,” or “the.”
- The words “and,” and “or”
- Singular vs. plural nouns
- Punctuation and special characters
Significantly altering the name’s key words, rather than making small changes to syntax, will effectively distinguish it.
Consider this: your friend Fanny wants to open a flower shop in St. Louis, Missouri. 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 Business Entity 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 Missouri for 60 days and renew that reservation two times for a total of 180 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 through the Corporation Online Portal or by sending an Application for Reservation of Name to:
Secretary of State, Corporations Division
P.O. Box 778
Jefferson City, MO 65102
Or, if you live in Jefferson City, you can drop it off in person at 600 W. Main St., Rm. 322, Jefferson City, MO 65102.
No matter which route you take, the filing fee is $25. Online forms are processed immediately and hard copy submissions generally take 3-5 business days.
While a name reservation can be extremely helpful, it’s really only necessary if you’re not ready to start your business yet. If your LLC is ready to go, just use the name on your Articles of Organization and it’ll be registered automatically.
Step 2: Choose a Registered Agent
Fanny’s LLC is quickly taking shape, and if it’s going to operate in Missouri, 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. But maintaining an agent isn’t just a convenience, it’s required. Just take it from Missouri Statues Section 347.030, which says “each limited liability company shall have and continuously maintain in this state a registered office […] and a registered agent for service of any process, notice or demand required or permitted by law to be served upon the limited liability company.”
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 Missouri.
Now for the practical application, the “how-to.” Declaring an agent is easy. All you need to do is include a name and address when you file your Articles of Organization. Once your document is accepted, the agent’s information will be part added as part of your LLC’s public record. Make sure you reach out to them beforehand so they can consent to the appointment.
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 a Missouri resident who has a physical address in the state. An attorney, accountant, or business partner can be good options, but friends and family are valid too. You can even serve as your own LLC’s agent, provided you meet these requirements.
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 Missouri 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 Missouri Secretary of State, giving it the authorization to commence business in the state.
The state provides three options to file your Articles of Organization: online, by mail, and in person. So whether you want to complete the whole process from home, like to leave a paper trail, or want to get out for some fresh air, there’s a filing method for you. Online filings cost $55 while paper applications are $105.
Pressed for time? Filing online is the fastest option. Head over to the Secretary of State’s online filing portal. If you don’t already have an account, you’ll need to create one. Once you’re logged in, select “Business Entity Online Filing,” then, “LLC Filings,” then “Create LLC,” and you’ll be off and running.
Hard Copy Filing
Download and complete a paper application. Include a check for the $105 fee and mail it to:
State of Missouri
P.O. Box 778
Jefferson City, MO 65102
In Person Filing
If you’re local to Jefferson City, you have the option of hand-delivering your materials to 600 W. Main St., Rm. 322 Jefferson City, MO 65102.
Standard processing time for hard copy submissions 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.
Missouri requires all its LLCs to adopt an operating agreement, and for good reason. This document is what optimizes your company’s efficiency, protects your personal assets, and legitimizes your business in the eyes of banks, courts, government agencies, and more. You don’t need to submit a copy to the state, but make sure you have one in your internal files.
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 decided 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 getting one through ZenBusiness, which includes a free LLC operating agreement with every package. This will save you a lot of time and money.
- 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 a Missouri 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 a Missouri LLC, your state taxes are pretty simple. Like federal income taxes, Missouri’s state income taxes pass through to the owners’ personal returns. Plus, Missouri doesn’t require LLCs to pay a “franchise” or “privilege” tax.
But you’re not in the clear yet! There are certain circumstantial taxes that your LLC might owe if it meets particular conditions. Do you sell merchandise? If so, your LLC will be responsible for a Sales Tax and Use Tax. Have you hired any employees? Then it will need to pay a Withholding Tax and an Unemployment Insurance Tax.
Use Missouri’s Department of Revenue and Department of Labor online registration system to register and pay these taxes. Alternatively, you can also use a paper application to register for Sales, Use, and Withholding taxes. Visit the Department of Revenue website or Department of Labor website for more information.
Plus, depending on your LLC’s location, it may owe a local tax to the city, municipality, or county where it resides. 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.
For example, our friend Fanny may need a Nursery Dealer Certificate from the Department of Agriculture before doing business in Missouri. And if she decided to sell handmade sandwiches from her flower shop, she would also need a license from the Department of Health. Visit the state’s Professional Registration and Licensing page to find out if your LLC might need to obtain certain licenses.
Certain cities and counties require their own specific licenses on top of any state ones, so you should also check with your local government.
Most states require their business entities to submit annual or biennial reports to keep their records current, but Missouri does not. Because you won’t be sending yearly updates to the Secretary of State, make sure you inform them of new registered agents, office addresses, and other business changes.
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 Missouri 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.