You have a big idea, truckloads of ambition, dreams of a thriving Tennessee 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 Tennessee. It’s perhaps the most important step in starting your Tennessee 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.
Quick Note: If you’d like to have an online service file the Articles of Organization for you or simply need to save time, hire an LLC formation service. Two popular options are LegalZoom and ZenBusiness.
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.
To be considered acceptable, your LLC name must use a term designating its business type, like “Limited Liability Company,” “L.L.C.,” or “LLC.” But it cannot include any language that suggests affiliation with “fraternal, veterans’, service, religious, charitable, professional” or governmental organizations. Most importantly, your name must not already be in use, so you’ll want to confirm that it’s distinguishable from all other names on file with the Secretary of State. How? Simply search for it using Tennessee’s Name Availability Search tool.
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.
Choosing a Tennessee 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 registered agent’s name and address are required to successfully submit the Articles of Organization, so have one lined up before you start the process.
Your registered agent can be either an individual or a business entity like a registered agent service, and state leaves you with a lot of options. As long as your agent is a Tennessee resident or authorized to do business in the state, and as long as they have a physical Tennessee address (no P.O boxes), they’re fair game! After getting your agent’s consent, just include their information on the Articles of Organization and they will be on your business 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 Tennessee 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 Tennessee.
Breeze through the form by gathering all the necessary information beforehand. This way, you can finish it quickly and in one sitting. Here’s every detail you’ll need:
- The LLC name
- Name consent (for indistinguishable names only)
- Additional designations (if applicable)
- Registered agent name and address
- Fiscal year close month
- Delayed effective date up to 90 days after filing (if applicable)
- Whether the LLC is managed by members, managers, or directors
- Number of members
- Period of duration
- Principal office address
- Mailing address (if different from the principal office)
- Designation as a Non-Profit, Professional, or Series LLC (if applicable)
- Obligated members list
Even though it’s a lot of information, the form shouldn’t take too long. In fact, the toughest part is probably the filing fee. Along with your Articles of Organization, you must pay $50 per LLC member, with a minimum of $300 and a maximum of $3,000. So, if your LLC has eight members at the time of filing, you will need to pay $400. If it only has three members, you’ll pay the minimum of $300.
Collecting the information and paying the fee are the hard parts. Now you just need to decide how you want to submit your application. The state offers three options: online, by mail, and in person.
If you’re short on time, filing online is the way to go. Once you complete the form, it will be processed immediately, so you can start doing business right away. Keep in mind that there is a service fee for 2.35% of the full amount.
Filing by Mail
Download and complete a paper application. Then mail it with your fee payment to:
Department of State
312 Rosa L. Parks Avenue 6th Floor
William R. Snodgrass Tower
Nashville, TN 37243
Mailed forms are typically processed within 24-48 hours.
If you live in or near Nashville, feel free to hand-deliver your form and payment to the address listed above. It will be processed that day.
What About Foreign LLCs?
The process outlined above works for domestic LLCs (those formed in Tennessee), but what if your business is expanding to Tennessee from another state? In this case, you can forget the Articles of Organization because you’ll be taking a different route.
Instead, your out-of-state LLC will need to foreign qualify in Tennessee by submitting an Application for Certificate of Authority either online or by mailing a hard copy. Its fee is the same as the Articles of Organization. While it may cost a lot, don’t this filing! If the state catches you doing business without foreign qualifying, you could be in for some serious penalties.
After you’ve successfully received your Certificate of Authority, you’re free to kick off your business activities in Tennessee.
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 Tennessee 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.
Which is the Best LLC Service?
All you need to do now is research every service extensively and make side-by-side comparisons for each option. Easy, right? Just kidding – we did all of that for you.
And from our meticulous research of reviewing and ranking the top LLC services, we’ve drawn the conclusion that IncFile and Northwest are your best overall options.
They might not have the brand recognition of LegalZoom, the industry giant, but both have amazing customer support, affordable prices, and include a year of registered agent service.