Your business is growing, and you’re planning an expansion to other states. It’s a good problem to have!
But it’s not quite as simple as choosing another location. Because each state has different rules and requirements for business operations, you may need a “foreign qualification” in each state where you plan to do business.
It’s a common misconception that foreign qualification is only for businesses operating outside the U.S. But in this case, “foreign” refers to any business operating in a state that isn’t the state where the LLC was originally formed.
What happens if I fail to foreign qualify before doing business in Vermont?
Foreign qualifying is essentially asking permission to do business in the state of Vermont. And the notion that “it’s easier to ask forgiveness than permission” doesn’t apply here. Failing to foreign qualify before starting a business in Vermont yields consequences that are far costlier than registering in the first place. If you fail to foreign qualify, your business:
- Will be prohibited from maintaining a lawsuit in any Vermont court
- Can be stopped from doing business in the state by the Attorney General
- Will owe the state a civil penalty of $50 per day that it transacted unauthorized business, up to $10,000 per year
- Will be liable for all the fees and LLC taxes it would have paid during its time doing business in Vermont had it been properly registered
Let’s say your LLC transacted business all year in 2020 and 2021, and for 60 days in 2022. You would owe $10,000 per year for the first two years and $3,000 for the third year. That’s $23,000, and we haven’t even added the other miscellaneous fees yet, like $125 for the Articles of Organization and $140 per Annual Report. Throw those in and you’ve got a grand total of $23,545, and that’s still without tax considerations. That’s a hefty fine, and it would be even tougher to pay if the Attorney General cut off your income-generating activities in the state.
In short, it’s not worth the risk. Foreign qualify as soon as you begin doing business in Vermont.
Read over detailed descriptions of these penalties in the Vermont Statutes 11-008-4119.
What is considered “doing business” in Vermont?
We’ve established why you shouldn’t do business without a foreign qualification. But what exactly does it mean to “do business” in Vermont? There isn’t a whole lot of clarity on the subject in Vermont’s LLC Act, but we know from certain tax laws that you are considered to be “doing business” in most cases and required to foreign qualify if:
- Your LLC maintains a continued physical presence in the state, meaning offices, stores, warehouses, or other structures.
- Your LLC has a human presence doing business in the state, like salespeople, employees, or other representatives operating on behalf of the company.
More generally, if your LLC consistently profits off Vermont’s economy, you’re doing business there.
Depending on how you’ve elected to set up your LLC, you may have to pay certain business taxes, and foreign qualification is how the state knows to apply them. If you try to avoid these taxes by flying under the radar, it will lead to more severe penalties in the long run. It’s important to always stay on top of your LLC’s taxation requirements to avoid any unwelcome surprises.
If you’re unsure whether or not you need to file for a foreign qualification in Vermont, we suggest seeking legal counsel.
Could I be exempt from foreign qualifying in Vermont?
The foreign qualification, however, isn’t a hard and fast rule for all LLCs performing any kind of action in Vermont. Certain actions do not qualify as “doing business” and therefore don’t require a foreign qualification. Some examples are:
- Settling, defending, or maintaining a lawsuit in Vermont courts
- Carrying on activities solely related to internal affairs, like LLC member and/or manager meetings
- Keeping accounts with financial institutions
- Having offices for the management of the LLC’s own securities
- Selling products or services through independent contractors
- Organization and facilitating orders to be completed outside the state before becoming contracts
- Creating or acquiring indebtedness
- Securing and collecting certain debts
- Owning real or personal property in Vermont
- A single, isolated transaction, not part of a series of similar business activities
- Transacting business in interstate commerce
Think over all your business activities in Vermont. If everything you do appears on this list, you’re likely exempt from foreign qualifying. Still, if you have any hesitations, it’s best to speak with an attorney.
How to Foreign Qualify Your LLC in Vermont
Foreign qualification in Vermont is simple if you know where to find and send your forms. If you or your legal counsel has decided to foreign qualify your LLC in Vermont, you can register by using the Online Business Services Center or by requesting a paper application.
For either option, you’ll need to obtain and submit a Certificate of Good Standing from the state where you formed your LLC. It’s a good idea to request that from your home state before you begin the registration process.
The Secretary of State’s office strongly recommends filing online because it’s faster and easier for everyone involved. Head over to the online filing portal and create an account. Then follow the onscreen prompts to enter your information and complete the form. Near the end, the site will direct you to pay the $125 filing fee with a credit or debit card.
Mailed submissions are still allowed, even though the Secretary of State’s office advises against them, but you’ll need to submit a special request for the application. Submit this form and the S.O.S. will send it your way. Once you’ve received the form, fill it out, write a check for $125, and send it all to:
Vermont Secretary of State
128 State Street
Montpelier, Vermont 05633-1104
The average processing time for online submissions is less than one day, and for mailed forms, it’s 7-10 business days.
After your form is in and your fee is paid, sit back, take a deep breath, and pat yourself on the back. Your LLC is on its way to foreign qualification and you’re embarking on another chapter in the life of your business.
Name Requirements to Remember
Like other states, Vermont has its own set of rules for business entity names. Take a moment to confirm that your LLC name complies with all the state’s naming requirements. It must:
- Use a term that identifies its business type, like “limited liability company” or “limited company” or the abbreviations “L.L.C.,” “LLC,” “L.C.,” or “LC.”
- Be unique and distinguishable from every other business entity name on record with the Secretary of State. Perform a Vermont LLC name search to make sure the name you want is available.
You can also reserve your Vermont business name if you’re not quite ready to foreign qualify your LLC.
Should I hire a service to file my Vermont foreign LLC?
Considering all the work that goes into expanding your business to a new state, you’ve likely got a lot on your plate. Rather than trying to juggle everything yourself, you can bring on an individual or company to help you secure your LLC’s Vermont foreign qualification.
For example, business attorneys understand all the legal nuances involved, providing peace of mind that the job will get done correctly. But if you go this route, be sure you have the budget for it. Lawyer fees for Vermont foreign LLC qualifications can be a prohibitively expensive option for businesses operating on tight budgets.
If you’re operating on a limited budget, but still want to have your Vermont foreign LLC professionally registered, go with an online business service provider. There are plenty of reputable companies that can help you out with Vermont foreign qualifications, but here are a couple of our favorites:
- MyCompanyWorks ($99): MyCompanyWorks is one of the only service providers offering foreign qualifications for less than $100. This company receives excellent customer reviews and has a great track record of success, making it a smart choice for a wide range of entrepreneurs.
- IncFile ($149): IncFile offers a free LLC formation service that we have always appreciated, and its pricing for foreign qualifications is a reasonable $149. IncFile has the best customer feedback reputation in the industry, with tens of thousands of positive reviews available online.
- Northwest Registered Agent ($225): Northwest is more of a premium service, with the best customer support in the industry, in our opinion. They also include a year of their namesake registered agent service with every foreign qualification. There’s a reason Northwest is our #1 pick among the best registered agent services!
Frequently Asked Questions
When Is the Best Time to Foreign Qualify an LLC?
We think you should foreign qualify your LLC before you begin conducting business in a new state. If you don’t, your business could be subject to a broad range of fines and penalties for operating an LLC in a state where you don’t have permission to do so.
How Long Does It Take Vermont to Process a Foreign Qualification?
You’ll typically need to wait roughly 7-10 business days for the state to process a mailed filing, not including the time it takes to get your forms and wait for the Postal Service to deliver them. That’s why most people file online — the state processes many filings the same day it receives them.
Where Can I Learn More About the Vermont LLC Licensing and Permitting Requirements?
Chances are, you’ll require at least one license or permit to operate your LLC in compliance with Vermont state law. For more information about business licenses and more in this state, check out the Department of Taxes for business tax licensing and the Office of Professional Regulation for professional licensing.
Do I Need to File an Annual Report for My Foreign LLC in Vermont?
Yes. Whether you operate a domestic or foreign LLC in this state, you are required to file a Vermont LLC Annual Report.
What Is the Total Expected Cost of Operating an LLC in Vermont?
The overall costs of operating a Vermont LLC can vary considerably based on the specifics of your business. However, we created a helpful guide to help you identify and plan for every expense your LLC will face in this state.
Should I Use an LLC Service, Hire an Attorney, or Foreign Qualify My Own LLC?
The answer to this question lies in your personal preferences, but we can give some general pointers. An attorney will cost the most by a mile, but also provides expertise you won’t find with the other options. The DIY route is free of charge but can require quite a bit of legwork and provides no peace of mind that the process is being completed correctly.
Using an LLC service means your business will be foreign qualified by professionals who know what they’re doing, while also costing significantly less than a lawyer. This “best of both worlds” attribute is what makes LLC services our preferred option.
How Do Online LLC Services Work?
Using an online LLC service removes much of the hassle from the foreign qualification process. With these services, all you need to do is provide them with the name, location, and industry your business operates in, along with some info about yourself and your Vermont registered agent.
The service then registers your foreign qualification application with the state to qualify your LLC to do business in Vermont.
Are LLC Service Websites Legit?
Absolutely. There are quite a few reputable companies offering LLC formation service and foreign qualifications these days, including the two options we discussed earlier: MyCompanyWorks and IncFile.
In fact, while we certainly have our opinions about which ones offer the best pricing and features, every one of the incorporation services we discuss on this website is entirely legitimate and trustworthy.
Need to save time?
Let’s face it, there’s never enough time in the day, especially when you’re running a company. And properly registering your LLC in Vermont involves research and time, time that you could be using to continue growing your business.
If the thought of paperwork, fees and state correspondence makes your head spin, consider using a service like Northwest Registered Agent to foreign qualify your business. Services like Northwest ensure that your forms are filed correctly and on time, potentially saving you thousands of dollars in penalties, not to mention a bunch of time and stress.
Foreign Qualification in All 50 States
We break down the Foreign Qualification filing process in detail in all 50 states. View all of our Foreign Qualification guides below.