Massachusetts consistently ranks near the top for the best state to start a business which is great news if you are looking to start a business in the Bay State.
If you plan on starting an LLC in Massachusetts, you will be required to designate a Massachusetts resident agent (known as a resident agent in other states). A resident agent is the contact person for your company in any legal matters that arise and receives mail correspondence from the state.
What is the role of a registered agent?
The role of a resident agent is to receive service of process-this is a legal term that essentially means to obtain official paperwork from anyone who wishes to speak with your company. This can include lawsuits, subpoenas, or other documents received by any government entity within the state of Massachusetts.
The resident agent is then responsible for forwarding mail from the official office address on file to you or your attorney and acts on their behalf.
While your company may choose any individual for this role, it is best to choose someone with experience with businesses or corporations to help streamline the paperwork process. In addition, a Massachusetts resident agent should be reliable, responsible, and have a physical street address within state limits.
Who can be a registered agent?
There are a few options to choose from when appointing a resident agent:
- A business employee or owner can serve as a resident agent.
- An individual that you trust to receive official business documents on your behalf with a physical address (P.O. Box is not allowed)
- A third-party resident commercial agent service Northwest resident Agent can help take the burden of managing tax forms and annual reports off of your plate.
If you have decided that you would like a third-party agent, you must make sure several criteria are met before making your final decision. The first is to make sure the agency has physical offices in Massachusetts–this means that someone from their office will be present in person on business days for all resident agent correspondence.
Their physical presence can help avoid any misdelivery or unnecessary delays in delivering a document that can be crucial to your business.
In addition, look into how long they have been in business and what kind of reputation they have with their clients: you will want an agent who will be easy to contact. An established company is more likely to fulfill your needs as a client, so make sure to research any company before deciding on one.
Massachusetts registered agent requirements
Massachusetts requires each resident agent to meet the following criteria:
- Must maintain a physical address in the state of Massachusetts
- Be over 18 years old.
- Must ensure documents are delivered and processed in a timely fashion.
- Must be available from regular business hours from 9 AM-5 PM
What are the best registered agent services in Massachusetts?
While you can choose from any local registered resident agent service in Massachusetts, some of the national registered agent service providers offer additional services at little or no cost.
Here are some other popular resident agent services in Massachusetts:
- Northwest Registered Agent is one of the leading registered agent service providers in Massachusetts. They have been around since 1998 and started with registered agent services but have expanded into other services like online limited liability company processing, official mail forwarding.
- ZenBusiness specializes in fast filings speeds and offers a registered agent service as well. In addition, Zenbusiness also provides additional services like DBAs, websites, and EINs.
- Incfile is a popular online filing service that has grown in popularity recently thanks to their $0 plus state filing fees package. They are known for their online LLC formation services and offer filings for nonprofits, S and C Corps, and various tax and compliance filing options.
Benefits of using a commercial registered agent company
One of the main benefits of using a commercial resident agent company is that it is much faster and more reliable than using a residential provider. Your business will be your resident agent, so you don’t have to worry about misdelivery or incomplete service of the process.
A commercial resident agent company has years of experience helping other businesses in situations just like yours. They also have the resources and staffing necessary to receive the services of the state properly.
LLC’s that use third-party resident agents are often more difficult for the state to locate because they have more than one possible resident agent. This can lead to your service of process being delayed or even lost inadvertently.
Managing companies across multiple states
A commercial resident agent service can help make managing LLCs across different states much more accessible since each state requires a resident agent based in the state of incorporation. In addition, companies like Northwest resident Agent can serve as your one point of contact for resident agent services if you decide to expand outside of Massachusetts.
Commercial resident agent companies are required by law to have a physical office space in Massachusetts, so you can be assured that your documents will always be handled properly.
A third-party resident agent service can help keep your address from being on public records, making it more difficult for people to find you and send you junk mail.
You can have a resident agent forward any business mail that comes to their office straight to the address of your choosing. No one else will be privy to your business information.
Commercial resident agents are experts at what they do, so they also include other small business services such as:
- Mail Forwarding
- Annual Report Reminders
- Scanned and Stored Legal Documents (Avoid managing your paperwork)
What to do after selecting a Massachusetts registered agent service?
1. Perform a Massachusetts business name search
Once a business decides who will serve as their resident agent, they can select a Massachusetts business name. The Massachusetts Secretary of the Commonwealth website maintains public records of companies that have corporations filed in the state. Be sure to choose a unique business entity name to avoid running into issues with the Secretary of State.
2. How to file
Once you have performed a Massachusetts business name search and chosen a registered agent, the next step is to fill out the Massachusetts Articles of Organization form.
The form is easy to fill out and requires the following information:
- Name of corporation
- Resident agent
- Effective date
You can file the form in person at the Secretary of the Commonwealth or you can file online through the Massachusetts Secretary of Commonwealth site.
3. Register a domain name
Registering a domain name early is essential because it ensures that someone else can’t take it while you’re putting your business together. Our domain name check tool will help you search for available names quickly.
4. Register Massachusetts name reservation form
If you have your business name picked out but you aren’t ready to file your business name, one option is to file a name reservation form and file it with the Massachusetts Secretary of Commonwealth. The cost to file is $30 and it will reserve the business name for 60 days.
5. Prepare an operating agreement
An operating agreement is a document that spells out the requirements, privileges, and duties between business owners. It contains how to handle everything from day-to-day operations to what happens if one of the partners dies or wants to leave the business. The operating agreement is essentially a partnership agreement for different types of businesses.
This should be written by an attorney and reviewed by an attorney. Each state has different laws governing operating agreements, which must be considered when creating one. Operating agreements are sometimes referred to as partnership agreements or member agreements, even though they may apply to non-partnership entities such as LLCs.
6. Get a Tax ID from the IRS
A tax id is a reference number assigned by the IRS used when tax returns are filed. The tax id numbers are also referred to as an Employer Identification Number or EIN.
Tax ids can be obtained from the IRS website in a few simple steps.
7. Stay on top of annual filings
Massachusetts requires each corporation to file an annual report through the Massachusetts Secretary of Commonwealth within two and a half months after the close of the fiscal year.
How do you look up who owns a business in Massachusetts?
The best way to look up who owns a business in Massachusetts is to perform a business name search through the Massachusetts Secretary of Commonwealth site. The site is free for the public to use and you can find information about any company registered in Massachusetts.
Is a business license required in Massachusetts?
There is not a general business license that each Massachusetts business is required to have but there are some licensing requirements for certain industries and in different cities. The best way to get more information on licensing is to visit Mass.gov.
How do you qualify to do business in Massachusetts?
Anyone can start a business within the state of Massachusetts as long as they register the business with the Massachusetts Secretary of the Commonwealth.
Does a sole proprietor need a resident agent?
In most cases, they do not. Sole prop businesses have a straightforward structure in Massachusetts, and there is no legal requirement to be resident with the state or any local agencies.
Do corporations require resident agents?
Yes, every Massachusetts corporation, including LLCs, C-Corps, etc., is required to have a resident agent with the state.
How do I change my Massachusetts resident agent?
There may be situations where you need to change your resident agent if you have issues getting correspondence in a timely fashion.
You can change your Massachusetts resident agent by filling out the change of resident agent form and filing it with the Massachusetts Secretary of State.
How much does a resident agent cost?
Resident agent cost will depend on the state where you incorporate. In general, you can expect to pay $150-$300 per year for a resident agent service.
Many new businesses start with one corporate officer, usually the owner, serving as both president and secretary. If that person is also acting as your resident agent, it’s generally safe from legal liability.
Can I use a virtual office as a resident agent?
A virtual office is a business address that offers you the appearance of having an office and isn’t actually in your control. When resident agents are required, we strongly suggest using a commercial resident agent service instead of a virtual office for liability reasons. Also, virtual offices are a bit of a grey area when it comes to state statutes. Check with the Secretary of State in Boston to get the official ok.
Is the resident agent liable for the business?
No, the only thing the resident agent could be liable for is negligence in the performance of their duties. Making sure mail correspondence is sent to the business owner in a timely fashion is the most common type of negligence scenario.
Can I be my own Massachusetts registered agent?
As long as you meet the Massachusetts state requirements for statutory agents, you can be your resident agent.
Some of the advantages of being your own resident agent are:
– Ease of responsibility
– You are familiar with all details about the company, and if you need to start legal proceedings against yourself, you can be involved fully.
The disadvantages of being your own resident agent:
– Missing a delivery if you are using your home mailing address
– The requirement to be available during business hours
– If expanding out of state, you will need to establish a new resident agent
How does a business choose a registered agent in Massachusetts?
A business officially appoints a registered agent when they fill out the Massachusetts Articles of Organization form and file it with the Secretary of State.
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