North Carolina consistently ranks amongst the best states to start a new business due to its highly educated workforce, regulatory environment, and low cost of doing business.
If you plan on starting an LLC in North Carolina, you will be required to designate a North Carolina registered agent. A registered 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 registered 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 North Carolina.
The registered 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 North Carolina registered 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 registered agent:
- A business employee or owner can serve as a registered 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 registered commercial agent service Northwest Registered 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 North Carolina–this means that someone from their office will be present in person on business days for all registered 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.
North Carolina registered agent requirements
North Carolina requires each registered agent to meet the following criteria:
- Must maintain a physical address in the state of North Carolina
- Be over 18 years old.
- Must ensure documents are delivered are 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 North Carolina?
There are registered agent service providers throughout the state of North Carolina that you can choose to work with, or you use one of the large national registered agent service providers.
Here are some other popular registered agent services in North Carolina:
- Northwest Registered Agent is one of the leading registered agent service providers in North Carolina. 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 registered 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 registered agents are often more difficult for the state to locate because they have more than one possible registered agent. This can lead to your service of process being delayed or even lost inadvertently.
Managing companies across multiple states
A commercial registered agent service can help make managing LLCs across different states much more accessible since each state requires a registered agent based in the state of incorporation. In addition, companies like Northwest Registered Agent can serve as your one point of contact for registered agent services if you decide to expand outside of North Carolina.
Commercial registered agent companies are required by law to have a physical office space in North Carolina, so you can be assured that your documents will always be handled properly.
A third-party registered 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 registered 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 registered 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 North Carolina registered agent service?
1. Perform a North Carolina business name search
Once a business decides who will serve as their registered agent, they can select a North Carolina business name. The North Carolina Secretary of State 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.
If you are struggling to come up with a good North Carolina business name, one option is to use a business name generator.
2. How to file
Once you have performed a North Carolina business name search and selected a registered agent, the next step is to fill out the North Carolina Articles of Incorporation.
The Articles of Incorporation is easy to fill out and it can be filled out online through the North Carolina Secretary of State website. The main information needed on the form is the following:
- Name of business
- Registered Agent
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 North Carolina name reservation form
If you have your North Carolina business name picked out but you need more time to register the business, you can fill out a North Carolina business name reservation form and file it with the North Carolina Secretary of State. The name reservation form reserves the name for over 120 days and costs $30.
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
North Carolina requires each corporation to file an annual report through the North Carolina Secretary of State.
Is North Carolina good for business?
Yes, North Carolina is rated near the top of all surveys that study business climates throughout the country. The access to capital, affordable cost of living, and infrastructure are a few things noted that help gives North Carolina its high ratings.
Is North Carolina small business-friendly?
North Carolina is a great place to start a small business and provides an affordable cost of doing business, low tax rates, and a strong startup ecosystem throughout the state.
Is a business license required in North Carolina?
While there is not a generic North Carolina business license, there are licenses that are required in certain cities throughout North Carolina and in particular industries. The best way to get more information on the licenses that are required is to visit NC.gov.
Does a sole proprietor need a registered agent?
In most cases, they do not. Sole prop businesses have a straightforward structure in North Carolina, and there is no legal requirement to be registered with the state or any local agencies.
Do corporations require registered agents?
Yes, every North Carolina corporation, including LLCs, C-Corps, etc., is required to have a registered agent with the state.
How do I change my North Carolina registered agent?
There may be situations where you need to change your registered agent if you have issues getting correspondence in a timely fashion.
You can change your North Carolina registered agent by filling out the Change of Registered Agent form and filing it with the North Carolina Secretary of State.
How much does a registered agent cost?
Registered agent cost will depend on the state where you incorporate. In general, you can expect to pay $150-$300 per year for a registered 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 registered agent, it’s generally safe from legal liability.
Can I use a virtual office as a registered 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 registered agents are required, we strongly suggest using a commercial registered 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 Raleigh to get the official ok.
Is the registered agent liable for the business?
No, the only thing the registered 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 North Carolina registered agent?
As long as you meet the North Carolina state requirements for statutory agents, you can be your registered agent.
Some of the advantages of being your own registered 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 registered 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 registered agent
How does a business choose a registered agent in North Carolina?
A business officially appoints a registered agent when they fill out the Articles of Incorporation form and file it with the North Carolina Secretary of State.
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