How do I form a corporation in Massachusetts?

Ready to start a Massachusetts corporation? You can team up with a trusted business partner like us to provide assistance and speed up the formation process.

If you’d like to go at it alone, our step-by-step guide with explain how to form a Massachusetts corporation.

How do I form a corporation in Massachusetts?

To officially form a corporation in Massachusetts, you must register your company with the commonwealth by filing your Articles of Incorporation. Before registering your corporation, you’ll have to do a bit of homework.

We’ll walk you through the 10 steps of the corporation formation process in Massachusetts:

Step 1: Name Your Massachusetts Corporation

The first step to forming your Massachusetts corporation is deciding on the right name for your new business.

It’s important to choose a name that:

  • Best represents your company
  • Is memorable
  • Follows all Massachusetts legal requirements.

For example, when selecting a name, Massachusetts law prohibits you from using offensive or derogatory wording.

Is the perfect business name available?

Once you have a few corporate name ideas in mind, you need to make sure your new business name is available. To do that, you can use our business name search tool or conduct a search on the Massachusetts corporate name search portal available through the Commonwealth of Massachusetts website.

Run all of the names you have in mind through the database to determine if they’re available. Massachusetts requires corporations to have unique names, so if a name is already taken, you’ll need to pick another option.

Guidelines for Naming a Corporation in Massachusetts

After you’ve decided on an available corporation name, you’ll need to add a corporation designator to its end. Corporation designators and approved abbreviations include:

  • Corporation (Corp.)
  • Incorporated (Inc.)
  • Limited (Ltd.)
  • Company

So, if you’ve decided to name your business “Karl’s Garage,” you could add “Inc.” at the end to form “Karl’s Garage, Inc.”

Reserve a Business Name with The Commonwealth of Massachusetts

Now that you’ve chosen an official name for your Massachusetts corporation, you may wish use our service to reserve your name to ensure no one else registers it.

You can also visit the Reserved Business Names Database on the Commonwealth of Massachusetts website, enter your name, and select “reserve.” You can also file by mail. There’s a $30 filing fee for both methods, and names are held for 120 days.

If mailing your application, send the form and payment to:

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts

William Francis Galvin 

Secretary of the Commonwealth 

One Ashburton Place, Room 1717

Boston, Massachusetts 02108-1512

Register a Trademark

If you want a trademark on the federal level, you’ll need to search on the United States Patent and Trademark Office’s (USPTO) website to see if a trademark already exists. If the name is available, you can register your trademark there. If you’re interested in registering a trademark with the commonwealth of Massachusetts, you can do so online or via mail after confirming the trademark is available.

There is a $50 filing fee. You may choose to file at the state level only since it is often easier and quicker, but a federal registration can offer broader protection, which is especially useful if you plan on doing business outside of Massachusetts.

Massachusetts Corporation DBA Names

Lastly, if your corporation plans to do business under any name other than your official corporation name, you’ll need to secure what’s known as a “doing business as” (DBA) name. First, you’ll go through the name search process to ensure the name is available, and then you’ll fill out the DBA application, which can be submitted online or through the mail.

This form is filled out through your county office and not the commonwealth.

Step 2: Appoint Directors

Next, you’ll appoint a board of directors to your corporation. In Massachusetts, you must appoint at least one director to your board, although there are no limits on how many directors can be appointed. 

Your corporation’s directors will look out for your company’s best interests and uphold its corporate bylaws. There are no requirements set by the commonwealth as to who can serve as a director in Massachusetts. 

You will also want to decide on an incorporator who will sign your Articles of Organization to officially register your corporation with the commonwealth (step four).

Step 3: Choose a Massachusetts Registered Agent

Now, it’s time to select a registered agent for your corporation. Your registered agent is a person or entity who will work on your behalf to accept legal notices and important documents and communications from the commonwealth of Massachusetts.

In Massachusetts, registered agents have to be over the age of 18 and must live in-state or hold a business office in Massachusetts. Registered agents are also expected to be available (at their office location) during standard Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., business hours.

Your corporation might want one of your shareholders to serve as your registered agent, which is allowed by law. There are some considerations you’ll want to weigh before choosing someone within your company, though.

Here are a few advantages to using an outside registered agent service:

Your information stays secure

If you or someone on your board opts to serve as the company’s registered agent, a portion of this person’s private information will become public record.

Legal documents remain private

If someone within your corporation serves as your registered agent, their operating address would likely be your office location. This means the government could easily serve you sensitive paperwork, such as subpoenas or summons, in front of important clients or potential business partners, injuring your business relationships.

Step 4: File the Massachusetts Articles of Organization

It’s finally time to file your Articles of Organization (called “Articles of Incorporation” in most states). This document legally registers your corporation with the commonwealth of Massachusetts, legitimizing your business. You’re required to file this form before you can start conducting business.

You can file your Articles of Organization form online or through the mail. You’ll need the below information to submit your application.

  • The corporation name. This is your company name, including the designation. 
  • The corporation’s purpose. This is your industry and reason for conducting business.
  • Shares information. This is your company’s number of shares to be issued and types of shares.
  • Effective date. This is the date when your company will begin operating.
  • Registered address. This is your registered agent’s address.
  • Registered agent’s name. This is your agent’s full name.
  • Director, officer, and shareholder names. Include names, titles, and addresses of these people.
  • Fiscal year-end. This is when your company’s fiscal year will stop.
  • Type of business. This is a quick overview of your company’s industry.
  • Principal corporation address. This is your primary office address.
  • Records address. This is the address where your paperwork and records will be held.
  • Incorporator signature. The name, address, and signature of the person completing the form.

You’ll need to pay a $275 fee when filing for up to 275,000 shares and an additional $100 for each additional 100,000 shares or any fraction thereof. You can submit your payment online or mail it to:

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts

William Francis Galvin 

Secretary of the Commonwealth 

One Ashburton Place, Boston, 

Massachusetts 02108-1512

How fast can I form my Massachusetts corporation? 

If you’re ready to launch and don’t want to wait weeks for your paperwork to get processed, we can help. You can form your corporation in Massachusetts in as little as one day with our rush filing services. With our rush filing service, we prioritize your formation paperwork so you can get it filed with the Massachusetts Secretary of the Commonwealth within 1-3 business days for just $100 + state fees.

Step 5: Create Corporate Bylaws

The next step in setting up your corporation is creating corporate bylaws. Your corporation’s bylaws will explain your company’s managerial structure, operating procedures, and legal regulations. 

Your corporation’s bylaws will detail your basic managerial structure, legal requirements, and operating parameters. These agreements should be put into writing and kept within your company for shareholders to view.

To establish company bylaws, Massachusetts law requires holding a meeting to establish the below:

  • Cadence and number of shareholder meetings 
  • Record-keeping procedures
  • Shareholder voting rules
  • Board of director responsibilities
  • Stock shares

Step 6: Draft a Shareholder Agreement

The next step is creating a shareholder agreement, which is essentially a written agreement between the shareholders and the corporation. It should be in agreement with the company’s bylaws, but unlike your bylaws document, this contract is a private agreement only viewed by shareholders.

This agreement can go into greater detail regarding how to initiate new shareholders, how to leave shareholder positions, and add more context to financial and shares processes.

Every shareholder in your company should read, agree to, and sign this document.

Step 7: Issue Shares of Stock

Every corporation in Massachusetts is legally required to issue shares of stock. You’ll need to make sure the shares issued do not exceed the amount listed on your Articles of Incorporation. All shares can only be issued once, although they can be sold and traded.

To issue stock, you’ll need capital available. Capital refers to the funding required to form your corporation. The number that you’re required to operate can then be divided across your corporation’s number of shares.

You can choose to sell your shares of stock privately, among shareholders and directors, or publicly on the marketplace. If you decide to go public with your stock, federal law requires your corporation to report quarterly stock statements to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

These statements will detail your stock information and help the government track your stocks to ensure your corporation is compliant with federal law. You can find this form on the SEC website.

Step 8: Apply for Necessary Business Permits or Licenses

The state of Massachusetts does not require a general business license for your company to operate, but some counties and cities within the commonwealth do. It’s important to look into your county’s and city’s requirements to comply with local laws.

In addition, you may need to secure special licenses or permits depending on your corporation’s industry. You can learn more about specific requirements on the Massachusetts government website.

Licenses and permits can be federal, state, local, and industry-specific, so there’s no central source to look up all the licensing your corporation may require. It’s your responsibility to do the necessary research or hire someone to do it for you.

Step 9: File for an EIN and Review Tax Requirements

Next, you’re ready to register with the IRS by requesting an Employer Identification Number (EIN). Your company’s EIN is similar to an individual’s Social Security number — it allows your company to open financial accounts, secure financing, pay taxes, and hire employees, and it identifies your company to the IRS.

Applying for an EIN is quick, easy, and free. You’ll visit the website for the IRS and fill out the online form. You’ll receive your EIN right after filing.

You’ll also want to review the tax requirements for your corporation. Instead of a traditional corporate net income tax, Massachusetts has a corporate excise tax. This means you’ll pay an 8% tax on your state income and an additional tax on personal property or net worth, whichever is greater, at a rate of $2.60 per $1,000. The minimum corporate excise tax in Massachusetts is $456.

Step 10: Submit Your Corporation’s First Annual Report

Lastly, you’ll need to prepare to file your first annual report to comply with Massachusetts law. Your first annual report will be due two and a half months after the end of your first fiscal year (as detailed in your Articles of Incorporation). 

You can file online or via mail. The filing fee is $125 by mail or $100 online.

How much does it cost to start a corporation in Massachusetts?

The cost to form your corporation in Massachusetts will vary depending on how you file and whether you use an outside consultant.

At a minimum, you’ll be required to pay $275 to set up your Massachusetts corporation (the Articles of Incorporation). This cost does not include securing a DBA name, any special business licenses or permits you may need, or filing your annual report.

If you want to prevent any headaches, you can partner with a trusted business professional like ZenBusiness. We have formation plans to help you secure a registered agent, streamline the filing process, and provide a template for your corporation’s bylaws.

What are the benefits of a corporation in Massachusetts?

There are various business types to choose from. When starting a business in Massachusetts, you’ll want to explore all of your options. Many business owners in Massachusetts opt to form a corporation because of the financial and legal protections this business type provides.

Here are some benefits of forming a corporation:

  • Liability protection. You won’t have to worry about personal liability issues if your corporation runs into legal trouble. 
  • Financial protection. Your personal finances and assets are protected if your company runs into any financial hardships.
  • Business recognition. Incorporating can offer prestige to your company. This enhanced reputation can make clients and investors more willing to take your business seriously. 
  • Global business opportunities. Corporations are allowed to handle business globally, which doesn’t limit them to only conducting business in the United States.
  • Stock offerings. Since corporations are legally required to issue shares, your corporation can improve its chances of expanding and growing your profits. 

At the same time, here are a few downsides you should be aware of:

  • Double taxation. When you form a corporation, you’ll be taxed twice. Your corporate profits will be taxed on your company taxes, and your personal earnings and profits will be taxed again on your personal taxes. 
  • Formal management structure. Corporations must adhere to government standards of operation, including issuing stock as a requirement and appointing at least one person to a board of directors. 
  • Meticulous reporting requirements. Corporations must keep track of all of their records, including minutes in shareholder meetings. This business type also has stricter reporting regulations and must file annual reports, quarterly stock reports, and keep records of bylaws and stockholder agreements.

You may also want to open a business bank account when you form your Massachusetts corporation. Opening a bank account will make it easier to keep your business finances organized.

How is an Massachusetts corporation taxed?

There are three types of corporations in Massachusetts: C corporation, S corporation, and nonprofit corporation. Your company will automatically be registered as a C corporation unless you choose differently.

C Corps

C corporations are looked at as separate business entities that are taxed at a corporate level. This leads to double taxation for shareholders and owners who must pay both corporate and individual taxes.

S Corps

S corporations are looked at as pass-through entities. Typically, this means they are not taxed at a corporate level, and shareholders only pay taxes on their individual tax returns. However, in Massachusetts, S corporations do not owe income tax but are subject to the other half of the corporate excise tax ($2.60 per $1,000 of personal property or taxable net worth, whichever is higher). 


If you form a nonprofit corporation and follow nonprofit guidelines, you’re exempt from paying any corporate taxes. Employees of the nonprofit corporation will still pay taxes on their wages.

Massachusetts Corporation FAQs

  • Yes, typically, corporations in Massachusetts have more paperwork to keep track of than other business types, such as limited liability companies (LLCs). Corporations have strict reporting requirements and must file annual reports, quarterly stock reports, and organize initial startup documents like bylaws and shareholder agreements.

  • In Massachusetts, LLCs and corporations are taxed and managed differently. An LLC is viewed as a pass-through entity, which means they’re exempt from double taxation and typically only pay taxes on their individual tax returns. LLCs also offer a more flexible business structure and have fewer reporting requirements.

  • If you decide to change your corporation’s name in Massachusetts, you’ll return to step one to search for an available name. If your new name is available, you’ll need to file Articles of Amendments either online or by mail.

  • Typically, you’ll need at least three people to form a corporation in Massachusetts — yourself (the incorporator), a director, and a registered agent. You could technically serve as all three roles, which would only require your involvement.

  • Yes, your Massachusetts corporation can be formed entirely online by following the steps outlined in this guide. You’ll file all forms online through the Massachusetts Corporations Online Filing System.

  • If you decide to dissolve your corporation, you’ll need to submit your Massachusetts Articles of Voluntary Dissolution. This can be done online or through the mail and has a $100 filing fee.

  • Yes, foreign corporations can file in Massachusetts. To register as a foreign corporation in Massachusetts., you simply need to fill out an attachment form found on the Secretary of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts website. You need to file your paperwork within 10 days of starting to transact business in the state.

Disclaimer: The content on this page is for information purposes only and does not constitute legal, tax, or accounting advice. If you have specific questions about any of these topics, seek the counsel of a licensed professional.

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Written by Team ZenBusiness

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