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You’ve decided to start a new business in Massachusetts. You’re excited about the new venture’s possibilities, but at the same time, you are nervous about where to start.
Don’t fret: This guide to starting an LLC in Massachusetts will give you the basics so that you can go forth with confidence, armed with the essential information you require to navigate the system and get established the right way.
To get your Massachusetts limited liability company (LLC) up and running, you must know what documents need to be filed where, if an Operating Agreement is required, and how to handle taxes and business licenses. Follow this step-by-step guide to be on your way to becoming an official owner of a Massachusetts LLC.
1Name Your Massachusetts LLC
Appoint a Registered Agent in Massachusetts
To start an LLC in Massachusetts, you’ll have to file your Certificate of Organization with the Secretary of the Commonwealth. However, before you do so, you’ll need to decide on a name for your business and appoint a resident agent. You’ll also need to weigh the pros and cons of creating an Operating Agreement, as it isn’t a requirement in Massachusetts. While the process is relatively straightforward, this step-by-step guide will break down each step so that you don’t miss any necessary paperwork, fees, or licensing that might be required to start your Massachusetts LLC.
As you check off each task, you’ll be one step closer to getting your Massachusetts LLC running.
Before you register your LLC in Massachusetts, you need to have a company name for it — ideally, one that is unique, tells people who you are and what you do or offer, and resonates with your target market. You must be sure that your name isn’t taken by another company in the state and is unique enough to be distinguished. Slight variations in spelling, punctuation, and suffix will not suffice. Make sure not to include any offensive language or words that are derogatory in nature to adhere to state laws.
Make a list of possible names and run them through the Massachusetts Secretary of the Commonwealth website’s business entity name search. To garner more results (and ensure the name isn’t too close for comfort to another business), just enter the key portions of the name. The more detailed your query, the fewer results you’ll receive.
Once you’ve found an available name, you’ll need to decide on an LLC designator to place at the end of your company name. For instance, if your company name is “Modern Movers,” you could add “LLC” to the end to form “Modern Movers, LLC.”
A list of available LLC designations include:
That means you could go with other options, like “Modern Movers L.C.” or “Modern Movers Limited Company” — the official company name just has to have the LLC designation at the end.
Once you’ve found an available name, you’ll need to determine if you’re ready to file right away or if reserving the name is in your best interest. If you’re not quite ready to finish up the paperwork, you can reserve your chosen name by filing the Application of Reservation of Name with the Secretary of the Commonwealth. For a filing fee of $30, your LLC name will be reserved for 60 days. For another $30, you can extend the name reservation for an additional 60 days. Note that you will have to turn in this document in-person or by mail. You can mail the application, along with a check, to:
Secretary of the Commonwealth
1 Ashburton Place, Room 1717
Boston, Massachusetts 02108-1512
If you choose to create a website for your company, then you’ll want to register a domain. Typically, businesses choose a domain name close to their actual company name. To find out what domains are available, do a quick domain search until you find one you’d like to use. When you’re ready to register, reach out to a partner like ZenBusiness to help.
You can secure your business even further by registering trademarks at the state and federal levels. To register a trademark at the state level, you’ll fill out the Massachusetts Trademark/Service Mark Application. You’ll submit this by mail and pay a $50 filing fee. The trademark is good for five years.
If you plan on doing business outside of Massachusetts and want broader protection, you can register your trademark at the federal level through the United States Patent and Trademark Office website.
Lastly, if you prefer to use a different business name, you can file a Massachusetts DBA (“doing business as”) Certificate. Massachusetts DBA names are filed with the city or town clerk’s office where your company will be doing business. You can find a complete list of city and town contact information here.
Another important step in the LLC formation process is to appoint a resident agent, referred to as a registered agent in most states. A resident agent in Massachusetts is a person or entity acting as the point of contact for all service of process documents and any other legal documents. If your company is subpoenaed or sued, Massachusetts will deliver all necessary documents to your Massachusetts resident agent.
As the owner, you can act as your company’s resident agent. While that may seem like the easiest and most logical option, it’s not always in your best interest. After all, being served in front of customers can tank your company’s reputation.
Instead, you may benefit from hiring an outside registered agent service — one that ensures all of the requirements (Massachusetts residency, authorization to do business in Massachusetts, and a permanent address in the commonwealth) are met and prevents any awkward encounters in the future.
A couple of benefits of using an outside registered agent service like ZenBusiness include:
Every company has rules to follow, processes in place, and plans for the future. LLC Operating Agreements outline all of this and more. However, not every state requires LLCs to have one, including Massachusetts.
If you’re a single-member LLC, you may feel drafting an Operating Agreement is pointless, especially since it is not required in Massachusetts. But even as a single-member LLC, your company can benefit from having an Operating Agreement on file. This document outlines how your company is run, how finances will be handled, and how decisions will be made, but it also details what happens to your company if you leave or become unable to lead. An Operating Agreement can also protect you and your assets in the event of dissolution or bankruptcy.
Since Massachusetts doesn’t require an Operating Agreement, there is no form to fill out and file with the Secretary of the Commonwealth. Instead, you may want to consider turning to a trusted source to help you figure out where to start. ZenBusiness offers an easy-to-follow Operating Agreement template to help protect your assets and company for just $35.
Now that you’re registered, have a resident agent, and have obtained an Operating Agreement, you’re ready to complete the last step in the LLC formation process: registering with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
To register with the IRS, you’ll apply for an Employer Identification Number or EIN. Your EIN is essentially your company’s Social Security number — it helps identify your business and allows you to open financial accounts, hire employees, and pay for business expenses.
While LLCs with multiple members or employees will be required to apply for an EIN, sole-member LLCs without employees might wonder if this step is necessary. However, obtaining an EIN can provide an additional layer of protection, as you won’t have to use your Social Security number for business purposes.
To apply for an EIN, visit the IRS EIN application page online. The application only takes minutes and does not cost a penny. Minutes later, you’ll receive your EIN, ready to be used.
Starting an LLC in Massachusetts can be costly. Filing your Certificate of Organization through the mail is $500, while filing online will cost $520.
Keep in mind this does not include ongoing costs. Each year, for instance, you’ll be required to file an annual report with the Secretary of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts that carries a $500 filing fee by mail or a $520 online fee.
ZenBusiness can help you form your Massachusetts LLC. Our experts will complete and submit all of the necessary paperwork, provide a registered agent service, and supply a template for an Operating Agreement.
You can also choose more comprehensive packages for a bit more per year. These packages include expedited services, help obtaining your EIN, and an automatically generated webpage.
From basic to all-inclusive packages, partnering with ZenBusiness means peace of mind for you at every step of your LLC’s formation.
Let us take care of the unpleasant paperwork, allowing you to stay focused on your business’s future. With our business formation services, we’ll file your Certificate of Organization with the state and let you know when your LLC becomes official. Our work is quick and affordable, saving you a lot of headaches at an extremely low price.
LLCs are often the business type many small businesses or new business owners choose. That’s because LLCs combine many of the benefits of a corporation with those of a sole proprietorship or partnership. They’re particularly great for owners looking for flexible management options and liability protection.
Here are a few benefits to keep in mind when forming an LLC in Massachusetts:
For a more in-depth look at why an LLC might be a better option for you, see our breakdown of what an LLC is and how it compares to a corporation.
While the basic tax setup is not complicated, you might want to team up with an accountant if you don’t understand the tax forms or want a second set of eyes reviewing your tax paperwork. This can prevent potential tax issues that could cause trouble for your LLC.
Here are the basic tax laws for LLCs:
In just four hours after payment, your Certificate of Organization will be processed with the Massachusetts Secretary of the Commonwealth if you file online. Filing by mail takes a bit longer — between four to five business days.
The Operating Agreement is kept internally by the owner and partners or managers of the Massachusetts business. While some states legally require LLCs to have an Operating Agreement, Massachusetts does not.
Many LLCs opt to be taxed the default way — as a sole proprietorship (for single members) or a partnership (for multiple members) — particularly to avoid the Massachusetts excise tax. Choosing to be taxed the default way ensures you’ll only be taxed on profits that you claim on your personal tax return.
You can also choose to be taxed as a corporation, which some large companies opt to do. In addition to having to pay the Massachusetts excise tax, you’ll also want to understand the other distinctions that are unique to the corporation tax structure. You can find out more about these differences in our comprehensive corporation tax guide.
If the LLC has multiple members, it will be classified as a partnership by the IRS, with each partner paying taxes on their share of the business. You can also file as a corporation. This route has its advantages, but be sure to review each option’s details to determine the best one for your business.
No, you’re not legally allowed to create a Massachusetts Series LLC. A Series LLC refers to an LLC structure where one LLC operates as a parent company over multiple children LLCs. Most states do not allow Series LLCs.
Some LLCs need to have a business license to operate, so it’s important to secure them as soon as possible. The state doesn’t require a general business license, but cities and counties sometimes require one as well as additional licenses and permits, so check with your local government offices.
Licensing happens at the federal, state, and local level and is often industry-specific, so you’ll need to research which licenses and permits your LLC needs or hire a service to do it for you. For state licensing, you can check Massachusetts’s Business Licenses & Permits website.
Your LLC might also need to secure a company insurance policy, depending on your industry and whether you have employees. The types of required insurance can range from professional liability insurance (typically required of consulting and legal firms) to unemployment and workers’ compensation insurance. You can find out more about LLC’s minimum insurance requirements on the Massachusetts government site.
If you’re scratching your head, we recommend hiring a professional service like ZenBusiness to do the research for you. We can provide you with a comprehensive package of all the licenses and insurance required for your Massachusetts LLC and help you with paperwork.
We hope this guide has provided a clearer picture of what it takes to start a business in Massachusetts. But don’t fret — you don’t have to do all of these steps alone. From filing legal paperwork and providing registered agent services to offering streamlined technology and automation for quick support, ZenBusiness is here to help you start and grow your business every step of the way.
Already a Massachusetts small business owner? Learn how ZenBusiness can help you run or grow your Massachusetts small business today!
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