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Are you thinking of starting your own business as an LLC? Missouri may be the place to do it. The Show-Me state ranked 13th overall in the nation for the Tax Foundation’s 2022 State Business Tax Climate Index Ranks and Component Tax Ranks.
A limited liability company (LLC) is a business structure that gives business owners the liability protection of a corporation without a corporation’s double taxation and rigid requirements. Owners of an LLC, who are called “members,” normally have their personal assets protected from the liabilities and debts of the business. Unlike a corporation, though, LLC profits usually aren’t taxed at the business level before being distributed to the owners.
LLCs are also intended to be easier to set up and run than a corporation. Still, starting an LLC in Missouri requires you to follow certain steps and meet various requirements. Understandably, that can be intimidating, especially if you’ve never started a business before.
But don’t let some red tape stop you from launching your dream business. After all, as Missouri native Mark Twain said, “The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and starting on the first one.”
And so, we’ve taken Mr. Twain’s advice and broken down the process of how to start an LLC in Missouri into five basic steps. As we walk you through these, we’ll also tell you how our services can make the whole process easier and help you start, run, and grow your business.
Please note that the following guidelines are for starting a domestic LLC, which is one started within the state you’re residing in. A foreign LLC is one that originated in a different state. To register a foreign LLC in Missouri, you would follow a different process.
Okay, let’s show you how to create an LLC in Missouri.
Give your Missouri limited liability company a name. Brainstorming names is one of the more fun parts of running a business. Still, keep in mind there are rules you’ll need to follow. If the Missouri Secretary of State rejects your name, you’ll have to start the whole filing process over.
Missouri law requires you to follow these rules when naming your LLC:
So, how do you know if the name you want hasn’t already been claimed by someone else? You can conduct a Missouri business search to find out if your desired business name is available. We’ve created a step-by-step Missouri name search guide to make things easier.
If you’ve decided on a name but you aren’t ready to register your LLC in Missouri, you can reserve it with the state for 60 days by completing an Application for Reservation of Name and paying a filing fee.
If the reservation process is confusing, we have a business name reservation service that can handle it for you. As part of the service, we also check to see if your desired name is available.
Although the Secretary of State may accept your LLC name, that doesn’t mean it’s available to use. Business names can be trademarked at the federal and state levels. Check with the United States Patent and Trademark Office website to see if anything similar is already trademarked at the federal level.
State trademarks apply only within the state, but they’re easier and less expensive to get than federal trademarks. To check to see if your name has been trademarked in Missouri or apply for a state trademark of your own, contact the Missouri Secretary of State office at (866) 223-6535.
It’s also a good idea to do some independent research to see if anyone else has laid claim to the name you want. You can conduct internet searches or even consult a trademark attorney.
Another consideration when choosing a business name is whether you can find a domain name that matches it. Even if you can’t find an exact match, you may be able to find something close to use as your website’s URL. If not, you may even want to rethink your first name choice.
Regardless of whether you sell your products or services directly online, you’re going to want a presence on the web. When potential clients search for you online, you’ll want them to find a website where they can get contact and other basic info about your business.
For this reason, it’s important to get a good domain name that pairs well with your business name. You’re likely going to be putting that URL on your business cards and other marketing materials, and you want people to be able to remember it and associate it with your business.
The perfect domain name for your company may already be taken, but you can still find others. In fact, if you find a fantastic available domain name, it might be worth naming your business after that URL rather than the other way around.
Our domain name search tool can help you see if your desired business name or some other suitable name is available as a URL. If you find such a domain name, you might want to lock it down before someone else does.
You can also check to see what social media handles are available. Many businesses market on platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest, so getting the appropriate social media names can be important for effective online marketing.
If your company will be doing business under a name that’s different from its legal name, Missouri law also requires you to complete a Fictitious Name Registration with the Secretary of State and pay a small filing fee. It’s also known as “Doing Business As” (DBA) registration in many states.
This form allows you to market your business under a name other than its official legal name. You can file online or by mail, and the registration must be renewed every five years. Take a look at our Missouri DBA page for more information and how we can help you with this process.
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Name a registered agent for your LLC. The state needs you to name an individual or business entity that’s responsible for receiving service of process and other important legal notices in person. This person or business is called a registered agent.
Missouri requires you to have a registered agent at all times, as well as a registered office where the agent can be found. The registered office must be a physical street address in Missouri, not a P.O. box or something similar. The registered office does not have to be your business address.
Some business owners think that serving as their own registered agent is the simplest way to meet Missouri’s agent requirement. But consider what could happen if a process server is unable to find you or your appointed agent.
This can occur if you aren’t in the office (for example, out of town, on vacation, sick, etc.) when someone needs to reach the agent. It can also happen if you move and forget to update your paperwork with the state.
In addition to legal penalties for being out of compliance, failing to maintain an agent could mean that a process server can’t find you to notify you of a lawsuit. In that scenario, a court case against you could actually go forward without your knowledge, meaning you wouldn’t even have a chance to defend yourself.
Missouri law states that the agent may be either an individual who’s a resident of Missouri with a business office identical to the entity’s registered office, or it may be a corporation authorized to transact business in Missouri with a business office identical to the entity’s registered office.
Your Missouri registered agent must be available to accept legal notices in person at the registered office during normal business hours.
The state also expects you to keep your agent information current. If your agent or registered office changes, you’ll need to file a statement of change of the registered agent. You also need to get the new agent’s written consent and submit it along with this statement.
When you sign up for our registered agent service, we’ll provide you with an agent in Missouri, meaning there will always be someone available to receive important legal, tax, and other notices from the state.
This keeps you in compliance with the registered agent statutes and helps you avoid embarrassing scenarios where you could be served papers for a lawsuit in front of clients.
Our registered agent service also helps keep your paperwork organized. When you get important documents, we’ll quickly inform you and keep them together in your online “dashboard.” From the dashboard, you can view, download, and/or print them whenever you want. You can stop digging through piles of papers to try to find misplaced critical documents.
Some business owners assume that the easiest way to meet the registered agent requirement is to appoint themselves as the agent. But this could have some unintended consequences, which is why many use a registered agent service like ours. Some of the benefits include:
You’ll need to include your agent information in your paperwork when you file your LLC with the state. Missouri also allows you to change your agent at any time if necessary.
File Articles of Organization with the Missouri Secretary of State. Once the state approves your Missouri LLC online filing and you pay the required filing fee, your LLC will be official.
To file your Missouri Articles of Organization online, you’ll first need to create an account on the Business Registration Online Portal on the Missouri Secretary of State website. To complete your Articles, you’ll need the following information (be aware that the information you provide becomes public record):
The Articles form also asks if you want to form a Series LLC. In a Series LLC, a “parent” LLC serves as an umbrella LLC over multiple separate entities, which are shielded from each other’s liabilities. This option is available only in certain states, and Missouri is one of them.
You can read more about this type of LLC on our Series LLC page. However, ZenBusiness doesn’t assist with Series LLC formation at this time.
Missouri’s Articles of Organization form has a line that reads, “The management of the limited liability company is vested in…” and asks you to choose “managers” or “members.” They’re asking you how you want your LLC to be governed, by the members/owners (member-managed) or by a manager (manager-managed).
Most LLCs choose to be managed by the members because they only have a few owners or just one. In those cases, it usually makes sense for the LLC owner(s) to do member-management because they’re running the business themselves. All members are sharing in running the business and making decisions for it.
But some LLCs prefer to appoint or hire a manager instead. In the manager-managed option, one or more LLC members can be appointed to make management decisions, or someone from outside the LLC can be hired to manage the company.
Manager-management can be helpful when some of the members want only to be investors in the company as opposed to running the business and making daily decisions about it. LLCs with a lot of members also sometimes find it easier to have a manager because it’s difficult to get all the members together to make decisions on a regular basis.
Filing official government documents like this can be intimidating, which is why we’re here. If you opt for one of our business formation plans, our team can handle the filing for you to make sure it’s done quickly and correctly the first time.
You only need to file your Articles of Organization once. However, if certain information in the Articles changes, such as contact information or the name and address of your registered agent, you’ll need to update your information with the state by filing Missouri Articles of Amendment and paying a filing fee.
Some entrepreneurs, especially if it’s near the end of the calendar year, will delay their LLC filing date to January 1 of the coming year. This way, they can avoid the hassle and cost of having to pay taxes on an LLC in the current year. This is especially true if the future LLC owners don’t need to establish the company right away.
Ordinarily, the effective filing date would be the day the Missouri Secretary of State approves your filing. But you also have the option to tell the state that you want your effective date to be at a later time. You can choose to have your LLC’s effective date be up to 90 days past the date you submit the filing.
This is something else we can help you with. When you form your LLC in Missouri with us, we give you the option of paying an extra fee to have your LLC’s effective date delayed. (This service is only offered from October to January.)
If you have us file your Articles of Organization, once the state approves your LLC, all of the relevant paperwork will be available from your ZenBusiness dashboard. There you can keep it and other important paperwork digitally organized.
You’ll also want to keep your Articles in a safe location along with your important legal documents, your operating agreement, member certificates, contracts, compliance checklists, transfer ledger, etc. We offer a customized business kit to help you keep these important documents organized and looking professional.
Make an LLC operating agreement. Missouri requires all LLCs to have an operating agreement. This agreement is an internal business document that details how the business will run and much more. Though required, the document doesn’t have to be filed with the Secretary of State or any other governmental agency.
A good Missouri operating agreement may include:
The agreement may also include the appointment of a manager or managers and details on the scope of their authority.
✓ If you’re unsure as to how to go about creating an operating agreement for your Missouri LLC, then check out this guide. Make note that, if you decide to form your LLC with ZenBusiness, all our plans include a customizable operating agreement template to save you time researching and crafting the agreement yourself.
Apply for an IRS Employer Identification Number (EIN). To pay your federal taxes, you’ll likely need to apply to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for an EIN, also known as a federal tax identification number. Think of it as a Social Security number for your LLC. It helps the IRS identify your business, and banks usually require it to open a business bank account.
You can get your EIN through the IRS website, by mail, or by fax, but if you’re unfond of dealing with that particular government agency, we can get it for you. Our EIN service is quick and eliminates the hassle.
✓ Our LLC formation service includes obtaining an EIN for your LLC but we can also help you get an EIN for an existing company
Once you have your EIN, you’ll need to register your business with the Missouri Department of Revenue and, if you have employees, the Missouri Department of Labor and Industrial Relations, Division of Employment Security. You can register online for the following:
After you’ve finished the online registration, you’ll receive a confirmation number and additional information about your registration. Processing usually takes two to three days. Keep the confirmation number for your records. For more information, contact the Missouri Department of Revenue.
The LLC business structure gives you more flexibility than a corporation. That extends to how you can choose to have your LLC taxed.
By default, an LLC has pass-through taxation. This appeals to most owners of LLCs because it avoids “double taxation,” in which a corporation pays taxes at both the business level and again when the income is distributed to the individual owners. But some LLCs opt to be taxed as a C corporation or an S corporation because, in their case, it works to their advantage.
Being taxed as a C corporation does mean you get double taxation, but, for certain LLCs, the pros can sometimes outweigh the cons. One benefit is that C corporations have the widest range of tax deductions, which could be an advantage in some scenarios, especially for more profitable LLCs. For example, some employee benefits can be written off as a business expense.
S corp is short for “Subchapter S Corporation” and is a tax status geared toward small businesses. Having your LLC taxed as an S corp has pass-through taxation like a standard LLC, but there’s another potential advantage for some LLCs: It could reduce your self-employment taxes.
Self-employment taxes are the portion of your taxes that pay for Social Security and Medicare. In a typical LLC, you would pay these on all of your profits.
But filing as an S corp allows you to be an “employee-owner” and split your income into your salary and your share of the company’s profits. That way, you pay employment taxes on your salary, but not self-employment taxes on your profits. (You’ll still pay the other applicable taxes on your LLC profits, of course.)
The drawback is that the Internal Revenue Service scrutinizes S corps more closely, meaning you’re more likely to get audited. S corps also have more restrictions for qualifying.
While it’s possible that one of the above options could work better for your LLC, remember that business taxes are very complex and specific to your situation. That’s why you truly need to consult a tax professional to see which taxing method works best for your Missouri business.
If you decide to form your LLC with an S corp status, our S corp service can help you do that.
If you plan to hire employees, you’ll need to report all new hires to the Missouri Department of Social Services within 20 days of the hire date. You’ll also be responsible for withholding employee taxes, providing workers’ compensation insurance, and registering with the Missouri Department of Labor and Industrial Relations – Division of Employment Security for unemployment insurance tax.
Once you’ve secured your Federal Employer Identification Number, you’ll be able to open a business bank account. Having separate accounts for your business and your personal banking is critical for sorting out your finances at tax time and helps you avoid mixing your personal assets with business assets. Having a business bank account may also allow you to get a business credit card.
To help new business owners, we offer a discounted bank account through our partners. This allows for unlimited transactions, online banking, a debit card, and more. When you want to authorize others in your business to use the account, we offer a banking resolution template to simplify the process.
Finally, if you need further help managing your new business’s finances, try ZenBusiness Money. It can help you create invoices, receive payments, transfer money, and manage clients all in one place.
We can help
If you follow all the steps above, you should be the proud owner of a new LLC! But there’s still more to know than just how to start an LLC in Missouri. You need to know about things like hiring employees, getting business licenses and permits, getting additional financing if you need it, and staying in compliance with the government.
We offer many services beyond just helping you form your LLC. Our business experts can also give you long-term business support to help run and grow your company.
So, if dealing with the red tape of starting a business feels like navigating summer road construction, we can turn it into a peaceful innertube float down the Black River. Let us take care of LLC formation, compliance, and more. That way, you can get back to running your dream business, whether it’s a T-shirt printing business in Joplin or a fried ravioli food truck in St. Louis.
Disclaimer: The content on this page is for informational 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.
Missouri LLC FAQs
Missouri doesn’t have a statewide general business license you’re required to get. However. some counties and cities require one, so check with your local governments. The license you’re most likely to need is a sales tax license from the Missouri Department of Revenue. You’ll need this to collect sales tax if you’re selling tangible personal property or any taxable services in Missouri.
In addition to state business licenses, your business could be responsible for a variety of licenses and permits depending on factors like your location, your industry, your profession, and others. Because licensing can be federal, state, and local, you don’t have one central place you can check to ensure you have every license and permit your business needs. You’ll have to conduct some research.
If you don’t have the time to do all this research, or if you just want the peace of mind to know that your business has all the licenses and permits it’s legally required to have, our business license report service can do the work for you.
The state fees for forming a Missouri LLC can range from $50 to $130, depending on factors such as your method of filing and whether you choose to reserve your business name. Note that fees change over time, so check the Missouri Secretary of State website for the most recent fee schedule.
By default, an LLC has “pass-through taxation,” meaning that the business itself typically doesn’t pay federal income tax on its profits. Instead, the responsibility to pay income taxes falls only on the individual business owner or owners. In a typical corporation, profits are taxed at both the business level and the individual owners’ level.
A single-member LLC doesn’t have to file a separate federal return for the LLC. The member reports the LLC income on their personal income tax return (Form 1040). But LLCs with more than one member must file a separate information federal return for the LLC, Form 1065. Then each LLC member reports their share of the profits on Schedule K-1 and attaches it to their own personal federal tax return.
Even though an LLCs is taxed as a sole proprietorship or general partnership by default, LLC owners also have the option to tax the business as a corporation. Some LLC owners choose to classify their businesses as an S corporation or a C corporation, which can be advantageous in some cases.
Some LLCs elect to be taxed as S corporations because it can save the members money on self-employment taxes. S corporations also have pass-through taxation like a typical LLC. You can learn more on our “What Is an S Corp?” page.
In some cases, LLC members may be willing to accept a double taxation burden in exchange for the other possible benefits of being taxed as a C corporation. For example, C corporations also have the widest range of possible tax deductions, including the ability to deduct employee benefits.
You also have a few other forms of federal taxation to keep in mind. For example, you will likely need to pay self-employment taxes on your portion of the LLC’s profits. These are the taxes that go toward Social Security and Medicare. Fortunately, an LLC member can deduct half of the self-employment taxes paid as a business expense.
Missouri Business Taxes
If you have your LLC taxed as a pass-through entity for federal income tax, Missouri will tax you in the same manner for state income tax. However, if you choose to be taxed as a corporation, your LLC will have to pay any applicable Missouri corporate taxes.
We listed many of the possible state taxes you could be responsible for in Step 5, but this isn’t a comprehensive list. Check the Missouri Department of Revenue website for more information on all your state tax obligations.
In addition to federal and state taxes, you may owe taxes to your county, municipalities, and other tax districts. You’ll need to check with your local tax authorities to make sure you’re paying all the taxes you owe.
Finally, we don’t need to tell you that taxes can get very complicated, more so at the business level. We strongly recommend consulting a tax professional about your specific business’s circumstances. They can keep you out of trouble with tax collectors and potentially find tax savings you weren’t aware of.
The processing time to form an LLC in Missouri varies due to many factors. However, it’s faster to file online than through the mail, which typically takes three to six business days for processing alone.
No. While Missouri does require LLCs to have operating agreements, it doesn’t require them to be filed with any state agency. While legally binding, it’s mainly an internal document.
An LLC is structured as a pass-through tax entity by default, meaning that profits are only taxed on the individual tax returns of the owners as opposed to being taxed at both the business and individual levels. This is similar to business entities like a sole proprietorship or partnership.
As we said above, you can also choose to have your LLC taxed as either a C corporation (the default form of corporation) or an S corporation. Each has its own pros and cons. To know which tax structure would best benefit you and your LLC, talk to a qualified tax professional.
No, Missouri LLCs do not have to file an annual report.
Before starting the dissolution process, the members of an LLC should consult the operating agreement to review the established procedure for dissolution. For the subsequent steps, please refer to our Missouri business dissolution guide.
Yes, you can use a foreign LLC to transact business in Missouri after you register it with the state. Registering a foreign LLC is a somewhat different process and requires you to get a Certificate of Good Standing from your state of origin to prove that your business exists there and is following all state laws.
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