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Opening a new business can be exhilarating and overwhelming. Getting your company formed and running can be a fulfilling endeavor, but figuring out all the steps you need to complete to stay compliant with state laws in North Dakota can feel daunting.
The good news is that while the paperwork can seem exhaustive, the steps to forming an LLC in North Dakota are very straightforward and simple. Most (if not all) of the process can be completed online, saving you time and energy. Best of all, if you need help navigating the process, there are trustworthy professional business partners you can team up with to help guide you through each step.
In this LLC guide, we’ll take you through every step of the LLC formation process in North Dakota, so you can get your business up and running with confidence. We’ll offer a quick overview of the process, take a deeper dive into the individual steps, connect you with the links and forms you’ll need to file, and offer insights and ways to seek help if you need additional assistance.
We know how important it is to get your North Dakota business running as quickly as possible — allow this guide to help steer you in the right direction.
The first thing you’ll need to do when setting up your LLC is deciding on your company’s name. Since your name will likely be the first thing prospective clients see or hear about your LLC, it’s important to choose a name that fits your brand, message, or service. You also want to make sure your LLC name follows all North Dakota state regulations.
We recommend making a short list of three to five names that all LLC members can agree on. Once you have your list, you’ll want to use the North Dakota Business Search portal to ensure no other company is already registered with that name. North Dakota requires all companies to have unique names, so if one of your options is already taken, move on to the next.
Once you’ve chosen a name that’s available, you’ll need to add an LLC designator to its end. This designator is essentially a suffix indicating that your company is an LLC. In North Dakota, you can choose from “Limited Liability Company,” “LLC,” or “L.L.C.” For a full list of naming requirements, see Section 10-32.1-11 of the North Dakota Uniform Limited Liability Company Act.
Once you’ve selected a designator, you can reserve your company’s name to ensure it’s available when you register. You can reserve your company name online via the FirstStop North Dakota Secretary of State online filing system. There’s a $10 filing fee you’ll need to pay to complete the process.
If you think you’ll want to open a company website, you should look into registering a domain. To do this, you’ll first want to look for available domain names (ideally, your domain will contain your LLC name) by running a domain search.
You may also want to think about registering any trademarks related to your business, as well as checking to make sure your desired business name isn’t already trademarked by someone else. You can do this on the state and federal levels. Federally registered trademarks have broader protections, which can be valuable if you plan to do business outside of North Dakota. You can trademark your LLC name in North Dakota by filing the North Dakota Trademark/Service Mark Registration form online. For federal registration, visit the United States Patent and Trademark Office website.
Lastly, if you decide to market your company with any name other than your official LLC name, you’ll need to secure a DBA (“Doing Business As”). A DBA is called a trade name in North Dakota. You can file a trade name online via the FirstStop government portal. The fee for filing is $25.
In North Dakota, you must assign a registered agent to your LLC. A registered agent is a party that acts on your behalf and receives official documentation from the North Dakota Secretary of State’s office.
When selecting a registered agent in North Dakota, the agent must have an office address in the state (P.O. boxes are not permitted) and operate under normal business hours (9 a.m. to 5 p.m. local time, Monday through Friday).
You can choose to serve as your own registered agent, but there are a few downfalls to this. First of all, you run the risk of being served embarrassing paperwork (like a service of process) in front of clients. Secondly, this would require some of your private information to become public.
For this reason, many business owners in North Dakota decide to work with an outside business entity like a registered agent service that can handle this paperwork and pass it along at a convenient time for both parties.
You can also view a full list of commercial North Dakota registered agents on the Secretary of State’s website.
Partnering with a professional service like ZenBusiness is also affordable and can save you time and energy.
The next and final step you’ll want to take is setting your business up to pay business taxes and ensuring you apply for any special permits or licenses you need to operate.
You’ll get your tax paperwork set up by requesting an Employer Identification Number (EIN) through the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). You can apply for an EIN online and receive your number right after your application is submitted, free of charge.
Your EIN is similar to an individual’s Social Security number, except this number is for tax purposes. It lets you pay and file taxes, hire and pay employees, open business bank accounts, and much more. Even if you’re the only member of your LLC, you might want to secure an EIN to separate your personal finances from your business finances.
Once you have your EIN, the process is almost complete! The last step is to check to see if you’re required to obtain any licenses or permits to operate in North Dakota. Regulations vary depending on the industry of your LLC, so be sure to review the state’s guidelines here. There are also licenses that are needed at the federal and local level, so you’ll need to do some research.
When you file and submit your Articles of Organization online for your North Dakota LLC, your filing is typically processed and active within 24 hours. Online filing is strongly encouraged, but if you file via mail, expect the process to take several business days.
No, North Dakota does not require LLCs to file an Operating Agreement to operate, but it strongly recommends all companies create one for their protection.
Most LLC owners elect to have their business taxed the default way, which is as a sole proprietorship (for single-member LLCs) or a partnership (for multi-member LLCs). This method only requires partners to pay taxes on their percentage of the profits on their personal tax returns. The LLC itself is not taxed. This avoids the “double taxation” that corporate shareholders pay, in which profits are taxed both at the business level and the personal level.
If you have a large LLC or one that yields high earnings, it could make sense to be taxed as a corporation. You’ll want to read our guide on corporation taxes before making this decision since the distinctions are very different from being taxed as a sole proprietorship or partnership.
We also recommend partnering with a professional accountant or tax specialist if you need further guidance.
A Series LLC is a group of LLCs that operate under one parent LLC. While many states in the U.S. do not allow Series LLCs, North Dakota is one of the few that do.
If you’re interested in creating a Series LLC, you can reach out to ZenBusiness for help. To register new LLCs as a series, you’ll go through the same registration process detailed above, indicating if your LLC is a series when filling out your Articles of Organization.
You’re not required to obtain a general business license to operate an LLC in North Dakota. However, some counties and industries have specific requirements. You can learn more about these requirements on the North Dakota New Business Registration website.
ZenBusiness can also walk you through any special permits or licenses that your LLC will need. Save yourself the time and effort by teaming up with professionals who can quickly match you with your license and insurance requirements.
To dissolve your North Dakota LLC, you will need to file the Articles of Dissolution and Termination form via the FirstStop portal. You’ll need to pay a $20 filing fee.
Hopefully, this guide has helped you better understand the LLC formation process in North Dakota. We hope we’ve shed some light on each of the required steps and answered any questions. Feel free to reach out to ZenBusiness for more information on any part of this process.
You can contact ZenBusiness when you’re ready to find out how we can help launch and expand your new LLC. If you’d like to learn more about starting a business in North Dakota, get in touch with us today!
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