Do you need an LLC for a podcast?

If you’re considering starting a podcast, you might be wondering whether forming a limited liability company (LLC) is necessary or beneficial for your venture. In this guide, we’ll explore the key considerations and advantages of forming an LLC for your podcast.

Forming an LLC for your podcast can offer several benefits that provide protection and structure to your business operations. One of the primary advantages of forming an LLC is the personal liability protection it provides. By establishing your podcast as an LLC, you can separate your personal assets from the liabilities of your business. The LLC also helps add a layer of professionalism to your business. Last but not least, an LLC gives you the ability to choose the tax structure that’s most beneficial for your unique financial situation.

Throughout this guide, we’ll provide you with step-by-step instructions and valuable insights on how to form an LLC for your podcast. Whether you’re an experienced podcaster looking to formalize your business or considering starting your first podcast, forming an LLC can be a crucial step toward building a successful and sustainable podcasting venture.

Why Starting an LLC for a Podcast is Important

Personal Asset Protection

The top reason to form an LLC for a podcast is to gain access to the personal asset protection provided by this business structure. Whether you distribute a niche podcast with a few dozen listeners or a popular show with thousands of downloads per episode, you need the limited liability protections that an LLC can provide.

As an example, let’s say that you make comments about someone on your show that amount to libel or slander, or you accidentally infringe on someone else’s intellectual property during an episode. If you operate your podcast business as a sole proprietorship or general partnership, your personal assets — like your house, car, or personal bank accounts — would be at risk if the person you wronged decides to sue your business.

On the other hand, if you form an LLC for your podcast, and you operate and maintain that LLC in a compliant fashion (treating it like a separate legal business entity), the scope of that individual’s lawsuit will be limited to your business assets. In other words, your personal assets will be protected by the business structure you’ve chosen.

Taxation

Typically, we would say that the LLC’s options for taxation are another major advantage, but that’s not as much the case with podcast businesses. Still, the way this entity allows you to choose how your business will be taxed can save you some money compared to operating a corporation or an informal business entity.

Sole Proprietorship

Your podcast’s LLC can be taxed as a sole proprietorship, which is the default option. With this tax structure, your business itself does not pay taxes, but rather the profits are passed through the business entity and you pay taxes on that money when you file your own personal taxes.

C Corporation

You can also choose for your podcast business to be taxed as a C corporation, although this option isn’t very popular because it subjects your business to what’s known as double taxation — meaning that your profits are taxed first on the corporate level and again on the personal level when they’re distributed to you.

S Corporation

The other option is S corporation taxation. There are quite a few limitations to electing S corp taxation, but most U.S.-based podcasts have no trouble meeting these requirements — your business cannot have more than 100 owners, they all must be either residents or citizens of the United States, and so on.

In theory, S corp taxation can help your podcast business save money by reducing your self-employment tax burden. Instead of paying self-employment taxes (a 15.3% tax that includes the employer and employee portions of Medicare and Social Security) on all of your business income, you can pay yourself a reasonable salary for your role and only pay self-employment tax on that portion of your income, while you can reinvest the rest of it into your business without paying this tax.

The problem with electing S corp taxation for podcasters is that you simply don’t have many business expenses to invest that extra money into. Therefore, the IRS might (rightfully) have some questions if it sees you leaving lots of money in your business structure.

Enhanced Credibility and Name Uniqueness

Finally, an LLC structure can enhance the credibility of your podcast business venture. Informal business entities don’t have exclusive assumed business names and typically operate under the personal name(s) of their owner(s). For instance, if your name is Johnny Smith and you operate a podcast, your company’s name is also “Johnny Smith,” which obviously isn’t a great name for any business.

In this scenario, you could register a DBA (doing business as) name to give your business the ability to operate under an assumed business name, but DBAs have no exclusivity regarding their naming rights in many states. This means that if another podcaster wants to use your DBA name as their own, they’re not only allowed to do so, but they can actually register a formal business entity with that name, preventing you from continuing to use your own assumed name.

With an LLC, you not only have the rights to exclusive use of a business name, but you will also have either the phrase “limited liability company” or the letters “LLC” in that business name. This provides your business with a jolt of respectability because sponsors respect the professionalism displayed by an LLC. Also, your sponsors typically feel more comfortable writing checks to a business entity rather than to an individual.

What is an LLC?

LLCs are formal legal entities that are typically taxed similarly to sole proprietorships and general partnerships, in that the owners include any company profits or losses into their personal returns — the LLC itself doesn’t owe income taxes. An LLC may also elect to be taxed like a corporation, although this is not a very common option.

There are similarities to corporations, too, especially when it comes to financial responsibilities. In an LLC, the owners or members are not usually personally accountable for the financial status of the business. This means that if someone sues your LLC, your personal assets are not at risk in most cases.

How to Start an LLC for a Podcaster

The formation process for LLCs varies depending on which state you’re forming one in, but in general, the process has some universal steps that need to be taken no matter what state your business is located in. If you want a thorough overview of all the steps required to form an LLC, check out our complete guide on the topic. The basic steps in the LLC formation process in any state are as follows:

1. Choose an LLC name

Coming up with the perfect name for your new LLC is an important step. You’ll need to choose a name that represents your company and describes what you do, and you’ll also have to make sure it isn’t already in use by checking your state’s business database.

2. Designate a registered agent

Your LLC’s registered agent (which can be an individual or a professional service) is responsible for receiving important document deliveries from the state — like service of process or annual report reminders — and forwarding them to you. The registered agent ensures that the state always has a reliable point of contact for your business.

3. File your formation documents with the state

The form used to create an LLC is usually called the Articles of Organization, although the name can vary (some states call it the Certificate of Formation or something similar). You’ll need to provide the state with some basic information about your business and its owners. In exchange, the state will formally create your LLC.

4. Acquire an EIN

The Employer Identification Number (EIN) is a federal tax ID number that essentially functions as a Social Security number for a business. The EIN allows your business to hire employees, pay taxes, apply for bank loans, and more. You can obtain an EIN from the Internal Revenue Service free of charge.

5. File a BOI report

Beginning in 2024, all LLCs are required to file a beneficial ownership information report, or BOI report. You can file the report free of charge with the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN). When you file, you’ll be asked to provide information about your beneficial owners — the people who either exert control over the LLC or get significant economic incentive from it. 

Be sure to file this report on time; failing to file can have severe civil and criminal penalties. 

6. Create an LLC operating agreement

Most states don’t require operating agreements, but every LLC should have one regardless. This is an internal document that outlines several key operational aspects of your LLC. The value of the operating agreement is how it can help prevent ownership disputes down the line by clearly explaining how the LLC will be run.

7. Create a financial infrastructure

You will need a business bank account for your LLC, and you’ll probably want a business credit card for work-related expenses as well. It’s also a good idea to use accounting software like QuickBooks or even hire an accountant to handle your bookkeeping for you.

8. Handle taxes, licenses, and permits

Depending on your state, you may need a general business license to operate your LLC in compliance with state requirements. There are no industry-specific licenses for podcasters, but this doesn’t mean you won’t need any licenses or permits at all. Don’t forget to check with your state to see if there are franchise or privilege taxes assessed on LLCs, and also see if your municipal or county government entities have any further licensing requirements.

9. Understand maintenance requirements (annual reports, franchise taxes, etc.)

Again, these requirements can vary by state, but most states require some sort of regular report to ensure that your LLC’s info is up to date in the state’s business database. Some states require reports each year, while others only require them biennially or not at all. No matter what your state requires, you’ll need to stay on top of it to keep your LLC in good standing.

Additional Resources for Starting a Podcast

1. Podcast Insights

Podcast Insights provides podcasters with tools and resources to help you “start, grow, and monetize your podcast.” They have articles to help you determine which podcast hosting platform you want to use, what recording gear to purchase, how to register a domain name for your podcast, and much more.

2. The Podcast Host

The Podcast Host is a wide-ranging resource for podcasters of any experience level. It provides information regarding podcast planning, including equipment recommendations and publishing insights, and it also has plenty of resources for expanding and monetizing your podcast.

3. BuzzSprout

If you’re looking for podcast hosting, give BuzzSprout a long look. To date, they’ve helped more than 100,000 podcasts get off the ground, and they also offer resources for promoting your podcast, as well as tracking its success. We’re also big fans of their “31 of the Best Podcasting Resources” article, which is stuffed with valuable tools for podcasters.

4. “How to Start a Podcast in 2020” from Smart Passive Income

In this guide, Pat Flynn — the host of the popular Smart Passive Income podcast — lays out his step-by-step tutorial to help you take your podcast from concept to reality. Flynn updates this tutorial every few months, and it currently includes 15 chapters, ranging from why you should start a podcast through how to effectively monetize it.

5. Yaro Starak

Yaro Starak has been a significant figure in the podcasting world since 2005. While his site does include some resources for the basics of starting a podcast, we find his information to be especially valuable when he talks about next-level aspects like how to best monetize your podcast and how to evaluate your podcast metrics.

Try ZenBusiness for Forming Your Podcasting LLC

Starting an LLC for podcast endeavors can feel busy and stressful, but it doesn’t have to be a solo process. ZenBusiness can help; we specialize in handling the red tape side of business. Whether you need help starting your LLC, staying compliant, managing your finances with a Money app, or anything in between, we have your back. Let us help so you can focus on what you love: crafting the perfect podcast.

Podcast LLC FAQs

  • There are a couple of significant liability risks for podcasters, starting with the potential for a lawsuit due to slander or libel. In addition, if you use music or videos in your show that you don’t have the intellectual property rights to, the artist may sue you. In short, you should not operate a podcasting business as an informal business entity.

  • Everyone’s situation is different, and we’re not here to provide legal advice. That said, the limited liability company has some concrete advantages over the corporation that make it the preferred option for most small businesses.

    Corporations tend to have more complex formation and maintenance requirements, and they don’t have the taxation advantages of an LLC. The corporation has some advantages of its own (for example, it’s easier to attract investors to a corporation) that make it worth a look, but the LLC is a simpler and more flexible business structure.

  • Yes. Every state allows entrepreneurs to serve as their own registered agents. However, while the role of the registered agent can seem like that of an unnecessary middleman, there is more complexity to this position than some people realize. For instance, you would need to be present and available at your business location during all standard business hours.

  • The do-it-yourself route is always an option for LLC formation. However, LLC services are so affordable that there’s really no good reason not to use one these days. In addition, some of these companies often throw in free bonus features that make them an even better bargain.

  • Some people like to form their LLCs in states with favorable legal settings. For instance, Delaware is often seen as the most business-friendly state, as it has an entire court system that’s dedicated solely to business matters. As for Wyoming, this state has some of the most generous anonymity laws for LLC ownership.

    However, for most people, the best option is to form their business in their home state. Forming in a different state can be a tremendous hassle and can also add unnecessary complexity to tax issues.

  • The costs of LLC formation can vary quite a bit depending on which state you’re forming one in. For in-depth information about LLC formation costs in your specific state, take a look at our guide to state-by-state LLC expenses.

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

Start your Podcast LLC