What’s the Best State to Form an LLC (if in the Military)?

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If you or your spouse are in the military, constantly moving around already has enough challenges. And once you get settled, you’re not 100% sure how long you’ll be there and when the next PCS (Permanent Change of Station) order comes through.

Balancing the move, family life, car registration, and taxes are enough; and now this LLC confusion. What the heck!

I empathize with you so much here. Not only are you and your family making a serious commitment to our country, but you have to deal with all the ambiguity and uncertainty around the common question, “Where should I form an LLC if I and/or my spouse are in the military?”

Let’s take a look at this message from Robert:

“As a member of the military, if I create an LLC, would I need to dissolve my LLC and create a new one in each state I move? I don’t keep an address in a state but I do plan to keep my state (Florida) as my “Legal residence”… but again, I have to move every couple of years. How would it work in that scenario?”

Domestic LLC and Foreign LLC

Robert is asking, if every time he moves, does he need to shut down his old LLC (known as Dissolution), and form a new LLC.

When “LLCs move state”, there are two basic ways (excluding redomestication) to do it:

  1. Dissolve the LLC in the old state, then form an LLC in the new state.
  2. File a Foreign LLC Registration, allowing the existing LLC to operate within the new state’s borders.

Robert’s question does not mention option #2, most likely because he wasn’t aware of Foreign LLCs.

Based on Robert’s question, we would recommend going with option #2 (Foreign Registration).

This allows the original LLC to operate within new states where Robert moves, and he can keep the same EIN/Federal Tax ID Number and bank account.

The Basics of Foreign LLCs:

First, LLCs can only be formed on the state-level (not on a federal/national level). Therefore, LLC laws are written and enforced on a state-by-state basis (each of the 50 States, as well as Washington D.C., have LLC Acts or Statutes). And an LLC just can’t operate anywhere it pleases, without first registering in a new state.

Wherever the LLC is originally formed is known as the “home state”, and the LLC is known as a Domestic LLC in that state. If you want your LLC to operate and do business in a new state, you must file Foreign LLC registration documents (and pay a filing fee) in the new state.

If you’re in the military and constantly moving around, you can see how this can quickly become a major pain in the ass!

“So What’s the Best State?”

Yes, I can hear you saying, “I get it, I get it… so what’s the best state?”

We recommend forming the LLC in the state you use as your legal residence and/or the state where you have the most “context”. By context, we mean familiarity, a street address (where someone can get your mail), family and friends.

In Robert’s situation, that means he’d form a Florida LLC and if he moves to Arizona for an extended period of time, he’d register his Florida LLC as a Foreign LLC in Arizona. He’d continually register his Florida LLC as a Foreign LLC in all the states he lives long-term.

And yes, unfortunately, this can get a little expensive… but operating illegally and without authorization within a state’s borders carries with it risks:

  • You may be denied access to the court system, which eliminates your ability to bring suit.
  • The state in which you are illegally doing business in has the ability to slap you with fines and penalties.
  • In many states, there is a chance you can lose the liability protection of the LLC and be held personally responsible for actions, which can expose your personal assets.

“What if I Don’t File a Foreign LLC Registration in Each New State?”

Situations may arise where you might only live in, say Arizona, for 3 months. And you’re asking, “Is is really worth the hassle of the Foreign LLC qualification every time?”

There aren’t “LLC police” checking up on you on a weekly basis, so there is a chance you can get away with not registering as a Foreign LLC. But again, there are risks, and we recommend speaking with an attorney if you’re not sure what constitutes “doing business” (doing business in a state is what legally triggers the requirement for Foreign LLC registration).

And although there are no “LLC police”, there are internal compliance departments within each state’s Department of Revenue and Secretary of State’s Office.

If you need to form an LLC in your home state, check out our free LLC guides.

If you need to register your LLC as a Foreign LLC in another state, please see the state resources below.

Documents and Fees for Foreign LLC Registration

Important Notes:

– There are additional steps and fees for Foreign LLCs. The forms and information below is just for registration/qualification.

– Most states will require a Certificate of Authority, Certificate of Good Standing, or a similar document from your existing state before approving your Foreign LLC application.

– The prices below are subject to change by the states, so please make sure to call each state and double-check on fees.

– Foreign LLCs are subject to Annual Reporting requirements.

For a full list of Foreign LLC registration fees by state, please see this table:
Foreign LLC Registration Fees for all 50 States

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57 comments on “What’s the Best State to Form an LLC (if in the Military)?”

Disclaimer: Nothing on this page shall be interpreted as legal or tax advice. Rules and regulations vary by location. They also change over time and are specific to your situation. Furthermore, this comment section is provided so people can share their thoughts and experience. Please consult a licensed professional if you have legal or tax questions.

  1. Hi Matt,

    My question has to do with the Military Spouses Residency Relief Act. Our home of record is CO, but we have no address there currently. We file taxes there and according to the MSRRA, state taxes that I incur should be paid to CO. We currently reside in SC and I do business mostly here, but also travel all over the US. Where should I register my LLC?

    Also, is it less expensive to register a foreign LLC each time we move or dissolve a state LLC and create a new one every couple of years?

    • Hi Meredith, if you have any state tax questions, check out our accountant recommendations. As for your last question, it’s a lot easier to have one “base” LLC with a foreign qualification in South Carolina. Then when you move out of South Carolina, withdraw that foreign qualification and then foreign qualify in the next state… and so on. Dissolving LLCs (and creating new ones) would be an administrative headaches, and honestly, really stressful. Check out an Ohio LLC. I very much like Ohio and use them myself. This could be your base state. Ohio LLCs are $99 to form and they don’t have an LLC Annual Report (like most states). So it’s just the cost to form the LLC and to maintain an Ohio Registered Agent. In this way, your Ohio LLC becomes much more “portable” and “transferrable” for those who move around every few years (which is becoming more and more common). Hope that helps.

    • Meredith,

      I too am in a similar situation. Were you able to find anything out on the state side with starting an LLC using the MSRRA? It’s a unique situation that not many people seem to have grasp on.

      Thank you!

      • Hi Kay, I agree. Many people may not be familiar with the Military Spouses Residency Relief Act (MSRRA).

  2. Hi matt, I am active-duty military, and I am trying to create an LLC cos I plan on selling on amazon, I am from new jersey, but I am currently stationed in Texas, and I have my new driver’s license in Texas, but I have about a year till my contract is over. I have no idea what I need to do, do I register my LLC in Texas, and what do I do if I eventually plan on moving after a year.
    Thank you.

    • Hi Priscilla, please see my reply to Meredith. It should either be above or below this. You might want to consider something like that if you move around a lot. However, in this case, if you want to save some money, you could make Texas your base state and then foreign qualify it as you move around. The reason why is that a domestic Texas LLC is $300, but a foreign LLC registration is $750. However, if that’s not a big deal, then you could pick any state you want for your base LLC and then foreign qualify in Texas to start things off.

  3. Hello,
    My wife currently has an LLC set up in AZ, as that’s where we were previously stationed. We just pcs’d to NY. We understand the foreign LLC option, however, she travels for work across the U.S., so is essentially not working in just one state nor will she have a list of all states she works in at the beginning of the year. She’s similar to a traveling nurse that works through a contractor. What do you recommend?

    • Hi Erica, most of those activities won’t be considered “transacting business” in those states, so if it were me, I’d just use the Arizona LLC and not worry about foreign qualification(s).

  4. Hello,

    I’m an active duty service member currently residing in AZ. However, my home of record is in KY. I’m looking into selling on Amazon as an additional stream of income. I know I want to create an LLC. However, considering I could be technically selling products all over, I’m unsure where my LLC should be registered. This is further complicated by the fact that PCS time will result in my moving to another state. What are your thoughts on how I should proceed? Thanks in advanced.

    • Hi BW, in this scenario, you could pick your preferred state as a “base” state. And if you need to register it as a foreign LLC somewhere (for example if you move and set up shop somewhere), you can do that… and then withdraw/cancel it when you move again. Do you have a preferred state in mind?

      • Hello,

        Ok, so I want to dig into this a little bit. I’ve read what you’ve posted regarding the formation of LLC’s and if I understand correctly, you should register one in the state you’re transacting in. I also understand that while there aren’t “LLC Police,” if you move and begin transacting in a new state you should dissolve the LLC and reform it, or register as a foreign LLC in the new state. In my particular situation (Amazon E-Commerce), you’re saying it doesn’t matter where I register initially? Say I initially register my LLC. In Tennessee and begin selling on Amazon. I purchase goods online and in stores and send them to an Amazon Warehouse who handles distribution on my behalf. Those goods are then purchased by people all over the US. Technically, I’m transacting everywhere a good is sold right? I can’t register my LLC everywhere and since I don’t have a physical storefront for people to buy from, why after initially registering in TN, would I need to register as a foreign LLC elsewhere if I moved?

        • Sure thing. Great question. Transacting business has far more to do with where you run and operate things as opposed to where your customers are. If you don’t mind having two LLC registrations (a domestic LLC in your “base” state and a foreign LLC registration in the state you’re transacting business), then the “base” state can be more flexible. Does that help?

          • Hello,

            I believe I get it. So in my case my “base” state as a service member could be my Home of Record (KY). I would initially register my LLC there and then register it as a foreign LLC in the state I’m stationed in (AZ). Is that correct? I assume that I would be liable for AZ state taxes?

            • That is correct. I recommend working with an accountant. They will apportion (distribute) the revenue to the states where it’s needed. And sometimes, that may be a “zeroed out” informational return… just letting one state know the income is fully attributable to the other state.

  5. Hi! Quick Question. If an active duty service member with a home state of GA plans to create a business that is solely ran in GA, and all of the products are created in GA, But the service member himself has orders to a different state, could that service member simply file the LLC in GA and use a family member as the registered agent?

    • Hey Briana! Yes, totally cool to do all that. You can have a Georgia LLC (with a family member as the Georgia Registered Agent) and you can have orders to any and all the states. Hope that helps.

  6. Hi Matt
    We’re not in APO, AP yet but likely within next few years. My wife runs a 1-person online business. We currently have LLC in Hawaii. When we move to oveseas (APO, AP), we plan on closing LLC in HI, sell our homes here as well.
    Can we setup LLC at either NV or WY to take advantage of no state income tax and operate the online business with APO, AP address? or is it best to go sole proprietorship?

    • Hi Josh, I’d avoid Nevada. Much more expensive than people realize. And your income taxes aren’t dictated by the state of entity formation. You’ll want to check with an accountant to see if you have to file state income taxes anywhere. But yes, you could form an LLC in Wyoming if you’d like. If you later reside and do business in a particular state, you can always register your Wyoming LLC as a foreign LLC there. And because a Single-Member LLC is taxed like a Sole Proprietorship, your wife would have the same tax situation with a regular Sole Proprietorship. Hope that helps.

  7. Hi, thanks so much for this information. I’m starting a virtual assistant business and I am currently active duty military. My home of residence is Texas, however, I’ve been stationed and living in (different parts of) Virginia since 2012. I own home here. I, however, vote in Texas, my license is from Texas, but all we do now is here in Virginia. I will likely end up moving my residence to Virginia at some point. In the meantime, could I start an LLC here in Virginia and be the registered agent though I’m not from here? I will be here for the next 3 years, then I retire. Can I not be the registered agent being that I don’t vote here, my license, etc. is not from VA? Or, should I start it in Texas and just move it once it becomes by residence?

    • Hi Manual, if it were me, I’d just form the LLC in Virginia. And yes, you can be the Registered Agent for your LLC, even if you don’t vote in Virginia or have a Virginia driver’s license. Hope that helps.

      • This is almost my exact question. I live in VA would like to form an LLC in Virginia and list myself as the RA, though my residence is in Florida. I don’t feel right checking the box that says “RA is a resident of VA” when I don’t meet the definition of resident according to their website. I am a non-resident residing in the state. Do you have a reference to support your comment above? Thanks!

  8. Hello. I am a military spouse setting up an LLC. I want it to be based in my home state, Texas, where we will eventually go back to, and where my license and voter registration is. It will be set up at my parents address and my mom as the registering agent. My question is this, if my business is virtual, a bookkeeping business, would I still need to file a foreign LLC while living in SC? I plan on having clients all over the country so would I then have to get foreign LLCs in all of the states I get clients?

    • Hey Julia, no, you don’t have to foreign qualify an LLC in every state where clients are. Foreign qualification has more to do with where you are transacting business or running your business from.

      And in general, foreign qualification rules are not strictly enforced (in most states). Specifically, in South Carolina, Section 33-44-1008 of the South Carolina LLC Act doesn’t impose a financial penalty if you don’t foreign qualify an LLC that’s “transacting business” in the state. Said another way, while we can’t guarantee anything, if you didn’t foreign qualify your Texas LLC in South Carolina, you’ll probably be fine. If instead, you’d rather keep everything above board, you can register your Texas LLC as a foreign LLC in South Carolina while you live there. Then cancel that registration once you move out of South Carolina. I wish foreign qualification had a “black and white” answer, but it’s usually more gray and nuanced. Hope that helps!

  9. Hi Matt,

    This is exactly what I’m wondering about my prospective LLC. I am residing in Missouri for the next 8-10 months with my Active Duty husband stationed here. I’m trying to self publish a memoir and want to sell books in Missouri within the next few months. I figured LLC would be the best setup for legal and business matters.

    My question comes down to which state do I form the LLC in, if we are technically Florida residents and own a rental property there but can’t receive or have mail forwarded from there, though I’m wanting to act as the Registered Agent at that Florida address, and yet I’m wanting to do business in Missouri ASAP? Should I file for the Florida LLC, as I spoke with the sunbiz.org FL Department of Corporations this morning and they said the only reason I would need that Florida address was if someone were to sue me, and said that a lot of people file their LLC in Florida and reside elsewhere. I highly doubt anyone would sue me, but to cover my bases and be legally safe, what do you recommend?

    Thank you.


    • Hi Katie, where an LLC should be formed (or registered as a foreign LLC) comes down to where the LLC is “transacting business”. In this case of working from home, that “where you’re transacting business” part sort of follows you around. If you form an LLC in Florida, the Registered Agent address must be a Florida address. If you form an LLC in Missouri, the Registered Agent must be a Missouri address. You can use your address if you reside in that particular state or you can hire a Registered Agent company to provide those services for you. After your time in Missouri, do you see yourselves moving back to Florida? Will you always keep Florida as your “base”/residency? If so, it’ll likely be easiest to form the LLC in Florida. If the Florida LLC needs to register in Missouri, you can register your Florida LLC as a foreign LLC in Missouri. Hope that helps.

  10. This information is most definitely helpful (even the comments). I was concerned that I would have to register foreign in the state (AK) that I am stationed at when I only offer services digitally/online. Im thinking that I only need to register for my Home of Record (KY) and thats it if im not offering a physical product.

    • Hi Joshua, thank you for your service! Glad to hear it was helpful :)

  11. My family and I just PCSed to VA from TX recently. I registered a business in TX with the intent to then register in VA as a foreign entity. Then I started thinking: what are the tax implications for doing that? Is it easier for me to just start a domestic LLC here in VA and not a foreign entity and just have two (one in TX and one in VA)? I will not be doing any business in TX though since I am not there so…. a tad confused. Would the one I registered in TX basically just save the name if I don’t open a foreign entity? I met with attorney recently and he wasn’t very helpful so that was disappointing luckily it was a free consult. Any advice you could give would be great.

    • Hey Marlene, bummer about the attorney. You’d have to speak to an accountant regarding tax implications, but likely, a tax professional would apportion the income to the state where it was earned. I would consider just forming a Virginia LLC since you won’t permanently remain in Texas. Hope that helps.

  12. I am a military spouse and we are currently based in California. We are Florida residents. We have our drivers license still there. I am opening a promotional product LLC. I work out of my home and my customers are in several different states?

    Is Florida my best option to open my LLC? Do I also have to have a foreign LLC in CA? If yes, do I have to pay CA the hefty $800 a year?

    • Hi Jessica, how long will you be in California? You’re likely fine to just form the LLC in the state where are technically residents; in Florida. Hope that helps.

  13. My husband is active duty military and we just finished a PCS move to his first station. Can we still register an LLC in our state of residency or should we just register for one in the new state? Thanks!

    • Hi Courtney, you may want to consider forming the LLC in your state of residency. If you form the LLC in a state where you will only be temporarily, “moving” that LLC will be a hassle and likely more expensive. Hope that helps.

  14. Hey Matt,
    Thanks for the reply back. Yes, we plan on keeping Florida residency while we move around. As for the transferring question, I guess there are some states that have an agreement where you can transfer the business to the new state…? Maybe I misunderstood.
    I’m leaning towards dissolving in Alabama and restarting in Florida, mainly to prevent having to do too many states for taxes (and because Alabama is archaic). Do you think this is the best plan of action?

    • Hey Gigi, you’re welcome :) Didn’t mean to take so long. Just have about 176 questions to reply to ;) I would do exactly the same in your situation. Dissolve the Alabama LLC, form a Florida LLC, and operate with that. Do you have a long-term address in Florida that you can use for the Registered Agent address + principal office address? If not, there are two options to go about it.

      • I 100% appreciate it! Thank you for even getting to my question! You and your site have been a wealth of knowledge and I appreciate it greatly! (I plan on paying for the registered address service once we leave Florida, as I think that will be the best way to keep the business as solid as I can in Florida!) Thank you Matt!

        • You’re welcome Gigi! That sounds like a solid plan. Let us know if you need anything else. And thank you!

  15. Hey Matt,
    I’m glad I stumbled across this website!

    Currently, my business is registered in Alabama. We just moved to Florida (military) where we plan on switching over our DL and residency, however, we will only be here for two years at the most. We have no ties to the state other than living here now and Alabama will not let me transfer my business to Florida.

    My husband plans to stay in the military for 10 – 20 more years and I would like to find a state that, in short, is easiest to file with while we move around. I found Alabama’s business system to be extremely frustrating at its best.

    I work solely in digital files from my home office (does that change anything?). Any suggestions on which state to register with?

    It sounds like I’ll be spending some money dissolving my business in Alabama and then registering it in another state, so I’d like to do it right and do it once.

    Thank you!

    • Hey Gigi, I hear you. Alabama is a bit back-dated and cumbersome in many ways. Will you keep Florida as your state of residency after the 2 years there? When you say “Alabama will not let me transfer my business to Florida”, what specifically do you mean? Are you referring to an LLC domestication to Florida or something else?

  16. Hi Matt. I am an active duty spouse residing in Rhode Island but claim residency in FL. We just moved to RI two years ago but plan to keep our residency in FL. I don’t have a physical address in FL but still have my FL driver’s license. I’m not sure which state I should get my LLC in. Please advise. Thank you.

    • Hi Christy, in your case, I think creating a “base” LLC is a good idea. So Florida. Then when needed, you can register your Florida LLC as a Foreign LLC in the states where you temporarily reside. Then when you move, you can revoke the Foreign LLC qualifications. If you don’t have an address in Florida, I recommend hiring Northwest Registered Agent. They’ll serve as your LLC’s Registered Agent and they’ll also let you use their Florida office address throughout your LLC filing. Hope that helps.

  17. Hi Matt,

    I am a military spouse and currently live in South Korea. My “state” abbreviation is AP (Armed Forces Pacific – if that helps with your answer). My husband and I will be stationed here at the minimum of two – three years. I want to start an LLC for my business that will based out of my home in South Korea and will be providing services to people who live here. My previous address (as of 2 months ago) was in Florida where I have family still living. I am unsure as to what state we will be at once my husband’s current deployment is up. What would your recommendation be??? Any pointers would be welcomed! Thank you!

    • Hi R.M., in this case, I would form an LLC in the state with the most context and familiarity. Which sounds like Florida, since family (and a reliable address) are available. You’ll be able to run this business from South Korea. And later, a few years down the road, if you settle down in a different state, you can either file a Foreign LLC registration, close the FL LLC and open a new LLC, or redomesticate the LLC (if allowed). Hope that helps.

  18. Hi Matt,

    I am a military spouse and home of record is FL. I have an LLC there now, however, don’t live there. Thanks for putting the info out about the foreign LLC. However, I was wondering would it just be easier to open another LLC in our new state vs filing for a foreign LLC?

    • Maybe I should clarify more, meaning keeping the original domestic LLC still in FL but just file for another LLC in the new state with the same name and then just dissolving that one (or each one when moving) while always keeping my FL LLC instead of using filing for a Foreign LLC?

      • Hi Chris, I think you have the best solution. Keeping the “base” Domestic Florida LLC and registering as Foreign LLC where needed, then when moving, withdrawing the Foreign LLC registration. One small note, in order for a Foreign LLC registration to be valid, that “base” Domestic LLC must always remain in existence (and in good standing in FL). So you wouldn’t be dissolving your Florida LLC in any case that you’ve mentioned. Hope that helps.

  19. Wow, this website had all the guidance and clarity I needed. Just wanted to say thank you for putting this together!

    • Hey Dev, super awesome! Our goal is to be as helpful as possible, so thanks so much for your comment. It means a lot :-)

  20. Hi Matt,
    I am a military spouse and considering an LLC, but to complicate matters even further, we are currently stationed in the United Kingdom. My last state of residence(where I vote and have DL) was Virginia, but I have no other ties to the state. The state with the most family ties is Texas, but I also have friends to help in Colorado, where my customer base is located.

    Would I still need to register as domestic in VA, then register as foreign LLC in Colorado?

    Any pointers would be great!!

    • Hi Karen, since you’re not really residing in the US, you can really pick any state. It’s best practice however to choose a state where the “substantial” amount of business is conducted. So I’d ask you, if/when you return to the US, where do you think you’ll be running the business from? Sounds like you’d be running a lot from home, so that would still apply. Does that help? Do you have state-specific plans for after you return to the US?

  21. I’m contemplating starting an LLC and am also military. Appears to be a huge headache.

    Near as I can tell the “home” state normally requires a registered agent to be physically located within the state of registration. Since the military member is not in the home state this will require hiring somebody to act as the registered agent.

    The other issue that I see arising is that the military member is physically residing in the new state. While I’ve not tried to register as a foreign LLC yet, I imagine the question will arise as to why I am living inside of the new state and want to register as a foreign entity. I see them saying, no, no, no….. you are a domestic entity now since you reside here and are engaged in a business venture.

    I hope this is not true, but I foresee being a transient LLC as not being a very smooth road.

    Thanks again for the article.

    • You’re welcome K.S. Yes, unfortunately, constantly “moving” an LLC is a pain in the neck. I recommend setting up the LLC in your “most stable” home state; the one where your driver’s license is, maybe the state where you’re from, where you have family, etc. Just use that LLC until you’re out of the military and have “settled down” or chosen you’re next city/town for the foreseeable future. Then you can move the LLC there in one of 3 ways. Dissolve old LLC and form new LLC, file a Foreign LLC registration, or redomicile (if both states allow). Hope that helps!

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