Harbor Compliance is an online legal technology company that offers a complete suite of compliance solutions for businesses and nonprofits, including entity management, government licensing, and tax registration. Harbor Compliance aims to streamline the compliance process and make business formation easy by using advanced software.
According to their website, Harbor Compliance was founded in 2012 by a team of government licensing specialists and technology trailblazers. Over the past nine years, they have helped over 25,000 clients start their businesses and maintain license compliance in a variety of business sectors.
LLC formation is only one part of Harbor Compliance’s range of services. For entrepreneurs looking to start an LLC, this may seem attractive for its user-friendly software and comprehensive monitoring.
However, there are other factors you should consider, including price, filing turnaround time, exact services included, and customer experience.
The LLC University team explored the Harbor Compliance website, tested their customer service, and read all the disclaimers.
Our Harbor Compliance LLC review will focus specifically on Harbor Compliance’s LLC formation and registered agent services. Harbor Compliance does specialize in getting business licenses, but since this applies to a limited set of industries and business types, we didn’t do a deep analysis on it.
Looking for a Harbor Compliance alternative? We recommend using Northwest ($39 + state fee)
Check out our Northwest Registered Agent review for more info.
Harbor Compliance LLC Formation Services
Harbor Compliance’s LLC formation process is simple and straightforward. You simply sign up online or call to provide basic information about your company, such as name and industry. You then select the package you want, and Harbor Compliance takes care of the rest. Other LLC formation companies have a similar method, but Harbor Compliance does offer a more sophisticated web experience.
Harbor Compliance LLC Formation Prices
Harbor Compliance currently offers only two LLC incorporation packages: the Formation package and the Compliance package.
Harbor Compliance’s website doesn’t list a price for either of these services, so we reached out to Harbor Compliance for clarification. Unfortunately their email response, although prompt and detailed, was boilerplate and vague, and they only offered to quote prices if we provided more information about our formation state and business needs.
In the basic Formation package, Harbor Compliance will:
- Search business name availability in your state
- Draft your LLC Articles of Organization
- This is the document Harbor Compliance files with the state to form your LLC.
- Provide a preliminary Operating Agreement
- This is the governing document for your LLC and outlines how the LLC is run, who owns the LLC, and other fundamentals, such as the rights and responsibilities of its Members.
- However, you can DIY this at home using our free LLC Operating Agreement template.
- Obtain a federal Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS for your LLC
- But you can do this for free online in just a few minutes – check out EIN for LLC for step-by-step instructions.
- Harbor Compliance can also prepare and file your S-Corp tax election, if you choose to do that.
- Prepare and file an Initial Report, if required by your state
- Offer Registered Agent Service
- You are required by law to appoint a Registered Agent, who will receive legal documents and important government notices for your organization. Harbor Compliance gives you one year free of Registered Agent service. After that, it’s $99 per year.
If you upgrade to the Compliance Package, Harbor Compliance will do everything in the Formation package and also:
- Publish any required Notices and submit Affidavits
- Some states require you to advertise your LLC formation in newspapers and send an affidavit of proof after the ads have run for the required amount of time.
- Learn more about LLC Publication Requirements
- Manage your LLC’s Annual Report obligations
- Most states require LLCs to file an Annual Report each year – you will still have to pay the state Annual Report fees, but Harbor Compliance will make sure you file the form on time.
Warning! If you don’t live or do business in the state where Harbor Compliance forms your LLC, you’ll need to register your LLC as a Foreign LLC in your home state. This means you need to maintain two LLC filings, pay two state filing fees, and maintain two Registered Agents. Please see Best state to form an LLC to make sure you’re forming an LLC in the right state.
LLC University Analysis: Formation Packages
The Formation package is a bare bones offering that has all the essential components.
Harbor Compliance doesn’t offer any additional services like publishing and annual report service, a compliance calendar, minutes manager, or even a tax records manager in this package.
If you want further support and less legwork on your own, you will have to opt for the pricey Compliance package, and even that doesn’t come with any additional perks. If you purchase the Formation package and want to add additional services, the compliance pricing adds up quickly.
Check out Northwest Registered Agent if you’re looking for simple pricing and no hassles.
Special offer: Get a 60% discount when you hire Northwest ($39 + state fee) to form your LLC.
Harbor Compliance doesn’t post any information about how long it takes for them to process and send a business formation order. And their Customer Service didn’t answer our question about expected turnaround time for LLC approval.
Most LLC formation companies file your documents within a week, and some offer same-day turnaround for extra cost. Most likely, Harbor Compliance processes LLC formations in about a week.
Fees, Upsells, and Subscriptions
If you don’t form your LLC with any of Harbor Compliance’s packages, you can still purchase their compliance services separately after you have started your business. Note that Harbor Compliance doesn’t offer legal advice – although they use legal job titles like compliance specialist.
Regarding formation, Harbor Compliance claims that their clients experience the best results when they purchase their complete Business Licensing service, which serves all types of businesses and encompasses all entities in every state. Without this, the packages on their own aren’t comprehensive, and they try to corner you into a subscription plan and upsell additional software.
We detail these extra services and prices below.
Harbor Compliance Subscriptions and Upsells
The AccessPlus program is $1,000 (or free if you’re already paying over $2,000 in other Harbor Compliance subscriptions). Harbor Compliance makes all formation services available for free and provides their proprietary Entity Manager software. This subscription lets you form your LLC without paying Harbor Compliance a service fee – you’ll still have to pay the state fee and the subscription cost.
- LLC University® Analysis: We aren’t sure if, cost-wise, this is better than just paying for the Formation package. And you don’t even get the other Harbor Compliance software services, like a tax or license manager.
Annual Report Service
Annual Report Service is included in the Compliance package, but can be purchased separately for $175 per state (plus state filing fees). Harbor Compliance will generate and file annual reports from each state selected. Volume discounts of up to 40% are available.
- LLC University® Analysis: An annual report is sent to you by the state and is easy to file: you just reiterate details about your company, pay the fee, and you’re done! Unless you have several businesses in several different states, we don’t think this is worth paying the extra service fee.
Harbor Compliance offers a software bundle of their Entity Manager, License Manager, Tax Manager, and Records Manager as well as a requirements lookup tool in a single interface. This bundle costs $540.
- LLC University® Analysis: These kinds of software can be helpful for organizing and automating your LLC maintenance. Our Harbor Compliance review team wasn’t able to test these, so we can’t say for sure how good the products are. The price is fairly steep for fairly simple tasks like keeping track of an annual renewal date. We prefer to use a calendar we’re comfortable with for the deadlines, and hire a professional business accountant for the tax issues.
Website and User Experience
The Harbor Compliance website contains very basic, bare information about their services, especially their prices. The website is also poorly designed: there is no internal link to the LLC formation webpage, and we could only access it via a Google search.
The Help Center is pretty basic and contains only general information about licensing, taxes, and compliance. The website encourages you to provide your contact information for further assistance.
On the other hand, the Harbor Compliance Information Center is well-maintained and contains numerous free resources, such as state-specific licensing guides and detailed document descriptions.
The main drawback of the website, however, is its user experience. The ordering process is confusing: there is no purchase form, and you must contact Harbor Compliance directly and provide information about your business and formation state to get prices and service options.
If you purchase the Compliance package, Harbor Compliance includes “one year of personalized support.” They don’t indicate what services your assigned compliance specialist can offer. We contacted Harbor Compliance’s customer support to see what we could find out, but we couldn’t learn much.
There is no online chat feature for the LLC formation service, so Harbor Compliance forces you to either provide your contact and business information through a web form or get in touch by phone.
The phone support has no option for “Questions before you sign up,” and when you get a live person on the line, they must research answers and call you back or follow up by email.
When we did get a response, the agent representing Harbor Compliance gave email responses that were friendly and full of fancy language. But the answers themselves were inadequate: they failed to address three out of our five questions, and provided more sales tactics than information to the other two.
Want something better? Hire Northwest ($39 + state fee) to form your LLC. They’re our favorite company and who we recommend to friends and family. Northwest doesn’t hire any sales reps. Instead, their entire staff are subject matter experts and they’re genuinely happy to answer any LLC questions you have!
Check out our Northwest Registered Agent review for more info.
Most customer Harbor Compliance reviews are positive, and Harbor Compliance has an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau. It appears that once you do sign up with them, their team is very patient and supportive.
Registered Agent Service
Harbor Compliance includes one free year of Registered Agent services when you form your LLC with them. It costs $99 per year after that to keep Harbor Compliance as your Registered Agent.
Learn more: What’s an LLC Registered Agent?
Harbor Compliance’s Registered Agent service can also be purchased separately for $99 per year. A discount of 5-10% is offered if purchasing for multiple years at once. Further discounts may be available if you’re hiring Harbor Compliance to be your Registered Agent in multiple states.
Harbor Compliance’s Registered Agent service is a solid choice for its streamlined communications. Other Registered Agents charge around $100-$300 so Harbor Compliance is a fairly inexpensive Registered Agent Company Entity.
If you hire Harbor Compliance as your Registered Agent, they will upload documents sent to your LLC to your Client Portal on the day they are received, and send you an email notification about the document. This is normal for most Registered Agent services.
Harbor Compliance alternative: We recommend hiring Northwest ($39 + state fee) to form an LLC. They are more affordable, have better customer support, and don’t try to nickel and dime you with upsells.
Check out our Northwest Registered Agent review for more info.
Harbor Compliance: The Bottom Line
Using Harbor Compliance’s software services can save business owners a considerable amount of time in forming and managing their entities. Harbor Compliance is a business services company but has built up its reputation quickly as a leading provider of licensing and compliance services.
However, their customer service prior to ordering is completely unhelpful, and the LLC formation packages by themselves are extremely basic. The annual subscription fees rapidly pile up as your needs grow, so you must decide if the excessive cost is worth the automation.