Starting an Iowa LLC, step-by-step
Starting an Iowa LLC costs $50. And it takes 1 day to get an LLC in Iowa.
Here are the 5 steps to forming an LLC in Iowa:
- Choose an LLC Name
- Select a Registered Agent
- File a Certificate of Organization
- Create an Operating Agreement
- Get an EIN
If you want to form your LLC yourself, follow our free guide below.
If you want someone to take care of it for you, we recommend hiring Northwest Registered Agent
(We recommend Northwest. We've reviewed all the top companies in the industry. And Northwest is our #1 pick for prices, customer support, and address privacy. Check out Northwest vs LegalZoom to learn more.)
How much does it cost to start an LLC in Iowa?
It costs $50 to start an LLC in Iowa.
And then it costs $30 every 2 years.
What are these fees for?
- The $50 is to file the Certificate of Organization – the document that creates an LLC.
- The $30 every 2 years is for your Biennial Report – a mandatory filing that keeps your LLC in good standing.
To learn more about LLC Costs, see LLC Costs in Iowa.
How long does it take to get an LLC in Iowa?
If you file your LLC by mail, it will be approved in 7-10 business days (plus mail time).
But if you file online, your LLC will be approved in 1 business day.
Please see How long does it take to get an LLC in Iowa to check for any delays.
Here are the steps to forming an LLC in Iowa
1. Search your LLC Name
Search your Iowa LLC Name to make sure it’s available in the state.
You need to do this because two businesses in the state can’t have the same name.
First, search your business name and compare it to existing businesses in Iowa. You can make sure the LLC Name you want is unique from existing businesses using the Business Entities Search from the Iowa Secretary of State.
Second, familiarize yourself with the Iowa LLC naming guidelines (so your Iowa LLC gets approved).
We’ll explain both in more detail here: Iowa LLC Name.
2. Choose an Iowa Registered Agent
The next step is to choose an Iowa Registered Agent.
An Iowa Registered Agent is a person or company who accepts legal mail and state notices on behalf of your Iowa Limited Liability Company.
Who can be an LLC Registered Agent?
You have 3 options for who can be the Registered Agent:
- A friend or family member
- A Registered Agent Service
The Registered Agent for your LLC must have a physical street address in Iowa. PO Boxes aren’t allowed.
And the Registered Agent’s name and address will be listed on public records.
If you don’t have an address in Iowa, or you want more privacy, you can hire a Registered Agent Service for your LLC.
We recommend Northwest Registered Agent
Our favorite feature about Northwest is they’ll let you use their office address throughout your LLC filing. This way, you can keep your address off public records.
They’ll also scan any mail sent to your LLC and upload it to your online account.
Northwest has excellent customer service, and they’re who we trust to be our own Registered Agent.
3. File Iowa LLC Certificate of Organization
To start an LLC, you need to file the Iowa Certificate of Organization.
This gets filed with the Iowa Secretary of State: Business Services Division.
The Iowa Certificate of Organization costs $50 if you file online.
This is a one-time fee to create your LLC.
If you want to file this yourself, see our step-by-step guide: Iowa Certificate of Organization.
Or, you can hire a company to do it for you.
4. Create an Iowa LLC Operating Agreement
An Iowa LLC Operating Agreement serves as a “companion” document to the Certificate of Organization.
The Certificate of Organization creates your LLC, and the Operating Agreement shows who owns the LLC.
Additionally, some banks require an Operating Agreement when you open an LLC bank account.
And having an Operating Agreement will be very helpful if you ever end up in court. Reason being, it helps prove that your LLC is being run properly.
That’s why we recommend that all LLCs have an Operating Agreement – including Single-Member LLCs.
Furthermore, an Operating Agreement is an “internal document“. Meaning, you don’t need to file it with any government agency (like the Iowa Secretary of State or the IRS. Just keep a copy with your business records.
You can download a free template below.
Then, learn how to fill it out by watching our step-by-step Iowa Operating Agreement video.
5. Get an EIN for your LLC
The next step is to get an Iowa EIN Number from the IRS for your LLC.
Note: An EIN Number is also called a Federal Tax ID Number or Federal Employer Identification Number.
An EIN Number is used to:
- identify your LLC for tax purposes
- open a business bank account
- apply for business licenses and permits
How much does an EIN cost?
Getting an EIN Number from the Internal Revenue Service is completely free.
How long does it take to get an EIN?
If you apply online, it takes 15 minutes.
If you apply by mail or fax, it can take 1-3 months.
How can I get an EIN?
US Citizens/US Residents: If you have an SSN or ITIN, you can apply for an EIN online. Follow these instructions: Apply for an EIN online.
Non-US Residents: You can’t get an EIN online, but you can still get one by fax or by mail. Follow these instructions: How to get an EIN without an SSN or ITIN.
What do I do after my LLC is approved?
After your Iowa LLC is approved, there are some additional steps.
Open an LLC business bank account
You’ll want to open a business bank account for your LLC.
This makes accounting and record-keeping much easier for your business finances.
Having a separate business bank account also maintains your personal liability protection. This is because it keeps your business entity finances separate from your personal finances.
Get Iowa business licenses and permits
Good news, Iowa doesn’t have a state general business license.
However, depending on where your LLC is located, you may need a local business license or permit.
For example, if you want to start a daycare, you may need a business license from the city or county.
You can learn more on our Iowa Business License page.
File your Iowa LLC Biennial Report
All Iowa LLCs must file a Biennial Report every 2 years.
The Biennial Report keeps your LLC in good standing with the state.
How much does an Iowa LLC Biennial Report cost?
The Biennial Report filing fee is $30 every 2 years if you file online.
If you file by mail, it costs $45 every 2 years.
We recommend filing online. It’s cheaper and faster.
When is the Biennial Report due?
Your Biennial Report is due every odd-numbered year by April 1st.
When is my first Biennial Report due?
Your first Biennial Report is due the first odd-numbered year after your LLC was approved.
- If your LLC was approved on February 15, 2031, your first Biennial Report is due by April 1, 2033.
- If your LLC was approved on February 15, 2032, your first Biennial Report is due by April 1, 2033.
And then your report is due every odd-numbered year after that.
How do I file my LLC Biennial Report?
You can file your LLC’s Biennial Report online or by mail. We recommend the online filing because it’s cheaper and easier to complete.
Follow our step-by-step guide here: Iowa LLC Biennial Report.
File and pay taxes
LLCs don’t pay federal taxes. Instead, the LLC Members pay the taxes for the LLC.
Said another way, the owners pay taxes for the LLC as a part of their personal tax return.
How will my LLC be taxed?
By default, an Iowa LLC is taxed by the IRS based on the number of owners your LLC has:
- A Single-Member LLC is taxed like a Sole Proprietorship.
- A Multi-Member LLC is taxed like a Partnership.
Alternatively, you can ask the IRS to tax your LLC like a C-Corporation or S-Corporation.
Besides federal taxes, there are also state and local income taxes – and sales tax. Learn more in Iowa LLC Taxes.
How to Start an LLC in Iowa FAQs
Can I start an LLC online in Iowa?
Yes, you can file your LLC online in Iowa. The Certificate of Organization filing fee is $50.
When you start your LLC online, it will be approved in 1 business day.
What are the benefits of an LLC?
The first benefit of an LLC is protecting your personal assets. Meaning, if your business is sued, your personal assets – like your home, cars, and bank accounts – are protected.
This protection applies to all LLC owners (called LLC Members). It doesn’t matter if you have a Single-Member LLC or Multi-Member LLC. All of the LLC owners are protected from the business debts and liabilities.
This type of protection wouldn’t apply if you operate as a Sole Proprietorship or Partnership. With these types of informal business structures, the owners aren’t protected in the event of a lawsuit. For that reason, Limited Liability Companies (LLCs) are a much more popular business structure.
Another benefit is LLC pass-through taxation. This means the LLC itself doesn’t pay federal income taxes. Instead, the profits “pass through” to the LLC Members. And the Members pay the taxes on their personal tax return.
And Iowa state income taxes are very similar, since the state honors the federal tax treatment of your LLC.
To learn more, please see How are LLCs taxed.
Is Iowa a good state to start an LLC?
Whether Iowa is a good state to start an LLC depends on where you live – and where you’re doing business.
Meaning, if you live in or do business in Iowa, then you should start your LLC in Iowa. While many websites talk about tax rates and advantages of certain states, none of that applies if it’s not the state where you live and do business.
For example, if you form an LLC in Wyoming, but live in and conduct business in Iowa, you’ll also need to register your Wyoming LLC in Iowa (and pay extra fees). And you’ll end up paying Iowa taxes anyway. This ends up leading to more costs and more headaches with no advantages.
In summary, if you live in and conduct business in Iowa, then yes, Iowa is a good state to start a business. If you don’t live in and do business in Iowa, then no, Iowa isn’t a good state to start a business.
Real estate exception: If you’re purchasing real estate outside of Iowa, you should form your LLC in the state where the property is located.
For more information, please see Best State to Form an LLC.
Iowa State Agencies
Iowa Department of Revenue
515-281-3114 or 800-367-3388
8:00am – 4:15pm (Monday – Friday)
Iowa Department of Revenue: Call or Visit the Department
Matt holds a Bachelor's Degree in business from Drexel University with a concentration in business law. He performs extensive research and analysis to convert state laws into simple instructions anyone can follow to form their LLC - all for free! Read more about Matt Horwitz and LLC University.