How to Form an LLC in Iowa
Quick Start Guide ← you are here
This Quick Start Guide is a brief overview of how to form an LLC in Iowa.
Iowa LLC Costs:
Iowa state fee: $50
Biennial Report fee: $45 online or $60 by mail (paid every 2 years)
An Iowa LLC (Limited Liability Company) is a legal structure formed to protect your personal assets in the event your business is sued. Your personal assets include anything you own in your name, like homes, vehicles, and personal bank accounts.
You can set up an LLC in Iowa to operate a business or to purchase/hold assets, such as real estate, vehicles, boats, or aircraft.
You can form an Iowa LLC yourself by following our Quick Start Guide below, which is a brief overview of the LLC formation steps, or by reading our lessons above.
Northwest ($39 + state fee) or LegalZoom ($149 + state fee)
1. Iowa LLC Name
• Before forming an LLC in Iowa, you need to check and make sure that your desired LLC name is available to use.
• Your Iowa LLC’s name must be unique when compared to all the existing businesses registered in Iowa.
• Your LLC name must also not be “confusingly similar” to any existing business names. Make sure that’s not the case by reading this lesson.
• Iowa LLC Name Search: https://sos.iowa.gov/search/business/search.aspx
• Designator: your LLC name must end with a proper designator. Iowa law allows for the following: “LLC” (most common), “L.L.C.”, “Limited Liability Company”, “Limited Liability Co.”, “Ltd. Liability Company”, “Ltd. Liability Co., “LC”, or “L.C.”
2. Iowa Registered Agent
• The state of Iowa requires that a Registered Agent be listed on your LLC filing. A Registered Agent is a fancy word for a person or company who will receive legal mail if your LLC is sued. The Registered Agent will also receive some official documents and correspondence from the Secretary of State’s office.
• Any resident of Iowa with a street address can be your LLC’s Registered Agent, or you can hire a professional company, known as a Commercial Registered Agent. Either way, the address of the Registered Agent must be a street address located in Iowa. If a PO Box address is used, your LLC filing will be rejected.
• Who can be your LLC’s Registered Agent in Iowa?
Option #1 is for you to be your LLC Registered Agent. You must have an address in the state, and be a legal resident.
Option #2 is to find a friend or family member to be your LLC’s Registered Agent. They must agree to do so, have an address in the state, and be a legal resident.
Option #3 is to hire the services of a Commercial Registered Agent.
• Recommendation for Commercial Registered Agent in Iowa:
Northwest Registered Agent ($125 per year).
Northwest has been in the business for over 20 years and they have great customer support. Any mail that is sent to your LLC will be scanned by them and uploaded to your online account.
3. Certificate of Organization
• Iowa LLC form: The official LLC filing form in Iowa is called a Certificate of Organization. Most states provide filing forms for people to use, but Iowa does not. No worries though, you can download our Certificate of Organization, which meets the Iowa LLC statutory requirements.
• Iowa LLC filing fee: $50, paid to the Iowa Secretary of State.
• LLC filing methods: you can form an LLC in Iowa by mail, fax or online. They all have the same approval time (7-14 days), so use whichever filing method you are most comfortable with.
Form your Iowa LLC by mail:
Secretary of State
Lucas Building, 1st Floor
321 E. 12th Street
Des Moines, IA 50319
Form your Iowa LLC by fax:
Make payment with the state’s credit card authorization form.
Form your Iowa LLC online:
Scan and upload your completed Certificate of Organization.
• Iowa LLC approval times: 7-14 days for all filing methods (mail, fax, or online)
• What your LLC approval will look like: The state will send you back a receipt, an Acknowledgment Letter, and a stamped and approved copy of your Certificate of Organization. The state will send these documents by mail to the address of your Registered Agent.
4. LLC Operating Agreement
• An Iowa LLC’s Operating Agreement is where you will list the owners (called “members”) of your LLC, as well as how much of the business they own. You can have 1 member with 100% ownership, or you can have multiple members and split the ownership any way you’d like.
• There are no rules as to how you split ownership in a multi-member Iowa LLC. You’ll decide that amongst yourselves.
• The LLC’s Operating Agreement will also spell out how the LLC is taxed, how the business is managed, and how profits are split.
• Even if your LLC has 1 member (a “single-member LLC”), it’s still best practice to have an Operating Agreement in place. This helps keep your personal assets protected in the event of a lawsuit.
• Your Operating Agreement does not need to be mailed to the Iowa Secretary of State, or any other agency for that matter. It’s an internal document, meaning, you just keep it with your business records and give a copy to all members (if applicable).
5. Federal Tax ID Number (EIN)
• A Federal Tax ID Number is obtained from the IRS and is used to identify your company mostly for tax purposes (similar to how a social security number works).
• A Federal Tax ID Number is also known as an Employer Identification Number, or EIN for short. Other nicknames are FEIN, Federal Tax Number, or Federal Employer ID Number.
• Your Federal Tax ID Number will also be used when you open a business checking account for your LLC. If you have employees, you’ll also use this number for payroll taxes.
• Wait for LLC approval: Wait for your LLC to be approved by the Iowa Secretary of State before you apply for an EIN from the IRS. A lot of people make the mistake of getting an EIN before the LLC is approved.
• EINs are Free ($0): An EIN does not cost any money since they are provided by the IRS for free.
• How to get an EIN: There are 3 ways to get an EIN for your LLC. You can complete Form SS-4 and submit it to the IRS by mail or by fax, or you can apply online.
• Approval times: EIN approval time by mail takes 4 weeks. By fax, it takes 4 business days. And online takes 10-15 minutes.
• Form SS-4: Download from the IRS here. Only needed if filing by mail or fax.
Internal Revenue Service,
Attn: EIN Operation
Cincinnati, OH 45999
(Yup, no street address is needed. The IRS is that big. They have their own zip code!)
• Online application: Apply for your EIN using the IRS’s online application. For most filers, we recommend the online application. However, not everyone can use this method. See below…
• Don’t have a social security number? (non US resident/citizen): If so, then you can’t get the EIN online. You’ll need to mail or fax Form SS-4 instead. Where it asks for your social security number on line 7b, just write “Foreign” and it will be accepted.
• LLC owned by an existing company: If your LLC is owned by another company, you cannot obtain the EIN online (you’ll get an error message). You’ll need to mail or fax Form SS-4 to the IRS instead.
6. Iowa LLC Biennial Report
• All LLCs in Iowa must regularly file a Biennial Report. This is an ongoing requirement and is due every 2 years.
• Again, all LLCs must file this report, even if you have no business activity or make $0.
• Iowa Biennial Report due date: Due between January 1st and April 1st of the first odd-numbered year after the year the LLC was formed. We recommend filing shortly after the new year to get it out of the way and to avoid any penalties.
• Ongoing Biennial Reports: due every 2 years, in odd-numbered years.
– If your LLC was formed on June 15th 2017, your first Biennial Report is due in 2019 (between January 1st and April 1st). Your next Biennial Report will be due in 2021, and so on.
– If your LLC was formed on June 15th 2018, your first Biennial Report is due in 2019 (between January 1st and April 1st). Your next Biennial Report will be due in 2021, and so on.
• Biennial Report fee: $60 (by mail) or $45 (online)
• Method of filing + recommendation: You can file by mail or online. We recommend filing online as it’s cheaper and easier.
• File Biennial Report by mail: You’ll receive a green reminder postcard in the state from the state. You’ll need to use the Corporation Number and Temporary Code and then print your Biennial Report from their website: https://sos.iowa.gov/file/br/login.aspx
Secretary of State
Lucas Building, 1st Floor
321 E. 12th Street
Des Moines, IA 50319
• File Biennial Report online: https://sos.iowa.gov/file/br/login.aspx
• Penalty if late: If your Biennial Report is not filed by April 1st, your LLC will go into “Delinquent” status. If you continue to ignore this requirement (and still don’t file by August 8th), the state will administratively dissolve your LLC.
7. Business Licenses and/or Permits
• The business licenses and/or permits your Iowa LLC needs depend on where your business is located and what industry you are in. In order to find out your LLC’s requirements, you’ll need to call the city, town or county where your LLC is located and the government agencies that regulate your LLC’s industry.
• Need to save time? If you’d rather rather not do the research to determine your business license and permit requirements, we recommend using IncFile.
8. Iowa Taxes
• Federal taxes: LLCs in Iowa have what’s called “pass through” taxation. This means the income/losses from the LLC will “flow through” to your personal 1040 federal tax return and they’ll be listed on a Schedule C.
• Iowa state and local taxes: After the Iowa Secretary of State approves your LLC, you’ll need to register with the Iowa Department of Revenue. You’ll also need to register your LLC for local taxes (ex: local municipality, city, township, and/or county).
• Recommendation: we recommend hiring an accountant for the above steps as taxes are complicated and if screwed up, can negatively impact your LLC. Please read our finding an accountant guide or give Thumbtack a try.
9. LLC Bank Account
• Keep your LLC’s liability protection: After your Iowa LLC is approved, you’ll want to open a separate business checking account for your LLC. Make sure to open the business account in the LLC’s name, and not in your personal name (you’ll just be listed as an “authorized signatory” on the account).
• What you’ll need: To open an LLC bank account, bring in the following: approved copy of your Iowa Certificate of Organization, EIN Letter from the IRS, and your driver’s license or passport. We recommend calling the bank ahead of time to see if they need anything else.
• Why a separate bank account? Keeping your business finances separate and apart from your personal finances is important because, (1) you’ll avoid commingling your assets – which helps protect your personal liability – and (2) it makes keeping track of finances a lot easier for tax and accounting.
• Shop for free business checking accounts: A lot of banks charge monthly fees for business checking accounts, but call at least 5 banks in your area. There are always a few that do not charge monthly fees.
• LLC debit card: Your bank will give you an LLC debit card, usually while you’re there opening the account.
• LLC credit card: Debit cards don’t build business credit, but credit cards do. You can find good travel rewards or cashback credit cards online. We recommend using www.creditcards.com
10. Business Phone Number
Instead of using your home telephone number or your cell phone, you can purchase an affordable “virtual business number” specifically for your Iowa LLC. You can set this virtual business phone up to forward to your cell phone, go through voice prompts, or configure it any way you’d like.
We recommend using Phone.com as they have the cheapest plans and their customer service is excellent.
They offer local phone numbers as well as 1-800 toll-free numbers. You can easily setup call forwarding, pre-recorded prompts, and get voicemail messages forwarded to your email.
Getting a separate business phone number for your Iowa LLC is also a good idea in order to keep your actual number private from those pesky “public record” websites.