How to Start an LLC in NC (Step-by-Step) 2024 Guide

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Starting a North Carolina LLC, step-by-step

Starting a North Carolina LLC costs $125. And it takes 5 days to get an LLC in North Carolina.

How to start an LLCThere are 5 steps to forming an LLC in North Carolina:

  1. Choose an LLC Name
  2. Select a Registered Agent
  3. File Articles of Organization
  4. Create an Operating Agreement
  5. Get an EIN

If you want to form your LLC in NC yourself, follow our free guide below.

If you want someone to take care of it for you, we recommend hiring Northwest Registered Agent.

Need to save time? Hire a company to form your LLC:
Northwest ($39 + state fee) or LegalZoom ($149 + state fee)

(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 North Carolina?

It costs $125 to start an LLC in North Carolina.

And then it costs $200 per year.

What are these fees for?

  • The $125 is to file the Articles of Organization – the document that creates an LLC.
  • The $200 per year is for your Annual Report – a mandatory filing that keeps your LLC in good standing.

To learn more about LLC Costs, see LLC Costs in North Carolina.

How long does it take to get an LLC in North Carolina?

If you file your LLC by mail, it will be approved in 2-5 business days (plus mail time).

But if you file online, your LLC will be approved in 2-5 business days.

Please see How long does it take to get an LLC in North Carolina to check for any delays.

Here are the steps to forming an LLC in North Carolina

1. Search your LLC Name

LLC namesSearch your North Carolina 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 North Carolina. You can make sure the LLC Name you want is unique from existing businesses using the Business Search tool from the North Carolina Secretary of State.

Then, familiarize yourself with the naming rules in North Carolina (so your LLC in NC gets approved).

We’ll explain both in more detail here: North Carolina LLC Name.

2. Choose a North Carolina Registered Agent

Registered AgentThe next step is to choose a North Carolina Registered Agent.

A North Carolina Registered Agent is a person or company who accepts legal documents and state notices on behalf of your North Carolina Limited Liability Company.

Who can be an LLC Registered Agent?

Limited Liability Companies have 3 options for who can be the Registered Agent:

  • You
  • A friend or family member
  • A Registered Agent Service

If your Registered Agent will be a person, they must be a North Carolina resident. NC law requires that all LLC Registered Agents have a physical street address in North Carolina. 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 North Carolina, 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.

Special offer: Hire Northwest to form your LLC ($39 + state fee), and you'll get a free year of Registered Agent service.

(Why is Northwest the best? Read our Northwest Registered Agent review)

3. File North Carolina LLC Articles of Organization

Articles of OrganizationTo start an LLC, you need to file the North Carolina Articles of Organization.

This gets filed with the North Carolina Secretary of State.

The North Carolina Articles of Organization costs $125 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: North Carolina LLC Articles of Organization.

Or, you can hire a company to do it for you.

Need to save time? Hire a company to form your LLC:
Northwest ($39 + state fee) or LegalZoom ($149 + state fee)

(Learn why Northwest is #1 in Northwest vs LegalZoom)

4. Create an NC LLC Operating Agreement

Operating AgreementAn LLC Operating Agreement in North Carolina serves as a “companion” document to the Articles of Organization.

The Articles 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 Limited Liability Company 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 the state or the IRS (Internal Revenue Service). 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 North Carolina Operating Agreement video.

Download a free LLC Operating Agreement:
Member-managed: Google DocWordPDF
Manager-managed: Google DocWord

(What's better? See Member-managed vs Manager-managed LLC)

5. Get an EIN for your Limited Liability Company

The next step is to get a North Carolina LLC EIN Number from the IRS.

Note: An EIN Number is also called a Federal Tax ID Number or Federal Employer Identification Number.

EIN Number for an LLCAn 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 IRS 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 North Carolina LLC is approved, there are some additional steps to take.

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 North Carolina business licenses and permits

Business LicenseGood news, North Carolina 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 North Carolina Business License page.

File your North Carolina LLC Annual Report

LLC Annual ReportAll North Carolina LLCs must file an Annual Report every year.

The Annual Report keeps your LLC in good standing with the state.

How much does a North Carolina LLC Annual Report cost?

The Annual Report filing fee is $200 per year.

When is the Annual Report due?

All LLC Annual Reports are due by April 15th, every year.

When is my first Annual Report due?

Your first Annual Report is due the year after your LLC was approved.

For example, if your LLC was approved on February 15, 2024, your first Annual Report is due by April 15, 2025.

How do I file Annual Reports for my LLC?

You can file your LLC’s Annual Report online or by mail. We recommend the online filing because it’s easier to complete.

Follow our step-by-step guide here: North Carolina LLC Annual Report.

File and pay taxes

LLC TaxesLLCs 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, LLC income 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 income taxes paid to the North Carolina Department of Revenue.

And then there are local income taxes – and sales tax.

Learn more in North Carolina LLC Taxes.

How to Start an LLC in NC FAQs

Can I start an LLC online in North Carolina?

Yes, you can file your LLC online in NC. The Articles of Organization filing fee is $125.

When you start your LLC online, it will be approved in 2-5 business days.

What are the benefits of an LLC?

The first benefit of an LLC is protecting the business owner’s personal assets. Meaning, if your business is sued, your personal assets – like your home, cars, and bank accounts – are protected.

This protection applies to each and every LLC business owner (called LLC Members). It doesn’t matter if your LLC has only one Member, or if it has more than one Member. All 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, the LLC business structure is much more popular.

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 North Carolina 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 North Carolina a good state to start an LLC?

Whether North Carolina 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 North Carolina, then you should start your LLC in NC. 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 Delaware, but live in and conduct business in North Carolina, you’ll also need to register your Delaware LLC in North Carolina (and pay extra fees). And you’ll end up paying NC 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 North Carolina, then yes, North Carolina is a good state to start a business. If you don’t live in and do business in North Carolina, then no, North Carolina isn’t a good state to start a business.

Real estate exception: If you’re purchasing real estate outside of North Carolina, you should form your LLC in the state where the property is located.

For more information, please see Best State to Form an LLC.

What is the difference between a Domestic LLC and a Foreign LLC?

The main differences between Domestic LLCs and Foreign LLCs is where they are formed.

A Domestic Limited Liability Company is an LLC that is formed in its “home state”, meaning, where the business owner lives and does business.

For example, if you live in and do business in North Carolina, you would form your Domestic LLC in North Carolina.

A Foreign Limited Liability Company is an LLC that is formed in a state that isn’t its home state. In this case, the term “foreign” simply means that the LLC is foreign to its “home state”.

For example, if you live in and do business in North Carolina, you would form your Domestic LLC in North Carolina. If you later expand into Virginia, you would register your existing North Carolina LLC as a Foreign LLC in Virginia.

Said another way, LLCs are created at the state-level.

So if you want your LLC to do business in two separate states, you have to form or register an LLC in both states.

This works by forming a Domestic LLC in your home state, and a Foreign LLC in the other state.

For more information on Foreign LLCs, please see:

Matt Horwitz
Matt Horwitz
Matt Horwitz is the leading expert on LLC education, and has been teaching for 15 years. He founded LLC University in 2010 after realizing people needed simple and actionable instructions to start an LLC. He's cited by Entrepreneur Magazine, Yahoo Finance, and the US Chamber of Commerce, and was featured by CNBC and InventRight.
 
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.

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43 comments on “North Carolina LLC”

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,
    Thank you for providing this valuable resource.
    As we all know LLC is an asset protection when something happens related to the business. For example if something happens in your real estate owned by an LLC, your personal assets are not in danger. But now if something happens to you, they can come after your belongings managed by LLC. Would you please elaborate on that and explain how we can mitigate the risk? Can a commercial Registered agent in NC hide your name and your belongings (LLCs)? or we need to use land trust and anonymous LLC?

    • Hi Al, you’re very welcome. What you’re referring to is whether or not a charging order is the exclusive remedy of a judgement creditor in North Carolina and whether or not LLC foreclose is expressly precluded (not allowed). While the first is true in North Carolina (exclusive remedy), the relevant statue (North Carolina General Statute, Section 57D-5-03, see d), is “silent” in regards to foreclosure being expressly precluded. However, most asset protection attorneys would still consider the North Carolina law pretty strong when compared to other states.

      But charging orders and foreclose rules go far beyond the statute. You must look at the case law (or better yet, hire an attorney to do so). It also depends on if the North Carolina LLC as a Single-Member LLC or Multi-Member LLC. The North Carolina Statute is silent as to whether or not charging order protection applies to a Single-Member LLC (so you need to look to case law). Charging order protection comes from Partnership law. And some courts can interpret the charging order protection to not be relevant in a Single-Member LLC (since there are no other members to protect). It really does get into the nitty-gritty details. This reply isn’t meant as an answer, but rather, I wanted to paint some context on what to look out for. Also, this is assuming you reside in North Carolina. Charging order protection and LLC foreclosure laws most often apply to where the owner resides and not where the LLC is formed.

      And while a Commercial Registered Agent may keep your name and address off of the North Carolina LLC Articles of Organization (at least for the Registered Agent section)… and even if you fully anonymized the LLC’s Articles of Organization, it wouldn’t matter in a personal lawsuit. Your ownership in the LLC would come out in court, especially if a judgment were entered against you. And regarding the use of Land Trust (or any type of Trust), it’s best to speak to an asset protection attorney. Too many details to get into due to the variation.

      The best way to mitigate this is to speak with an asset protection attorney (or a few) in North Carolina. Then the next line of defense would be making the LLC a bonafide Multi-Member LLC. Then increase your car insurance coverage (car accidents can lead to personal lawsuits). And ask your car insurance company to issue you a personal umbrella insurance policy (typically you can get $1M to $5M for a reasonable premium). Other companies will also issue personal umbrella insurance policies, too. Hope that helps!

      p.s. Here are some relevant articles about North Carolina’s charging order protection laws:
      Tuggle Duggins: Charging Orders And North Carolina: How to get at a Debtor’s LLC Interest
      Maryland State Bar Association: Limited Liability Company Charging Orders Part II Charging Order Protections: Exclusivity, Foreclosure and Single Member LLCs

      • Thank you for your comment, Matt.
        As much I read and learn more about it, it seems more and more complicated, specially when it comes to banking, mortgage/Loan, tax, collecting rents, marketing and so on.
        For now I added the umbrella insurance as you mentioned, because it was just a phone call :-)
        In the next step, I am going to create LLCs and will transfer the properties. That causes it’s own issues, like transfer tax and due on sale clause. A possible solution could be a Land Trust, …

        Another dilemma: how to buy a new property by collecting funds from other properties’ LLCs? who will be the owner of the new LLC? (The relation between old LLCs and the new one)
        It seems I need a CPA and an Attorney. Do you have good referrals in NC?

        • Yes, it’s all a puzzle that takes time to put together. I spent over 6 months doing my own estate plan. It was a lot to digest. And even after putting the proper things in place (i.e. LLCs, Trusts, insurance, etc.), there’s the practical part of putting it all together and making it work… the logistics and the administration of it all. Said another way, the overwhelm is normal ;) Awesome on the umbrella insurance though. That’s a quick win!

          That makes sense about the Land Trust. Definitely speak with a few real estate attorneys and/or titles companies. There are sometimes ways around the transfer tax (or a very reduced rate). It depends on the municipality that governs though.

          Dilemma: You can first distribute the proceeds from Old LLC to the owner (I’m assuming that’s you) and then you make a capital contribution to the New LLC. Another thing to consider is a simple loan. Old LLC loans the money to New LLC. We don’t have any referrals at this time (wish we did). Our best advice is to list out a handful of questions and spend the better part of day asking the same questions to a handful of people. Compare the answers against each other. Additionally, you may gravitate towards one person (by just getting a gut feeling). Typically, we’d say meet them for coffee. However, maybe a Zoom chat will do. Just to see if you like them personally and professionally.

            • You’re welcome Al. One more thought: if an attorney recommend a specific strategy(ies), ask for relevant case law to see if the recommendation has weight. Happy Holiday :)

  2. HI Matt – Considering forming an LLC to make my next home purchase under (and then subsequent land investments). I haven’t made the purchases yet. Two questions: 1) will banks expect mortgage payments to be made from an account in the LLC name (which means transferring funds monthly from personal checking to the business) or can I pay them from my personal account? and 2) does insurance for the home need to be in the LLC’s name?

    • Hi Zinzi, generally speaking, most banks don’t care where funds come from. However, you’ll certainly want to confirm this with your bank. The insurance policy should be in the name of the LLC.

  3. how to form husband and wife LL C in north Carolina? single ll c member or partnership?
    how they taxed? husband and wife they used to file tax jointly
    what to elect s corp or c corp?

  4. Im buying a rental property in Florida and I live in NC, does my LLC have to be in the same state as the business? Or can it be in the state I live in?

    • Hi Nancy, you’re supposed to form the LLC in the state where the property is located, since this is where you’re doing business. If you purchased the FL property with a North Carolina LLC, you may need to register your North Carolina LLC as a Foreign LLC in Florida. Hope that helps.

  5. Hi Matt,

    I just received my bartending certification and am in the process of getting an LLC in order to bartend at private events. First question I have is is an LLC the right move for establishing myself as a brand/business. Second, is it possible to add my business under a trust to ensure business expenses can be written off?

    • Hi Candice, you don’t have to form an LLC for your business, but you certainly can. You could also operate as a Sole Proprietorship. We have details on the differences here: LLC vs Sole Proprietorship. While yes, you can make your Trust the owner of an LLC, you don’t have to do so in order to write off business expenses. You can write of business expenses as a Sole Proprietor, the owner of your LLC, and if your Trust owns the LLC. Hope that helps!

  6. Hi Matt,
    Can you explain further how to run multiple businesses under one LLC.
    How do you provide proof legally to your bank and online payment gateways that all the businesses are one and the same LLC?
    Thanks for your help.
    Christian

    • Hey Christian, if you’re running multiple different business activities under one LLC (as opposed to a different LLC for each business), then it’s easier to think of it just like this: “multiple business activities” under one LLC, not “multiple businesses” under one LLC. So in that case, you’re just opening a bank account for your LLC as well as using the LLC name when registering/setting up your payment gateways. Hope that helps!

      • Hi Matt, with different business under the one LLC how does that flow for recording keeping for each business, income expenses…
        I guess for tax purposes all the income aggregated under the LLC
        But it would save $$$ by having the 1 LLC in terms of filing fees & annual reporting 🤔
        How about if one of the business is real estate, in another state & the other businesses are online transactional?
        Thank you
        So nice of you to have this website.

        • Hi Genna, for two business activities, you can keep separate books and then file two Schedule Cs. Hope that helps! And thank you!

  7. My husband is looking to get a LLC for himself as a driver with a pharmaceutical company and to sell food? He currently drives under someone else’s LLC as an employee and was adviced to get his own LLC. He also cooks for someone else at festivals and was also advices to get his own LLC. We just need to know does this warrant for two separate LLCs or could one be used?

    • Hi Shada, you could form 2 different LLCs, but you don’t have to. You can run multiple business activities under one LLC. Hope that helps.

  8. Thanks man and that answer was a big help and saved me some money.

    • Awesome man! Congratulations :) And best wishes with the business!

  9. I am so excited! Mailing my information to create my real estate LLC. No longer will I be liable hahah

  10. Matt,

    I’ve looked over the information for North Carolina and am still confunsed. Does North Carolina require all members be listed on the Articles of Organization filed with the Sec of State? Thanks

    Brandon

    • Hi Brandon, no, LLC Members are not required to be listed in the North Carolina Articles of Organization. Hope that helps.

  11. I am creating several websites for several eCommerce shops that will sell physical products in different niches.
    Please, how do I form an LLC to take care of these several shops (about 4 shops)?
    Since the shops belong to the same person does it make sense to register an LLC for each shop or can I register an LLC and have the 4 shops under it? How do I go about bringing 4 shops under one LLC company?
    Thanks for any help you can give.

    • Hey Chux, after you form the LLC, make sure the domain ownership and website hosting information is updated to reflect the LLC name. You’ll also want to sign a bill of sale and sell the domain + website from yourself to the LLC. Going forward, operate the business and register things under the LLC name… not your personal name. Hope that helps.

  12. Matt,

    Thanks a lot for putting all together. It gave me clear understanding of everything, This is great resource for LLC.

    • Hey Anand, you’re very welcome! Thank you for your nice comment.

  13. Hey Matt,
    The ONLY way I got through starting an LLC was through your youtube videos. They were GREAT!
    question…now that I have my LLC registered, is there a check list of everything that needs to be filed? Taxes, employer taxes (I am self employed but still confused). just want to make sure I don’t miss anything. suggestions of where I might find a checklist?

    Thanks

    • Hey Stephanie, AWESOME to hear! Make sure you go over the NC LLC Annual Report lesson so you’re aware of that requirement. Regarding taxes, there is variance among business owners, so instead of a checklist, we recommend that you speak with an account or two regarding the specifics to your situation. Hope that helps!

  14. Hi Matt, on the new cover sheet for NC at the bottom it ask for the business entity and type of document, do I need to fill this part out, if so what would I put? I would greatly appreciate your assistance.

    Thanks

    • Hey Natasha, to the right of “Name of Entity”, enter your LLC name. To the right of “Type of Document”, enter “L-01, Articles of Organization”. Hope that helps!

  15. How can I turn my current LLC into S-Corp are Corporation ? If I was looking to incorporate another business into my current LLC ? Do I merger them together ? Are do I just file a new LLC with NC ? Thanks

    • Hi Anthony, an “LLC to C-Corporation” would be a conversion. An “LLC to S-Corporation” can either be a conversion (form a C-Corporation then elect subchapter S taxation with the IRS), or you can file Form 2553 with the IRS and have the LLC be taxed as an S-Corporation. A lot of people want to form a company under another company (ex: LLC ABC owns LLC XYZ) without a whole lot of reason. Unless your accountant and/or attorney has advised this strategy, it’s simplest to form a new LLC with you as the owner. Having said that, there are a lot of ways to go about this. Hope that helps. Let me know if you need more info.

  16. What if you have an Llc that is taxed as a corporation. Do you pay $200 or $25?

    • Hi Mandy, I am not 100% certain on this one. Can you please call the NC Secretary of State (919-807-2225, 8am – 5pm) to check. I’d be curious to hear what you find out!

  17. If I want to use the name for a LLC in North Carolina that has been used previously by another person and is now listed as dissolved, how long do I have to wait?

    • Hey Brian, apologies for the slow reply. I’m not in front of our all our NC data on the moment, but if you call the state tomorrow (919-807-2225) they’ll tell you how long. Their hours are hours are 8am – 5pm. Hope that helps!

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