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.
There are 5 steps to forming an LLC in North Carolina:
- Choose an LLC Name
- Select a Registered Agent
- File Articles of Organization
- Create an Operating Agreement
- 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.
(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
Search 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
The 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:
- 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.
3. File North Carolina LLC Articles of Organization
To 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.
4. Create an NC LLC Operating Agreement
An 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.
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.
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 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
Good 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
All 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
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, 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 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.