North Carolina LLC

How to Form an LLC in North Carolina

Quick Start Guide ← you are here
This Quick Start Guide is a brief overview of how to form an LLC in North Carolina.

Detailed Lessons:

 

North Carolina LLC Costs:
North Carolina LLC filing fee: $125 (one-time fee)
North Carolina LLC annual report fee: $200 per year

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


Matt Horwitz LLC University Founder

Hi there, my name is Matt Horwitz and I’m the founder of LLC University®.

We’ve put together a free guide on how to form an LLC in North Carolina. We hope you find it helpful!

To form a North Carolina LLC, you can either follow the 7 lessons above (which are more detailed and step-by-step), or you can follow our Quick Start Guide below (which is a brief overview of all the steps).

If this is your first time setting up an LLC in North Carolina, I recommend that you follow the more detailed lessons above. Please make sure to follow them in order.

How to Form an LLC in North CarolinaA North Carolina LLC (Limited Liability Company) is a hybrid business entity which encompasses the best features of a Sole Proprietorship, Partnership, and a Corporation. These include:

  • Easy management
  • Pass-through taxation (no double taxation)
  • Personal liability protection

The third feature (personal liability protection) is what makes North Carolina LLCs so popular among business owners and entrepreneurs.

How personal liability protection works:

As a separate legal entity, your North Carolina LLC can be used to run a business or it can be used to hold assets, like real estate, boats, vehicles, and aircraft.

If somebody were to sue your LLC, they can only go after the LLC’s assets. Your personal assets (like your home, cars, and bank account) cannot be used as payment for the lawsuit. The personal liability protection that a North Carolina LLC provides ensures that your personal assets remain out of reach from creditors.

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

1. North Carolina LLC Name

• The first step to creating your LLC with the North Carolina Secretary of State is to come up with a unique LLC name and make sure it’s available to use.

• Your desired North Carolina LLC name must be “distinguishable upon the records”. Meaning, it must be unique from the names of all the existing businesses registered with the North Carolina Secretary of State.

• North Carolina LLC Name Search:

http://www.sosnc.gov/search/index/corp

LLC Designator: Your LLC must have a proper designator at the end of the name. As per North Carolina LLC law, the acceptable designators are: “LLC”, “L.L.C.”, “Limited Liability Company”, “Limited Liability Co.”, “Ltd. Liability Company” or “Ltd. Liability Co.”.

Quick Tip: If you’re not sure which designator to use, “LLC” is the most common.

• Your North Carolina LLC name cannot include a designator from a different type of legal entity. For example, your LLC name cannot include the words or abbreviations Corporation, Corp., Inc., Incorporated, Limited Partnership, LP, L.P., or Trust.

North Carolina LLC Name statutes:
§ 55D-20
, 18 NCAC 04 .0502, 18 NCAC 04 .0503

2. North Carolina Registered Agent

• In order to do business in the state, your LLC must maintain a North Carolina Registered Agent at all times.

• A North Carolina Registered Agent is a person or company who accepts legal mail and paperwork addressed to your North Carolina LLC. This paperwork includes notice of lawsuits, court hearings, and subpoenas. Together, this type of legal mail is known as Service of Process.

• Not maintaining a North Carolina Registered Agent can be grounds for the Secretary of State to administratively dissolve your LLC. This means you won’t be able to do business in the state any longer.

• Your North Carolina LLC’s Registered Agent must have a street address located within the state. PO Boxes are not allowed to be used.

• If your LLC’s Registered Agent will be an individual person, then he/she must also be at least 18 years of age and be a resident of North Carolina. If you, a friend, or family member meet these requirements, then you/they can be your North Carolina LLC’s Registered Agent.

• Alternatively, you can hire the services of a professional Registered Agent, technically known as a Commercial Registered Agent in North Carolina.

• A Commercial Registered Agent is a private company that you pay on an annual basis. They fulfill the North Carolina state requirement of maintaining a Registered Agent, as well as additional benefits, such as privacy (keeping your address off public records), emailing you about Annual Report reminders, and discarding your junk mail.

• If you want to hire a Commercial Registered Agent in North Carolina, we recommend 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.

Important: If you would like to keep your address off the public records, then we recommend Northwest Registered Agent. They’ll let you use their address not only in the Registered Agent section of your filing, but you can also use their address for your Principal Office Address and in the signature section as well. No other Registered Agent company will allow you to do this without charging extra. Northwest Registered Agent offers this at no additional charge.

North Carolina Registered Agent statutes:
G.S. 57D-2-40 and G.S. 55D-30

3. North Carolina LLC Articles of Organization & Cover Sheet

North Carolina LLC filing form:
– Go to: https://www.sosnc.gov/forms
– Choose “Business Registration” from the “Within the Department” drop down menu.
– Choose “Limited Liability Company” in the second drop down menu.
– The Articles of Organization (L-01) will appear at the very top of the section. Click on the hyperlink to download a copy in PDF format.

Cover Sheet form:
– Go to: https://www.sosnc.gov/forms
– Choose “Business Registration” from the “Within the Department” drop down menu.
– Make sure “Business Entities Common” appears in the the second drop down menu (it will show up by default).
– The Cover Sheet for Corporate Filings will appear at the very top of the section. Click on the hyperlink to download a copy in PDF format.

North Carolina LLC filing fee: $125 (one-time filing fee)

Methods of filing: You can file an LLC in North Carolina online or by mail.

Either way, you must first complete the paper forms: the Articles of Organization and the Cover Sheet, and then you can upload them online or send to the state by mail.

North Carolina LLC approval times:

– Your North Carolina LLC will be approved in 3 – 5 business days if you file online.
– Your North Carolina LLC will be approved in 4 – 6 business days if you file by mail.

File your North Carolina LLC online: Go to the North Carolina Secretary of State’s website, create an online account, then look in the left navigation under “Online Services”. Click “Create a Business Online”, then follow the online instructions. Submit payment with a debit or credit card.

File your North Carolina LLC by mail: Prepare a check or money order for $125 and make it payable to the “Secretary of State”. Then mail your completed Articles of Organization, the Cover Sheet, and filing fee to:

North Carolina Secretary of State
PO Box 29622
Raleigh, NC 27626-0622

North Carolina LLC approval: If you file your North Carolina LLC online, the approval documents listed below will be returned by email. If you file by mail, they’ll be returned by regular mail. After the Secretary of State approves your LLC, you’ll receive back the following:

– Stamped and approved copy of your Articles of Organization
– Cover Letter acknowledging the successful formation of your LLC

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

North Carolina LLC Articles of Organization statute: G.S. 57D-2-21

4. North Carolina LLC Operating Agreement

• If the Articles of Organization is the document that forms your LLC, then the Operating Agreement is the document that governs it.

• Unlike the Articles of Organization, you don’t need to file your Operating Agreement with the North Carolina Secretary of State (or with any other agency for that matter). The Operating Agreement is an “internal document”, meaning you just a copy with your LLC/business records.

What does an Operating Agreement usually contain? Names of the owners (called members), how much of the LLC each member owns, how the LLC is managed, how the business is run, the duties and responsibilities of the owners, managers, and officers, how taxes are paid, and how profits are distributed.

Note: Operating Agreements are not limited in nature. If necessary, you can add any additional provisions or sections.

Why having an Operating Agreement is important? It provides a written document for how to handle disputes and arguments among the members. It spells out the “bylaws” of how to run your North Carolina LLC. Having an Operating Agreement can also help maintain your personal liability protection (it’s very important to have if you ever end up in court).

Single-member LLC & Multi-member LLCs: regardless if your LLC has one member or several members, it’s always a good idea to have an Operating Agreement for your North Carolina LLC LLC.

Free North Carolina LLC Operating Agreement: You can download a free North Carolina Operating Agreement in one of the following 3 formats:
PDF, Google Doc, or Microsoft Word
(Just choose your preference. They are all the same form.)

North Carolina Operating Agreement statutes:
G.S. 57D-2-30, G.S. 57D-2-31, G.S. 57D-2-32

5. Federal Tax ID Number (EIN)

• After the North Carolina Secretary of State approves your LLC filing, then you can obtain a Federal Tax ID Number from the IRS.

• A Federal Tax ID Number is your North Carolina LLC’s “social security number”. It is used by the IRS to identify your LLC for taxation and reporting purposes.

• A Federal Tax ID Number is also called an Employer Identification Number (EIN), Federal Tax ID Number, and Federal Employer Identification Number (FEIN). They are all referring to the same thing though.

Why do you need an EIN? Your LLC will need a Federal Tax ID Number to open a business bank account, register for business licenses and permits, and to transact business with other companies..

When to apply: Do not apply for your Federal Tax ID Number until your LLC is approved by the North Carolina Secretary of State. If your LLC filing is rejected for some reason, you will be attaching the Federal Tax ID Number to a non-existent LLC.

EINs are free: Federal Tax ID Numbers (EINs) are free. The IRS does not charge anything (although some sites in the industry may lead you to believe otherwise).

Apply for an EIN: You can apply for Federal Tax ID Number in one of three ways. You can apply online (takes 10-15 minutes to get your EIN), by fax (takes 4 business days to get your EIN), or by mail (takes 4-6 weeks to get your EIN).

Online EIN application: This is the recommended method since it’s very quick to complete the EIN application (takes 10 to 15 minutes), and at the end of the application the IRS will provide you with a PDF document with your EIN to print and save. You can only use the EIN online application if you have an SSN or ITIN. Your LLC must also be owned by an individual, or individuals, (not another company) in order to apply online.

Apply by fax or mail: Those without ITINs or SSNs, or whose LLCs are owned by another company, can still apply for a Federal Tax ID Number, not just through the online application. Instead, download Form SS-4 (fill it out and sign it), then send to the IRS by fax or regular mail:

IRS Fax number: 855-641-6935

IRS Mailing address: Internal Revenue Service, Attn: EIN Operation, Cincinnati, OH 45999

Foreigners: On line 7b, just write “Foreign” if you don’t have an SSN or ITIN.

6. North Carolina LLC Annual Report

• All LLCs in North Carolina must file an Annual Report every year in order to remain in good standing with the state.

• The first Annual Report is due by April 15th of the year following your LLC’s year of formation. For example, if your North Carolina LLC was formed on November 15th 2017, your first Annual Report will be due by April 15th 2018. Then it will be due by April 15th 2019, and so on.

North Carolina LLC Annual Report Fee: $200 per year.

Annual Report approval times:

– Your LLC’s Annual Report will be approved in 3 – 5 business days if you file online.
– Your LLC’s Annual Report will be approved in 4 – 6 business days if you file by mail.

Recommendation: We recommend the online filing as it’s easier to complete. However, if you’re not very tech-comfortable, then we recommend filing by mail.

How to file your North Carolina Annual Report online:

– Search for your North Carolina LLC on the state’s website, then look to the right of your LLC name. Click the “File Report” link. Complete the online filing and then pay online with a debit or credit card.

How to file your North Carolina Annual Report by mail:

– Search for your North Carolina LLC on the state’s website, click on your LLC name, then click the link at the top titled “Print a Pre-Populated Annual Report form”.

– Complete the form, sign it, and mail to the North Carolina Secretary of State’s office with your Annual Report filing fee. Pay by check or money order and make it payable to “Secretary of State”.

– Send your completed Annual Report and filing fee to:

North Carolina Secretary of State
PO Box 29525
Raleigh, NC 27626-0525

Penalty: if you do not submit your North Carolina LLC Annual Report within 60 days of the due date, then your LLC may be administratively dissolved and shut down by the state.

What you’ll get back: Once the North Carolina Secretary of State’s office is finished processing your LLC’s Annual Report filing, you will get back the following 2 items:

– Copy of the filed Annual Report
– Cover Letter acknowledging your successful filing

The above items will returned by email if you file online. Or they’ll be returned by regular mail if you file by mail.

North Carolina Annual Report statute: G.S. 57D-2-24

7. Business Licenses and/or Permits

• Your LLC must have the necessary business licenses and/or permits in order to do business in North Carolina.

• The specific type of license and/or permits your North Carolina LLC may need depends on its location and what industry it is involved in.

• Contact your local county officials (http://www.ncacc.org/171/Links-to-Counties) and North Carolina’s state agencies (https://www.nc.gov/agencies) to determine the specific business licenses and/or permits your LLC will need.

• If your LLC will render professional services (medicine, accounting, law, etc.), you must also obtain a license from the relevant regulatory board. NC Careers keeps a comprehensive directory of professional licenses available in the state: http://nccareers.org/occlicenses/

One-on-one business consultation: Business Link North Carolina (BLNC) is a free service to help you determine what kind of business licenses and/or permits your LLC may need. You can get in touch with one of their business counselors here: https://edpnc.com/start-or-grow-a-business/start-a-business.

Need to save time? If you’d rather not do the research to determine your North Carolina business license and permit requirements, we recommend hiring License Suite.

8. North Carolina LLC Taxes

Federal taxes: By default, LLCs have “pass through” taxation in North Carolina and the rest of the U.S. states. Any income generated or losses incurred by your LLC are not taxed separately (federally). Instead, they are usually listed on a Schedule C (or a different Schedule depending on how you derive your income) and filed with the IRS together with your personal 1040 tax return.

North Carolina State and local taxes: You have to register with the North Carolina Department of Revenue and with the municipality (county, city, town, etc.) where your LLC is located for taxation purposes.

North Carolina imposes the following taxes: alcoholic beverages, certain machinery and equipment tax (1% Privilege Tax), corporate income tax, corporate franchise tax, dry cleaning solvent tax, estate tax, estates and trusts (fiduciary), individual income tax, insurance premium tax, International Fuel Tax Agreement (IFTA) tax, motor fuels tax, motor vehicle lease and rental tax, partnerships, privilege license tax, property tax, sales and use tax, scrap tire disposal tax, severance tax (effective July 1, 2015), solid waste disposal tax, tobacco products, unauthorized substance tax, white goods disposal tax, withholding tax, and more.

Recommendation: Determining your tax obligations yourself can be challenging. We recommend you get help from an accountant in North Carolina after your LLC is formed. Check out our how to find an accountant guide.

9. North Carolina LLC Bank Account

• After getting your LLC’s Federal Tax ID Number, you can now open a separate bank account for your LLC in North Carolina.

Separating assets: Not only does having a business bank account and a personal bank account make your accounting life much easier, it also helps protect your personal assets. Giving your LLC a separate checking account helps avoid commingling personal assets and business (one of the common reasons an LLC can lose its liability protection).

Items needed to open account: North Carolina LLC Articles of Organization (stamped and approved ), Federal Tax ID Number (also called EIN), and usually two forms of ID, such as a driver’s license and a passport. We recommend calling a few banks ahead of time though, as some banks may ask for additional documentation, such as your LLC’s Operating Agreement.

• If you LLC has multiple members, then all the members should be present when opening the bank account. If you need to add a member at a later date, you’ll need to speak to your specific branch location regarding the procedure, as each bank operates differently.

LLC banking fees: We recommend calling a handful of banks in North Carolina close to where you do business. Ask them about their “simplest form of business checking account” and ask what the monthly maintenance fees are. A lot of banks in North Carolina charge monthly fees, but about 25% or so do not. We recommend speaking to about 5-6 banks in order to find free business checking.

• The bank teller who helps you to open the LLC checking account will either issue each signer a debit card right on the spot, or they’ll mail them out about a week later.

• If you’d also like to accrue rewards such as travel points and cashback for your business, then we recommend applying for a business credit card or two. You can browse business credit cards on 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 North Carolina 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 North Carolina LLC is also a good idea in order to keep your actual number private from those pesky “public record” websites.

North Carolina State Agencies

North Carolina Secretary of State
Corporations Division
Phone: 919-814-5400
Hours: 8am – 5pm, Monday through Friday (Eastern)
Website: http://www.sosnc.gov/corporations/thepage.aspx

North Carolina Department of Revenue
Phone: 877-252-3052
Hours: 8am – 5pm, Monday through Friday (Eastern)
Website: http://www.dornc.com/
Contact: http://www.dornc.com/aboutus/phones.html

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Matt Horwitz
Founder & Educator at LLC University
Forming an LLC shouldn't be so complicated. Our step-by-step guide will make the process a breeze – and no complex legal jargon! We teach people how to form an LLC for free in all 50 states. We hope you find our free guides and resources helpful in your entrepreneurial journey.

24 Comments

  1. Brian February 10, 2017

    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?

    reply
    • Matt Horwitz February 13, 2017

      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!

      reply
  2. Mandy February 27, 2017

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

    reply
    • Matt Horwitz February 28, 2017

      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!

      reply
  3. Anthony February 28, 2017

    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

    reply
    • Matt Horwitz February 28, 2017

      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.

      reply
  4. Natasha July 25, 2017

    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

    reply
    • Matt Horwitz July 25, 2017

      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!

      reply
      • Natasha July 25, 2017

        Matt, you have been a huge help! Yes it helped, Thank you so much!

        reply
        • Matt Horwitz July 26, 2017

          You’re very welcome Natasha!

          reply
  5. STEPHANIE September 21, 2017

    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

    reply
    • Matt Horwitz September 21, 2017

      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!

      reply
  6. Anand Patel November 15, 2017

    Matt,

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

    reply
    • Matt Horwitz November 15, 2017

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

      reply
  7. Chux Maxwell May 3, 2018

    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.

    reply
    • Matt Horwitz May 16, 2018

      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.

      reply
  8. Brandon Wright May 11, 2018

    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

    reply
    • Matt Horwitz May 16, 2018

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

      reply
  9. Trevor Hooks May 22, 2018

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

    reply
  10. Trevor Hooks May 22, 2018

    More professional :D

    reply
    • Matt Horwitz May 22, 2018

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

      reply
  11. Brandon Wright May 22, 2018

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

    reply
    • Matt Horwitz May 22, 2018

      Awesome! You’re very welcome Brandon :)

      reply
  12. Shada L June 20, 2018

    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?

    reply

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