Starting a Tennessee LLC, step-by-step
Starting a Tennessee LLC costs a minimum of $300. And it takes 1 day to get an LLC in Tennessee.
Here are the 6 steps to forming an LLC in Tennessee:
- Choose an LLC Name
- Select a Registered Agent
- File Articles of Organization
- Create an Operating Agreement
- Get an EIN
- Register for Business Tax
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 Tennessee?
How much a Tennessee LLC costs depends on how many LLC Members (owners) there are.
If your LLC has between 1 and 6 Members, your LLC filing fee is $300.
- If you have 2 Members, your filing fee is $300.
- If you have 6 Members, your filing fee is $300.
If your LLC has more than 6 Members, you will add an additional $50 per member (on top of the $300) for each Member after 6.
- If you have 7 Members, your filing fee is $350 ($300 + $50).
- If you have 10 members, your filing fee is $500 ($300 + $50 + $50 + $50 + $50).
To learn more about LLC Costs, see LLC Costs in Tennessee.
How long does it take to get an LLC in Tennessee?
If you file your LLC by mail, it will be approved in 3-5 business days (plus mail time).
But if you file online, your LLC will be approved immediately.
Please see How long does it take to get an LLC in Tennessee to check for any delays.
Here are the steps to forming an LLC in Tennessee
1. Search your LLC Name
Search your Tennessee 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 Tennessee. You can make sure the LLC Name you want is unique from existing businesses using the state’s Business Name Availability Search.
Second, familiarize yourself with the naming rules in Tennessee (so your Tennessee LLC gets approved).
We’ll explain both in more detail here: Tennessee LLC Name.
2. Choose a Tennessee Registered Agent
The next step is to choose a Tennessee Registered Agent.
A Tennessee Registered Agent is a person or company who accepts legal mail and state notices on behalf of your Tennessee 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 Tennessee. 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 Tennessee, 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 Tennessee LLC Articles of Organization
To start an LLC, you need to file the Tennessee Articles of Organization.
This gets filed with the Tennessee Secretary of State.
The Tennessee Articles of Organization costs $300 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: Tennessee Articles of Organization.
Or, you can hire a company to do it for you.
4. Create a Tennessee LLC Operating Agreement
A Tennessee LLC Operating Agreement 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 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 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 Tennessee Operating Agreement video.
5. Get an EIN for your LLC
The next step is to get a Tennessee 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 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.
6. Register for Tennessee Business Tax
Although Tennessee doesn’t have a general business license requirement, you do have to register with the Tennessee Department of Revenue (DOR).
Tennessee requires almost every business operating in the state to register for Tennessee Business Tax.
The registration fee is $15. And the Tennessee Department of Revenue’s Registration and Licensing page will guide you through the process.
Or, if you think your LLC may be exempt from the business tax, you can check using the Business Tax Manual from the Department of Revenue.
What do I do after my LLC is approved?
After your Tennessee 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 Tennessee business licenses and permits
Good news, Tennessee 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 Tennessee Business License page.
File your Tennessee LLC Annual Report
All Tennessee LLCs must file an Annual Report every year.
The Annual Report keeps your LLC in good standing with the state.
How much does a Tennessee LLC Annual Report cost?
The Annual Report filing fee costs a minimum of $300 per year.
Just like the LLC Annual Report fee, the full amount your LLC owes for your Annual Report is based on how many Members there are in your LLC:
- LLCs with 6 Members or fewer pay a flat fee of $300 total.
- LLCs with more than 6 Members pay the minimum $300, plus $50 per additional Member after the 6th Member.
For example, an LLC with 10 Members would pay $500 ($300 plus $50 for each of the 4 additional members).
When is the Annual Report due?
Your LLC’s Annual Report filing fee is due at the same time every year.
And the due date is based on your business’s fiscal year.
The Annual Report fee must be paid by the 1st day of the 4th month after the end of your LLC’s fiscal year.
Most of our users list January 1 to December 31 as their LLC’s fiscal year when forming their LLC. If you did the same, your Annual Report will be due by April 1st each 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, 2023, your first Annual Report is due by April 1, 2024.
How do I file my LLC Annual Report?
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: Tennessee 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, a Tennessee 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 taxes – like sales tax. Learn more in Tennessee LLC Taxes.
How to Start an LLC in Tennessee FAQs
Can I start an LLC online in Tennessee?
Yes, you can file your LLC online in Tennessee. The Articles of Organization filing fee is $300.
When you start your LLC online, it will be approved immediately.
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.
To learn more, please see How are LLCs taxed.
Is Tennessee a good state to start an LLC?
Whether Tennessee 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 Tennessee, then you should start your LLC in Tennessee. 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 Tennessee, you’ll also need to register your Delaware LLC in Tennessee (and pay extra fees). And you’ll end up paying Tennessee 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 Tennessee, then yes, Tennessee is a good state to start a business. If you don’t live in and do business in Tennessee, then no, Tennessee isn’t a good state to start a business.
Real estate exception: If you’re purchasing real estate outside of Tennessee, you should form your LLC in the state where the property is located.
For more information, please see Best State to Form an LLC.