Note: If you live in Wyoming, do business in Wyoming, or are a non-US resident, then this information doesn’t apply to you.
Although you may have read differently, most people should not be forming an LLC in Wyoming.
In order to best explain the reasons, let’s look at an example:
- Steven is a resident of California
- He runs an online business from his home in California
- He reads online “Wyoming is the best state to form an LLC“
- He forms an LLC in Wyoming
Let’s discuss the issues that will arise in this situation.
Domestic LLC vs. Foreign LLC
If you form an LLC in your home state, this is called a “Domestic LLC”. Meaning, the LLC is domestic to that jurisdiction.
If you want this Domestic LLC to do business in another state (a different jurisdiction), you must register that LLC in the new state. Once registered, that LLC is known as a “Foreign LLC”.
It’s technically just one LLC. The LLC originally has authority to do business in its home state, since that’s where it was formed. And then it must file as a Foreign LLC in every state it wishes to do business.
So in our example, Steven has only formed a Domestic LLC in Wyoming.
(for more info, please see: domestic LLC vs foreign LLC)
Wyoming LLC Illegally Doing Business
Since Steven is running his business from his home in California, his Wyoming LLC is illegally doing business in California.
In order to avoid fines and penalties, he must register his Wyoming LLC as a Foreign LLC in California.
Foreign LLC Registration
In order to remedy the fact that Steven’s Wyoming LLC is illegally transacting business in California, he’ll need to register his Wyoming LLC as a Foreign LLC in California.
This means he now:
- has 2 LLC filings to maintain (a Domestic Wyoming LLC and a Foreign California LLC)
- has 2 state filing fees
- has to meet annual requirements and fees in both states
- may have increased Registered Agent fees
So in hopes of obtaining certain Wyoming LLC benefits, Steven has instead complicated the situation, increased his fees, and will most likely get no benefits from a Wyoming LLC.
Even if Steven has no employees in California, no office in California, and no clients in California, he is still running the business from his home in California.
Furthermore, California not only has strict corporate laws around doing business in the state, but they also have strict taxation laws. This means that in addition to the LLC costs in Wyoming and California, Steven may receive fines and penalties from both the California Secretary of State and the California Franchise Tax Board. He’ll also end up paying California LLC annual fees and taxes anyway (which may have been the reason he considered a Wyoming LLC in the first place).
Note: “Doing business” has more to do with where you are running and operating things from instead of where your clients and customers are located. A lot of our readers ask us if they have to register their LLC in every state where their customers are located. No, you don’t have to. You can just form your LLC where you are running the business from.
The court has discretion about the jurisdiction
If Steven was looking to obtain certain legal benefits by having a Wyoming LLC, those benefits may not apply in a court of law.
If Steven’s Wyoming LLC is involved in a lawsuit, the courts have discretion on which state laws apply. Since Steven is doing business in California, it’s possible that the courts may decide that Wyoming law doesn’t apply and that California law applies instead.
So the legal benefits of the Wyoming LLC are now useless.
And although the money may not be a huge deal for some people, the headache can be quite overwhelming for others.
We hear all kinds of horror and frustration stories about LLCs being set up in the wrong state.
We recently heard from a real estate developer, who after acquiring land and building a subdivision, realized they shouldn’t have formed their LLC in Wyoming, wanted to move the LLC to their home state and then were pretty much “frozen” in a state of inaction when they realized how complex a conversion/redomestication filing was (moving the LLC from Wyoming to California).
Not to mention, the need to close a bank account, open a new one, draft internal agreements, re-register their new LLC with vendors and suppliers, update the IRS, and more. The time and opportunity cost were well into the tens of thousands of dollars.
Wyoming has no corporate taxes
A lot of people get really excited when they hear that “Wyoming has no corporate income tax!”
Unless your LLC is taxed as a C-Corp, this won’t even apply. And this is the case for 99% of our readers.
Said another way, most LLCs don’t pay corporate taxes since LLCs are pass-through entities.
Meaning, in their default tax classification, LLCs don’t pay any corporate income taxes. The profits from the LLC “flow through” to the owner’s personal income tax return and are paid on the individual level (not at the corporate level).
So that fact that Wyoming doesn’t have state corporate income tax doesn’t matter.
Furthermore, you pay state income taxes where the money is made. Not where the LLC is formed.
Taxes are paid where the money is made
Even if there are applicable tax advantages in Wyoming, this won’t apply if you’re doing business in your home state.
State income taxes are paid where the money is made. So in Steven’s case, he would get no tax advantages whatsoever by having an LLC in Wyoming and instead, he’d be paying all his state income taxes in California.
What’s worse, is that the Wyoming Department of Revenue may require an informational return to be filed. This means additional costs for Steven’s accountant to file a “zeroed-out” return in Wyoming and apportion the LLC’s earnings to California.
“My business is online with no physical presence”
Frankly, the state governments don’t care if your business is online or not.
The fact that you run your business from your home means you’re doing business in that state. Even if you work from a coffee shop, you’re still doing business in that state.
And that state wants to collect their tax revenue and enforce their LLC filing requirements for businesses illegally operating in the state.
Save yourself the money and the headache.
Just form your LLC in your home state or the state where you’re actually doing business.
Wyoming Economic Development Agency: Licensing and Permitting
Wyoming Secretary of State: Should I Apply for a Certificate of Authority?
Wyoming Statutes: Title 17 (Corporations, Partnerships, and Associations)
17-19-1501. Authority to transact business required
17-19-1502. Consequences of transacting business without authority
17-19-1503. Application for certificate of authority
17-19-1530. Grounds for revocation
17-19-1531. Procedure and effect of revocation
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.