How to Apply for an LLC in South Dakota

Updated on January 23, 2024

Starting a limited liability company (LLC) in South Dakota can be a great way to set up your business while limiting personal liability. South Dakota offers advantages like no state corporate income tax and flexible LLC laws. However, forming an LLC still requires following certain steps. First, you’ll need to choose a business name and register it with the South Dakota Secretary of State. Next, you’ll prepare and file articles of organization. You’ll also need to create an operating agreement. Additionally, you must obtain any necessary business licenses or permits. By completing these key steps, you’ll be on your way to properly starting your South Dakota LLC.

Understanding LLCs

An LLC, or limited liability company, is a business structure that combines aspects of partnerships and corporations. LLCs provide liability protection like a corporation, so the LLC owners’ personal assets are generally protected from business debts and claims. However, LLCs are taxed like partnerships or sole proprietorships based on how many members the LLC has.

Some key points about LLCs:

  • LLCs limit personal liability for business debts and lawsuits.
  • LLCs allow pass-through taxation for business profits and losses.
  • LLCs have fewer regulations and reporting rules than corporations.
  • LLCs offer flexibility in management structure and ownership.

Forming an LLC in South Dakota provides flexibility and protections for business owners. Understanding the basics of LLCs is an important first step before starting the registration process.

Choosing a Name for Your LLC

When choosing a name for your South Dakota LLC, you’ll need to follow the state’s naming guidelines. The name must include words or abbreviations like “Limited Liability Company,” “LLC,” or “L.L.C.” The name cannot contain words restricted by state law like “bank” or “trust.”

You’ll also want to check that your preferred LLC name is available by searching the South Dakota business entity database. The name must be distinguishable from other businesses in the state. You can register an available name by filing a Name Reservation application.

Finally, give thought to how your LLC name relates to your brand. A memorable, descriptive name can help attract customers and build company identity. Just be sure it aligns with state requirements.

Selecting a Registered Agent

One of the requirements for forming an LLC in South Dakota is designating a registered agent. This is a person or business that agrees to accept legal documents on behalf of your LLC if you ever get sued or receive an official notice from the state. When selecting a registered agent, you have a few options:

  • You can appoint yourself, another member of the LLC, or an internal manager to serve as the registered agent. This saves money, but you need to ensure someone is regularly available at your official business address to receive legal documents.
  • You can hire an independent registered agent service. These companies charge an annual fee but guarantee availability to receive your mail and scan documents so you get them quickly.
  • You can also engage a lawyer or accountant to serve as your registered agent if they provide this service.

Regardless of which option you choose, be sure your registered agent is clear on their responsibilities and readily available to support your new South Dakota LLC.

Filing Your LLC Paperwork

Once you have chosen a business name and registered your LLC with the South Dakota Secretary of State, there are a few more steps to complete your LLC paperwork.

  • Prepare your Articles of Organization. This document must include basic information like your LLC’s name, address, and names of members/managers. The filing fee is $150.
  • Draft an operating agreement. While not required, this agreement outlines financial and functional decisions like percentage of ownership, voting rights, contributions, and profit/loss distribution.
  • Get an EIN from the IRS. This unique tax ID number identifies your business for tax and banking purposes.
  • Make sure to file any licensing or permits required by your city, county, or industry.

Once these steps are complete, you can open a business bank account, hire employees if needed, and take other steps to launch your South Dakota LLC!

Drafting an LLC Operating Agreement

After officially forming your LLC with the South Dakota Secretary of State, the next important legal document to create is an operating agreement. This document outlines the ownership structure, member responsibilities, profit/loss distribution, voting rights, and other governance rules for your South Dakota LLC.

While an operating agreement is not legally required in South Dakota, it is highly recommended for any multi-member LLCs to document the following:

  • Percentage interests of each member
  • Member rights and responsibilities
  • Member voting and management rules
  • Capital contribution requirements
  • Profit and loss distributions
  • Rules for accepting new members
  • Procedures for dissolving the LLC

Even single-member South Dakota LLCs can benefit from having an operating agreement to lay out succession plans or rules in case another member joins later. Additionally, an operating agreement adds legitimacy and professionalism if you ever need to show banks or investors how your LLC will operate.

There are many free LLC operating agreement templates available online that you can customize to meet your specific business needs. Using a template can save significant time in drafting this document versus starting from scratch. Be sure to consult a business lawyer before finalizing to ensure your agreement complies with South Dakota laws and protects all members appropriately.

Obtaining Tax Identification Numbers

One of the key steps in forming your South Dakota LLC is obtaining tax identification numbers from the federal and state governments. These include:

Make sure to obtain these tax IDs as you finalize establishing your LLC, as they will be necessary for opening business bank accounts, paying taxes properly, hiring employees if applicable, and more. Taking care of these registrations early will save you headaches down the road.

Pros and Cons of Starting an LLC in California

Starting a limited liability company (LLC) in South Dakota has several advantages. Some of the key pros include:

  • No state income tax on profits
  • Low initial filing fees ($150)
  • Minimal annual report fees ($50)
  • Flexible ownership structures

However, there are also a few potential downsides to consider:

  • Must have a registered agent in South Dakota which costs money
  • Distance could make managing the business operations and paperwork difficult
  • May still need to pay taxes and file returns in your home state

Overall, South Dakota offers an attractive option for starting an LLC due to the state’s business-friendly tax policies and regulations. But non-residents should weigh the pros and cons carefully before deciding if it’s the right strategic move for their company.

Cost Considerations

When starting an LLC in South Dakota, there are several costs to consider:

  • The filing fee to register your LLC with the South Dakota Secretary of State is $150.
  • You may need to pay an annual report filing fee each year, which is $50 in South Dakota.
  • If you hire a registered agent service to handle your annual filings and act as your agent for service of process, expect to pay $100-200 per year.
  • You may need licenses and permits that have associated fees depending on your industry and location.

While South Dakota does not have a state income tax, you still need to consider potential taxes when forming your LLC, such as self-employment tax if you pay yourself as an owner. Overall the costs to start an LLC in South Dakota are very affordable.

Economical LLC Formation Options

When starting an LLC in South Dakota, it’s important to keep costs low, especially when just launching your business. Here are some of the most economical options for LLC formation:

  • Use an online service like LegalZoom or Incfile to form your LLC. These services charge $99-149 plus state fees.
  • Hire a business formation service. Many companies like MyCorporation offer formation services starting at $99 plus state fees.
  • Use business formation software like Nolo to form your own LLC for around $40-60 plus state fees.

The South Dakota state fee for filing LLC articles of organization is $150. So with any of these options, you can form your South Dakota LLC for $250-300—very affordable to get your business started.

Pre-Formation Steps

Before officially forming your LLC in South Dakota, you’ll need to take a few key steps to prepare. Here are the main pre-formation tasks:

  • Choose a business name – Select a name for your LLC that is distinguishable from other businesses in South Dakota. Check the Secretary of State database to ensure your desired name is available.
  • Appoint a registered agent – All South Dakota LLCs must designate a registered agent, responsible for receiving important legal documents on behalf of the business.
  • Draft an operating agreement – An operating agreement governs the operations, members’ rights and obligations. While not legally required, it’s highly recommended for South Dakota LLCs.
  • Obtain an EIN – Apply for an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS to open business bank accounts and file taxes.

Once you complete these pre-filing steps, you’ll be ready to officially register your South Dakota LLC by filing the articles of organization form with the Secretary of State.

Comparing Business Entity Types

When starting a business in South Dakota, you have several options for structuring your company. Three of the most common business structures are sole proprietorships, partnerships, and limited liability companies (LLCs).

  • A sole proprietorship is the simplest structure with no distinction between the business and the owner. However, the owner has unlimited personal liability for debts and obligations.
  • A partnership is formed when two or more people share ownership of a company. General partnerships also carry unlimited liability for each partner.
  • A limited liability company (LLC) separates personal assets from company debts and obligations. Members have limited personal liability. LLCs combine the pass-through taxation of a partnership with the limited liability of a corporation.

For most small business owners in South Dakota, forming an LLC offers the best features for limiting personal liability and allowing pass-through taxation. LLCs also provide more flexibility in ownership and management structure than sole proprietorships or partnerships.

After Filing Your LLC

Once your Articles of Organization have been filed with the South Dakota Secretary of State and approved, you will receive your Certificate of Organization in the mail. This certificate formally establishes your LLC. Here are the next steps:

Additionally, you may need licenses and permits depending on your industry and location. Research requirements for South Dakota businesses.

Setting up your LLC properly after filing Articles of Organization takes some work, but ensures your business operates legally and efficiently going forward.

Business Licenses and Permits

When starting an LLC in South Dakota, you may need to obtain certain business licenses and permits depending on your industry and location. Some common licenses and permits to consider include:

  • Business license – Most cities and counties in South Dakota require businesses operating within their jurisdiction to obtain a business license, for which fees and requirements vary.
  • Sales tax permit – If selling taxable goods or services, you’ll need to register for a sales tax permit to collect and remit sales tax.
  • Industry-specific licenses – Certain industries like food services, childcare, medical services etc. require special permits and licenses from South Dakota agencies like the Department of Health.

Be sure to research the specific legal requirements for your type of business before getting started. The South Dakota Small Business Toolbox provides licensing/permit guidance tailored to your business.

Growth Considerations for Your LLC

As your South Dakota LLC grows, there are some key things to consider. First, you may need to restructure your ownership and management if you bring on additional partners or investors. This can get complicated, so consider working with a business lawyer to amend your operating agreement.

You’ll also need to stay on top of your accounting, taxes, and regulations. An LLC taxed as an S corp has different rules and tax filings than a single-member LLC, for example. As you scale up, work with professionals like accountants and bankers to make sure you remain compliant.

  • Consider upgrading from basic accounting software to more robust platforms.
  • Make sure to consistently file annual reports and pay state fees to remain in good standing.

Finally, review your insurance needs. As your company grows, you may need increased liability coverage, workers’ compensation, or other expanded policies.

Additional Resources

As you begin the process of forming your South Dakota LLC, you may find the following additional resources helpful for guidance and next steps:

South Dakota Secretary of State official state website has forms and FAQs on creating an LLC in South Dakota.
IRS Tax Information for LLCs IRS site provides guidance on federal tax filing requirements and classifications for LLCs.

Reviewing this information can further prepare you for a smooth LLC formation process.


Starting an LLC in South Dakota can be a great way to benefit from the state’s business-friendly policies and tax advantages. As covered in this article, the key steps include choosing a business name and registered agent, filing the articles of organization, creating an operating agreement, obtaining licenses and permits, and meeting annual filing requirements.

South Dakota makes starting an LLC straightforward, with no minimum capital requirements, no state income taxes, and a low sales tax rate. Maintaining your LLC involves keeping records, holding meetings, filing an annual report, and paying taxes properly. By following the best practices outlined here and working with professionals like registered agents and accountants, your South Dakota LLC can be set up for success.

In conclusion, forming an LLC in South Dakota can help limit your personal liability and allow your business to operate more flexibly and tax-efficiently. We hope this guide has provided the key considerations and steps to help you establish your LLC with confidence.


What are the requirements to form an LLC in South Dakota?

To form an LLC in South Dakota, you need to file articles of organization with the Secretary of State’s office. You will need to include the company name, address of the registered agent, and names and addresses of the members. There is a $150 filing fee.

Does South Dakota require an operating agreement for an LLC?

No, South Dakota does not require an LLC to have an operating agreement. However, it is highly recommended to have one to outline ownership, rules, member responsibilities and more.

What are the ongoing compliance requirements for a South Dakota LLC?

South Dakota requires LLCs to file an annual report with the Secretary of State, which has a $50 fee. LLCs must also maintain a registered agent and business address in South Dakota. There is no requirement for LLCs to hold annual member meetings.

How is a South Dakota LLC taxed?

A South Dakota LLC is taxed as a pass-through entity, so no income tax is paid at the business level. Rather, profits and losses pass through to the members to be reported on their personal tax returns.

What are the main advantages of forming an LLC in South Dakota?

Major advantages include no state personal or corporate income tax, no franchise tax, flexible LLC laws, strong asset protection, privacy for company ownership, and low compliance requirements. This makes it appealing for those looking to register out-of-state.

Frank Gogol

A seasoned SEO expert, Frank has a long history of working with and for startups. Starting in mid-2018, Frank served as the SEO Strategist for Stilt, a fintech startup that provided fair loans for immigrants in the US and other underserved markets. While with the company, he scaled site traffic from zero to more than 1.5 million unique visits per month, driving the bulk of the company’s lead generation until it was acquired by J.G. Wentworth in December 2022. As employee #5 at Stilt, Frank was witness to, and part of, the successful building and sale of a fintech company, uniquely positioning him to create content for founders about all things startups.