How to File for an LCC in Illinois

Updated on January 22, 2024

Starting a limited liability company (LLC) in Illinois provides business owners with personal liability protection as well as tax and management flexibility. The Illinois Secretary of State’s office oversees the process, which involves choosing a business name, appointing a registered agent, filing the articles of organization, creating an operating agreement, obtaining an EIN from the IRS, and complying with licensing and permit requirements. This straightforward guide will walk through each step to help entrepreneurs formally establish an LLC in Illinois to legally and successfully operate their business in the state.

Understanding LLCs

An LLC, or limited liability company, is a business structure that combines aspects of partnerships and corporations. LLCs provide liability protection for the owners, called members, so their personal assets are generally protected from business debts and lawsuits. At the same time, LLCs allow pass-through taxation like partnerships, avoiding double taxation on business income.

Some key characteristics of an LLC:

  • Owners have limited personal liability for business debts and lawsuits
  • Profits and losses can pass through to the owners’ personal tax returns
  • Less paperwork and formalities than a corporation
  • Owners have flexibility in structuring management and dividing profits

Forming an LLC establishes a legal business entity and also provides flexibility in operations. Understanding the basics of LLCs is an important first step when starting your business.

Choosing a Name for Your LLC

When choosing a name for your Illinois LLC, you need to ensure it complies with state regulations. Your LLC name must contain the words “Limited Liability Company,” “L.L.C.,” or “LLC” to denote it is an LLC entity. It also cannot contain words restricted by the state such as “bank,” “trust,” or “insurance company.”

You’ll also want to check that your preferred LLC name is available and distinguishable from other businesses by using the Illinois Secretary of State business database search. The name you choose should ideally be unique, memorable, and descriptive of your business. Some tips when brainstorming names:

  • Keep it simple but impactful
  • Check available domain names that match
  • Ensure it’s easy to spell and pronounce

Taking the time to pick the right LLC name sets your new business up for success from the start.

Selecting a Registered Agent

When starting an LLC in Illinois, you must designate a registered agent. This is a person or business entity that agrees to accept legal documents on behalf of your LLC. Here’s what to know about choosing a registered agent:

  • The registered agent must have a physical address in Illinois, where they can receive official mail and legal notices for your business.
  • You can designate yourself, a trusted member or manager of the LLC, or hire a professional registered agent service. Using a service comes with a fee but may be more reliable.
  • Consider accessibility – your registered agent should be available during normal business hours to receive legal documents.
  • Choose carefully as you must keep your registered agent updated with the state when they change.

Selecting a dependable registered agent who understands their responsibilities is important for staying compliant as an LLC. Check requirements and options when forming your Illinois LLC.

Filing Your LLC Paperwork

Once you have chosen a business name and drafted your operating agreement, the next step is to file your LLC paperwork with the state. Here’s an overview of what’s required:

  • Articles of Organization – This document makes your LLC official with the state of Illinois. It must include your business name, address, purpose, membership details, organizer name and signature, and filing fee payment.
  • Initial Report – Within 6 months of filing your Articles of Organization, you must also submit an Initial Report to the state with additional details about your LLC members, managers, and nature of business.

You can file your paperwork online through the Illinois Secretary of State website or complete paper forms to mail in. The filing fee is $500 when filing online.

Once the Secretary of State approves your Articles of Organization and Initial Report, they will issue you a file number and date stamp serving as proof your LLC was officially registered in the state. This approval process usually takes around 5 business days if all paperwork is correctly filled out.

Remember to also get any necessary local licenses and permits for your LLC’s intended business operations after completing state-level filing.

I’ve focused this section specifically on the paperwork filing process with the Illinois Secretary of State’s office to formally register an LLC. I’ve included a basic overview of the required filings, options for submitting them, the state filing fee amount, and next steps after state approval. Please let me know if you would like me to modify or add anything to this section!

Drafting an LLC Operating Agreement

An operating agreement is a crucial document for any Illinois LLC that lays out the financial and functional decisions about how your business will run. While an operating agreement is not legally required in Illinois, having one can help settle any disputes between members down the road. Here’s what you need to know about drafting one:

  • Decide on management structure and voting rights. Will your LLC be member-managed or manager-managed? How many votes does each member get? The operating agreement should outline the management and voting procedures.
  • Establish ownership percentages and distribution of profits/losses. The operating agreement needs to clearly lay out the percentage of ownership each member has and how any profits and losses will be shared or divided.
  • Outline member responsibilities and duties. Specify what each member is expected to contribute to the LLC, like time, money, expertise, etc. This sets clear expectations.
  • Plan ahead for change of ownership. Your operating agreement should explain what happens if a member wants to leave the LLC or sell their interest. Establish clear procedures for valuation and transfer of ownership.
  • Add dispute resolution provisions. To avoid getting tied up in court, your operating agreement can require arbitration or mediation for any disputes between members before resorting to litigation.

Using an operating agreement template can help you get started drafting this important document. Consulting a business lawyer when finalizing it can help ensure compliance with Illinois laws. With a solid operating agreement in place, you’ll lay strong foundations for success as you start your Illinois LLC.

Obtaining Tax Identification Numbers

One of the key steps in forming an LLC in Illinois is obtaining tax identification numbers from federal and state agencies. This allows your LLC to pay taxes and comply with reporting requirements.

At the federal level, you will need an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS. This number identifies your business for tax purposes. You can easily apply for an EIN on the IRS website. At the state level, you will need an Illinois Business Tax (IBT) number. This is issued by the Illinois Department of Revenue when you register your LLC. The IBT number allows you to pay and report Illinois state taxes.

In summary, every Illinois LLC needs to obtain an EIN and an IBT number after formation. These tax IDs allow your business to operate legally and pay taxes at both federal and state levels. The application process is straightforward online through the respective agencies’ websites.

Pros and Cons of Starting an LLC in California

Starting a limited liability company (LLC) offers both advantages and disadvantages compared to other business structures. Some of the key pros and cons of forming an LLC in Illinois include:


  • Limited personal liability – An LLC protects your personal assets if the business is sued or has debts.
  • Tax flexibility – LLCs can choose tax treatment as a sole proprietorship, partnership, or corporation.
  • Credibility – The formal LLC structure carries more credibility with customers than a DBA.


  • Increased legal and tax obligations – LLCs require more record keeping, paperwork and compliance than sole proprietorships.
  • Higher startup costs – The Illinois LLC filing fees and setup costs are typically higher than other structures.

Overall, an LLC is one of the most flexible and protective business structures available for Illinois entrepreneurs. The increased credibility and liability protections often outweigh the minor additional legal and tax duties.

Cost Considerations

When starting an LLC in Illinois, there are several costs to consider. The filing fee to form an LLC with the Illinois Secretary of State is $500. There may also be fees if you choose to use an LLC formation service to handle the paperwork and filing process for you. Typical fees for these services range from $100-$250.

You may also need to pay EIN fees to obtain a federal Employer Identification Number if you plan to open a bank account or have employees. This costs $0 if done online. Additionally, you may choose to pay for an operating agreement, registered agent service, permits and licenses, accounting software, and other ongoing costs to start and run your Illinois LLC.

Economical LLC Formation Options

When starting an LLC in Illinois, it’s important to be cost-conscious and choose the most affordable formation option for your business. Here are some economical tips to keep LLC costs low:

  • Use an online service like LegalZoom or Incfile to form your LLC. These services charge $100-150 in filing fees, much less than hiring a business lawyer.
  • File the articles of organization yourself through the Illinois Secretary of State, rather than using a service. The state filing fee is $500, a fraction of what services charge.
  • Consider registering your LLC in Delaware instead of Illinois, even if your business is located in Illinois. Delaware has lower state fees and better business laws.

Additionally, don’t feel like you need fancy features like custom operating agreements or registered agent services. Standard agreements and listing yourself as the registered agent can save hundreds of dollars.

With some savvy choices, you can form an iron-clad Illinois LLC on even the most modest startup budget.

Pre-Formation Steps

Before officially forming your LLC in Illinois, you’ll need to take some key pre-formation steps. This includes:

  • Choose a business name – Select a unique name that is distinguishable from other businesses in Illinois. Check name availability by searching the Illinois Secretary of State database.
  • Appoint a registered agent – An LLC must designate a registered agent in Illinois to accept legal and tax documents on its behalf. This can be an individual resident or a registered agent service.
  • Draft an operating agreement – An operating agreement outlines the ownership structure, member responsibilities, distribution of profits and losses, etc. It’s an important governing document.
  • Obtain an EIN – Apply for an Employer Identification Number (EIN) to open business bank accounts and file taxes.

Completing these pre-filing steps allows for the actual LLC formation process to go smoothly and positions your Illinois LLC for success down the road. The next step is to file formation documents with the Secretary of State.

Comparing Business Entity Types

When starting a business in Illinois, you have several options for structuring your company. Some of the most common business structures include sole proprietorships, partnerships, corporations, and limited liability companies (LLCs). Here is a comparison of some key factors to consider when choosing an entity type:

  • Formation Requirements – Forming an LLC requires filing articles of organization, while corporations have more complex filing requirements. Sole proprietorships and partnerships require little formal registration.
  • Liability Protection – LLCs and corporations provide personal liability protection, meaning the owner’s personal assets are protected from business debts and lawsuits. Sole proprietors and partnerships do not.
  • Taxes – LLCs and partnerships allow pass-through taxation, meaning profits pass directly to the owners to be taxed at personal tax rates. Corporations are taxed at both corporate and personal rates.
  • Ownership Flexibility – LLCs allow for more flexible ownership agreements between members. Partnership and corporate ownership structures are more rigid.

Overall, LLCs provide a nice balance of liability protection, pass-through taxation, and flexibility for small businesses in Illinois. For more guidance on choosing a business structure, check out this informative article from the SBA.

After Filing Your LLC

Once your LLC formation documents have been filed with and approved by the state, there are some additional steps you need to take to legitimately operate your business.

  • Obtain an EIN. An Employer Identification Number (EIN) is essentially your business’s Social Security number for tax purposes. This step formally registers your LLC with the IRS.
  • Set up accounting procedures. Decide how you will keep financial records, what accounting software you might use, and whether you will handle accounting internally or work with an accountant.
  • Open a business banking account. This keeps your personal and business finances separate, which is important for liability protection. Be sure to obtain a tax ID from the IRS first.
  • Understand tax requirements. Stay up to date on business taxes in Illinois, including potential LLC fees, income taxes, employment taxes, and sales taxes you may need to collect and remit.
  • Obtain necessary permits and licenses. Check if your industry or local municipality requires specific permits and licenses in order to legally operate.
  • Create an operating agreement. An operating agreement governs relations between members and outlines LLC processes and protocols. It’s an extremely useful document as your business grows.

Handling these housekeeping items after initial filing establishes the infrastructure to smoothly run your Illinois LLC going forward. Staying on top of ongoing requirements and formalities will help keep your business compliant and protected.

Business Licenses and Permits

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

  • Business license – Most cities and counties in Illinois require all businesses to register for a business license. Fees are typically under $100 annually.
  • Sales tax license – If you plan to sell products, you’ll need a Retailers’ Occupation Tax (sales tax) license through the Illinois Department of Revenue.
  • Food service permit – Food-based businesses need a permit from the local health department before opening.
  • Trade licenses – Service providers in certain trades (construction, childcare, transportation, etc.) require state-issued licenses.

Be sure to research the specific license and permit requirements for your type of business in the city, county, and state where you plan to operate. The Illinois Business Portal helps direct you to the correct regulatory agencies.

Growth Considerations for Your LLC

As your Illinois LLC grows, there are some key things to consider. You may need to scale up operations, hire employees, or expand to multiple locations. Here are some growth tips:

  • Create a business growth strategy and revisit it annually. Outline short and long-term goals for things like revenue, locations, products/services, marketing, etc.
  • Consider if you should switch your taxation structure to an S corp as you scale up. Talk to your accountant about the pros and cons.
  • Hire employees carefully as you expand and consult the Illinois labor laws on issues like minimum wage and overtime.
  • Maintain organized records and keep business finances separate from personal finances. Use accounting software like QuickBooks.

With some planning and preparation, your Illinois LLC can grow successfully. Reinvesting profits back into the business is key for expansion over time.

Additional Resources

Forming an LLC in Illinois involves understanding various legal and tax considerations. Luckily, there are many useful online resources that can help guide you through the process. Below is a table with some recommended websites that provide valuable information on starting and operating an LLC in Illinois:

Illinois Secretary of State Illinois government site with LLC forms and filing information.
IRS Tax Information for LLCs site explaining federal tax classification and filing requirements for LLCs.

Reviewing these additional online resources can ensure you form your Illinois LLC properly and remain compliant with state and federal regulations. Reach out to a business lawyer or accountant as well for personalized advice.


Forming an LLC in Illinois provides important legal and tax benefits for small business owners. By following the key steps outlined in this article, you can officially establish your business as a separate legal entity from yourself personally. Be sure to choose a unique business name, designate a registered agent, file your articles of organization, create an operating agreement, obtain an EIN, and comply with licensing requirements. Additionally, be aware of ongoing maintenance tasks like filing annual reports. With the proper research and preparation, starting an LLC in Illinois is a straightforward process that lays the groundwork for your business’s future success. For more help, check out the Illinois Secretary of State business services site or consult a business attorney or accountant.

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What are the requirements to form an LLC in Illinois?

To form an LLC in Illinois, you need to file articles of organization with the Illinois Secretary of State. You’ll need to include the LLC’s name, address, purpose, and information about its membership structure. You’ll also need to pay a filing fee.

Do I need a registered agent if I form an LLC in Illinois?

Yes, Illinois requires all LLCs to designate and maintain a registered agent who has a physical address in Illinois. The registered agent is responsible for receiving official documents and legal notices on behalf of the LLC.

What are the publication requirements for an Illinois LLC?

Illinois requires newly formed LLCs to publish a legal notice of formation in a newspaper local to the LLC’s county within 30 days after filing the articles of organization. This provides public notice that the LLC has been created.

How do I get an EIN for my Illinois LLC?

You can apply for an employer identification number (EIN) from the IRS online or by completing IRS Form SS-4. The EIN serves as a tax ID number for your LLC for federal tax purposes.

How do I file taxes for an Illinois LLC?

An Illinois LLC can choose to be taxed as a pass-through entity like a partnership/sole proprietorship or as a corporation. You must file an annual report with Illinois and the LLC members must report profit/losses on their personal tax returns.

Is Illinois an affordable state to form an LLC in?

Yes, Illinois has affordable state fees to establish an LLC compared to other states. The filing fee is $500 for standard processing. There are also annual report filing fees to maintain the LLC.

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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.