How to File for an LCC in North Carolina

Updated on January 23, 2024

Starting a limited liability company (LLC) in North Carolina can be a wise business decision to limit personal liability and benefit from pass-through taxation. The North Carolina Secretary of State makes forming an LLC straightforward if you follow the necessary steps. First, you’ll need to choose a business name and register it. Next, you’ll file the North Carolina articles of organization form. You’ll also need to create an operating agreement and obtain an EIN from the IRS. Furthermore, you must comply with licensing, tax registration, and ongoing requirements. This article outlines the key steps to legally forming an LLC in North Carolina.

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 the number of owners, providing more flexibility than a corporation.

Some key points about LLCs:

  • LLCs limit personal liability for business debts and lawsuits
  • LLCs allow pass-through taxation for owners
  • LLCs have fewer regulations and formalities than corporations
  • LLCs offer flexibility in management structure and ownership

Forming an LLC establishes a legal business entity separate from the owners. Understanding the basics of LLCs is an important first step when starting one in North Carolina.

Choosing a Name for Your LLC

When starting an LLC in North Carolina, an important early step is choosing the right name. There are a few key rules you need to follow:

  • The name must include the words “Limited Liability Company,” or the abbreviation “L.L.C.” or “LLC.”
  • The name cannot contain words restricted by North Carolina law, such as “bank,” “trust,” or “insurance company.” Check the North Carolina restricted words list.
  • Your LLC name must be distinguishable from other businesses registered in North Carolina. Search the North Carolina business database to double check.

Choosing the right unique LLC name for your new North Carolina business is important to convey your brand. With some thoughtful brainstorming and database searches, you can find an available name that works.

Selecting a Registered Agent

One of the requirements for forming an LLC in North Carolina is designating a registered agent. This is a person or business that agrees to accept legal documents on behalf of your LLC if you are sued or served papers. 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 is convenient but means you must be available at your registered office address to receive legal documents.
  • You can hire an independent registered agent service. These companies act as your registered agent for a fee. They receive legal papers on behalf of your business and forward them to you.
  • Your registered agent must have a physical street address in North Carolina, not just a P.O. Box. The registered office address is public record in the North Carolina Secretary of State’s databases.

Take time to consider your options and select a reliable registered agent, as this person has an important role in the legal obligations and maintenance of your North Carolina LLC.

Filing Your LLC Paperwork

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

  • File your Annual Report form with the Secretary of State to maintain your LLC status. This must be done by April 15 every year.
  • If your LLC has employees, you may need to apply for a Federal Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS.
  • Create an Operating Agreement to outline financial and management procedures for your LLC.
  • You may need additional business licenses and permits depending on your industry and location. Check requirements with your county and city government offices.

Keeping up with annual reports and having clear operating procedures will help keep your NC LLC in good legal standing. Consider connecting with a business attorney or accountant to ensure you meet all ongoing compliance needs as well.

Drafting an LLC Operating Agreement

An operating agreement is an important document that outlines the financial and functional decisions in an LLC. Here are key steps to draft an operating agreement for your North Carolina LLC:

  • Define membership structure – Clearly lay out the ownership percentages and distribution of profits/losses amongst members. Specify if additional members can be added later.
  • Assign management roles – Determine whether your LLC will be member-managed or manager-managed. Define the roles and responsibilities of each position.
  • State voting procedures – Decide the percentage of votes required to approve company decisions and amendments to the operating agreement.
  • Allocate profits and losses – Explain how income, expenses, profits, and financial obligations will be divided among members.

You can draft your North Carolina LLC operating agreement template yourself or work with an online legal services provider. Ensure your agreement complies with state laws. For example, North Carolina requires LLCs to allow members inspection of company records upon reasonable demand.

The operating agreement creates clarity in business operations and helps resolve disputes amongst members internally. It is a critical document for your LLC’s finances and functions. Review and update it as your business evolves.

Obtaining Tax Identification Numbers

One of the key steps in forming an LLC in North Carolina is obtaining tax identification numbers from federal and state agencies. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Apply for an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS. This number will identify your business for federal tax purposes. You can apply for an EIN online.
  • Obtain a North Carolina Department of Revenue Registration Number. You’ll use this for reporting sales tax and other state taxes. You can register online with the NC Department of Revenue.
  • If you plan to collect and pay sales tax, you’ll also need a Certificate of Registration. This certifies that you can collect sales tax. You can complete the NC-BR form to obtain your Certificate.

Having these tax IDs and registrations in place makes sure your new NC LLC complies with federal and state tax laws.

Pros and Cons of Starting an LLC in California

Starting a limited liability company (LLC) can be a great way to formally structure your small business in North Carolina. However, as with any business structure, there are both advantages and disadvantages to consider.

Some of the key pros of starting an LLC in North Carolina include:

  • Personal liability protection – LLC members are typically not personally liable for business debts and liabilities
  • Tax flexibility – LLCs allow you to choose how your business is taxed
  • Credibility – Forming an LLC establishes business credibility with customers

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

  • Increased startup costs – Forming an LLC has filing fees between $125-$200 in North Carolina
  • Administrative requirements – LLCs require creating an operating agreement and filing annual reports

Overall, LLCs can provide key protections and credibility for North Carolina small business owners. But the ongoing administrative tasks are important to factor in as well.

Cost Considerations

When starting an LLC in North Carolina, there are several costs you need to consider:

  • Filing fees – It costs $125 to file the Articles of Organization to register your LLC with the North Carolina Secretary of State.
  • Registered agent fees – North Carolina requires all LLCs to have a registered agent, which costs around $125 per year.
  • Operating agreement – While not legally required, having an operating agreement ($40-$200) outlines the ownership and management of your LLC.

Additionally, you may incur fees for business licenses, permits, accounting services, insurance, and legal services. Consider these costs carefully when budgeting for your new North Carolina LLC.

Economical LLC Formation Options

When starting an LLC in North Carolina, 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 $100-200 in total fees.
  • File yourself using the North Carolina Secretary of State website. Filing fees are $125, but you save on preparation fees.
  • Work with a business attorney who offers flat-fee LLC filing services for those on a tight budget. They may charge around $300-500 total.

While the DIY option is cheapest, using an online service or business attorney ensures your LLC is set up correctly. Evaluate costs versus value as you choose the best formation option for your budget.

Pre-Formation Steps

Taking the proper pre-formation steps when starting an LLC in North Carolina is important to ensure your business is legally compliant from day one. Here are some key steps to take before formally creating your LLC:

  • Choose a business name that complies with North Carolina’s naming requirements, and check name availability by searching the NC Secretary of State database.
  • Draft your articles of organization to define key business information like company purpose, principal office address, and registered agent.
  • Select a registered agent with an in-state physical address to accept legal documents on behalf of your LLC.
  • Create an operating agreement outlining financial and managerial structure for your LLC.
  • Obtain an EIN from the IRS to open business bank accounts and file taxes.

Completing these key pre-filing steps will ensure your North Carolina LLC is set up properly before final formation and registration with the Secretary of State.

Comparing Business Entity Types

When starting a business in North Carolina, 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 of the business.
  • A partnership is formed when two or more people share ownership of a single business. Like sole proprietors, partners generally have unlimited personal liability for the partnership’s debts and obligations.
  • A limited liability company (LLC) combines the pass-through taxation of a partnership or sole proprietorship with the limited personal liability protection of a corporation. For most small businesses, LLCs offer the best of both worlds.

Forming an LLC protects your personal assets from business debts and claims arising from the company’s activities and operations. This makes the LLC structure ideal for small business owners in North Carolina looking to minimize their personal risk.

After Filing Your LLC

Once your Articles of Organization have been filed with the North Carolina Secretary of State, there are still some important next steps you need to take to legally form your LLC.

  • Obtain an EIN. An Employer Identification Number (EIN) is essentially your business’s Social Security Number for tax purposes. You’ll need an EIN even if you don’t plan to hire employees. Apply online at
  • Set up accounting and recordkeeping for your LLC. This includes things like opening a business bank account, keeping detailed financial records, and more.
  • Understand any licensing and permits you may need on the state and local levels for your type of business.
  • Consider creating an operating agreement. This document outlines the ownership breakdown, rules, and regulations for running your LLC. It’s recommended for multi-member LLCs and can provide legal protection.
  • Get appropriate business insurance like General Liability Insurance. Review options with an insurance agent experienced in working with small businesses.

Following these key next steps after filing allows you to legally and properly set up and operate your North Carolina LLC.

Business Licenses and Permits

When starting an LLC in North Carolina, 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 North Carolina require businesses to obtain a general business license to legally operate. Fees typically range from $25 to $100 annually.
  • Zoning permit – If you plan to operate your business out of a physical commercial space, you may need to get a zoning permit or conditional use permit to ensure your business activities are allowed under local zoning laws.
  • Sales tax ID – If you plan to sell products, you’ll need to register for a sales tax ID in order to collect and remit sales tax.
  • Industry-specific licenses – Certain industries like construction, childcare, restaurants, beauty salons etc. require special licenses and permits to legally operate in North Carolina.

Be sure to check with your local county clerk’s office and city administration to determine exactly which licenses and permits your LLC will need before getting started.

Growth Considerations for Your LLC

As your North Carolina LLC grows, there are some key considerations to keep in mind. Proper planning for growth will help ensure your LLC continues operating smoothly.

  • Evaluate if you should switch to S corporation status for potential tax savings as profits increase.
  • Consider hiring employees instead of contractors and be ready to handle payroll taxes.
  • Develop a financial strategy and work with an investor or lender if you need capital to scale.
  • Update your business registration if you expand your products, services, or operations.
  • Consult a business lawyer and accountant to ensure you remain compliant with all North Carolina rules and regulations.

Putting the right growth systems and team in place takes planning but sets up your North Carolina LLC for sustainable success.

Additional Resources

If you still have questions after reviewing the steps on how to form an LLC in North Carolina, below are some helpful external resources. These sites provide useful information on business formation, licensing, taxes, and more.

NC Secretary of State NC SOS site with info on business registration, forms, and filings.
IRS info and resources for small businesses and self-employed individuals.

Reviewing these additional online resources can supplement what you’ve learned about starting an LLC in North Carolina. Reach out for assistance if you still have questions.


Starting an LLC in North Carolina provides many benefits for small business owners, such as personal asset protection and tax advantages. By following the key steps outlined in this article, you can officially form your LLC with the North Carolina Secretary of State’s office.

In summary, the main steps are:

By completing these steps to legally form your LLC, you can take advantage of limited liability protections, flexibility in management and taxation, and credibility with customers. We wish you the best as you start your North Carolina LLC!


What are the requirements to form an LLC in North Carolina?

To form an LLC in North Carolina, you need to file articles of organization with the NC Secretary of State, appoint a registered agent, create an operating agreement, obtain an EIN from the IRS, and meet any licensing or permit requirements for your industry.

How much does it cost to start an LLC in North Carolina?

The filing fee to form an LLC in North Carolina is $125. You may also need to pay fees for registered agent service, drafting an operating agreement, obtaining licenses, etc. Total costs are typically $200-500.

Does North Carolina have any specific requirements for LLC names?

Yes, in North Carolina LLC names must contain the words “Limited Liability Company” or the abbreviation “L.L.C.” or “LLC”. The name must be distinguishable from other businesses registered in the state.

What are the requirements for LLC members and managers in North Carolina?

North Carolina does not require LLCs to have members or managers. If you want managers, you should specify them in the operating agreement. There are no residency or citizenship requirements for members and managers.

Does North Carolina require annual reports for LLCs?

Yes, North Carolina LLCs must file an annual report and pay a $200 fee to the Secretary of State. The annual report is due by April 15.

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.