How to File for an LCC in North Dakota

Updated on January 23, 2024

Starting a limited liability company (LLC) in North Dakota can be a great way to formally structure your small business. An LLC combines aspects of partnerships and corporations to provide personal liability protection while allowing pass-through taxation. North Dakota has business-friendly LLC laws that make it simple to establish your company. In this article, we’ll walk through the key steps you need to take to form an LLC in North Dakota, including choosing a business name and structure, filing formation documents, creating an operating agreement, obtaining licenses, and more. Following this straightforward North Dakota LLC startup process will ensure your new business is properly set up for success.

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 they file with the IRS. This provides more flexibility than a standard corporation.

Some key benefits of an LLC include:

  • Personal liability protection for business debts and legal claims
  • Fewer regulations and formalities than a standard corporation
  • Flexible management structure and distribution of profits
  • Ability to select how the business is taxed

When starting an LLC in North Dakota, understanding these basics of LLCs will help you determine if it’s the right business structure for your goals and situation.

Choosing a Name for Your LLC

When choosing a name for your North Dakota LLC, you need to make sure it complies with state requirements. Your LLC name must contain the words “Limited Liability Company,” “Limited Company,” or the abbreviation “L.L.C.” or “LLC” to indicate it is an LLC. The name also cannot be the same as another business entity already registered in North Dakota.

You’ll want to check name availability by searching the North Dakota Secretary of State business database. An available business name that is distinctive, memorable, and describes what your LLC does is ideal. You can even buy an established “aged” LLC name on websites like Flippa if you have the budget.

Once you’ve chosen a compliant, available LLC name, you can move forward with filing your Articles of Organization to officially register your North Dakota LLC.

Selecting a Registered Agent

When starting an LLC in North Dakota, you must designate a registered agent. This agent receives important legal and tax documents on behalf of your LLC and forwards them to you. You have a few options for choosing a registered agent:

  • You can appoint yourself as the registered agent if you reside in North Dakota. This avoids paying fees to third parties.
  • Hire a third-party registered agent service to accept documents on your LLC’s behalf. This costs around $100-200 per year but saves you time and effort.
  • Appoint a trusted friend or family member who lives in North Dakota as your registered agent. Make sure they are reliable and organized.

Regardless of who you choose, be sure your registered agent is available during business hours to receive legal documents. Failing to respond to documents in a timely manner could lead to penalties or dissolution of your 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 North Dakota Secretary of State. Here are the key steps:

  • Prepare your Articles of Organization – This form establishes your LLC and requires important details like your business name, registered agent, and business purpose.
  • File the Articles of Organization – You can file your paperwork online through the SOS 24/7 portal, by mail, or in person. The filing fee is $135.
  • Obtain an EIN – Apply for your Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS to handle tax obligations.
  • Make any licensing applications – Depending on your industry, you may need special business licenses or permits locally or statewide before operating.

Once your paperwork is processed and approved, which takes 5-7 business days, your North Dakota LLC will be officially registered and authorized to operate. Remember to adhere to all ongoing compliance requirements as well.

Drafting an LLC Operating Agreement

After forming your North Dakota LLC, the next important step is to create an operating agreement. An operating agreement is a document that outlines the ownership structure, member responsibilities, distribution of profits and losses, voting rights, and other governance rules for your LLC. While an operating agreement is not legally required in North Dakota, it is highly recommended for all LLCs.

Here are some key things to address in your North Dakota LLC operating agreement:

  • Ownership structure – Spell out the percentage interests of each member and rules around transferring or selling ownership stakes.
  • Member roles and responsibilities – Define if there will be any managers separate from members.
  • Capital contributions – Detail any contributions members will make to the business.
  • Profits, losses, and distributions – Explain how you will share profits and losses, and distribute funds to members.
  • Voting and management rules – Determine voting rights and rules around company decisions.
  • Amendment procedures – Outline protocols for making changes to the operating agreement.

You can find an LLC operating agreement template online to make drafting your agreement straightforward. Using a template allows you to edit key details for your North Dakota LLC while covering all the essentials. You may also want to consult a business lawyer when creating your operating agreement to ensure your document is legally sound.

With an operating agreement in place, you’ll establish clear rules and processes for running your North Dakota LLC from the start. This can help prevent disputes among members down the road and ensure your business operates smoothly as it grows.

Obtaining Tax Identification Numbers

One of the key steps in forming an LLC in North Dakota 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 easily apply for an EIN online.
  • You’ll also need a North Dakota Tax ID from the North Dakota Office of State Tax Commissioner. This registers your LLC to pay taxes in North Dakota.
  • Make sure to get your EIN and North Dakota Tax ID before opening up any bank accounts or hiring employees for your North Dakota LLC.

Properly registering for federal and North Dakota tax IDs legitimizes your LLC and allows you to operate legally within the state. Just don’t forget this important compliance step.

Pros and Cons of Starting an LLC in California

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

  • No state income tax on traditional LLCs
  • Low initial filing fees and annual report fees
  • Flexible management structure options
  • Easy ongoing compliance requirements

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

  • North Dakota charges franchise taxes on LLCs earning over $40,000 per year
  • Must have a registered agent with a North Dakota address
  • Cold winters may make visiting North Dakota offices less appealing

Overall, North Dakota provides a business-friendly environment for starting and operating an LLC while limiting owners’ personal liability.

Cost Considerations

When starting an LLC in North Dakota, there are several costs to consider. The filing fee to register an LLC is $135. You may also need to pay a sales tax permit fee depending on your business activities. Additionally, you may incur fees for:

  • Business license and permits
  • Accounting and legal services for setting up the LLC
  • Office space or retail location rental
  • Equipment, inventory, and other startup operating costs
  • Hiring employees

Carefully estimate these potential costs before forming your North Dakota LLC to ensure you have sufficient operating capital. The North Dakota Information Center provides useful financial planning resources for new businesses.

Economical LLC Formation Options

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

  • Use an online service like LegalZoom or Incfile to form your LLC. These services charge $100-200 in total fees.
  • Hire a business attorney to review your articles of organization and filing. This will cost less than having them complete the entire filing, with fees around $200-300.
  • File yourself using the North Dakota Secretary of State website. The state filing fee is $135, so you’ll just need to prepare your own articles of organization.

Going with the most basic, DIY route can save you more than $100 in startup costs. However, working with an online service or attorney provides extra guidance and legal protection. Evaluate your business needs and budget to decide what works best.

Pre-Formation Steps

Taking the proper pre-formation steps when starting a limited liability company (LLC) in North Dakota is important to ensure your business is set up correctly. Here are some key steps to take before formally creating your LLC:

  • Choose a business name – Pick a name that is distinguishable from other businesses in North Dakota. Check the Secretary of State website to ensure your chosen name is available.
  • Draft an operating agreement – This document outlines financial and functional decisions in running your LLC. While not required, it can help prevent disputes among members.
  • Select a registered agent – All North Dakota LLCs need a registered agent, who can receive legal documents on behalf of your business.
  • File IRS SS-4 form – Obtain an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS to open a business bank account and pay taxes.

Following these key pre-formation steps allows you to establish the foundation to smoothly form your North Dakota LLC. The next step would be to file your Articles of Organization with the Secretary of State.

Comparing Business Entity Types

When starting a business in North 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 have unlimited personal liability for each partner.
  • A limited liability company (LLC) combines aspects of partnerships and corporations to limit personal liability while allowing pass-through taxation. LLC owners have limited personal liability for business debts and claims.

Forming an LLC protects your personal assets while still allowing business income and losses to pass through to your personal tax return. For these liability and tax advantages, most small business owners in North Dakota choose to structure their companies as LLCs.

After Filing Your LLC

Once your LLC formation documents have been filed with the North Dakota Secretary of State and approved, there are a few more steps you need to take to properly set up your LLC.

  • Obtain an EIN. An Employer Identification Number (EIN) is essentially your business’s Social Security number for tax purposes. This is free to obtain from the IRS.
  • Set up a business bank account. Most banks have products specifically for new LLCs. Be sure to shop around for the best fees and interest rates.
  • Create an operating agreement. This document outlines the ownership breakdown, member responsibilities, voting rights, profit/loss distribution, and other governance rules for your LLC. While not legally required, it’s highly recommended.
  • Comply with licensing and permit requirements for your industry and location. Use the North Dakota Business Registration Assistant tool to find any state or local licenses you may need.

Additionally, as you start conducting business, you’ll need to comply with ND and IRS requirements for paying taxes, maintaining financial records, filing an annual report with the Secretary of State, and more. Consider working with legal, accounting, and tax professionals to ensure your new LLC remains compliant.

Business Licenses and Permits

When starting an LLC in North 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 North 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 apply for a sales tax permit from the North Dakota Office of State Tax Commissioner.
  • Industry-specific licenses – Certain industries like construction, childcare, food services, etc. require special licenses and permits from state agencies. Check requirements with your industry regulatory body.

Be sure to research the specific license and permit requirements for your type of LLC with the North Dakota Secretary of State’s business licensing guide. Requirements can vary by location and business activity. Applying early in the startup process ensures you have legal permission to operate.

Growth Considerations for Your LLC

As your North Dakota LLC grows, there are some key things to consider. First, you may need to restructure your LLC for tax purposes. An LLC is automatically taxed as a partnership or sole proprietorship unless you elect S-corp or C-corp status with the IRS. Consider which structure makes the most sense as your income and expenses change.

You’ll also want to look at your business insurance needs. As you take on more clients or inventory, you may need to increase liability coverage or add other policies. Review insurance needs at least annually as your LLC grows.

  • Consider bringing on employees vs contractors
  • Develop a financial system to track revenue and expenses
  • Create an operating agreement if you bring on partners

Keeping these considerations in mind will help set up your growing North Dakota LLC for success. Be proactive as your business scales to build a solid foundation.

Additional Resources

Forming an LLC in North Dakota requires understanding the legal and tax implications. Luckily, there are helpful online resources available. The table below provides a summary of useful external sites with additional information on starting an LLC in North Dakota. These resources cover topics like registering your business, obtaining licenses and permits, understanding legal and tax obligations, and more. Checking out these sites can supplement the steps outlined above and provide more details as you establish your North Dakota LLC. With thorough preparation using these resources to guide you, you’ll be well on your way to successfully launching your business.

North Dakota Secretary of State information and resources for registering your LLC with the state of North Dakota.
IRS Tax Information for LLCs federal tax filing requirements and classifications for LLCs.


Starting an LLC in North Dakota requires following some key steps – choosing a business name and registering it with the Secretary of State, drafting an operating agreement, obtaining an EIN from the IRS, and complying with licensing and permit requirements based on your industry. While the process may seem daunting initially, breaking it down into manageable tasks makes it much more feasible.

As you take the journey to start and grow your North Dakota LLC, be sure to leverage the many available resources providing guidance and support. Reach out to other entrepreneurs, mentors, and business networks for advice and best practices. Stay up-to-date on the latest compliance rules and regulations. Most importantly, don’t be afraid to start small, test ideas in the market, and learn along the way.

With focus, planning, and perseverance, you can turn your business concept into a successful North Dakota LLC.


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

To form an LLC in North Dakota, you need to file articles of organization with the 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. You also need at least one member to form an LLC.

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

The filing fee to form an LLC in North Dakota is $135. You may also need to pay fees for drafting an operating agreement, obtaining licenses, etc. Overall costs are typically a few hundred dollars or more.

What are the steps to start an LLC in North Dakota?

The key steps are: choose an LLC name and check availability; file articles of organization and pay fees; appoint a registered agent; draft an operating agreement; obtain an EIN; obtain business licenses/permits; make a public announcement of LLC formation; create an LLC bank account; and follow ongoing compliance requirements.

Does North Dakota have any specific compliance requirements for LLCs?

Yes, North Dakota requires LLCs to file an annual report each year, maintain a registered agent, track membership interests, hold member/manager meetings, and keep meeting minutes and financial records. You must also file articles of amendment if you change the LLC name or ownership structure.

How long does it take to form an LLC in North Dakota?

It typically takes 1-2 weeks to form an LLC in North Dakota if you complete all the steps correctly. You can expedite filing to 24 hours by paying extra state fees. However overall setup may take 1-2 months including obtaining licenses, tax IDs, permits etc.

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