How to File for an LCC in South Carolina

Updated on January 23, 2024

Starting a limited liability company (LLC) in South Carolina can be a wise business decision to limit personal liability and benefit from pass-through taxation. The South Carolina Secretary of State website provides an overview of the LLC formation process, but there are a few key steps you need to take. First, you must choose an available business name and register your LLC with the state. Next, create an operating agreement outlining financial and managerial details. Additionally, obtain any necessary business licenses and permits. Finally, make sure to comply with annual filing and tax requirements to stay compliant. This article will explore the step-by-step process to successfully form an LLC in South 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 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 require less startup paperwork and costs than corporations

Forming an LLC establishes a legal business entity separate from the owners. Understanding the basics of LLCs will help when starting your small business in South Carolina.

Choosing a Name for Your LLC

When starting an LLC in South Carolina, you must choose a business name that complies with state requirements. Your LLC name must include words like “Limited Liability Company,” “LLC,” or similar abbreviations. It also cannot be the same as another LLC registered in South Carolina.

You should check name availability by searching the South Carolina business database. An available LLC name that accurately describes your business can help with SEO too. Consider keywords that customers would search when looking for your products or services.

  • Brainstorm name ideas
  • Check name availability
  • Choose one that is unique, descriptive, and brandable

With a compliant and strategic LLC name, you can move forward with starting your business entity in South Carolina.

Selecting a Registered Agent

Every LLC formed in South Carolina must designate a registered agent to receive important legal and tax documents on behalf of the business. This agent must be available at a physical street address in South Carolina during normal business hours. You have a few options for your LLC’s registered agent:

  • You can hire a professional registered agent service. These companies charge an annual fee but ensure your mail is collected in a timely manner.
  • You can appoint a trusted person involved in the business, such as an owner or officer, to serve as the registered agent. Make sure this person lives in South Carolina.
  • In a pinch, you can use your home or office address and act as your own registered agent. Just know that this makes your personal address a matter of public record.

Take time to weigh the pros and cons of each option before designating your LLC’s registered agent in South Carolina.

Filing Your LLC Paperwork

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

  • File your Articles of Organization – This document contains basic information about your LLC such as the business name, registered agent, and mailing address. The filing fee is $110 and can be submitted online via the SC Business Filings website.
  • Obtain an EIN – An Employer Identification Number (EIN) is essentially your business’s Social Security Number for tax purposes. You can easily apply for one online through the IRS.
  • Make sure you stay compliant – South Carolina law requires LLCs to file an annual tax return and pay a $25 license fee to the Department of Revenue. You may also need to register for certain state and local taxes.

That covers the key steps for filing your initial South Carolina LLC paperwork. Just make sure you dot all your i’s and cross your t’s – setting up your LLC properly from the start will save you headaches down the road. The SC Secretary of State website also has helpful resources if you still have questions.

Drafting an LLC Operating Agreement

An operating agreement is an important document that outlines the financial and functional details of your South Carolina LLC. While South Carolina does not legally require an operating agreement, having one can help add legitimacy to your business and prevent disputes among members down the road.

Here are some key things to cover in your South Carolina LLC operating agreement:

  • Ownership percentages – Clearly establish equity stakes for each member.
  • Member roles and responsibilities – Define what each member’s duties entail.
  • Rules for holding meetings and voting – Detail protocols for making business decisions.
  • Capital contributions – Set expectations for members’ financial contributions.
  • Profit and loss distribution – Determine how you will share profits and losses.
  • Member changes – Address what happens when a member wants to leave, dies, etc.
  • Amendment procedures – Outline how you will modify the agreement in the future.

You can find a free operating agreement template on Nolo and customize it rather than drafting from scratch. Be sure to cover the key items above and consult a business lawyer before finalizing and adopting the document.

Having a comprehensive operating agreement will set clear expectations among members and help your South Carolina LLC operate transparently and effectively from the start.

Obtaining Tax Identification Numbers

One of the key steps in forming an LLC in South 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.
  • You’ll also need to register with the South Carolina Department of Revenue for tax purposes. You can set up your business tax accounts online after receiving your EIN.
  • If your LLC will have employees, you’ll need to set up accounts for payroll taxes and other employer responsibilities. The state websites above have information to help you get set up properly.

Having accurate tax ID numbers and registrations ensures you stay compliant as you start operating your South Carolina LLC. The state websites make it easy to set up everything you need for tax reporting and remittance.

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 South 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 South Carolina include:

  • Personal liability protection – LLC owners typically aren’t personally liable for business debts and lawsuits.
  • 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:

  • Increased paperwork – You must file annual reports to maintain your LLC.
  • Higher taxes – In some cases, an LLC may lead to higher taxes than a sole proprietorship.

Overall, weighing the pros and cons allows you to make an informed decision about whether starting an LLC is the right choice for your business.

Cost Considerations

When starting an LLC in South Carolina, there are several costs to consider. The filing fee to register an LLC with the South Carolina Secretary of State is $110. You may also need to pay local business license fees, which vary by county and city.

Other costs may include:

  • Attorney fees if you use a business lawyer to help establish your LLC – typically $500-$2,000
  • Registered agent fees if you appoint a third-party registered agent for $99-$299 per year
  • Accounting fees if you hire an accountant, especially if you want help setting up accounting software and systems

It’s a good idea to budget $1,000-1,500 to cover the initial costs of establishing your South Carolina LLC. Ongoing annual costs will also include your registered agent fee, business license renewal fee, and any accounting/tax filing fees.

Economical LLC Formation Options

When starting an LLC in South Carolina, 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. These services charge $79 – $99 plus state fees to form your LLC. They take care of preparing and filing the articles of organization with the state.
  • File yourself using the resources provided by the South Carolina Secretary of State. You can access all the forms and instructions for free online. The state filing fees are $110, so this is the most budget-friendly route. However, you have to research all the requirements yourself.
  • Work with a business attorney. While hiring a lawyer may seem expensive, some offer more affordable rates for basic LLC formations. Shop around to find options under $300.

All these options allow you to form an LLC while spending less upfront. However, it’s still wise to invest in any professional services you may need later for legal and tax compliance.

Pre-Formation Steps

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

  • Choose a business name – Select a unique name for your LLC that is distinguishable from other businesses in South Carolina. Check name availability by searching the South Carolina business database.
  • Appoint a registered agent – All South Carolina LLCs must designate a registered agent, who is a person or business that agrees to accept legal documents on behalf of your LLC. Use the registered agent search tool to find options.
  • Draft operating agreement – An operating agreement governs the operations of your LLC. While not required in South Carolina, having one is considered a best practice.
  • Obtain EIN – Apply for an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS, which you’ll need to open business bank accounts and file taxes.

Once you complete these pre-filing steps, you’ll have all the necessary pieces in place to officially register your South Carolina LLC by submitting Articles of Organization.

Comparing Business Entity Types

When starting a business in South 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 owned and operated by one person. This is the simplest business structure, but the business owner is personally liable for all debts and obligations of the business. A partnership involves two or more business co-owners who share control and profits. As with sole proprietorships, partners have unlimited personal liability for the partnership’s debts and liabilities.

An LLC is a more formal business structure that combines aspects of partnerships and corporations. Like a partnership, profits and losses can be passed through to personal tax returns. However, similar to a corporation, LLC owners have limited personal liability for business debts and claims. Other perks are LLCs can have an unlimited number of owners, transfer of ownership is easy, and there are fewer regulations and paperwork than a corporation.

  • Sole proprietorship – one owner, no personal liability protection
  • Partnership – two or more owners, no personal liability protection
  • LLC – one or more owners, personal liability protection for owners

In most cases, forming an LLC offers the best features for a small business in South Carolina seeking liability protection for its owners while avoiding double taxation on profits.

After Filing Your LLC

Once your LLC paperwork has been submitted and approved by the South Carolina Secretary of State, there are still some important next steps to take to make sure your LLC remains compliant and protected.

  • Obtain an EIN. An Employer Identification Number (EIN) will serve as your business’s tax ID number for federal tax purposes. You can easily apply for one online.
  • Create an operating agreement. While not legally required, having an operating agreement will help establish business practices, ownership details, voting rights, rules for assignment of interests, and more.
  • Understand tax requirements. Most LLCs with more than one owner are taxed as partnerships, while single-member LLCs can choose between being taxed as a sole proprietorship or a corporation. Ensure you comply with all state and federal tax obligations for your type of LLC.
  • Open a business banking account. This will help you keep your personal and business finances separate. You will need your EIN to open an account.
  • Obtain necessary licenses and permits. Depending on your industry, location, and business activities, you may need to apply for local, state, or federal licenses. Use the SC Business Licensing Wizard to find requirements.

Following these key steps after formally registering your LLC will ensure you operate legally and protect your personal assets from liability. Consulting with accounting and legal professionals can also help make this process smooth. With the proper diligence, you’ll be running your South Carolina LLC efficiently in no time.

Business Licenses and Permits

Depending on your type of business, you may need to obtain specific licenses and permits from South Carolina and local governments before operating in the state. Some common licenses and permits include:

  • Business license – Most businesses need a general state business license, which you can apply for on the SC Department of Revenue website.
  • Sales tax permit – If selling taxable goods, you’ll need a sales tax permit. You can complete the online sales tax permit application.
  • Zoning permits – Check your local county and city government to determine if your business requires any zoning or land use permits.
  • Health department permits – Restaurants, food producers, child care centers, and other facilities may need permits from the health department.

As you set up your LLC, research the relevant licenses for your industry and location. Permit and license requirements can vary greatly depending on your business activities. Connect with your local Small Business Development Center for guidance on licenses and permits for starting an LLC in South Carolina.

Growth Considerations for Your LLC

As your South Carolina LLC grows, you’ll need to consider some key factors. First, ensure your LLC operating agreement outlines processes for adding members or managers. You’ll also need to file the proper paperwork with the SC Secretary of State if members change. Additionally, review your business license and sales tax obligations as revenue increases. Furthermore, consider business insurance needs like liability coverage as your client base expands. Finally, work with an accountant to ensure proper financial processes and tax filing as the LLC scales.

Having robust systems in place makes growth easier for South Carolina LLCs. Consult legal, tax and insurance professionals to ensure compliance and responsibility at each new level.

Additional Resources

As you begin your LLC formation journey, you may need additional help along the way. Thankfully, South Carolina provides useful online resources with information to guide you. The table below outlines a few key places you can access to answer common questions.

SC Secretary of State Website state website with forms, fees, and steps for forming an LLC in South Carolina.
SC Department of Revenue on business taxes, licenses, audits and more for South Carolina businesses.

Checking these official state websites lets you directly access resources published by the government agencies overseeing LLCs. Their guidance can ensure your new business follows all required rules and regulations in South Carolina.


Starting an LLC in South Carolina provides numerous benefits for small business owners, including personal asset protection, tax advantages, and credibility with customers. As outlined above, the key steps are choosing a business name and structure, registering with the SC Secretary of State, creating an operating agreement, obtaining business licenses and tax IDs, opening business banking accounts, and maintaining compliance.

With the proper research and preparation, starting an LLC can be a smooth process that sets your business up for success. Be sure to educate yourself on all legal and tax requirements or consult a business attorney and CPA for guidance. If you follow each step carefully and remain organized with your paperwork, your South Carolina LLC will be off to a great start.

We wish you the best as you embark on your new entrepreneurial journey!


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

To form an LLC in South Carolina, you need to file articles of organization with the South Carolina 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 particular business.

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

The filing fee to form an LLC in South Carolina is $110. You may also need to pay fees for registering your LLC with the county/city and getting any required licenses or permits. Expect startup costs to range from $500 – $1,000+ when accounting for all state and legal fees.

What information do I need to provide when filing articles of organization?

When filing the articles of organization, you will need to provide the LLC name, principal place of business address, registered agent information, and the names and addresses of the LLC members/managers. You also need to indicate if the LLC will be member-managed or manager-managed.

Does South Carolina require any special provisions in an operating agreement?

Yes, if the LLC has multiple members, South Carolina law requires certain provisions to be included in the operating agreement, like rules for distributions, voting procedures, buyout rights, how new members are admitted, etc. An attorney can ensure you include the required provisions.

What are the ongoing compliance requirements and maintenance fees for an LLC in South Carolina?

South Carolina LLCs need to file an annual tax return and pay a $25 annual fee to remain in good standing. LLCs also need to keep records of finances and operations, hold member/manager meetings, file amended articles if any changes are made, etc. to remain compliant.

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