How to Make Your Corporation Legitimate

Filing a corporation is the process of making a company legitimate and able to conduct legal business in the state.

To make a corporation legitimate in any state, you will need to file the Articles of Incorporation with the Secretary of State. You can then apply for a certificate of good standing from the department of state.

A certificate of good standing is a document certifying you are legally registered, up-to-date, and compliant with all state requirements. This is proof your business is legally allowed to transact business in the state.

Filing a Corporation

A company is an organization that sells goods or services and has ownership divided between shareholders. Besides traditional corporations there are limited liability companies, limited partnerships, and nonprofit organizations).

The term "corporation" is largely used to define a business with shareholders, usually a publicly held company.

Corporations may be privately held or publicly traded. Public corporations are listed on a stock exchange where shares of stock are sold on the open market. An example of a public corporation is Walmart, Inc., listed as WMT on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE).

Federal Corporation Filings

All corporations, domestic and foreign, will need to file documents on a federal level with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), including:

  • Tax returns
  • Dissolution documents
  • Employer Identification Number (EIN) filing
  • Mergers and acquisition proceedings
  • Annual and quarterly reports
  • Business information changes

IRS Filings

The IRS is involved with tax collection and reporting. Before forming a corporation, domestic business owners must file Form SS-4 in order to obtain an EIN.

Because corporations are separate entities from their owners, they must file Form 1120 to report their corporate income taxes (even if they don’t have any taxable income for that year).

There are different variations of Form 1120 depending on the structure of your corporation, including:

If a corporation decides to dissolve, they must also file a final tax return as well as Form 966.

SEC Filings

The SEC regulates US financial markets. Domestic publicly traded corporations must file reports with the SEC on an annual, quarterly, and “current” basis. The annual and quarterly reports disclose various information about the corporation, such as its financial condition or potential risks. The “current” report announces big financial events to a corporation’s shareholders.

The three forms needed for these reports are:

Federal Licenses and Permits

Depending on the nature of your corporation, you may need to file for federal licenses and permits. The federal government only regulates a certain number of industries (e.g., mining, transportation, nuclear energy, etc.), so check with the Small Business Administration website to see if your business is affected.

State Corporation Filings

Articles of Incorporation

To form a corporation, you will need to file formation documents with the state you intend on conducting business in. This is commonly referred to as the Articles of Incorporation, though some states refer to it as a Certificate of Incorporation or Certificate of Formation.

You will only need to file formation documents once with the state. If you decide to expand business to another state, you will need to file formation documents as a foreign corporation.

Annual Report

Some corporations may be required to file an annual report with the state. These filings may be updates to your business’s information (e.g., names and addresses of members/managers, etc.), a summary of the business’s finances, or a combination of both.

If your state requires an annual report, you'll typically need to file with the Secretary of State, Department of Revenue, or equivalent filing division. Most states offer online annual report filing, while other states mail-in or in-person filing. Failure to file an annual report on time could result in your corporation losing its good standing and may lead to dissolution.

State Licenses and Permits

State licenses are another thing you must file for annually. For example, most businesses require a business license when operating within certain localities. 

Your business may also need permits in order to operate. A restaurant, for example, will likely need to obtain health permits and food handler’s permits.

These licenses and permits typically cover a broader spectrum than federal licenses do, so you'll need to check with your state and city to find out what types of licenses are required.

Filing Online Using a Formation Service

Filing your business online is the easiest and least time-consuming way to file a business.

There are many online services that provide filing solutions (filings) for small business owners to help them stay in good standing and not receive a rejection email when filed online. You can get help with startup kits, incorporation, certificates, tax filing, and more through the Secretary of State.

Some of the best digital services include ZenBusiness and Rocket Lawyer.

ZenBusiness offers incorporation solutions for startups and entrepreneurs who want to start their own businesses. They also offer personalized plans to suit any business's needs. They ensure against rejected online filing when doing filings to form limited liability companies, a corporation, or any other business entity. They also have low fees and can serve as your company's registered agent and they help varying types of business entities maintain good standing with the states it is registered within.

Meanwhile, Rocket Lawyer provides a range of legal services. Everything from incorporation to workplace law to estate planning in order to help entrepreneurs who start their businesses from scratch or who want to expand them in the future. Rocket Lawyer also offers personalized legal services to suit any business entity type.

Final Takeaway

The main thing to keep in mind is that owning a corporation means filing regular paperwork. Mainly this entails filing annual reports, applying for and renewing business licenses and needed certificates, etc.

To keep on top of these filings, many companies rely on the help of formation services like ZenBusiness and Rocket Lawyer. We recommend the same since these services will keep you compliant in any state where your corporation is located.