Step 1) Verify & Secure Your Brand Name
Choosing a stellar business name is the very first step toward forming — and branding — your Alaska corporation. Alaska requires your brand name to:
- Be distinguishable from any existing business in Alaska. They define “distinguishable” on the Department of Commerce website.
- Contain the word “corporation”, “company”, “limited”, “incorporated”, or an abbreviation of one of these.
- Not contain any vulgarities.
- Not mislead the public about the business’ purpose, or imply that it’s a governmental unit.
Keep in mind that this isn’t just a legal issue — choosing a name that’s memorable and easy to differentiate from other businesses is extremely important for branding, too.
What To Do:
Do a business name search on Alaska’s corporation database and see if your ideal name is up for grabs.
If it’s already taken, you’ll need to the necessary steps to make your name distinguishable from the existing business, or consider rethinking your name altogether. If it’s available, you have the option to reserve your business name for $25.00, but this is by no means required in Alaska.
It’s also worth searching GoDaddy at this time to see if there’s a good domain name available for purchase. Again, remember this is a branding effort — it needs to be easy for people to find your company. If there’s an intuitive name available, we recommend locking it down now, even if you’re not going to build a website right away.
Quick Note: Before you commit 100% to a name, you may also want to check that there’s a decent URL available for your business. Use WEEBLY to search your options. If there’s a quality domain name for purchase, we advise buying it right away. Even if launching a business website isn’t on your radar right now, it’s going to be soon, and you might as well nail down a domain name that’ll make it easy for customers to find you!
Step 2) Appoint A Registered Agent
Before you can officially form your corporation, you need to choose someone to act as your registered agent.
An Alaska registered agent can be an individual who’s a resident of the state, or a corporation that’s authorized to represent businesses in the state. They’ll be responsible for accepting tax forms, service of process notices and other legal documents on behalf of your corporation.
Legally, Alaska does not prevent a member of the corporation from acting as the registered agent, but we encourage you to consider appointing a third-party professional. Why? Because if you act as your own, you’ll have to:
- Maintain normal (9-5) business hours at your home or business address.
- Publically link your home address to your business (if you work from home)
- Risk being served in front of coworkers, friends or family members
- Sort your mail very carefully and open it promptly to avoid missing any important deadlines
Again, it’s totally legal, but odds are you already have enough on your plate to make it work.
What To Do:
Read our registered agent guide if you’re thinking about taking on the task yourself, or delegating it to a coworker. If you decide that it’s doable, go ahead and sign yourself up on your Articles of Incorporation.
Otherwise, our top recommendation for professional registered agent services is IncFile. They’re an online incorporation service that offers a free year of registered agent services when you form your corporation with them — it’s honestly a very good deal.
Step 3) File Articles Of Incorporation
Filing your Articles of Incorporation is a significant step for your business. After this, you’ll be a proper Alaska corporation. This document will ask for:
- The name and purpose of your corporation
- Your NAICS code (find yours here)
- The name, physical address and mailing address of your Alaska registered agent
- The number of shares your business is authorized to issue
- The name and signature of your incorporator(s)
Alaska enables you to file online or on paper, and either way you’ll also be required to pay the $250.00 filing fee. If you choose to take care of this step in hard copy, you’ll mail in the document and payment to the following address:
State of Alaska, Corporations Section
PO Box 110806
Juneau, AK 99811-0806
Alternatively, if you file online, you’ll do everything — including submitting your payment — through the Alaska Department of Commerce website.
What To Do:
However, our belief is that it’s best to delegate this task to a professional. Using an online incorporation service (like IncFile) is an hassle-free way to incorporate in Alaska, and as we mentioned, to get free registered agent services!
Step 4) Obtain EIN
Every corporation in Alaska is required to get an EIN, or Employer Identification Number. Your EIN is the the way the federal government tracks your business’ financial activity, and it’ll be necessary for pretty much every move you make from here on out.
You’re definitely going to need an EIN before you can open a business bank account. Unlike a personal bank account, for which you’d provide your social security number, a business bank account requires your Employer Identification Number. This is the only way to keep your personal and business finances totally separate.
What To Do:
The cheapest, most efficient way to obtain your EIN is through the IRS free online application. This approach will allow you to get your identification number as soon as you’re done filling it out. There are other ways to get an EIN for free, though -- read through our EIN guide to find out how to apply via fax, phone or mail.
If you simply don’t have the time/capacity to apply on your own, you can add this service to a basic incorporation package -- but this usually costs an extra $70. It’s often included in higher-priced, more comprehensive formation packages, though, so keep an eye out for that.
Step 5) Meet With Directors & Establish Bylaws
While most states require corporations to have at least 3 directors on their boards, Alaska’s minimum is just 1, as outlined in Alaska’s corporation statutes. However, these also state that unless a corporation’s bylaws lay out a specific number of directors it will have on its board at all times, the default is three.
However many directors you’ve chosen to have, this is the time when you’ll get together with them and conduct your organizational meeting. During this meeting, you’ll:
- Discuss and establish your corporate bylaws
- Issue shares of stock
- Appoint corporate officers
- Establish the corporation’s fiscal year
- Write a banking resolution
- Record your very first meeting minutes
… and take care of whatever other logistical business needs to be addressed. This is a pivotal moment for your business, so it’s important to walk through the door with lots of valuable input and a solid understanding of what needs to get done.
What To Do:
One of the best ways to prepare for your organizational meeting is to take advantage of meeting minute and bylaw templates. Some companies offer free versions of their templates to allow you to familiarize yourself with the content involved, which is great if you’re totally new to this side of the business world.
Additionally, if you have any specific concerns about the requirements your corporation needs to fulfill during your first board meeting, you can always browse through Alaska’s hefty list of corporation statutes.
Step 6) Start a Corporate Records Book
Since by now you’ve accumulated a decent handful of important documents, it’s a good time to start a corporate records book. This is exactly what it sounds like -- a place to keep all of your business records. This includes, but is not limited to, your:
- Articles of Incorporation
- Licenses and permits
- Corporate bylaws
- Meeting minutes
- Banking resolution
However, a corporate records book can take a variety of forms -- some folks opt for a simple binder, while others choose to invest in a corporate kit. Corporate kits typically include customized pieces like an embossing seal, stock certificates, meeting minutes and corporate bylaws, in addition to a lovely leather binder with your company’s name engraved in it.
What To Do:
Having a corporate kit, especially one with a corporate seal, is a great way to demonstrate your company’s legitimacy, both internally and externally.
However, if you’re not concerned about having any customized pieces and you’re just looking for a simple binder, you could certainly find one at your local office supply store. The most important thing here is to keep everything organized!
Step 7) Open A Business Bank Account
Opening up a business bank account is a crucial step, and one that must be done before making any big financial moves. There’s no time to mix your personal and professional expenses here.
The great thing about having a business bank account is that you’ll use your EIN instead of your social security number, so it’ll be totally separate from your personal finances.
Ideally, you’ll have settled on a bank during your organizational meeting, and hopefully you’ll have considered:
- Local banks, like Denali State
- Alaska credit unions, like Alaska USA
- National banks, like Wells Fargo
Each of these banking options has its own features and perks, so it’s worth doing some research before committing to one. That said, it’s very important to get this done promptly so you can start managing your business finances like a pro.
What To Do:
Do your research, starting with this comprehensive list of Alaska banks and credit unions. Make some calls and find out where your top options fall when it comes to customer service, ATM accessibility, minimum balances, and so on. You might also benefit from reading our Wells Fargo review — this is the only national bank that operates in Alaska.
Once you’ve opened up your business bank account, sync it with accounting software so you can start monitoring your financials pronto. This is especially important if you haven’t hired an accountant yet. We’ve ranked our favorite accounting software tools to help you choose the most reliable, user-friendly program.
Step 8) Tackle Licensing & Tax Obligations
The final step toward making sure your corporation is totally compliant is to acquire any necessary permits or licenses. This will entail doing quite a bit of research on federal, state and local requirements. Here are the best resources for each:
- Federal: If you head to the federal licenses and permits page on the Small Business Association website, you’ll be able to find all the business activities that require special licensing and the corresponding government agencies. They also have a brief article on business taxes, but the IRS website is the best resource for federal tax requirements.
- State: A general Alaska business license costs $50.00/year, and you can apply through Alaska Department of Commerce. Their business licensing page has information about specific trade licenses, like alcohol and tobacco endorsements. For Alaska business taxes, head over to the Department of Revenue website.
- Local: To make sure you don’t overlook any city or borough-specific requirements, give your local Chamber of Commerce a call or visit.
If all you need is a general business license, this step won’t be too much of a hassle. It all just depends on whether or not your industry is highly monitored by the state and federal government.
What To Do:
If you know you’re going to require an array of different permits and licenses to legally conduct business in Alaska, you might consider hiring a business license service. These companies will take care of all the research for you so that all you’ll need to do is sign the applications and fill in a few details.
Need Help Incorporating?
Starting a corporation in Alaska is no walk in the park, but as they say, anything worth doing takes time and dedicated effort.
That said, if you’d like help incorporating in Alaska, there are a handful of ways to lighten your load during this hectic time. We’ve discussed quite a few services throughout the course of this guide, but here are the three we recommend looking into:
– IncFile ($49 + state fees) = Best Price & Overall Value
– LegalZoom ($149 + state fees) = Most Popular Service
– Harbor Compliance ($499 + state fees) = Better Customer Service