How to Form a Hawaii Corporation

Four Hawaii entrepreneurs deciding how to form a Hawaii corporation.

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Forming a Hawaii Corporation is Easy

Forming a corporation in Hawaii is a simple process that is achieved by filing the Articles of Incorporation with the Secretary of State. In the guide below, we will show you step-by-step how to form a corporation in Hawaii.

Step 1: Create a Name For Your Hawaii Corporation

When naming your Hawaii Corporation, you will need to:

  • Follow Hawaii Name Requirements
  • Complete a Name Search With the Hawaii Department of Commerce & Consumer Affairs
  • Consider Securing a Domain Name (URL)

To learn more, read our How to Name a Business in Hawaii guide.


Name Requirements

First, you will need to choose a name that complies with Hawaii naming guidelines:

  • Your name must contain the word “corporation,” “company,” “incorporated,” “limited” or an abbreviation of one of these terms (corp., co. ltd.).
  • Your name cannot be the same as or substantially identical to any existing business or trademark registered in the state.
  • Your name cannot contain language stating or implying that the corporation is organized for a purpose other than one permitted by law and its Articles of Incorporation. It also must be permitted by law and not attempt to mislead or confuse the general public.
  • Your name cannot include words that could confuse your corporation with a government agency (FBI, Treasury, State Department, etc.).
  • The following terms cannot be used without approval from the State Commissioner of Financial Institutions: 
    • financial institution, bank, banker, banking, banc, savings bank, savings and loan, savings association, financial services loan company, credit union, trust company, intrapacific bank, international banking corporation, and trust.
  • Domestic insurance corporations must include the word "insurance" in their name. In the case of a reciprocal insurer, the name must include one of the following words: reciprocal, interinsurer, interinsurance, exchange, underwriters, or underwriting.
  • Use of the following terms also requires state approval or certification: certified public accountant, public accountant, CPA, PA, cooperative, escrow, and escrow depository.

You can also read the Hawaii state statutes that cover corporation naming guidelines for more information.


Name Search With the Hawaii Department of Commerce & Consumer Affairs

You will need to check name availability by searching the business name database on the Hawaii Department of Commerce & Consumer Affairs website.

This tool is also useful if you decide to register a trade name or DBA (Doing Business As) for your company. For detailed information about setting up a DBA for your Hawaii corporation, check out our How to File a DBA in Hawaii guide.


Name Reservation

If you have a name in mind, but you aren’t ready to officially form your corporation, you can reserve your name. Your business name can be reserved for 120 days by filing an Application for Reservation of Name with the Hawaii Department of Commerce & Consumer Affairs. 

The Application for Reservation of Name form can be filed online on the Hawaii Business Express website, or you can file the form by mail. There is a $10 fee to file your Hawaii Name Reservation.


Secure Domain Name

We recommend checking to see if your business name is available as a web domain (URL). Even if you don't plan to make a business website today, you may want to buy the web address in order to prevent others from acquiring it. It’s free to search.

Find a Domain Now

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After registering a domain name, consider setting up a professional email account (@yourcompany.com). Google's G Suite offers a business email service that comes with other useful tools, including word processing, spreadsheets, and more. Try it for free

Step 2: Choose a Hawaii Registered Agent

When you file your Hawaii Articles of Incorporation, you will be asked to give the name of your Hawaii registered agent

A registered agent is a person or entity that accepts tax and legal documents on behalf of an LLC or corporation. Your registered agent can be an individual resident of the state or a company that’s legally authorized to represent businesses in Hawaii.

To learn more about registered agents, read our What is a Registered Agent guide.

Step 3: Choose Your Hawaii Corporation’s Initial Directors

You must appoint at least one director who, among other things, will oversee your Hawaii corporation until the first shareholder meeting.

The directors of a corporation are in charge of the adoption, amendment, and repeal of the operational bylaws as well as the supervision, election, and removal of officers.

Later you will need to prepare an “Incorporator Statement” with complete names and addresses of each director and keep it in your corporate records book.

Step 4: File the Articles of Incorporation

Now that you have chosen a registered agent and at least one director, it’s time to make your corporation official by filing the Articles of Incorporation with the Hawaii Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs.

The Articles of Incorporation will disclose some basics of your business for the public record, including:

  • Corporate name and principal address
  • Corporate registered agent name and street address
  • Number of authorized shares corporation is allowed to issue
  • Incorporators' names and addresses

Filing Fee: $50


Filing Options

Submit the completed Articles of Incorporation, along with the filing fee, using one of four options below. You can also use the detailed filing instructions from the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs.


Mail:
Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs
Business Registration Division
P.O. Box 40
Honolulu, HI 96810

Fax: (808) 586-2733

In-Person Delivery:
Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs
Business Registration Division
335 Merchant Street
Honolulu, HI 96810

Online: Hawaii Business Express

Hawaii Corporation Operating Procedures and Housekeeping

Set Up a Corporate Records Book

Think of this as the hard-copy record book where all critical corporate documents are kept, like your Articles of Incorporation, bylaws, meeting minutes, stock certificate ledger, stock transfer documents, etc.

You should keep the corporate records book at your principal location. Corporate records book kits can be purchased online, or you can use a large generic binder to store your records.

Prepare Bylaws for Your Hawaii Corporation

Bylaws are the rules that determine how your organization will be governed and run.

You can think about the bylaws as a constitution for your corporation. It makes the rules and priorities clear for everyone involved.

In your bylaws, be sure to include:

  • How the corporation will be governed – the role of directors and officers
  • How meetings are held, voting procedures, electing officers or directors
  • How records will be kept and managed
  • How disputes will be handled
  • How bylaws will be added/amended in the future

NOTE: A corporation’s bylaws will supplement any rules set forth by the federal government or the state.


Ready to get started? Check out these bylaws templates which you can customize to suit the needs of your incorporated business.

Conduct Your First Board of Directors Meeting

An organizational meeting is the first official meeting of your corporation.

These are some of the things that are discussed in a typical organizational meeting:

  • Taking attendance to show you have a quorum (minimum number needed)
  • Appointing temporary officers, chairmen, secretary, etc.
  • Adoption of the bylaws
  • Adoption of conflict of interest policy

Don’t forget to record “minutes” of the meeting and have it signed by all attending directors. Here are some corporate minutes templates to help you get the ball rolling.

Protect Your Assets and Stay Compliant

In order to protect your assets and stay compliant after you start your Hawaii corporation, you will need to:

Table showing the three steps to compliance

Get an EIN

The Employer Identification Number (EIN), or Federal Tax Identification Number, is used to identify a business entity. It is essentially a social security number for the company.

Why do I need an EIN? An EIN is required for the following:

  • To open a business bank account for the company
  • For Federal and State tax purposes
  • To hire employees for the company

Where do I get an EIN? An EIN is obtained from the IRS (free of charge) by the business owner after forming the company. This can be done online or by mail.

To learn more about EINs, read our What is an EIN guide.

Open a Bank Account For Your Hawaii Corporation

There are two critical reasons to open a unique corporate bank account.

The first is that separating your personal assets from your business assets adds another layer of protection in the event that your business is sued.

The second is that syncing a single account with business accounting software will make managing your finances much easier.

To begin your research, check out the breakdown of our favorite business checking accounts.

You can get $200 when you open a Chase business checking account with qualifying activities. Learn more.

Research Business License Requirements

To operate your corporation, you must comply with federal, state, and local government regulations. The details of business licenses and permits vary from state to state, so make sure to research carefully and plan accordingly.

Find out how to obtain necessary licenses and permits for your business or have a professional business licensing service do it for you:

What is an S Corporation?

An S corporation (S corp) is an incorporated business that is taxed as a pass-through entity. This means that S corps do not pay federal taxes on their business income. Instead, the business profits "pass-through" to the owners of the S corp, who are also known as shareholders. Then, the shareholders pay income tax and report their share of the profits in the form of salaries on their individual tax returns, which are then taxed.


In order to elect an S corporation status for tax purposes, corporations will need to file form 2553 Election by a Small Business Corporation. The form must be signed by all shareholders and must be filed within two months and 15 days after the start of the initial tax year.

To learn more, read our What is an S corporation guide.

Need Help Creating Your Hawaii Corporation?

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