How to Form a Corporation in Illinois

How to Use this Guide

To form a corporation in Illinois, use the step-by-step guide below or hire a professional service to do it for you:

  • IncFile ($49 + state fee) for basic & quick incorporation.
  • LegalZoom ($149 + state fee) for the most popular incorporation service.
Amy M. Toepper, Esq.
This Guide is Attorney Approved

Amy Toepper is a licensed Illinois attorney & the founder of Legal In A Box.

For a legal advisor on your side, set up a free consultation.

Step 1) Verify & Secure Your Brand Name

Choose a Business NameThe first step is picking a unique business name that does not contain any restricted wording. Remember to include the word ‘Corporation,’ ‘Company,’ ‘Incorporated,’ or ‘Limited,’ or an abbreviation of one of these in your name.

Follow these steps:

  1. Ensure your name is available by conducting a corporate entity search through the IL Secretary of State website.
  2. If you’re concerned about trademark issues, perform a TESS System search to check the U.S. Patent Office database.
  3. If needed, file a reservation of name application to reserve your name for 90 days ($300 fee).

Quick Note: Before committing 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, 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

Choose a Registered AgentWhen incorporating in Illinois, you are required to designate a registered agent to handle official documents on behalf of your business. They must be a resident of Illinois or a business entity legally registered to operate in the state. They also must have a physical address where they can be reached during normal business hours (Monday through Friday, 9 am to 5 pm).

You can designate a registered agent by electing someone within your company, hiring an outside professional, or incorporating through a service like IncFile to get a full year of these services for free.

Step 3) File Articles Of Incorporation

Register an LLC

To become an official Illinois corporation, you’ll need to file Articles of Incorporation with the Secretary of State. This is a declarative document that discloses the basics of your corporation for the public record, including:

  • Corporate name and address
  • Statement of purpose
  • Name and address of registered agent
  • Incorporator contact information

File your Articles of Incorporation online here or download the form here.

Filing fee:

By Mail – $150 plus preliminary payment for franchise tax at a minimum rate of $25

Online – $275 + 2.35% credit card fee (must pay by credit card)

Step 4) Start A Corporate Records Book

File Annual Reports & Publication RequirementsThink of this as the hard copy records book where all critical corporate documents are kept, like your Articles of Incorporation, bylaws, meeting minutes, stock certificates, etc. It’s the ultimate company binder! While they’re not legally required, they’re highly recommended for all serious business entities.

Follow these steps:

  1. Collect your important documents.
  2. Search for a corporate binder at your local office supply store or on Amazon, or get a custom corporate kit.

Step 5) Elect Initial Director(s), Meet, Discuss Bylaws

Hold a Meeting with Your Board of Directors

Appoint at least one director who, among other things, will oversee the corporation until the first shareholder meeting (when new directors will be voted in).

But first, you need to have an initial meeting with your director(s), during which you’ll:

  1. Prepare an “Incorporator Statement” with complete names and addresses of each director (keep it in your records book).
  2. Appoint officers & discuss/create corporate bylaws.
  3. Choose a bank & approve the issuance of stock certificates.
  4. Agree on corporate seal and adopt official stock certificate form.
  5. Approve s-corp (opt.). Record meeting minutes, have directors sign (and add to records book).

Step 6) Open A Business Bank Account

Best Business Bank Account

When starting your Illinois corporation, it’s very important to keep all personal and business assets/accounts completely separate. This requires opening a separate bank account designated for your corporation’s finances.

That said, where you choose to bank is no small matter. Where will you start building the financial foundation of your brand? Who is offering the best overall services to corporate clients, relative to location and other conveniences?

Consider fee structures, perks, incentives, customer service, and any other features you care about when choosing a bank. You might want to start with a smaller bank for better deals, then switch to a larger bank when your volume demands it.

Follow these steps:

  1. Research business checking accounts.
  2. Set up your business bank account!

Step 7) Handle Taxation & Licensing/Permits

Business Licenses

To ensure that you don’t face any fines or penalties when operating your business, you need to fulfill all federal and state business tax and licensing obligations.

Follow these steps:

  1. Get an EIN (Employer Identification Number) for free through the IRS Website.
  2. Bookmark the Chicago Small Business Administration office and the Secretary of State’s Business Services.
  3. To form an S-Corp, submit Form 2553 with the IRS and be sure all directors have signed it.
  4. Consider hiring a professional business license service to have some of the legwork taken care of for you.

Need Help Incorporating?

Use one of these reliable incorporation services & have some of the paperwork handled on your behalf. Each service offers a different level of features and pricing, but all take care of incorporation. No matter which you choose, you’ll be in good hands.

IncFile
  • Pricing Starts at
    $49

  • 100,000+ Businesses Formed

  • Perfect for:
    Anyone starting a business on a budget and in need of quick incorporation

Visit Website
LegalZoom
  • Pricing Starts at
    $149

  • 1 Million+ Businesses Formed

  • Perfect for:
    Anyone wanting to use the most popular incorporation service available

Visit Website
Harbor Compliance
  • Pricing Starts at
    $499

  • 10,000+ Businesses Formed

  • Perfect for:
    Anyone wanting top-to-bottom corporation formation and ongoing compliance

Visit Website

Note that this guide on incorporating in Illinois isn’t a legal document or legal advice. It’s for informational purposes and the information above is subject to change. For specific legal questions regarding how to form a corporation in Illinois, please consult with a business attorney like Amy Toepper.