How To Set Up An Iowa Corporation

Forming a corporation in Iowa 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 Iowa.

Step 1: Create a Name For Your Iowa Corporation

When naming your Iowa Corporation, you will need to:

  • Follow Iowa Name Requirements
  • Complete a Name Search With the Iowa Secretary of State
  • Consider Securing a Domain Name (URL)

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

Name Requirements

First, you will need to choose a name that complies with Iowa Secretary of State naming guidelines:

  • Your name must contain the following words or abbreviations: corporation, incorporated, company, limited, corp., inc., co., or ltd. (or words or abbreviations of like meaning in another language).
  • Your name must be distinguishable from any existing business in the state. This includes Iowa reserved names.
  • Your name cannot include words that could confuse your corporation with a government agency (FBI, Treasury, State Department, etc.).
  • In some states, certain restricted words (e.g. Bank, Attorney, University) may require additional paperwork and a licensed individual to be part of your corporation.

You can also read the Iowa state statute that covers corporation naming guidelines for more information.


Name Search With the Iowa Secretary of State

You will need to check name availability by searching the business name database on the Iowa Secretary of State’s website.

This tool is also useful if you decide to register a fictitious name or DBA (Doing Business As) for your company. For detailed information about setting up a DBA for your Iowa corporation, check out our How to File a DBA in Iowa 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 s by filing an Application for Reservation of Name with the Iowa Secretary of State.

The Application for Reservation of Name form can be filed online on the Iowa Secretary of State's website or you can file the form by mail. There is a $10 fee to file your Iowa 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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Once you reserve a domain name for your corporation, it’s time to set up a business phone service to improve customer support and boost credibility. Our first pick is Nextiva because of its quick setup and variety of helpful features. Try Nextiva.

Need Help Naming Your Business?

Use our Corporation Name Generator to brainstorm your business's perfect name. For more help, visit our free How to Name a Business guide. Then, create a logo with our free Logo Maker.

Step 2: Choose an Iowa Registered Agent

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

A registered agent is a person or entity that accepts tax documents and service of process on behalf of your LLC or corporation.

Who Can Be a Registered Agent? Your registered agent can be an individual, business entity, or professional registered agent service. A registered agent must:

  • be 18 years or older
  • have a physical address in the state where business activity is conducted
  • always be available (in person) during normal business hours

ZenBusiness offers one year of free registered agent services with their corporation formation package ($39 + State Fees).

Step 3: Choose Your Iowa Corporation’s Initial Directors

You must appoint at least one director who, among other things, will oversee your Iowa 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 Iowa Secretary of State. Iowa does NOT provide a hard copy form of the Articles of Incorporation, but you can create your own using the provided instructions or use the online filing template. You will need to sign up for a free Fast Track Filing account.

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

  • Corporate name
  • Corporate registered agent name and address
  • Number of 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 three options:


Online:
Iowa SOS Fast Track Filing System


Mail:
Iowa Secretary of State
Business Services
First Floor, Lucas Building
321 E. 12th St.
Des Moines, IA 50319


Fax:
(515) 242-5953

Iowa 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 Iowa 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 Iowa corporation, you will need to:

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 Iowa 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.

Read our Best Banks for Startups and Entrepreneurs review to find the best bank for your business.

Establish and Build Your Business Credit Score

Building business credit involves a number of factors, including establishing your business’s fundability, getting listed with the most important business credit agencies, and establishing credit lines while keeping them in good standing to build your score.

A good business credit score can help with many things, including credit cards that are issued in your business’s name instead of depending on your personal credit score, better interest rates on loans, higher lines of credit, and more.

All of these factors help protect your personal assets by making your business the entity responsible for the liability instead of yourself.

Recommended: Get started building your credit by learning How to Check Your Business Credit Score.

Accounting For Your Corporation

It's important to get your books in order, even if you haven't officially opened for business. A well-managed accounting system will help you:

  • Track your business finances, including bills, expenses, and income.
  • Simplify and file your annual taxes.

You can maintain your accounting in two ways:

  • Use a DIY accounting software. This can come with an increased risk of errors especially when starting a new business.
  • Hire an accounting service. They can provide comprehensive advice to help optimize your bookkeeping and taxes as well as additional services such as payroll etc.

Recommended: For most small businesses, we recommend using a reputable accounting service. Schedule a free tax consultation for your business now to avoid costly errors in the future.

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 Iowa Corporation?

Have a Professional Service Form Your Iowa Corporation For You

If you'd like to have a reliable service help you incorporate in Iowa, here are our top recommendations:

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