STEP 1) VERIFY & SECURE BRAND NAME

Choose a Business Name

To secure and register your brand name it must be unique, not too similar to another registered name in Iowa, and shouldn’t contain any restricted wording. To check, conduct a free Business Entity Search through the state, and if there are potential trademark issues conduct another quick search using the TESS System through the U.S. Patent Office.

Keep in mind your brand name should contain the words ‘Corporation,’ ‘Company,’ ‘Incorporated,’ or ‘Limited.” Abbreviations for these words are also acceptable. If needed, you can file an Application for Reservation of Name form for only $10, as long as the name is available.

STEP 2) APPOINT A REGISTERED AGENT

Choose a Registered Agent

An Iowa Registered Agent is an individual or recognized business entity in the state with a street address (typically non-P.O. Box) responsible for receiving and helping to handle/process all official paperwork like state filings, legal forms, tax forms, notices, court documents, etc. The #1 thing is that they’re timely and always available during their regular business hours.

That said, you can hire a third party service and pay up to $160 a year or get a Registered Agent free of charge when you incorporate with IncFile or Incorprate.com. They source the documents you need, are always timely, have great customer service, and so much more.

STEP 3) FILE ARTICLES OF INCORPORATION

Register an LLCNow that you’ve got a registered agent you can fill out and file Articles of Incorporation with the Secretary of State through mail or using their Online Filing system. This is a declarative document for the public record that discloses the basics of your Iowa corporation that includes:

  • Name and address of your business,
  • Authorized number of shares, the value of each, and any transfer restrictions,
  • Complete names and addresses of the president, directors, secretary, treasurer, etc.
  • Type of business structure you’ve selected, and so forth.

Filing fee: $50

STEP 4) GET A CORPORATE RECORDS BOOK

File Annual Reports & Publication Requirements

A Corporate Records Book, or binder, is where you put copies of all the most important core documents that make your company what it is in the eyes of the law – Articles of Incorporation, Bylaws, meeting minutes, stock certificate ledger, stock certificates, stock certificate stubs, stock transfer documents, etc. It’s very common. Sure, have them online or thumb drive as well, but this is a long-standing tradition for corporations.

We’re huge fans of Corporate Kits which include gorgeous records books/binders you can brand for as little as $99, but as you can imagine there are much more expensive and fancier options as well.

STEP 5) APPOINT DIRECTOR, MEET, DISCUSS BYLAWS

Hold a Meeting with Your Board of Directors

Appoint at least 1 temporary director who among other things will oversee the corporation until the first shareholder meeting where new directors will be voted in. Prepare an “Incorporator Statement” with complete names and addresses of each director and keep it in your records book. Once elected, an initial meeting will:

  • Appoint officers & discuss/create Corporate Bylaws.
  • Choose a bank & approve the issuance of stock certificates.
  • Agree on corporate seal and adopt official stock certificate form.
  • Approve S-corp Status (opt.). Record Minutes of Meeting, have directors sign, then add to records book.

STEP 6) OPEN A BUSINESS BANK ACCOUNT

Best Business Bank Account

Avoid tax, asset, or just general financial troubles as a company by opening a completely separate checking account for your brand. Don’t mix and mingle with any other accounts! This is a huge mistake entrepreneurs make that’s 100% avoidable. Plus, these days there are tons of perks to opening business bank accounts – incentives, deals on lower fees, general business services, etc.

Shop around at both state and national banks/credit unions to see who offers the best deal and most convenience. For a breakdown on some of our favorite options check out this Checking Account Guide.

STEP 7) HANDLE TAXES & LICENSING REQUIREMENTS

Business LicensesAs a Corporation, there are also tax & licensing/permit requirements to handle before you can operate legally, how much depends on a number of variables. Ideally you’ve got an attorney or are working with a professional filing service, either way, consider the moves below:

  1. Obtain an EIN, or Employer Identification Number, for your corporation for free through the IRS.
  2. Bookmark the Des Moines district office of the Small Business Administration and IA Source Link’s page.
  3. To form an S-Corp, submit Form 2553 with the IRS and be sure all board of directors have signed it.
  4. Also, consider professional Business License Research packages that take care of the legwork for you.

OPTIONAL) WRITE YOUR BUSINESS PLAN

Write a Business PlanCorporations do require more formal and serious business planning that focuses on core fundamentals like marketing, budgeting, financials and forecasting, management structure and company culture, etc.

The good news is that these days the old school 50-page tomes aren’t as needed anymore thanks to modern software that can transform data into curated, presentation-ready plans to please shareholders, investors, lending institutions, and so on. To learn more check out the free resources we’ve put together:

  • Our free email-based Business Plan Course is designed to take you smoothly through the process step-by-step.
  • Our guide to Business Planning Software breaks down the best user-friendly solutions to help you strategize better. (Spoiler: We’re huge fans of LivePlan, plus they offer our readers a special discount.)

OPTIONAL) BUILD A COMPANY WEBSITE

Build a Business WebsiteNo one’s saying you need to hire a digital marketing director and begin funneling resources into building a magnificent work of website-art to represent your brand. Thanks to advances in web-design and development, there are much trimmer and streamlined solutions that come with one-click apps, intuitive dashboards, already responsive and sharp customizable themes, etc.

Wix and SquareSpace are two big names these days, along with Shopify if you’re going 100% eCommerce. They’re all fantastic to set up shop and give the world a way to investigate your brand.

Need Help Forming Your Corporation?

Have a reliable incorporation service like IncFile or LegalZoom do the work for you. Just answer a few questions about your business and they’ll take care of the paperwork.

Although both offer virtually the same service, IncFile is $100 less and our top pick. Enjoy!

Visit IncFile Or Visit LegalZoom

Note that this article on how to form a corporation in Iowa 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 Iowa or business in general, please consult with a lawyer or other accredited professional.