How to Start an LLC in Iowa
LLCs are the most popular structure for small businesses in Iowa. That's because starting and running a limited liability company (LLC) is very simple and offers important benefits.
LLCs can protect your personal assets (car, house, savings) if something happens to your business. LLCs also offer credibility and options to save on taxes.
It’s easy to form an LLC in Iowa online yourself. Just follow these steps:
- Name Your LLC
- Choose a Registered Agent
- File the IA Certificate of Organization
- Create an LLC Operating Agreement
- Get an EIN
Starting an LLC in Iowa is Easy
You can get an Iowa LLC online by registering the Certificate of Organization with the Secretary of State. The cost to set up an LLC in Iowa is $50.
Follow our How to Start an LLC in Iowa guide below to get started.
Step 1: Create A Name For Your Iowa LLC
Before you register your LLC, you'll need to come up with a name. Your business name needs to be catchy for branding purposes and legitimate for legal purposes.
We go into depth on this topic in our LLC naming guide. We’ll go over the basics below.
Naming Your LLC
First, brainstorm some possibilities. Use our LLC name generator to get the ideas flowing.
Next, make sure your name meets Iowa guidelines:
- it contains the words limited liability company, limited company, LLC, or L.L.C.
- it doesn't contain restricted words or phrases (these often include words like bank, attorney, and university) without approval
- it's distinguishable from any other entity or trade name registered in Iowa
- full list of Iowa naming guidelines
Next, do an Iowa LLC name search with the Secretary of State to find out if your name is available in Iowa.
If your business name is available and meets guidelines, you’ll be able to register it when you file your Certificate of Organization with the Secretary of State.
Is the URL available? Before you commit 100% to a name, check to see if there’s a good web domain available.
We recommend buying your domain right away because even if launching a business website isn’t on your radar right now, it will be soon.
Step 2: Appoint An Iowa LLC Registered Agent
When you file your Certificate of Organization, you'll need to list a registered agent.
A registered agent's job is to accept legal documents like service of process and tax notices for your LLC.
Your registered agent can be a person or a registered agent service. You can act as your own registered agent, but many business owners choose to use a registered agent service.
Here are a few things to think about before you decide to act as your own registered agent:
- You’ll need to be available during normal (9 am - 5 pm) business hours at the address you provide
- If you run your business from home, you’ll have to make your personal address public
- You could be served with a lawsuit in front of your family or coworkers
Recommended: Most registered agent services offer a year of registered agent service free when you form an LLC with them.
Step 3: File the Certificate Of Organization
It’s time to officially form your LLC by filing your Certificate of Organization with the Iowa Secretary of State.
You can file online with the Secretary of State or follow these instructions to create your own Certificate of Organization and deliver by mail or fax. The filing fee is $50.
Recommended: Now is a good time to decide if your LLC will be member-managed vs manager-managed.
You'll need to know the following information to create the form:
- Entity Name and Address
- Registered Agent Name and Registered Office Address
- Effective Date and Expiration Date
For more detailed help with completing the form, visit our Iowa Certificate of Organization guide.
Mail Your Articles of Organization:
Send the form and payment (payable to the Secretary of State) to:
Lucas State Office Building
321 E 12th St
Des Moines, IA 50319
Submit by Fax: (515) 242-5953
How long does it take to get an LLC approved? LLC processing time is immediately after payment is received or 2 weeks by mail or fax.
Step 4: Create An Iowa LLC Operating Agreement
Creating an Iowa LLC operating agreement is the only way to legally lock down your LLC’s management and ownership structure. Having this document in place will give you something to return to if a dispute or lawsuit arises.
Even single-member LLCs benefit from having an operating agreement.
Your operating agreement should outline the following:
- Each member’s responsibilities
- How new members will be admitted
- How existing members may transfer or terminate their membership
- How profits and dividends will be distributed
You can add as many provisions as you want, as long as they don't conflict with Iowa business law. Take a look at our What is an Operating Agreement guide to learn more.
Download a template or create a custom Free Operating Agreement using our tool.
Step 5: Get an EIN
An Employer Identification Number (EIN) is like a Social Security number (SSN) for your company. The IRS and the state of Iowa will use this number to track your business activity.
Your EIN will come in handy when it’s time to:
- Open a business bank account
- File Federal and State taxes
- Hire employees
The best way to get an EIN for your LLC in Iowa is by using the free online application on the IRS website.
Read our Get an EIN guide for instructions.
Steps After Forming an LLC
After forming your LLC, it's important to:
- Open a Business Bank Account. A business bank account legally separates personal finances from business finances. This separation is required to maintain your LLC's corporate veil (your limited liability protection).
- Research Iowa Business Licenses and Permits. For help, visit our How to Get an Iowa Business License guide. There are also business license services that can help.
- File Your Iowa LLC Biennial Report. File online with the Iowa Secretary of State between January 1st and April 1st of every odd-numbered year.
Need Help Forming an LLC?
Read our Best LLC Services review to learn more about pricing and packages.