Step 1) Verify & Secure Your LLC Name
To secure and register your brand name it must be unique, not too similar to another registered name, and shouldn’t contain any restricted wording. To check, conduct a Business Entity Search through the state.
Keep in mind your LLC name should contain the words ‘Limited Liability Company’ or ‘Limited Company’. Abbreviations for these words like ‘L.C.’ or ‘L.L.C’ are also acceptable. Also, because there is no name reservation allowed by the state, only register when you’re ready to organize your business.
Remember, this isn’t optional in Iowa -- it’s mandatory.
Quick Note: Before you commit 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, it’s going to be soon, and you might as well nail down a domain name that’ll make it easy for customers to find you!
Step 2) Choose/Appoint 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 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 an Iowa Registered Agent free when you start an LLC through a business filing service. They source the documents you need, are always timely, have great customer service, and much more.
Step 3) File Articles Of Organization
Now that you have the first couple steps covered, the next step to register your LLC in Iowa is to complete and file the Articles of Organization form. In essence it declares to the state the name and address of your business, all partners, your Registered Agent along with other business basics for legal transparency.
While there's no template supplied by the state, the form does come with instructions and there are tons of state-based resources through the Secretary of State to help you out if you don't have a legal team and aren't working with a filing service.
Filing Fee: $50
Step 4) Get An EIN
Your EIN, or Employer Identification Number, is required in the same way individuals are required to have social security numbers. With it your business will legally be able to hire employees, create official business bank accounts, and get through tax season. It's not optional.
While there are numerous ways to get your EIN, you can apply online and get one free of charge through the IRS Website.
Step 5) Open A Business Bank Account
To avoid any tax, asset, or financial confusion as an LLC, open a completely separate checking account for your brand. Don't mix and mingle 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. In fact, some banks will literally pay you to do business with them.
Shop around at both state and national banks to see who offers the best deal and most convenience. For a brief breakdown on some of our favorite options check out this Checking Account Guide.
Step 6) Draft An Operating Agreement
Nope, this one isn't mandatory or a legal requirement, but it should be in our opinion because it adds a layer of safety for everyone involved (including the company) and lays out clearly defined duties/responsibilities. It also, “defines each member or manager’s rights, powers, and entitlements. This includes capital accounts, membership interest, distributions of profit and allocated tax responsibility, etc.” So obviously it's very important, especially if you aren't a solopreneur.
To get started, consider checking out this list of free Operating Agreement templates which you can customize yourself.
Step 7) Square Away Iowa Taxes & Licensing
It's about that time to get through the real regulatory red tape. Thankfully Iowa is a business/startup-friendly state with plenty of perks. If you don't have an attorney, please be sure to do the research on this step.
Get started by bookmarking the Des Moines district office of the Small Business Administration and IA Source Link's page because they’re likely going to be go-to sources for a variety of things. If you need help with this step, consider professional Business License Research packages that will take care of the legwork for you.
Need Help Forming an LLC?
If you'd like help forming an Iowa LLC, feel free to read our reviews of the two most popular services available.
- IncFile LLC Service Review: Pricing starts at $49 + state fee. Best for basic & quick LLC formation.
- LegalZoom LLC Service Review: Pricing starts at $79 + state fee. Best if you're looking for the most popular LLC service.