Step 1) Verify & Secure Your Brand Name
To secure and register your brand name it must be unique, not too similar to another registered name with the Department of Assessments and Taxation, and shouldn’t contain any restricted wording. To check, conduct a Business Entity Search through the state website.
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. In Maryland, you can also reserve a trademark by filing a Trade Name Application.
Filing Fee: $25 regular, $50 expedited, $75 total expedited
Remember, this isn’t optional in Maryland-- 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) Hire/Appoint A Registered Agent
A Maryland Registered Agent is either a resident individual or a registered business entity that receives and helps to handle/process all official documentation on your brand's behalf - court documents, tax forms, legal notices, state filings, etc.
The agent will need to have a street address in the state and always be available during normal M-F business hours. It's important this agent is timely and professional. You can hire an outside professional service and pay up to $160/year, or get a qualified agent free of charge when you register an LLC through a service like IncFile.
Step 3) File Articles Of Organization
Download a copy of the Articles of Organization which will need to be filed with the Maryland Department of Assessments and Taxation to legally register an LLC in Maryland and become a legal entity.
This form is a declaration to the state of the basics: hours of operation, names and addresses of the company and owners, nature of the business, start-date, and so on. Nothing too complicated, but make sure you read the form carefully if you don't have a lawyer to help or you aren't working with a professional filing service.
Filing Fee: $100 with 3% service charge if Filed Online.
Step 4) Get An EIN
You have a social security number, right? An EIN, or Employer Identification Number, is exactly like it except for businesses.The state/federal government uses it to track your business activity, but beyond that you'll be able to use your EIN to set up a business bank account in the next step, hire employees, and more.
The state/federal government uses it to track your business activity, but beyond that, you'll be able to use your EIN to set up a business bank account in the next step, hire employees, and more.
While there are a number of ways to get yours, it's quick, easy and free of charge when you do it through the IRS Website.
Step 5) Open A Business Bank Account
To avoid any financial confusion/headaches as an LLC, open a completely separate business account for your brand. Don't mix it with any accounts of any other kind! 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!
Step 6) Draft An Operating Agreement
We, and endless amounts of seasoned entrepreneurs, agree that while this document isn't mandated by the state or a legal requirement, it should be! Why? Because to be in business without one isn't wise, even if you're a solo act.
Not only does it add a layer of legal protection for your brand (LLC status), but it also helps to deal with financial/management disputes and ensures your company is governed by your own internal set of rules rather than the default set on state books.
To get started, consider using a nifty online Operating Agreement which you can customize to your LLC.
Step 7) Handle Taxes & Business Licensing
The Maryland regulatory environment has modernized a fair amount over the last couple decades and it's becoming more and more startup-friendly all the time. How complex or simple this process will be depends on a number of variables including:
- Your specific location/county within Maryland.
- Whether you work directly with the public.
- The nature of your business.
- Whether you have employees.
To get started bookmark the Baltimore district office of the Small Business Administration and the state’s Business Express page because they’re likely going to be go-to sources for a variety of things along the way. If you need additional help, there’s a Business License Service we recommend. They determine everything required on Federal, State, County and Municipal levels, get the forms, and provide step-by-step filing instructions.
Need Help Forming an LLC?
If you'd like help forming an LLC in Maryland, feel free to read our reviews of the two most popular services.