Before forming a corporation, consider whether a corporation or a limited liability company is the right entity for your business. Usually startups (i.e. separate management that creates long-term value for investors) are formed as C-corporations and small businesses (i.e. owner or manager-managed businesses that distribute regular income to owners) are set up as LLCs or S-corporations.
See REFERENCE to understand the differences between C-Corporations, S-Corporations and LLCs (that can also be treated as S-Corporations).
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 in New York, and have no restricted wording.
Once the company is formed, you can consider registering a New York trademark at: https://www.dos.ny.gov/forms/corporations/0241-f-l-a.pdf
Keep in mind your LLC name should contain the words like ‘Limited Liability Company’ or ‘Limited Company’. Abbreviations for these words like ‘L.C.’ or ‘L.L.C.’ are also acceptable. If needed, you can file an Application for Reservation of Name through mail with the Division of Corps that’s good for 60 days.
To avoid potential delays in relation to name availability, you can also call the corporation bureau at +1(518) 473 2492 to search up to 5 names without charge or mail a request to New York Department of State, Division of Corporations, One Commerce Plaza, 99 Washington Avenue, Albany, New York 12231 or fax a request to +1(518) 473 1654 or email using the contact form available here: https://www.dos.ny.gov/about/contact.asp?DCODE=CORPS#emailcontact The written request for each name search costs $5.
Name Reservation Filing Fee: $20
Remember, this isn’t optional in New York-- 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) Appoint A Registered Agent
Your NY Registered Agent is a sort of legal representative of your brand, but not in a lawyer or attorney-sense. It’s their job to officially receive/process important business documents like state filings, legal notices, tax forms, and so forth.
This is why they have to be either a NY resident individual or a registered business entity and be reliable during all regular business hours M-F (9a.m. to 5p.m.).
That said, you can hire a 3rd party professional and expect to pay up to $160/year, or get a registered agent free for the first year when you start an LLC through IncFile. They handle this along with much more depending on your startup package.
Step 3) File Articles Of Organization
Download and print out the Articles of Organization which will need to be filed with the Division of Corporations of the New York Department of State when you’re ready to set up shop and go into business.
The official form only addresses the basic requirements and may not include some of the optional provisions such as business purpose, limitations on the powers of the manager or members and any other provision in the operating agreement.
It’s an important declarative document about the basics of your brand for the public record – county where the LLC will be located, name and address of brand, registered agent info, hours of operation, etc. You can file through mail or by using the state’s Online Filing System.
When using mail, send mailings to New York Department of State, Division of Corporations, One Commerce Plaza, 99 Washington Avenue, Albany, NY 12231. You can mark “expedited processing” on the mailing envelope and pay the applicable expedited processing fee if you need a rush filing.
You can also fax the Articles of Organization (along with a Credit/Debit Card Authorization Form for payment of filing fees) to +1(518) 474 1418. Credit/Debit Card Authorization is available here: https://www.dos.ny.gov/forms/corporations/1515-f.pdf.
Important: Make sure to always include the back page for the Certificate of Incorporation form that has the document title and the filer’s name and address.
For certain LLCs that will provide professional services such as medicine, law and other services that require professional licensing in New York, you will need to subject additional certifications from your licensing body to properly set up a professional LLC.
LLCs can have one-member of multiple-members. It can be managed by members or managers.
LLC Filing Fee: $200
Step 4) Draft An Operating Agreement
An LLC operating agreement sets forth the ownership structures and classes of membership interests or units. It also outlines the financial and managerial relationships between owners.
An operating agreement protects your limited liability status and overrides state-default rules, which may not be applicable to your platform at all. The operating agreement may contain a number of rights and obligations. Examples of this include a right of first refusal, obligations for additional capital contributions, pre-emptive rights, and certain buy-sell provisions.
In other words, if you don’t take the time to write down the ‘rules’ of your LLC, then the state’s default rules take over. If there’s a dispute, those rules may work against your business. You can draft your own free of charge using one of these operating agreement templates that are fully customizable.
You can decide to issue certificates for membership interests or units, although it's not required. Sometimes the LLC may also issue certain “profit interests” or “incentive units” as an alternative way of compensating service providers. Such “profit interests” must be authorized in the operating agreement.
If you don’t authorize such interests on initial formation, you can always amend the Operating Agreement later.
Step 5) Get An EIN
What’s an EIN, or Employer Identification Number? It’s almost exactly like a social security number but for businesses instead of individuals. You’ll need it to process taxes, set up business bank accounts, to legally hire employees and more. But don’t worry, it’s easy to get one these days.
Step 6) Open A Business Bank Account
First and foremost, make sure that your LLC’s bank accounts aren’t mingled with any other accounts. Not doing so can lead to huge financial liability.
Secondly, don’t just assume where you bank personally is the best choice. There are tons of options to build your brand’s financial foundation with and many of them are likely offering much better deals and incentives. Explore local, state, and national banks.
Step 7) Handle LLC Taxes & Licensing
We strongly recommend utilizing a professional to avoid any costly mistakes when dealing with licenses and taxes. If you need help, consider professional Business License Research packages that can quickly source all needed documents for you.
If you are set on doing this solo, bookmark the New York district office of the Small Business Administration and the state’s Small Biz Development Center because they’re likely going to be go-to sources.
Step 8) Publishing Notice of Articles of Organization
New LLCs must publish a copy of the Articles of Organization in two county newspapers for six weeks within 6 months of formation. One must be a daily paper and one must be a weekly, and both must be located where you operate.
Check with your local county for the list of county newspapers that have been approved for publication and shop around for the lowest prices before deciding on the newspapers.
Call or email the advertising department of the newspapers to schedule the publication. After the publication is done, you must file a Certificate of Publication along with an Affidavit of Publication provided by the newspaper with the New York State Department of State. Filing Fee: $50
Need more info about New York publication requirements? Check out TRUiC's guide.
Note that this guide for forming a New York LLC 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 an LLC in New York, please consult with a business attorney. We recommend Umar Farooq.