Step 1) Verify & Secure Your LLC Name
The first step is making sure the brand name you want is unique, not misleading, doesn’t contain any restricted wording, and isn’t too similar to any other registered name. Conduct a Business Entity Search through the Sec. of State, as well as a quick trademark search using the TESS System through the U.S. Patent Office.
Keep in mind that the LLC name must contain the words “Limited Liability Company” or abbreviations like “LLC” or “L.L.C.” Information about an optional reservation of name that’s good for 120 days and fees for the service can be found here: Form DSCB:15-208.
Remember, this isn’t optional in Pennsylvania -- 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
The next step is appointing a Pennsylvania registered agent to officially receive and help to handle/process official documents like state filings, tax forms, legal notices, etc. To be considered the agent must be a PA resident or registered business entity, with a physical street address, not a P.O. Box.
Note: In PA you can name yourself as agent for service of process.
Also, can hire a professional that charges as much as $160/year, or get a qualified/certified agent for free by registering your LLC through a filing service like IncFile.
Step 3) File Certificate Of Incorporation
In order to legally conduct business through your LLC, you must file a Certificate of Organization (Form DSCB:15-8821) and the New Entity Docketing Statement (Form DSCB:15-134A). The essential information for a Certificate of Organization is:
- Complete LLC name,
- Complete name, street address of registered agent and,
- An organizer’s signature.
The Certificate of Organization template on the Business Formation webpage maintained by the state of PA requests additional information, some of which is mandatory according to the Instructions.
LLC Filing Fee: $125
Step 4) Get An EIN
An EIN, or Employer Identification Number, is required if you want a smooth tax season, to be able to set up a business bank account, legally hire employees, and so forth.
Note: The IRS and Pennsylvania will allow a single-member LLC with no employees to use the individual member’s social security number instead of an EIN.
Most business activity is tracked using this number so it’s not optional by any means. Thankfully, you can easily get your EIN free of charge through the IRS Website. It’s quick and easy. Make sure you save the PDF document and/or save the number when the IRS gives you that option. Once you click “submit,” you can’t go back and must wait 2-3 weeks for the paper copy.
Step 5) Open A Business Bank Account
There are two primary reasons to open unique business bank accounts. The first is the many perks banks and lending institutions are offering these days.
The second reason has to do with making your finances easier by syncing the single account with an accounting software and adding a HUGE layer of protection by being separated from any other business/personal accounts.
Call ahead at your chosen bank. Most banks require the EIN document from the IRS and the certificate of organization; some require additional documents such as a business license from the local city/county or an operating agreement. If interested, check out this Business Checking Accounts breakdown from some of the bigger mainstream banks for starters.
Note: Never, ever use LLC accounts for personal finances.
Step 6) Draft An Operating Agreement
This is a formal contractual agreement between all owners, called “members,” of a company that outlines financial and management responsibilities. It’s not mandatory or required by law, but, whenever possible, one should be in place to protect all parties, including the brand. And, yes, even solopreneurs should have one.
To get started, consider checking out a free online Operating Agreement templates which you can customize yourself.
Step 7) Cover All LLC Taxes & Licensing/Permits
Obviously, getting situated with state and federal taxes isn’t optional. These days, it can be much simpler with help. How many licenses you’ll need and how many fees will be determined by a number of variables including your type of business, whether you work with the public, location, etc.
Step 7 is where it really helps to work with a professional or buckle down and do the research yourself. Licenses, permits and business taxes need to be taken care of.
You might also want to bookmark the Pittsburgh district office of the Small Business Administration and state’s SBDC page as well because they’re likely going to be go-to sources if you need help. If you’re going to need customized help, consider professional Business License Research packages that quickly source documents and provide filing instructions.