How to Form an LLC in South Carolina 7 Simple Steps

How To Use This Guide

Use our free guide below to form an LLC in South Carolina:

Use A Professional Service

A professional service will handle the entire formation process on your behalf, allowing you to focus on the other needs of your new business.

4.6 out of 5 starsNorthwest ($49 + state fee) for basic & quick LLC formation.

3.6 out of 5 starsLegalZoom ($79 + state fee) for the most popular LLC service available.

Form An LLC

Step 1) Verify & Secure Your LLC Name

Choose a Business Name

First off, in order to launch a successful South Carolina LLC, you need to give it 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, but we’ll go over the legal basics below.

 

Legally, your business name must:

  • Contain the words limited liability company or limited company, or the abbreviation LLC or L.L.C.
  • Not contain restricted words or phrases (these often include words like bank, attorney, and university) without the proper approval.
  • Be distinguishable from any other entity or trade name registered in South Carolina.

 

For an exhaustive list of naming rules you can visit the South Carolina Secretary of State website.

 

If you’re having trouble coming up with a name that captures your brand, don’t let that stop you from forming your LLC. For now, you can focus on the legal requirements and consider filing a DBA (doing business as) name after you’ve nailed down your branding.

 

What To Do:

Once you’ve decided what you’d like to call your LLC in South Carolina, do a business name search to find out whether or not it’s in the cards. If your business name is available, you’ll be able to lock it down when you file your Articles of Organization.

 

Quick Note: Before you commit 100% to a name, you should see if there’s a decent URL available. Use Weebly to search your options. If there’s a quality domain name for purchase, we advise buying it right away because even if launching a business website isn’t on your radar right now, it’s going to be soon.

Step 2) Appoint A Registered Agent

Choose a Registered Agent

When you file your Articles of Organization, you will be asked to appoint a South Carolina registered agent.

Your registered agent will be responsible for receiving important legal documents like tax forms and service of process notices on behalf of your LLC. Your registered agent can be an individual resident of the state or a company that’s legally authorized to represent businesses in South Carolina.

South Carolina does give you the option to act as your own registered agent, but many business owners choose to appoint a professional instead. Here are a few things to think about before you decide to act as your own:

  • You’ll have to maintain normal (9 am - 5 pm) business hours at the address you provide.
  • If you run your business from home, you’ll be required to make your personal address public.
  • You must keep up on important notices, dates, and deadlines.
  • You could be served in front of your family or coworkers.
What To Do:

If you’re considering acting as your own registered agent, do some research, starting with our registered agent guide. If you decide you’re up for the task, go ahead and list your own name and address on your Articles of Organization.

If you’re leaning toward hiring a professional, we recommend doing so through an online LLC formation service. Many of these companies (like Northwest) offer up to one year of registered agent service free when you form your LLC with them.

 

Step 3) File Articles Of Organization

Register an LLCTo be a legal business entity you must download, print out, complete, and file the Articles of Organization with the Sec. of State. You can also form your LLC online at the South Carolina Secretary of State website.

The Articles of Organization disclose the basics of your brand including:

  •  Name and address of the South Carolina LLC;
  •  Full name and address of the LLC’s Registered Agent;
  •  Full name and address of each of the LLC’s organizer;
  •  Whether the LLC will be manager or member-managed;

Filing Fee: $110

 

Step 4) Draft An Operating Agreement

Create an Operating Agreement

Creating an LLC operating agreement is the only way for you and your members to fully define your roles and lock down your LLC’s management and ownership structure. Having this document in place will also give you all something to return to if a dispute or lawsuit arises.

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 are to be distributed

From there, you can add as many provisions as you want, provided they are not in conflict with South Carolina business law. To access a free operating agreement and learn more about how this document works in South Carolina, click here.

 

Step 5) Get An EIN

Get an EIN for Your Business

The Employer Identification Number (EIN), or Federal Tax Identification Number, is essentially a social security number for your company. State and federal agencies 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

We think the best way to get an EIN is by using the free online application on the IRS website. We prefer this method because it’s the most efficient, but if you’d prefer to apply via phone, fax or mail, read through our guide to find out how.

Maintain Your LLC's Personal Asset Protection

Best Business Bank Account

Using dedicated business banking and credit accounts is essential for personal asset protection.

When your personal and business accounts are mixed, your personal assets (your home, car, and other valuables) are at risk in the event your LLC is sued. In business law, this is referred to as piercing your corporate veil.

You can protect your business with these two steps:

1. Opening a business bank account:

  • Separates your personal assets from your company's assets, which is necessary for personal asset protection.
  • Makes accounting and tax filing easier.

2. Getting a business credit card:

  • Helps you separate personal and business expenses.
  • Builds your company's credit history, which can be useful to raise capital later on.

Reduce the Liability of Your LLC

Business insurance helps you manage risks and focus on growing your business. The most common types of business insurance are:

  • General Liability Insurance: A broad insurance policy that protects your business from lawsuits. Most small businesses get general liability insurance.
  • Professional Liability Insurance: A business insurance for professional service providers (consultants, accountants, etc.) that covers against claims of malpractice and other business errors.
  • Workers' Compensation Insurance: A type of insurance that provides coverage for employees’ job-related illnesses, injuries, or deaths. In South Carolina, businesses with four or more employees, excluding business owners, are required by law to have workers' compensation insurance. Get a free quote with ADP.

Stay Compliant

Small Business TaxesThese days it’s fairly simple to set up your brand’s tax identity with the state and federal government.

To get started bookmark the Columbia district office of the Small Business Administration and the state’s Dept. of Commerce page because they’re likely going to be go-to sources. Also, check out Business License Research packages that can handle the legwork.

Reduce Administrative Burden

There will be many demands on your time once you start your business. With that in mind, it’s a good idea to streamline your workflow and reduce administrative overhead from the get-go. The two most important business tasks to get help with are:

1) Accounting

Getting your books in order right up front will save you headaches in the future. At the very least, you can have a professional setup your bookkeeping and accounting for you. This will save you money and time in the long run.

There are all in one services that will do your bookkeeping/invoicing/tax filing for you all for one monthly fee. Mazuma ($95/month) is a reliable all in one tax service.

2) Employee Payroll

If you have employees, a payroll service will save you a lot of time and also save you from having to become an expert on state compliance or employee tax withholdings and filings.  

Gusto is a reliable and good payroll service for small businesses.

Need Help Forming an LLC?

How To Form An LLC OnlineIf you'd like help forming an LLC in South Carolina, feel free to read our reviews of the two most popular services.

  • IncFile Review: Pricing starts at $49 + state fee. Best for basic & quick LLC formation.
  • LegalZoom Review: Pricing starts at $79 + state fee. Best if you're looking for the most popular LLC service available.

Note that this guide for forming a South Carolina 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 South Carolina, consult with a business attorney.