How to Start an LLC in Iowa

L L C members happy after starting an L L C in Iowa

It’s easy to form an LLC in Iowa online yourself. Just follow these steps:

  1. Name Your LLC
  2. Choose a Registered Agent
  3. File the IA Certificate of Organization
  4. Create an LLC Operating Agreement
  5. Get an EIN

Or, use a professional service:

four point eight out of five stars Northwest Registered Agent ($29 + State Filing Fee)

three point four out of five stars LegalZoom ($79 + State Filing Fee)

Starting an LLC in Iowa is Easy

You can get an Iowa LLC online by registering the Certificate of Organization with the Secretary of State. The cost to set up an LLC in Iowa is $50.

Follow our How to Start an LLC in Iowa guide below to get started.

Steps to form an L L C in Iowa

For more information on how to form an LLC in any state, visit our How to Start an LLC guide.

Step 1: Create A Name For Your Iowa LLC

Before you register your Iowa LLC, you'll need to come up with 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. We’ll go over the basics below.

Naming Your LLC

First, brainstorm some possibilities. Use our LLC name generator to get the ideas flowing.

Next, make sure your name meets Iowa guidelines:

  • it contains the words limited liability company, limited company, LLC, or L.L.C.
  • it doesn't contain restricted words or phrases (these often include words like bank, attorney, and university) without approval
  • it's distinguishable from any other entity or trade name registered in Iowa
  • full list of Iowa naming guidelines

Next, do an Iowa LLC name search with the Secretary of State to find out if your name is available in Iowa.

If your business name is available and meets guidelines, you’ll be able to register it when you file your Certificate of Organization with the Secretary of State.

Is the URL available? Before you commit 100% to a name, check to see if there’s a good web domain available.

We recommend buying your domain right away because even if launching a business website isn’t on your radar right now, it will be soon.

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Once you register a domain name for your LLC, consider setting up a business phone system to establish credibility and enhance your customer service. Nextiva provides a plethora of useful features and a quick, easy setup. Try Nextiva.

Using an Iowa Trade Name or Fictitious Name (DBA)

An Iowa DBA (doing business as), also known as a trade name or fictitious name, is any registered name that a business operates under that isn't its legal business name. A trade name or fictitious name can be used by any type of business, including a sole proprietorship, partnership, or limited liability company (LLC).

Learn how to get a DBA in our Iowa DBA guide.

Step 2: Appoint An Iowa LLC Registered Agent

When you file your Certificate of Organization, you'll need to list a registered agent.

A registered agent's job is to accept legal documents like service of process and tax notices for your LLC. To learn more about Iowa Registered Agents, read our guide.

Your registered agent can be a person or a registered agent service. You can act as your own registered agent, but many business owners choose to use a registered agent service.

Here are a few things to think about before you decide to act as your own registered agent:

  • You’ll need to be available during normal (9 am - 5 pm) business hours at the address you provide
  • If you run your business from home, you’ll have to make your personal address public
  • You could be served with a lawsuit in front of your family or coworkers

Recommended: Northwest Registered Agent offers a free year of registered agent services when you form your LLC ($29 plus state fees).

Step 3: File the Certificate Of Organization

It’s time to officially form your LLC by filing your Certificate of Organization with the Iowa Secretary of State.

You can file online with the Secretary of State or follow these instructions to create your own Certificate of Organization and deliver by mail or fax. The filing fee is $50. 

Recommended: Now is a good time to decide if your LLC will be member-managed vs manager-managed.

You'll need to know the following information to create the form:

  1. Entity Name and Address
  2. Registered Agent Name and Registered Office Address
  3. Effective Date and Expiration Date

For more detailed help with completing the form, visit our Iowa Certificate of Organization guide.

Mail Your Articles of Organization:

Send the form and payment (payable to the Secretary of State) to:

Lucas State Office Building
321 E 12th St
Des Moines, IA 50319

Submit by Fax: (515) 242-5953

How long does it take to get an Iowa LLC approved? LLC processing time is immediately after payment is received or 2 weeks by mail or fax. 

Step 4: Create An Iowa LLC Operating Agreement

Creating an Iowa LLC operating agreement is the only way to legally lock down your LLC’s management and ownership structure. Having an operating agreement in place will give you something to return to if a dispute or lawsuit arises. 

Even single-member LLCs benefit from having an operating agreement.

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 will be distributed

You can add as many provisions as you want, as long as they don't conflict with Iowa law. Take a look at our What is an Operating Agreement guide to learn more.

Download a template or create a custom Free Operating Agreement using our tool.

Step 5: Get an EIN

An Employer Identification Number (EIN) is like a Social Security number (SSN) for your company. The IRS and the state of Iowa will 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

The best way to get an EIN for your LLC in Iowa is by using the free online application on the IRS website.

Read our Get an EIN guide for instructions.

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Steps After Forming an LLC in Iowa

After forming your Iowa LLC, it's important to:

Open A Business Bank Account

A business bank account helps separate personal expenses and company expenses, which is required to maintain your Iowa LLC's corporate veil. A corporate veil protects your personal assets from creditors in potential lawsuits against your LLC or Business.

Learn more by reading this guide to Banking for Entrepreneurs. For a multi-member LLC, you'll also want to set up capital accounts for LLC members. We also recommend checking out our review of the best business bank accounts.

Get A Business Credit Card

A business credit card will help separate personal and business expenses while building your company's credit history. A strong credit history will be useful for raising capital in the form of venture capital, angel investment, or small business loans.

Set Up Business Accounting

Hiring a business accountant is one of the best ways to ensure you’re taking advantage of LLC tax benefits; possibly saving you and your business thousands of dollars per year.

When forming an LLC in Iowa, it’s a good idea to start a relationship with a business accountant as soon as you start your business to help set your company up for success.

Get Business Insurance

Business insurance helps manage risk. The most common forms of business insurance are general liability, professional liability, and workers' compensation.

Find out the real cost of getting insurance for your business. Get a free quote or call 855-965-3168.

Keep Your Company Compliant

Research Iowa Business Licenses and Permits

To operate an LLC in Iowa, you will need to comply with federal, state, and local government regulations such as health permits, building permits, and signage permits. 

Business licensing and permit requirements vary from state to state. To get started, visit our How to Get a Business License in Iowa guide. To help facilitate this process, you can also utilize a business license service.

File Your Iowa LLC Biennial Report

Iowa LLCs must file a biennial report with the Secretary of State every odd-numbered year. This can be done online with Fast Track Filing or by downloading a pre-populated form to submit by mail. The filing fee is $30 online and $45 by mail.

Understand Iowa State Tax Requirements

Iowa businesses selling a physical product are generally required to register for a seller’s permit with the Department of Revenue. Visit our Iowa Sales Tax guide to learn more about seller’s permits and Iowa sales tax.

What’s more, all LLCs with employees in Iowa must register with the Iowa Workforce Development website for unemployment insurance tax as well as sign up with the Iowa Department of Revenue for employee withholding tax.

Understand Your Iowa LLC’s Federal Tax Requirements

Most Iowa LLCs will need to report their income to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) each year using Form 1065: Partnership Return (multi-member LLCs) or Form 1040 - Schedule C (single-member LLCs).

How you pay yourself will affect your federal taxes. Visit our guide to learn more about how to pay yourself from your LLC.

Know Your Iowa LLC’s Federal Tax Election Options

Pass-through taxation entails a business’s profits passing through to the LLC member’s individual tax returns. Like a sole proprietorship, an LLC is taxed as a pass-through entity, also known as a disregarded entity. 

Once this process is completed and after any tax-deductible expenses are taken out, the LLC members pay self-employment taxes and income tax on their portion of the business income. 

Alternatively, Iowa LLCs can choose to elect to be taxed as an S corporation (S corp) or C corporation (C corp). If S corporation tax status is elected, LLC members can be taxed as employees of the business, potentially reducing tax burden.

More LLC Resources

  • Iowa Foreign LLCs: Forming a foreign LLC allows your company to operate as one entity in multiple states. You can file for an Iowa foreign LLC online.
  • Iowa Certificate of Good Standing: A certificate of good standing verifies that your LLC was legally formed. To order, follow our Iowa certificate of good standing guide.
  • Dissolving an Iowa LLC: If you are ready to dissolve your LLC, follow the steps in our Iowa LLC Dissolution Guide.
  • LLC Legal Forms: TRUiC offers a number of free LLC legal forms including operating agreements, LLC resolutions, and hiring documents.

Need Help Forming an LLC?

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