How to Start an LLC in North Carolina

L L C members happy after starting an L L C in North Carolina

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

  1. Name Your LLC
  2. Choose a Registered Agent
  3. File the NC Articles 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 North Carolina is Easy

You can form a North Carolina LLC online by registering the Articles of Organization with the Secretary of State. The cost to start an LLC in North Carolina is $125. 

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

Steps to form an L L C in North Carolina

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 North Carolina LLC

Before you register your North Carolina 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 North Carolina guidelines:

  • it contains the words limited liability company, limited company, or the abbreviation 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 North Carolina
  • full list of North Carolina naming guidelines

Next, do a North Carolina LLC name search with the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs to find out if your name is available in North Carolina.

If your business name is available and meets guidelines, you’ll be able to register it when you file your North Carolina Articles 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 a North Carolina Assumed Business Name (DBA)

A North Carolina DBA (doing business as), also known as an assumed business name, is any registered name that a business operates under that isn't its legal business name. An assumed business 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 North Carolina DBA guide.

Step 2: Appoint A North Carolina Registered Agent

When you file your Articles 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 North Carolina 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 North Carolina Articles Of Organization

It’s time to officially form your LLC by filing your Articles of Organization with the North Carolina Secretary of State.

You can file online with the Secretary of State or fill out a hard copy of North Carolina Form L-01 and mail it in or upload it as a pdf to the Secretary of State. The filing fee is $125. 

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 complete each Article:

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

For more detailed help with completing the form, visit our North Carolina Articles of Organization guide.


Mail Your Articles of Organization:

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

The Secretary of State Business Registration Division
P.O. Box 29622
Raleigh, NC 27626

How long does it take to get a North Carolina LLC approved? Processing time is 2 weeks, but you can expedite this for an additional fee.

Step 4 : Create A North Carolina LLC Operating Agreement

Creating a North Carolina 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 an operating agreement 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 North Carolina business law. Learn more about Operating Agreements in North Carolina.

To learn more, read our What Is an LLC Operating Agreement guide. You can also download a template or create a custom Free Operating Agreement using our tool on How to Start an LLC. No credit card required, ever.

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 North Carolina 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 North Carolina 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 North Carolina

After forming your North Carolina 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 North Carolina 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 North Carolina, 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 North Carolina Business Licenses and Permits

To operate an LLC in North Carolina, 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 North Carolina guide. To help facilitate this process, you can also utilize a business license service.

File Your North Carolina LLC Annual Report

In North Carolina, all LLCs must file an annual report with the Secretary of State each year by April 15. This can be done online or by printing a pre-populated report to file by mail. The filing fee is $200.

Understand North Carolina State Tax Requirements

In general, North Carolina businesses that sell physical products must register for a seller’s permit with the North Carolina Department of Revenue. Visit our North Carolina Sales Tax guide to learn more about seller’s permits and North Carolina sales tax.

Additionally, if you have employees in North Carolina, you will need to register for unemployment insurance tax through the North Carolina Division of Employment Security website as well as sign up for employee withholding tax through the North Carolina Department of Revenue website.

Understand Your North Carolina LLC’s Federal Tax Requirements

Most North Carolina 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 North Carolina 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, North Carolina 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.

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