When Should I Form an LLC?

Determining the right moment to transition your business into a limited liability company (LLC) is a matter of strategy and foresight. Whether you’re just starting out or already have an informal business structure like a sole proprietorship, choosing to form an LLC is a major decision for the future of your business. 

We’re here to help you determine when the right time to form an LLC is for your business, including the advantages and disadvantages of choosing this business structure and how to register an LLC when the time is right. 

What Is an LLC? 

An LLC is a hybrid business structure that combines the personal asset protection offered by a corporation with the tax and operational flexibility of a partnership or sole proprietorship. 

Benefits of Forming an LLC 

There are several advantages of transitioning to or forming an LLC, such as: 

  • Personal Asset Protection: The most compelling benefit is the legal distinction between your personal assets and those of your business. This separation protects your savings, home, and other personal property from business liabilities.
  • Taxation Choices: LLCs aren’t subject to corporate tax rates. Instead, the profits and losses of the business pass directly to the owners’ personal tax returns, avoiding double taxation. Additionally, LLCs can choose to be taxed as an S corporation (S corp) to potentially reduce self-employment taxes.
  • Operational Flexibility: LLCs provide a flexible management structure. You can operate your LLC under multiple management styles, whether it’s managed directly by its members or by appointed managers.
  • Business Credibility: Adding “LLC” to your business name can enhance its professional image, making your business more appealing to potential clients and investors.

Considerations Before Forming an LLC 

Before you form your LLC, you should consider the associated costs, regulatory requirements, and state variations. Here’s a breakdown of the key considerations to make prior to choosing this business structure: 

  • Costs — There are costs associated with forming and maintaining an LLC, which vary by state. These include filing fees for the Articles of Organization and potential annual report fees or franchise taxes.
  • Regulatory Requirements — Although less burdensome than a corporation, LLCs still require compliance with state-specific regulations. These include the drafting of an Operating Agreement and possibly more complex tax filings, depending on how the LLC is taxed.
  • Variations by State — The rules, regulations, and benefits of LLCs can vary significantly from one state to another. It’s important to research and understand the specific requirements and advantages in your state.

When to Form an LLC

While choosing a formal business structure is generally a good idea for new businesses, there are also several circumstances that may indicate it’s time to consider forming an LLC. 

Your Business is Growing 

As your business expands and takes on more customers, contracts, or employees, the potential for liability increases. Forming an LLC can protect your personal assets as your business risks grow.

You’re Seeking Investors

If you’re in the process of seeking external funding, forming an LLC can make your business more attractive to investors who may prefer the formal structure and limited liability protection it offers.

You Want Tax Benefits 

If you’re seeking flexibility in how your business is taxed or wish to maximize your tax benefits, converting to an LLC can provide you with more options and potentially lower your overall tax burden.

How to Form an LLC 

Registering an LLC is a straightforward process, but it varies by state. Here are the general steps you must take to form an LLC or have Northwest Registered Agent form your LLC for you. 

1. Name Your LLC

Your LLC’s name must be unique and adhere to your state’s naming requirements. It often must include the terms “LLC” or “Limited Liability Company.”

2. Choose a Registered Agent 

To form an LLC, you must have a registered agent. This can be an individual or professional service provider that receives business documents on behalf of your LLC, such as tax forms and legal notices. 

3. File Articles of Organization 

This is the primary document required to officially register your LLC with the state. It typically includes basic information about your LLC, such as its business name, address, and the names of its members.

4. Create an Operating Agreement

Although not required in all states, an Operating Agreement is crucial. It outlines the ownership structure, member roles, and operational procedures of your LLC, providing a clear framework for resolving disputes and managing the business.

5. Get an EIN 

An LLC needs an Employer Identification Number (EIN) for tax purposes and to open a business bank account. It’s like a Social Security number for your business, and you can obtain one from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for free.

Frequently Asked Questions 

What is the disadvantage of an LLC?

While LLCs offer many advantages, such as tax flexibility and personal asset protection, there are some downsides to choosing this business structure. These disadvantages include initial and ongoing costs, tax complexity, and variations in requirements by state. 

Should I start with an LLC?

Starting as an LLC can be a wise choice for many entrepreneurs due to the balance of protection and flexibility it offers. It’s particularly beneficial if you’re concerned about personal liability or if you’re looking for tax benefits and a professional image right from the start.

When should I switch to an LLC?

Switching to an LLC is a good idea when you start to feel the limitations of your current structure — whether it’s in terms of liability, tax options, or investor appeal. Key moments to consider the switch include when your business gains traction, faces increased risk, or seeks external funding.

Should I start an LLC for my side hustle?

If your side hustle is more than just a hobby and involves significant financial transactions or legal risks, forming an LLC can be a smart move. It offers protection for your personal assets and can provide tax advantages as your side business grows.