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How to Form an Iowa LLC

Forming an LLC in Iowa will help protect your personal assets from lawsuits and judgments against your business.  An LLC is a business structure that separates your business and personal assets.  By not having your business in a separate legal structure, you can be held personally liable for certain debts and lawsuits incurred by the company.  Forming an Iowa Limited Liability Company does not require an attorney and you can save a lot of money if you do it yourself with the six simple steps below.

Before getting into the six steps, here are a few things to know about Iowa LLCs.

How Much Does It Cost to Get an LLC In Iowa?

The filing fee for an Iowa Limited Liability Company is $50, payable to the Iowa Secretary of State.  Expect approval to take 7-14 days. 

Iowa Annual Report and Annual Fees

The Iowa Secretary of State requires all LLCs to file a biennial report. The filing fee for the biennial report is $30 if you file online and $45 if you file by mail.

Payment can be made by credit card or certified check.

Member/Manager Information

  • Minimum Number – one or more
  • Members/Managers- at least one is required to be listed in the Articles of Organization
  • Residence Requirements – none specified
  • Age Requirements – none specified

Iowa Business Licenses and Permits

In addition to forming your Iowa LLC, you will need to check for Iowa business licenses and permits.

Steps to Forming an Iowa LLC

Step 1. Name Requirements

Iowa LLC Name Search

Before settling on a business name, you want to be sure nobody else is using it as each LLC must have a unique name.  Here’s how to search available LLC names in Iowa.

If you find a business name you want to register, but aren’t ready to form your Iowa LLC, the Iowa Secretary of State offers a name reservation to hold the name.

Name Guidelines

Your company name must end with the words Limited Liability Company or an abbreviation of these words (“LLC,” “L.L.C.,” “Limited,” “LTD.,” “LTD”.).  Check out our article on naming your LLC  for all of the requirements that you must follow when naming an LLC.

Also, there are some words that aren’t allowed to be used in the state, like those that could refer to a state agency or that require licensing from the state.

Step 2. Choose a Registered Agent

What is a Registered Agent?

A registered agent is the central point of contact for the LLC, that can be either an individual or business entity, that receives important legal documents, tax notices or communications with the state.

Registered Agent Requirements

The registered agent must generally be available during normal business hours at a physical street address in Iowa to accept service of process.   A Post Office Box or personal mailbox is not acceptable. If the registered office includes a suite number, it must be included in the registered office address.

Who can be Registered Agent in Iowa?

A registered agent in Iowa can either be a resident of the state or a corporation authorized to do business in the state of Iowa.

Provided you as the business owner have a physical presence in Iowa, you can be the registered agent, however, there are additional privacy benefits to having a third-party registered agent.

Check out our article on why an LLC Registered Agent may be a good choice for your business for more details.

Step 3. File the Certificate of Organization

The Certificate of Organization is the paperwork used to form an LLC with the state. This is the most important step and many people believe that you need an attorney to file.

While we don’t discourage having an attorney, filing a Iowa LLC can be done by most people, but you can save considerable money over an attorney and make sure everything is filed correctly by using a formation service such as ZenBusiness.

Click to download the Iowa Articles of Organization

Step 4. Create an Operating Agreement

An LLC operating agreement is not required in Iowa but is typically a good idea, especially for an LLC owned by multiple people.  The primary function of the operating agreement is to govern the relationship between the owners of the business, but also outlines who makes what decisions, how profits or losses are distributed and the operating procedures of the LLC.

Learn more about LLC operating agreement.

Step 5. Get an EIN

What is an EIN?

The Employer Identification Number (EIN), or Federal Tax Identification Number (FEIN), is used to identify a business entity. It is essentially a social security number for the company.

In addition to the EIN being an identifying number for the LLC it serves a few other purposes such as:

  • Opening a business bank account
  • Federal and State tax purposes
  • The business account to pay payroll taxes for employees paid by the company

 

How to Register an EIN for an Iowa LLC

To file an EIN for your LLC, visit the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) or obtain the SS-4 form.  They show the steps on how to apply, but here is a video on how to apply for an EIN for more details.    In about five minutes, you will have your number free of charge.   Be sure to wait until your LLC is approved before applying for your EIN as the name that is registered for the LLC must be the same as the EIN.


Step 6. Select the Tax Status of the LLC

In addition to the personal liability protection the Limited Liability Company provides its members, another key benefit of an LLC the four business entities don’t provide is the flexibility in taxation.  There are four ways an LLC can be taxed, compared with two ways for a corporation.

  1. Single Member LLC – An LLC with one member automatically becomes a single-member LLC with the IRS. The owner simply files their Schedule C with their 1040 at the end of the year. Filing as a single-member LLC means the entity does not pay sales tax and goes to the owner which is called pass-through taxation. The owner pays self-employment taxes on the net profit of the LLC, which while simpler to handle taxes, may be more costly.
  2. Partnership LLC – An LLC with two or more members is automatically considered a Partnership with the IRS and will file Form 1065. Like the sole-proprietorship as a pass-through entity, the LLC taxed as a Partnership pays no income tax and profit and losses flow to each member’s Form 1040s via Schedule K-1 of Form 1065.
  3. C Corporation LLC – An LLC can elect to be taxed as a C Corporation by filing IRS Form 8832. The major difference as an LLC that is taxed as a C corporation is that now the LLC pays tax on the profits and losses and are not directly passed down to the members. Most, but not all will find filing as a C Corporation will cost more in taxes as now the LLC has double taxation where there is a tax on the profits and dividends.
  4. S Corporation LLC – To get S Corporation status, you will file Form 2553 with the IRS. What makes the S Corporation attractive unlike the sole proprietorship or partnership is that you can potentially shield some of the profits from being subject to self-employment taxes. Dividends aren’t typically subject to self-employment taxes which is a large potential savings. There will be more work in accounting an LLC that elected S Corporation status.


Don’t want to go it alone but don’t want the expense of an attorney? Another alternative is to use an LLC formation service that will do the formation at a low cost.

ZenBusiness has a special offer right now to form an LLC for $49 plus the cost of the state fees.


Step 7. Open a bank account for your business

Opening a separate LLC bank account is important as it establishes a clear division between your personal and business finances.  Should the LLC be sued and you are using a personal bank account for your LLC’s finances, that would be considered a commingling of funds, which may make it difficult to maintain the liability protection of the LLC.

To open a bank account for your LLC, you will need to bring the following with you to the bank:

  • Form of identification for each member, such as a driver’s license
  • Copy of the Certificate of Formation
  • LLC operating agreement
  • Employer Identification Number – If you are a single-member LLC with no employees, you can simply use your Social Security Number

A bank resolution may be needed depending on the bank and the tax election of the LLC.  A banking resolution is a formal document that provides authorization for who has access to the LLC bank account.

Learn more about opening a bank account for an LLC

Step 8. Obtain a sales tax permit (not required for all businesses)

If your business sells a taxable product or service you will also need to apply for a Iowa Sales Tax Permit through the Iowa Department of Revenue.

Wanting to form an LLC in a state other than Iowa to save money on taxes?  This doesn’t typically help as you will likely register an LLC in the other state and will also usually need to file as a foreign LLC in your home state of Iowa as well.  In addition to paying two filing fees to start the LLC and two annual reports each year, there will be multiple tax filings as well.  Be sure to do your research as there are a lot of people promoting formation services in other states and weigh all the pros and cons before making this decision as it can be a costly one.

Secretary of State Contact
To contact the Iowa Secretary of State you can visit the Business Services Division at:
First Floor, Lucas Building
321 E. 12th St
Des Moines, IA 50319

Phone: 515-281-5204
Email: sos@sos.iowa.gov