Starting a new business can feel overwhelming, but for entrepreneurs, running a business can be an incredibly rewarding experience. There are many steps to making a successful business; but it starts with paperwork! Before you start operating or selling products and services, you must first form your business entity legally.
Many entrepreneurs choose the limited liability company (LLC) business structure. An LLC offers liability protection for the owners and is relatively straightforward to set up and maintain. Forming a new business entity is handled on the state level, and each state has its own guidelines and rules. This guide shows you how to start an LLC in New Hampshire, specifically.
In New Hampshire, LLC formation is handled by the New Hampshire Department of State. The main document that must be filed is the Certificate of Formation – although there’s more to it than just that! Keep reading to learn how to start a limited liability company in New Hampshire.
1. Consider utilizing an LLC formation service
The first step is to consider whether you want to form the LLC on your own or use a professional service to help.
If you choose to use a service, the two that are most recommended are ZenBusiness and Northwest Registered Agent. Of these, ZenBusiness is cheaper (starting at just $49), while Northwest is known for excellent service.
These companies offer a simplified, step-by-step process that walks you through the formation process. Plus, they have customer service representatives that are ready to answer any questions you may have, and provide customized service.
LLC formation companies also offer other services that will benefit your business. They can serve as your Registered Agent, help with drafting an Operating Agreement, and much more.
Using a service can help save you a lot of time. That said, it’s not required, as you can do the steps on your own. If you’d rather save a bit of money, the steps below outline what you need to do.
Check out our roundup of the Best LLC Services
2. Name your new company
You will need to select a name for your new LLC. You will want to find a name that is relevant to your business, and hopefully also memorable for your clients or customers.
Equally important is to find a name that is not already taken. Names must be “distinguishable” from all other registered business names in the state of New Hampshire. This Business Search feature makes it easy to check whether or not a name is taken.
In addition to finding a unique name, the name will also need to meet certain criteria. For one, it cannot contain any government-related phrases that would confuse the business with a government agency. And in order to use words from regulated industries, like banking, a special permit may be required.
Using a Trade Name in New Hampshire
New Hampshire allows for the use of “trade names”, otherwise known as “doing business as” or “DBA” names. These are names that are used for branding purposes, which are basically attached to an existing business entity. Once you form your LLC, with its formal legal name, you can also add on trade names to provide more flexibility in branding and marketing. The cost to add a trade name is $50, and you can learn more about the process here.
3. Appoint a Registered Agent
New Hampshire LLCs are required to appoint – and maintain – what is called a Registered Agent. This agent represents the company, and their main role is to receive communications, tax forms, and important legal documents on behalf of the LLC.
The Registered Agent’s mailing address will be publicly listed on the business registration database online. You can serve as your own Agent, although this means you will give up some privacy as your mailing address will be listed. The Agent must either be a resident of New Hampshire, or a New Hampshire company (although an LLC cannot be its own Registered Agent).
The alternative is to use a Registered Agent service. These companies offer professional Registered Agent services in each state, including New Hampshire. They offer the benefit of increased privacy, plus, they eliminate the risk of an important document being misplaced. Two good options are Northwest Registered Agent and ZenBusiness. Expect to spend around $100-$150 per year for the service.
Check out our roundup of the Best Registered Agent Services
4. File LLC Certificate of Formation
New Hampshire requires the Certificate of Formation to be filed with the Department of State. This document is similar to the Articles of Organization required in other states.
The Certificate of Formation can be filled out, printed, and mailed to the address below. You must include a check for $100 made out to the “State of New Hampshire”.
Corporation Division, NH Dept. of State
107 N Main St, Rm 204
Concord, NH 03301
Alternatively, you can use the NHQuickStart platform to file the document online. The fee is the same ($100), but is paid via credit card or bank transfer.
Once the document has been submitted, you simply need to wait for it to be processed. This typically takes 7-10 business days, although it may be longer depending on the backlog. Generally, online applications are processed quicker than mailed documents.
5. Create an operating agreement
Note: This step is optional, but recommended.
An operating agreement is an optional, but important, document for your business. It is an internal document, which basically means that it is kept on file, rather than being filed with any specific government agency.
This document establishes an LLC ownership structure, as well as its basic operating procedures. This makes it exceptionally important for LLCs with multiple owners because it protects against ownership disputes. Even single-member LLCs can still benefit from an agreement, however.
Services like ZenBusiness provide templates to help you draft an operating agreement. You can also use the services of a local attorney.
6. Apply for business licenses & permits
Various additional steps must be taken before your business can operate legally. The Certificate of Formation establishes the LLC as a legal entity, but it’s not the only license required.
The specific requirements depend on the type of business you are running, as well as its location and industry. The federal government requires licenses for certain specialized and regulated industries.
The state of New Hampshire requires various permits and licenses for business in certain industries. For example, some businesses may need to apply for health permits, environmental permits, or alcoholic beverage licenses. At this time, you’ll also want to apply for an unemployment tax account with the New Hampshire Employment Security system. More information on state-level requirements can be found here.
Additionally, local jurisdictions may also require permits. Most cities and counties will require a general business license, and may also have industry-specific permits for some businesses. Check with the local government in the city or county that you plan to operate (and in each relevant city or county, if you plan to have multiple locations).
7. Apply for an EIN
An EIN, or employer identification number, is required in order to hire employees. This is a federal tax ID number that is issued by the Internal Revenue Service. Once obtained, it will be used in the hiring process, as well as in tax filings with the IRS.
An EIN is a federal number, so it has nothing to do with New Hampshire. That said, NH LLCs should still apply for one. To apply, head to this link and fill out the required forms with the IRS. There is no cost to apply for an EIN.
8. Open a business checking account
Business owners should always separate their personal and business finances. This will drastically simplify the bookkeeping process, and also helps shield personal assets from liability related to the business.
To do this, you should open a business bank account as soon as possible. You will need your business license and your EIN, in most cases. Some banks have more requirements; call ahead to see what you will need to bring in in order to apply.
Most financial institutions now offer business checking accounts. You may wish to apply for a business credit card at the same time. This is also a good time to look into business insurance.
9. Keep your business in good standing
There are many tasks that you will need to complete on an ongoing basis in order to keep your LLC in good standing. This includes steps on the federal level (like tax returns), state-level (like annual reports and employer taxes), and local level (like permit renewals).
Again, this is a situation where the specific requirements will vary based on the type of business, its industry, and its physical location or locations. That said, here are some of the most common requirements (this list is not exhaustive, however!)
- New Hampshire Annual Report – due April 1st each year. $100 fee
- New Hampshire employer tax returns and withholding
- Federal employer tax/payroll tax returns
- Federal business taxes
- Federal quarterly taxes
- Local tax returns
- Permit renewals
- Professional license renewals
- Business license renewals
- Much more
In addition to these, you will also need to keep a Registered Agent appointed for the life of the company. You can do this yourself, or use a service like ZenBusiness. Additionally, ZenBusiness can help keep you on track with compliance tasks by reminding you of key dates, and even helping with certain filings, such as annual reports.
This can all feel a bit overwhelming, but it’s all necessary in order to keep your business complaint. By doing the research now, you can stay on top of things from day one. It’s a good idea to create calendar reminders of key due dates so you don’t forget anything.