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Every business in the state of Maryland needs a registered agent. A registered agent serves as your company’s point of contact and will receive official documents addressed to your company. 

Selecting a registered agent is part of setting up an LLC in Maryland, but for entrepreneurs who are new to the business world, this entire process can be a bit overwhelming.

For starters, an entrepreneur needs to establish a business in the state by submittighhhhng LLC formation paperwork, and part of that paperwork requires you to list a registered agent. To help business owners understand how a registered agent plays a role in their newly-formed company, we’ve created a list of frequently asked questions about this topic. 

How is an LLC formed in Maryland?

In Maryland, an LLC is formed by filing what’s called the Articles of Organization. Before doing so, however, there are a few things you should know about the process. 

1. Name the company

To start, the company needs a unique name. Maryland law says no two businesses can have the same name, which means if the name you like is already in use you have to select another name. To see if a name is available, go to the Maryland Business Express website to conduct a business entity search.

Plus, in Maryland, the name of the company must also follow these rules:

  • The name must include the phrase “Limited Liability Company” or “LLC.”
  • The name can’t use any terms or phrases that make the public think the company is associated with the government.
  • Certain names may require additional approval. Be prepared to support names that make claims to do something particular.

It’s also a good time to see if the matching domain name is available. Ideally, your business website will have the same name as the company, but the domain could already be taken. It’s best to research this before officially naming the company.

2. Pick a registered agent

To formally establish a business in Maryland, a registered agent must be on file with the state. A registered agent will receive important documents for the company, like tax forms, legal documents, notice of lawsuits, and government correspondence.

The registered agent should be someone the owner trusts. This person will receive sensitive business documents, so the individual or company should have a good reputation. 

In some cases, the owner serves as his or her own registered agent, which is legal to do in Maryland. However, other people can fill this role too. 

3. File the Articles of Organization

The name of the LLC formation paperwork varies by state, but in Maryland, it’s called the Articles of Organization. This document will ask for the company name and address, the registered agent’s name and address, the services or products offered, a list of managers, and the LLC organizer’s signature. 

These documents are filed with the Maryland Department of Assessments and Taxation and can be filed online or by mail. This is the only form that allows you to legally establish a business in the state.

There is a $100 filing fee. The State of Maryland does allow owners to fast-track the process for an additional $50 and a 3% service charge. 

4. Create a company operating agreement

Before opening to the public, there are a few other items on an owner’s to-do list. One of which is to create an operating agreement. An operating agreement, as the name suggests, explains how the company operates. It should cover topics like how decisions are made, how investors are involved, and how profits and losses are doled out. 

The State of Maryland doesn’t require businesses to have an operating agreement, but most business experts say it’s a vital document to have in place as it can alleviate problems in the future.

5. Obtain an EIN

To get started, every business also needs an EIN or an employer identification number. It’s similar to a social security number and is attached to every financial document you’ll fill out. For example, an owner needs an EIN to pay taxes, open bank accounts, apply for a business loan, or hire employees. 

The IRS issues EINs. To get one, go online, answer a few questions, and the IRS will issue the number instantly. It takes about five minutes.

6. File an annual report

All Maryland LLCs must file an annual report along with their personal taxes. The report is due on the same day as taxes, April 15. The filing fee is $300.

What is a Maryland registered agent?

A Maryland registered agent is a person or company that accepts official documents on behalf of a company. Think of a registered agent as your company’s point of contact. This person will receive important notices about the company that may be delivered by mail or delivered in-person. 

Do I really need a registered agent in Maryland?

Yes. The state of Maryland requires all LLCs to list a registered agent on its formation paperwork. Expect to list a registered agent’s name and address on the Articles of Organization.

Can I be my own registered agent in Maryland?

Yes. The owner can be his or her own registered agent. For most entrepreneurs who are just starting out, this is the most common choice. However, an owner can nominate other people to fill this role too. The owner can even pay for a registered agent service to fill this role. 

Who can be a registered agent in Maryland? 

You can select a person or company, including yourself, to be the company’s registered agent. The State of Maryland says a registered agent can be any citizen over the age of 18 who has a physical street address or a company in the state that has a street address. No P.O. boxes are allowed. 

Ideally, the person or company is available between 9-5 on weekdays to accept documents as needed. 

Why would a company choose to work with a registered agent service? 

A registered agent service can accept documents, notify the owner, and even help with official documents like annual reports. Here’s a look at why some business owners opt for a registered agent service as opposed to doing it themselves:

  • AvailabilityA registered agent should be available during regular business hours. However, some owners travel or are consistently in offsite meetings. When availability is an issue, an owner relies on a registered agent service.
  • Peace of mindAn LLC owner knows that important documents aren’t missed if a service is in place. He or she knows that tax notices, for example, aren’t sitting in a pile on someone’s desk being ignored. A service receives the documents and notifies the owner immediately. 
  • PrivacySome of the documents that a registered agent receives are sensitive. For example, service of process documents is issued in the event of a lawsuit. Rather than be served these papers in a public setting, some entrepreneurs prefer those documents to be served to an offsite company like a registered agent service.

List of Maryland registered agent services 

Interested in getting a registered agent service? There are many services to choose from in Maryland. To get an idea of what’s available and at what cost, here’s a look at three different services that are available to Maryland LLCs:

  • Northwest Registered Agent: Northwest is one of the most recognized names in the registered agent business. The company has decades of experience and local offices scattered across the U.S. to serve small businesses like yours. The cost for a registered agent service is comparable to others. Business owners can also take advantage of additional services like report filing.
  • ZenBusiness: ZenBusiness is fairly new to the market, but they’ve grown a strong following. Business owners love the affordable rates for a registered agent service, which are as low as $99 per year. The company offers worry-free compliance too, to help business owners file the necessary reports on time.
  • Incfile: Incfile is another trusted name for business services, including its registered agent services. Business owners can get a registered agent free for a year. That’s right, free. After the first year, the price kicks in at $119. An online dashboard, automatic mail forwarding, and tailored notifications also come with the service.

How much does a registered agent service cost in Maryland?

The cost of a registered agent depends on the level of service an owner wants. A service that simply forwards mail or alerts an owner to the receipt of new documents can cost about $50 a year. 

For registered agent services with a higher level of involvement, the costs increase. There are services that offer online portals, help with annual reports and compliance issues, and provides 24/7 customer support. These services cost upwards of $150-200 per year.

How does an owner select a registered agent in Maryland?

To select a registered agent in the State of Maryland, the owner simply provides the registered agent’s name and address on the Articles of Organization documents. These documents are filed with the Maryland Department of Assessments and Taxation.

Can a company change its registered agent?

In the State of Maryland, a registered agent can be altered by submitting a Change of Registered Agent form with the Maryland Secretary of State. There is a $25 fee to file this document with the state.

What’s a statutory agent?

The term statutory agent and registered agent are used interchangeably. In Maryland, however, the most common term used is registered agent. 

What’s a commercial registered agent?

An owner might be asked at some point whether they use a commercial or a non-commercial registered agent. A commercial registered agent is a service that’s paid to fill this role. A non-commercial agent is a person, like an owner or an employee, who fills this role but isn’t paid to do so.