How to Find the Best Registered Agent in North Carolina

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So, you’ve spent a good deal of time coming up with a great business idea and are ready to start a North Carolina business. Do you know how to turn your concept into a reality? 

Whether you’re forming a North Carolina corporation, non-profit, partnership, or limited liability company (LLC), one of the first steps you’ll need to take is selecting and filing a registered agent with the North Carolina Secretary of State, located in Raleigh. This guide will help answer any questions you might have along the way.

What is a North Carolina registered agent?

Every U.S. state requires business owners to have a registered agent on public record with their Secretary of State. A registered agent is a point of contact whose responsibility it is to accept the delivery of important business documents or legal documents, such as service of process, on behalf of your LLC or other business entity type.

How does an owner select a registered agent in North Carolina?

Once you decide on a registered agent, you’ll need to list the person or entity on the LLC formation paperwork you file with the North Carolina Secretary of State, Business Registration Division. This paperwork is called Articles of Organization or Articles of Incorporation. You’ll need to have the registered agent’s name and registered agent’s address in order to properly file. Whichever address is listed on these documents will be known as the registered office address for your business.

Who can be a registered agent in North Carolina?

There are not a lot of strict criteria to be a registered agent in North Carolina. The requirements are basically the same in all states, including:

  • If the registered agent is a person (vs. a business entity), they must be at least 18 years old
  • The registered agent must have a physical street address in North Carolina. This must be a physical address, as P.O. boxes are not allowed. 
  • The registered agent must be able to accept deliveries of legal notices on behalf of your LLC during all normal business hours (Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.) 
  • If the agent is a business they must be in good standing with the state

Can I be my own registered agent in North Carolina?

Yes. North Carolina, like many other states, allows the business owner to serve as their own registered agent. However, it’s important to note you must have a home or business address in the state to fulfill the agent requirements.

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

Ask any first-time entrepreneur about start-up expenses and they’ll likely tell you that money is tight. And while you might be able to save a little cash by representing yourself as a registered agent rather than paying a person or business entity to do it, it’s worth considering the advantages of outsourcing to a professional registered agent:

  • Local options. As a new business in North Carolina, it’s understandable that you might not have an office, storefront, or even a mailing address yet in the state. That’s not a concern for most aspects of your North Carolina LLC, but it does mean you won’t fulfill the requirements to represent yourself as a registered agent. The good news is, there are plenty of NC registered agents with in-state offices that are both affordable and experienced.
  • Availability.  Money isn’t the only concern for start-ups. For many entrepreneurs, time maybe even more precious. After all, you may need to run errands, train employees, or meet up with vendors, contractors, or investors. Do you have the availability to stay in one location just to wait for possible deliveries of documents? 
  • Privacy. Not everyone knows that legal documents are sometimes delivered by uniformed law enforcement officials called process servers. Granted, not all paperwork you’ll receive will necessarily be a lawsuit, but there’s no way for witnesses of the delivery to know what’s inside an envelope. With that said, do you want to risk employees, customers, or neighbors catching a glimpse of law enforcement showing up at your home, office, or place of business? Probably not. That’s where the privacy of using a registered agent’s office comes into play.
  • Experience. Are you up to speed on North Carolina’s state and federal compliance regulations or annual report deadlines? For the majority of new business owners, your experience will be eclipsed by that of registered agents.
  • Time savings. Even taking the leap to assume you have the experience to fill out complicated legal documents, do you have the time? Hiring a registered agent will take this task off your already full to-do list.

How much does a registered agent service cost in North Carolina?

A registered agent service can be as little as $50 a year (plus any additional state fees). For this amount, you’ll likely get basic features like mail forwarding. More advanced offerings do exist. For companies looking for online accounts, same-day document scans, and report reminders, the cost could increase to $100-200 a year.

List of North Carolina registered agent services 

Searching for a registered agent in North Carolina? Here is a handful to get you started:

  • 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.

North Carolina registered agent FAQs

Yes, some of the paperwork you’ll fill out for your LLC will require you to list your registered agent and it is required to be doing business in the state of North Carolina. 

The North Carolina Secretary of State makes it easy to select a new registered agent. Simply file the Statement of Change of Registered Office And/Or Registered Agent form and pay the $5 filing fee. 

This is the term for the legal process of informing a business entity that legal action is being taken against them, usually involving the business owner being sent legal documents.

A registered agent has several different names, depending on the state. North Carolina uses the term registered agent, but other states like Arizona, for example, use the term resident agent. The names service of process agent or statutory agent are also used, though registered agent is most commonly used.

A commercial registered agent usually refers to a business entity you pay to provide the service. If you’re asked whether or not you have a commercial or non-commercial agent, the answer is commercial if you have a service and non-commercial if you or an employee fill the role.

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