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Excited to launch your new business in Ohio? You should be. Whether you’re offering products or services, you’ll just need to follow a few steps to make things legal in the Buckeye State. 

Luckily, the process to get your business off the ground is pretty straightforward, no matter if you’re choosing to form a limited liability company, partnership, or corporation. 

You’ll learn the necessary processes—including filing a name, choosing a registered agent, obtaining an Employer Identification Number, and creating Articles of Organization—to ensure every entrepreneur plays by the book in Ohio.

Ready to get started? Just work your way through these step-by-step procedures to make your dream of entrepreneurship a reality.

How is an LLC formed in Ohio?

For many small start-ups, an LLC will be a good choice in terms of legally structuring your business. You’ll get the best of both worlds: limited personal liability for business-related debts and lawsuits without the formalities of a partnership.

Forming an LLC in Ohio is relatively easy. Just work your way through these steps:

1. Name the company

Coming up with a fun and suitable name for your business is the easy part of launching a business, right? Not necessarily.

You’ll need to ensure that the name you’ve chosen isn’t already in use in Ohio. But don’t stress out that it might be taken; there are some ways you may be able to make the name work in both a formal and/or informal capacity. Here are some tips to help you better understand your options:  

  • Ohio law states that your LLC must include one of the following six phrases or abbreviations in the formal name: 
    • LLC
    • L.L.C.
    • limited
    • ltd.
    • ltd.
    • limited liability company
  • The name you choose must be unique enough to be distinguishable from others that are already registered with the Ohio Secretary of State. You can do a quick search by checking the business name database. Once you’ve checked for availability and found a unique name, simply file a form for your name reservation. You can file it online or download the application and send it in by mail. Either way, there is a $39 filing fee and the name can be reserved for 180 days.
  • If you think the official legal name you’ve registered for your LLC is too formal for real-world use, you can choose a trade name. This name can be filed with the Ohio Secretary of State by mail or online. The filing fee is $39.

2. Pick a registered agent

As you work your way through the required forms to get your LLC off the ground, you’ll notice some require you to list a registered agent. Sometimes called an Ohio statutory agent, this person or entity is tasked with accepting tax and legal documents on behalf of your business. 

3. File Articles of Organization with the State of Ohio

Like other states, Ohio requires you to create and file Articles of Organization. This document asks owners for the following information: the LLC’s name; address, email, and phone; the Articles of Organization’s effective date; the term of the LLC; the name, address, and signature of your registered agent; signatures of LLC members, managers or authorized representatives; and the purpose of your LLC.

The filing fee is $99 and you can file online using the Ohio Secretary of State’s portal or by mail.

4. Create an Operating Agreement

One of the few optional pieces on your to-do list is the operating agreement. With that said, don’t be so quick to blow it off as unnecessary. You may not be required to file one with the Ohio Secretary of State, but having one is highly recommended. 

That’s because this primarily internal document helps spell out important points, including the duties, rights, powers, and liabilities of your LLC’s members. Just having an operating agreement may help you demonstrate that your LLC is a distinct entity to separate you from liability should a lawsuit be filed against your business.

As a new business owner, you may not know how to create an operating agreement. Luckily, a quick search of the web will give you templates and samples.

5. Obtain an EIN

For some entrepreneurs, the words Internal Revenue Service can be intimidating, but you’ll be happy to know that obtaining an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS is actually a very simple process—and 100% free. 

If any of the following criteria apply to your LLC, you’ll need to go to the IRS website to get your EIN, which is also known as a Federal Tax Identification Number:

  • Your LLC has more than one member, even if you don’t have any employees
  • Your LLC is a one-member entity with employees 
  • Your LLC is a one-member entity AND you elect to have it taxed as a corporation 

6. File an Annual Report

Although LLCs in Ohio aren’t required to file an annual report, certain types of entities and registrations are required to file reports at different intervals. These include LLPs, professional associations, and nonprofit corporations.

What is an Ohio registered agent?

Every state requires LLCs to list their registered agent on certain forms. This point of contact—which can be an individual or business entity—will be responsible for accepting important tax and legal paperwork on behalf of your business.

Do I really need a registered agent in Ohio?

Yes, you will need to appoint a registered agent and list that person’s or entity’s information on some of your forms. 

Can I be my own registered agent in Ohio?

Yes. Most states let you serve as your own registered agent. (New York is the only exception). 

Who can be a registered agent in Ohio? 

The rules for being a registered agent in Ohio are the same as other states. They include: 

  • The registered agent must be at least 18 years of age.
  • The person or entity serving as the registered agent must have a street address in Ohio. Post office boxes are not allowed, but the street address doesn’t need to be your home. It could be your business or an office. 
  • The registered agent is required to be available to accept deliveries during regular business hours, which is typically 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

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

Although most registered agents don’t charge a lot for their services, every penny counts when you’re launching a business. Still, before you decide to serve as your own registered agent in an attempt to save money, consider why the investment into outsourcing the work might be worth it:

  • Local optionsHaven’t moved to Ohio yet? Without a home, storefront, or office, you’ll be unable to fulfill the requirements to serve as your own registered agent. But commercial registered agents in Ohio are plentiful and they’ll all provide you with their in-state street address to use on your forms.
  • AvailabilityAs many business owners will attest, the only thing tighter than money when you launch an LLC is time. From meeting with investors and training employees to overseeing contractors and lining up vendors, it’s not realistic to think you’ll be able to wait around in one location 40 hours a week just to accept paperwork. Commercial registered agents are committed to doing just that.
  • PrivacyIn case you weren’t aware, sometimes legal documents are delivered by uniformed law enforcement. Although not every packet is filled with lawsuit paperwork, witnesses won’t necessarily know the difference. Are you ok with your neighbors, customers and/or employees witnessing law enforcement coming to your door? By choosing to have your paperwork delivered to a commercial registered agent, you’ll be ensured privacy.
  • ExperienceStill not convinced that a commercial registered agent might be worth the money? Ask yourself how familiar you are with state and federal compliance regulations and deadlines. Chances are, most commercial registered agents will know far more than you do.
  • Time savingsFor the sake of argument, let’s say you’re pretty familiar with the complicated paperwork your LLC will need to submit. Do you really have the time to fill it out? For what they charge, registered agents can feel like a bargain in terms of taking the responsibility off your plate to free up some of your time.

List of Ohio registered agent services 

Leaning toward the idea of using a commercial registered agent? Here are some in Ohio to expedite your search. Note services available and pricing. 

  • 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 Ohio?

On average, you’ll find that most of the registered agents in Ohio charge between $49 and $99.

How does an owner select a registered agent in Ohio?

The registered agent is listed on the LLC formation documents that are filed with the State of Ohio. 

Can a company change its registered agent?

At any point, you can change your registered agent. All you’ll need to do is fill out a change form on the Ohio Secretary of State’s site, or mail it in, and pay a $25 fee.

What’s a resident agent?

In Ohio, you may hear a resident agent referred to as a statutory agent or a process of service agent. The name varies by state.

What’s a commercial registered agent?

Commercial agents are professional entities or individuals who charge for their services. If you represent yourself as a registered agent, choose noncommercial on any forms that ask you to clarify which type of statutory agent you’re using.