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Are you in search of the best registered agent in Rhode Island? A registered agent, which is also called a resident agent, is a person or company that accepts official documents for the company. This person could receive a tax notice that’s delivered by certified mail, for example, or could be given service of process papers that are served when a company is sued. 

A registered agent has an important role to play in the business landscape, so much so that it’s part of setting up an LLC in Rhode Island. To legally establish a Rhode Island LLC, a registered agent must be listed on the LLC formation documents that are filed with the state. 

To help new entrepreneurs understand how to set up an LLC and how a registered agent fits in the picture, we’ve created this guide. It should answer many of the questions that new business owners have. 

How is an LLC formed in Rhode Island?

Getting a Rhode Island LLC up and running requires a few steps. To help, here’s a simple to-do list to follow to set up a business in the state:

1. Name the company

Have you decided on a company name yet? If so, you need to check its availability on the Rhode Island Secretary of State website. To do so, run a business name search. If there’s a company in the state with the name that you want, you won’t be able to use it. The State of Rhode Island won’t let two businesses within state borders have the same name. 

If the name is available, entrepreneurs can reserve it. For owners who don’t plan to establish the business in the state immediately, this is a good option. If you plan to legally establish the company in the next few days, reserving the name isn’t necessary. 

The company name must also include the phrase “Limited Liability Company” or “LLC” in its title too. Also, be aware that the state: 

  • Won’t allow any company names that refer to the government or elude to the idea that the company is (or works with) the government
  • Has the power to investigate the validity of a name, if necessary. (If a company name includes “Academy,” for example, the state may want the owner to substantiate that claim).

It’s also a good time to check on the availability of a matching company website. Research domain names before registering the business with the state. 

2. Pick a registered agent

The owner of the company picks a registered agent, or a resident agent, as it’s sometimes called in Rhode Island. The registered agent will receive sensitive information and documents on behalf of the company. These documents are usually delivered by certified mail or are hand-delivered. 

Given the importance of this role, the person selected as the company’s registered agent should be trustworthy, reliable, and be able to notify the owner of any deliveries immediately. 

3. File the Articles of Organization

Rhode Island encourages business owners to file LLC formation papers, which are referred to as Articles of Organization, online. The document is filed with the Rhode Island Department of State and costs $150 to file. 

While online applications are ideal, owners can also file in-person or mail the documents to the state. 

The Articles of Organization require a company’s name and address, the registered agent’s name and address, a list of products and services, a list of managing members, the start date of the company, and if applicable, an end date. The LLC organizer, which is usually the owner, must sign and submit the document to the state. 

It will take the State of Rhode Island about 5-7 days to review the application and approve it. Once approved, a business is legally formed in the state.

4. Create a company operating agreement

Business experts say the next step is to create an operating agreement. The State of Rhode Island doesn’t require it, but many entrepreneurs take the time to create one to avoid problems later. 

This document explains how the company will operate and explains things like who’s in charge, how decisions are made, and how profits and losses are divided up. The contract is meant to provide clarity so there aren’t any surprises in the future. 

5. Obtain an EIN

Rhode Island LLCs need to obtain an EIN from the IRS. An EIN, or an employer identification number, is required to pay taxes, hire employees, set up bank accounts, or apply for a business loan. 

While the nine-digit number is issued by the IRS, it’s surprisingly easy to get. The IRS website has set up an easy question and answer session that provides an EIN to a new business in about five minutes. 

6. File an annual report

Rhode Island requires all LLCs to file an annual report. The state refers to it officially as a Limited Liability Company Annual Report. The report must be filed each year between September 1 and November 1. The filing fee is $50.

What is a Rhode Island registered agent?

A Rhode Island registered agent, or a resident agent, is a person or company that receives documents for the company. The person could be the owner or an employee, but it can also be a Rhode Island company, like a registered agent service. 

Do I really need a registered agent in Rhode Island?

Yes. Every state in the country requires LLCs to have a registered agent. 

Can I be my own registered agent in Rhode Island?

Yes. The business owner can be the company’s registered agent and usually is. Owners that work from the company office are especially inclined to serve as the company’s registered agent since they’re in one location to receive documents as needed. 

However, there are other people who can serve in this role. 

Who can be a registered agent in Rhode Island? 

In Rhode Island, a registered agent can be any adult citizen or company in good standing with the state. The person or company must: 

  • Have a physical address in Rhode Island, not a P.O. box
  • Be available during regular business hours to accept documents as needed

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

A registered agent service is a company that serves as a registered agent for your business. For a fee, the company will accept documents and notify you of their arrival. The company will usually scan the documents and send the originals in the mail. 

Some business owners prefer to use a registered service agent, for these reasons: 

  • AvailabilityA registered agent must be available during regular business hours. For owners who don’t work in the office each day, this kind of availability could be problematic. A registered agent service always has daytime availability, which can be appealing to on-the-go owners.
  • Peace of mindA registered agent service handles documents for dozens of companies and is experienced at document management. The company will notify a list of contacts if a document is delivered. This kind of service provides great peace of mind for many owners.
  • PrivacyDocuments handled by registered agents are usually sensitive in nature, which is why having such information delivered off-site is ideal for privacy’s sake.

List of Rhode Island registered agent services 

Interested in learning more about registered agents in the state? There are many to choose from in Rhode Island. To get an idea of what’s out there and what kind of pricing is common, here’s a list of possible choices: 

  • 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 Rhode Island?

Startups want to keep an eye on cost; it only makes sense. Entrepreneurs might be surprised to learn that hiring a registered agent service is affordable. For $50 a year, a company can work with a service that offers an online portal, same-day document scans, mail forwarding, and notifications. 

Of course, there are companies that offer more advanced features and charge more. On the high end, costs can hit $100-200 a year. 

How does an owner select a registered agent in Rhode Island?

A Rhode Island LLC selects a registered agent and lists the contact information on the Articles of Organization. LLC formation documents that are turned into the state without this information will be rejected. 

Can a company change its registered agent?

Yes. A registered agent can be changed. Maybe the employee who fills this role is taking another job or perhaps the owner wants to switch to a registered agent service. No matter what the reason, the state has a change form that can be filled out to alter the name on file. The cost to file the Statement of Change form with the Rhode Island Secretary of State is $20.

What’s a statutory agent?

Not all states use the term registered agent, although it is common. Some states use resident agent, statutory agent, or service of process agent. All of the titles mean the same thing and maintain the same responsibilities. 

What’s a commercial registered agent?

If an owner decides to hire a registered agent service, the company has a commercial registered agent. If the company doesn’t hire a service and appoints the owner or an employee, the company has a non-commercial agent. In some states, business owners may be asked which kind of registered agent is on file with the state.