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Choosing a registered agent for your company is an important decision. A registered agent is a person or company that accepts official documents for your company. It’s an important role since this person will likely handle sensitive documents like financial statements, tax notices, or legal paperwork. 

Selecting a registered agent is part of setting up a business, and in South Carolina, there are steps business owners must follow to do so. In South Carolina, business owners must file LLC formation documents, on which the owner is asked to specify the company’s registered agent. 

While the process might sound a bit confusing, it’s actually fairly simple when it’s broken down into easy-to-manage steps as they are below. We’ll explore how to set up an LLC in the State of South Carolina and discuss how a registered agent plays a role.

How is an LLC formed in South Carolina?

An LLC is formed in South Carolina by filing what’s called Articles of Organization with the state. This document is the only way to legally set up a company in South Carolina and is similar to the process followed by other states. 

To establish a company in The Palmetto State, use these steps as a guide:

1. Name the company

The company name must be unique. Even if you picked a name for your company a decade ago when you first came up with a business idea, it can’t be used if another company in the state is already using it. For this reason, it’s a good idea to have a few different business names in mind. 

To check name availability, go to the South Carolina Secretary of State website and use the business database to conduct a search. If the name is available, that’s great, but it’s only the first step in the process. 

South Carolina has additional rules when it comes to naming a company. The rules say that company names: 

  • Will include “Limited Liability Company” or “LLC” in the title. 
  • Can not reference the government in any way or use any government abbreviations like FBI, IRS, or EPA in them. 
  • May be subject to additional approval from state officials. 

If the company name that you’ve selected meets all of these requirements, you’re good to go. Although, owners may want to check on the availability of the company domain name at this point too. If the domain is taken, the company website won’t match the company name. For some, that’s not a dealbreaker. For others, it is. Either way, it’s something to consider in the early stages of setting up a South Carolina LLC. 

Business owners who don’t plan to establish a business immediately after conducting the name search, consider reserving the name on the secretary of state’s website. For $25 the South Carolina Secretary of State Corporations Division will reserve the name for 120 days. 

2. Pick a registered agent

The company owner needs to select a registered agent to accept official documents for the company. The owner can fill this role or he or she can appoint another employee, friend, or even a family member. The owner could also opt to pay a registered agent service to accept documents for the company. Additional help finding the best registered agent is below. 

3. File the Articles of Organization

If the company name is ready to go and a registered agent is selected, it’s time to fill out the official LLC formation document, the Articles of Organization. This one-page document asks for the company name and address, the registered agent’s name and address, the start date of the company, and the purpose of the company. The LLC organizer must sign it and submit it to the state for approval. 

For the fastest approval, submit the document online. The state can approve it within 24 hours if it’s completed digitally. If the document is mailed, approval takes up to a week. 

Once approved, a business is legally established in South Carolina. 

4. Create a company operating agreement

The State of South Carolina doesn’t require business owners to create an operating agreement, but it’s considered vital to the foundation of a new business. The operating agreement’s purpose is to clearly define roles in the business. It spells out who’s in charge, how decisions are made, and how finances are managed. The operating agreement sets clear expectations from the start and provides direction if questions arise in the future.  

5. Obtain an EIN

Businesses need an EIN to operate. An EIN or an employer identification number is a nine-digit number the owner uses for financial transactions like paying taxes or employees or establishing business bank accounts. 

The number is issued by the IRS in a five-minutes online session. Visit the IRS website to cross this item off the to-do list. 

6. File an annual report

South Carolina is one of few states that does not require an annual report. Most states require LLCs to file a report and pay a filing fee. 

What is a South Carolina registered agent?

A South Carolina registered agent is a person or company that receives documents for your company. The documents can be sensitive in nature and are usually delivered by certified mail or delivered in-person by process servers. 

The owner selects the company’s registered agent and can elect a person or a company like a registered agent service to fill this role. 

Do I really need a registered agent in South Carolina?

Yes. The State of South Carolina, along with every other state in the U.S., requires LLCs to have a registered agent. 

Can I be my own registered agent in South Carolina?

Yes. The owner can fill the role of registered agent, and many do. If you plan to work at the office regularly and are available during regular business hours, it’s a good choice. However, the owner can select a different person or company. 

Who can be a registered agent in South Carolina? 

In South Carolina, a registered agent can be:

  • A South Carolina resident with a physical street address (not a P.O. box)
  • A South Carolina company with a physical street address (not a P.O. box)
  • A person or company with availability during regular business hours, Monday through Friday. 

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

A registered agent service can act as a company’s registered agent for a fee. The company will collect documents and notify you when they arrive. These services usually scan the documents and upload them to a confidential online portal and then mail the originals to the owner. There’s a series of notifications that occur when a document arrives as well, which varies a little by the company but usually includes electronic messages and a phone call.

Many owners say working with a registered agent service is beneficial. Benefits include: 

  • ConvenienceAssigning a registered agent service is quick, simple, and affordable. With a service, owners don’t have to alter their schedules or make sure they’re available during normal business hours. It’s convenient.
  • Peace of mindRegistered agent services manage documents for many companies and are experienced at accepting and notifying owners. For many entrepreneurs, this level of expertise provides peace of mind.
  • PrivacyIn the event that your company is sued, the registered agent will be “served” documents. Process servers deliver what’s called service of process papers in-person. While it may not ever happen, if it does, owners prefer that it happen offsite for obvious privacy reasons.

List of South Carolina registered agent services 

Every state has qualified registered agent services that are ready and willing to serve as your LLCs registered agent. A Google search can provide a list of available companies in your area, but here’s a list to browse: 

  • 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 South Carolina?

It’s always important to consider costs. After all, starting a business isn’t cheap. However, a registered agent service is a small yearly expense. For basic services, where a company accepts documents and notifies you, it’s about $50 a year. 

There are other companies with higher annual fees, but they also offer more features. It’s important to compare features to select the best registered agent for your company. 

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

The registered agent is selected when the person or company is listed on the Articles of Organization. Once the LLC formation documents are filed with the State of South Carolina, the registered agent is officially selected. 

Can a company change its registered agent?

Yes. A business has the ability to change its registered agent. Simply file a Notice of Change of Registered Agent form with the Secretary of State and pay the $10 filing fee. 

What’s a statutory agent?

Some states call a registered agent a statutory agent. There are several different names for this role. Service of process agent and resident agent is also used. The name used depends on the state.

What’s a commercial registered agent?

You may be asked if your company has a commercial agent or a non-commercial agent. If your company pays a registered agent service, your company has a commercial registered agent. If there’s a person within the company who holds this position, your company has a non-commercial agent.