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Start a Corporation in Alabama

Use our free business tools below to complete your Alabama Certificate of Incorporation. This is the document you file directly with the Alabama Secretary of State to form your corporation.

If you want more, hire us to form your corporation in Alabama for just $39 + state fees. We’ll get your business stood up in minutes with a free domain, website, email, business phone, and more.

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How to Start a Corporation in Alabama

An Alabama corporation is a business with a legal existence separate from its owners. If properly maintained, a corporation can conduct business in its own name and has many of the rights and obligations of a natural person, including the ability to enter into contracts, sue and be sued, hold assets, and pay taxes in its own name.

To start a corporation in Alabama, you’ll need to do three things: appoint a registered agent, choose a name for your business, and file a Certificate of Incorporation with the Alabama Secretary of State. You can file this document online or by mail. The filing alone costs a minimum of $200, but there’s also a mandatory name reservation ($28 online) and a 4% convenience fee for online filings. Once processed by the state, the Certificate of Incorporation formally creates your Alabama corporation.

 

1. Name Your Corporation

If you’re starting a new business, you probably already know what you want to name your corporation. But you’ll need to know if your preferred name is available. To find out, visit Alabama’s business entity records and search until you find the perfect name for your corporation. Alabama is also the only state that requires a name reservation before filing.

Name reservations are a unique requirement—Alabama is the only state that requires one. On the upside, they’re processed immediately online. On the downside, the name reservation sets you back $28. On your Certificate of Incorporation, enter your business name and include a copy of the Name Reservation Certificate with your formation paperwork. When you hire us, we’ll reserve your name for you as well.

What's the difference between my corporation name and an assumed business name?

The legal name of your corporation is the one listed on your Certificate of Incorporation. Your assumed name (also called a DBA) is any name you choose to do business under other than your corporation’s legal name or your personal name. In Alabama, you are required to register your assumed name with the Secretary of State.

Learn how to get an assumed name in Alabama.

Do I need to renew an assumed name in Alabama?

Yes. Alabama assumed names or DBAs need to be renewed every five years. To renew your Alabama DBA, you’ll file the Application to Register or Renew a Trademark, Service Mark or Trade Name in Alabama. It costs $30 to renew your Alabama assumed name.

2. Designate a Registered Agent

Per AL Code § 10A-1-5.31, every Alabama corporation must appoint a registered agent. You don’t need to hire a registered agent, but if you do, make sure your registered agent will list their address on your filing wherever possible to ensure maximum privacy.

What does a registered agent do?

You can find an outline of Alabama registered agent duties and requirements in Alabama Code §10A-1-5.31. The basic duties of a registered agent are to:

  • Have a physical address (no PO boxes or virtual offices) in the state of Alabama.
  • Keep regular business hours.
  • Accept legal mail and correspondence from the Alabama Secretary of State on behalf of your business and get them to you fast.

Can I be my own registered agent in Alabama?

Yes. However, being your own Alabama registered agent also means listing your name and address on the public record. You’ll be responsible for keeping regular business hours to accept any legal correspondence in person.

Can I change my registered agent after I start my corporation?

Yes. It’s possible to change your registered agent in Alabama by submitting the Change of Registered Agent form with the state’s Business Services Division for a fee of $25.

3. Submit Certificate of Incorporation

Once you know who your registered agent will be and what your corporation name is, you’re ready to file your Alabama Certificate of Incorporation. Follow along with our filing instructions below:

Note that the information you provide becomes part of the public record—permanently.

You’ll need to include the following information in your Certificate of Incorporation:

  • Name Reservation and Name
  • Principal Office. This is the main business office of your corporation and will become part of the permanent public record. Hire us as your registered agent, and you can use our Alabama address here.
  • Registered Agent. For your Alabama registered agent, you can either list an individual Alabama resident (such as yourself) or an authorized business (like Northwest). We recommend Northwest.
  • Registered Agent Address. This Alabama street address is where your registered agent will be available to accept legal notifications during business hours. Avoid listing your personal or home office address on this public document when you hire a registered agent service. Our address will go here when you hire Northwest. Note that in addition to the street address, you’ll also need to list the county where your registered office is located (ours is in Houston County).
  • Preparer. On the first page of the paper form, there’s a box with space for the name and address of the person who prepared the form (typically the same person as your incorporator). When you hire Northwest to form your Alabama corporation, we’ll prepare your Certificate of Incorporation.
  • Purpose. It sounds existential, but this section is really just asking about what your business will actually be doing. The form already includes a general purpose, so a short phrase or sentence describing your business activities (for example, “motorcycle repair and maintenance”) is sufficient.
  • Amount of Authorized Stock. List how many shares you wish to create (you need at least one). You can distribute some or all of these shares later on at your organizational meeting. You can also list the par value (initial price) of these shares, but this is optional, so you’re free to skip that part.
  • Duration. All corporations will exist continuously (“perpetually”) by default. If you want your corporation to exist only for a set amount of time or to have a particular end date, you’ll need to attach an exhibit with your corporation’s specified duration.
  • Alabama Incorporator. Someone has to sign and submit your Certificate of Incorporation, and that person is your incorporator. Incorporators don’t have to be directors, officers, or anyone in the corporation. They do, however, have to include their name and street address. We’ll be your incorporator when you hire us, and our name and address will go here instead of yours.
  • Director Liability and Attachments. The form explains that directors are not generally liable to business or shareholders for financial losses or damages, with a few exceptions, such as intentional harm and violation of law. The only action you need to take in this section is to tick the box for attachments if you’re including any exhibits.
  • Signatures. Your incorporator(s) sign and date the form, and can put “incorporator” under their “Title/Capacity to Sign.” Again, we’ll be your incorporator when you hire Northwest.

How can I keep my personal information off the public record?

It’s a fact that all the information provided in the Certificate of Incorporation will become part of the public record. When your personal information is accessible by anyone, it opens your business up to hassles like junk mail.

To keep your information off the public record, you can hire a registered agent company—like us. We’ll list our address on this form so you don’t have to. Your personal addresses will stay off the public record and away from prying eyes.

How can I submit the Alabama Certificate of Incorporation?

You can file Alabama certificate online or by mail. Online filings can be completed using Alabama Secretary of State Online Services. Mailed filings must be submitted in duplicate, along with the name reservation, self-addressed stamped envelope and filing fee. Mailed filings should be sent to:

Secretary of State
Business Services
PO Box 5616
Montgomery, AL 36103-5616

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4. Get an EIN

You can get an EIN directly from the IRS. The application is free, and most businesses can apply online. However, if you don’t have a social security number, you’ll need to submit a paper application form. Can’t bear to fill out yet another application? Hire Northwest to get your EIN for you. Just add on EIN service during checkout when you sign up for our incorporation service.

Learn how to get an EIN for your corporation.

Why does my Alabama corporation need an EIN?

The IRS requires corporations to get an EIN for their federal tax filings. You may also be asked for your EIN when opening a bank account, securing a loan, or applying for local business permits and licenses.

How do I get an EIN for my corporation?

You can get an EIN directly from the IRS. The application is free, and most businesses can apply online. However, if you don’t have a social security number, you’ll need to submit a paper application form. Can’t bear to fill out yet another application? Hire Northwest to get your EIN for you. Just add on EIN service during checkout when you sign up for our incorporation service.

5. File the Beneficial Ownership Information Report

Most US corporation are required to file a Beneficial Ownership Information (BOI) Report with the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN). On this report, you’ll need to provide some information about your corporation, its beneficial owners, and (for new corporations) the company applicant.

  • Beneficial Owner: Anyone with at least 25% ownership stake in your company. Plus, anyone with significant control over company operations, such as your CEO, CFO, or General Counsel.
  • Company Applicant: The individual who filed your Alabama Certificate of Incorporation with the Secretary of State. (Note: Corporations formed prior to 2024 don’t need to include company applicant information.)

You can file the BOI Report online via FinCEN’s E-filing system or hire us to handle it for you for $9.

What's the deadline for filing the BOI Report?

The deadline for your first BOI Report will depend on when you incorporated:

  • Companies formed before 2024—January 1, 2025.
  • Companies formed in 2024—Within 90 days of incorporation.
  • Companies formed in 2025 or later—Within 30 days of incorporation.

What information is required on the BOI Report?

You’ll need to include identifying information for each beneficial owner and (for corporations formed in 2024 or later) your company applicant. You’ll also need to provide some information about the corporation itself.

Beneficial owner and company applicant information: 

  • Full legal name
  • Birth date
  • Residential or business street address
  • Personal identification document (such as a driver’s license or passport), including the ID number

Company information:

  • Legal business name
  • Any DBAs or assumed business names
  • Physical business address
  • State of incorporation
  • Employer Identification Number (EIN)

Will I need to update the BOI Report?

Yes, you’ll need to file an updated BOI Report any time the information provided in the report changes, such as if your corporation changes owners or gets a new CEO. You have 30 days after the change occurs to file your updated report through the same E-filing system you originally submitted info on.

Does information on the BOI Report go on the public record?

No. Unlike the information on your Alabama Certificate of Incorporation, the BOI Report isn’t public record. The information on this report will only be accessible to government agencies, law enforcement, and financial institutions that need to confirm customer identity.

Are there exemptions from the BOI Report?

Yes, there are 23 classes of exemption from the BOI Report. Exemptions include (but aren’t limited to):

  • Large operating companies
  • Most financial companies, such as banks and credit unions
  • Investment companies registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC)
  • Insurance companies registered with a state or federal agency
  • Public utilities companies registered with a state or federal agency
  • Tax-exempt entities

6. Write Corporate Bylaws

Bylaws are the internal rules you set for your business. They put into writing how decisions will be made and who gets to make those decisions. All the major organizational processes and procedures for your corporation will go in your bylaws.

For more on Alabama Corporate Bylaws (including free Alabama Corporate Bylaws templates), see our Alabama Corporate Bylaws resource.

Do I need bylaws for my Alabama corporation?

Absolutely. AL Code § 10A-2-2.06 states that bylaws shall be adopted either by the board of directors, unless that right is reserved by shareholders in the formation documents.

You don’t have to submit bylaws to the state though. Corporate bylaws are internal documents you keep with your other corporate records, such as meeting minutes and resolutions.

What should bylaws include?

Corporate bylaws cover basic policies and procedures for issues such as company finances and management. Bylaws should cover a range of topics, answering key questions like those below:

  • Meetings: When and where will meetings for shareholders and directors be held? How many attendees are required to transact business? What are the procedures for voting or proxy voting? How do you call a special meeting? What actions can be taken without a meeting?

  • Stock: How are stock certificates issued and transferred? How is voting affected by issues such as corporate stock owners or fractional shares?

  • Directors and officers: How many directors must there be? Which officer positions are required? What powers do they have? How do you fill a vacancy or remove a director or officer?

  • Finances: What are the procedures for retaining profits, issuing dividends, and paying bills? Who can withdraw money from the corporate bank account or sign checks?

  • Records: Where is the corporate book to be kept? What information will be maintained? How are requests for review or access honored? Can records or copies be kept or distributed digitally?

  • Amendments and emergencies: Who can amend bylaws and how? Can emergency bylaws be adopted in the case of disaster?

AL Code § 10A-2-2.06 explains that Alabama bylaws can make any other provisions for managing and regulating the corporation as well, assuming additions are in accordance with state law.

How do I write bylaws?

Creating bylaws can be overwhelming—where do you start? Northwest can help. We give you free corporate bylaws when you hire us to form your Alabama corporation. We know what kinds of topics and questions corporations need to address, and we’ve spent years refining and improving our forms. We offer many other free corporate forms as well, including templates for resolutions and meeting minutes.

7. Hold an Organizational Meeting

An organizational meeting is the first official meeting of the corporation after the business is legally formed with the state. At this meeting, bylaws are adopted, officers are appointed, and any other initial business is conducted. The first meeting minutes should also be recorded and added to your corporate record book.

Are there any special rules for Alabama organizational meetings?

An organizational meeting is required, per AL Code § 10A-2-2.05 and is held at the call of the majority of directors. The meeting doesn’t have to be held in Alabama.

8. Open a Corporate Bank Account

Businesses that mix personal and business finances together risk losing their liability protections, so your corporation will need its own bank account. In addition, a corporate bank account is essential for easily accepting payments, paying bills and holding funds.

How do I open a bank account for my corporation?

To open a corporate bank account in Alabama, you’ll need to bring the following with you to the bank:

  • A copy of the Alabama corporation’s Certificate of Incorporation

  • The corporation’s bylaws

  • The corporation’s EIN

If your bylaws don’t specifically assign the power to open a bank account, you may also want to bring a corporate resolution to open a bank account. The resolution would state that the person going to the bank is authorized by the business to open the account in the name of the corporation. At Northwest, we provide free corporate bank resolutions, along with many other free corporate forms, to help you get started fast.

9. File Alabama Reports & Taxes

In Alabama, corporations file a combined Annual Report and Business Privilege Tax. In addition, Alabama corporations are subject to state tax requirements, including a corporate income tax.

What is the Alabama Annual Report and Business Privilege Tax?

Alabama combines its annual report with an annual tax called the Alabama Business Privilege Tax. The Annual Report ($10) updates the state on your current ownership and contact information. The Business Privilege Tax is based on the net worth of your corporation in Alabama. There’s a minimum tax of $100. The Alabama Annual Report and Business Privilege Tax are included together on one form. The annual report section of the form is known as Schedule AL-CAR.

When is the Alabama Annual Report and Business Privilege Tax due?

For C corps operating on a calendar year, annual filings are due by April 15th each year and use Form CPT. (S corps use Form PPT, which is due by March 15th.)

These filings can be easy to forget—which is why we send our clients automatic reminders for your Alabama Annual Report and Business Privilege Tax filings. Or better yet, let us file for you. With our business renewal service, we send you the completed annual report for you to add your tax info and signature, then we submit the report for you for $100 plus the state fee and any tax owed.

What should I know about Alabama corporate taxes?

In addition the Business Privilege Tax discussed above, Alabama has a flat corporate net income tax rate of 6.5%. There is no minimum tax payment.

The state sales tax is 4%, but local areas can add on additional sales taxes as well. The average total sales tax in the state is 7.792%.

Do corporations have to register with the Alabama Department Of Revenue?

Yes, all Alabama entities are required to register with the Alabama Department of Revenue. Registration can be completed on the My Alabama Taxes (MAT) website.

Ready to Start a Corporation in Alabama?