Start a Corporation in Montana
To start a corporation in Montana, you must file Articles of Incorporation with the Secretary of State. You can file the document online. The Articles of Incorporation cost $35 to file. Once processed by the state, this document formally creates your Montana corporation. You can use our tool to fill out the Official Montana Articles of Incorporation. You’ll even be able to download, print, or save your progress, all for free.
The best part is you only need to enter your information once to create a free account and pre-populate your Montana Articles of Incorporation, corporate bylaws, IRS filings, and ongoing annual filings to maintain your Montana corporation. You can use our free system to file with the state yourself or you can have us help you out along the way.
How to Start a Corporation in Montana
A Montana 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 Montana, you’ll need to do three things: appoint a registered agent, choose a name for your business, and file Articles of Incorporation with the Secretary of State. You must register a Montana ePass account online and file this document through the website—the form shown is only an example. The articles cost a minimum of $35 to file. Once filed with the state, this document formally creates your Montana corporation.
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 the SOS’ Montana Business Name Search and browse until you find the perfect name for your corporation.
You must also ensure your business name complies with state laws. MT Code § 35-14-401 lays out the requirements. Specifically, your corporation’s name must:
- contain” corporation”, “incorporated”, “company”, or “limited”, the abbreviation “corp.”, “inc.”, “co.”, or “ltd.”, or words or abbreviations of similar meaning in another language
- be unique among approved business names in Montana
- Not contain language stating or implying your corporation was formed for an unlawful business purpose
Can I reserve a business name in Montana?
Yes. If you want to reserve your business name until you’re ready to officially form your corporation, you can do so for up to 120 days by submitting a Reservation of Name form to the Montana Secretary of State’s office, which must be done on the Montana Secretary of State website. There is a $10 filing fee.
What's the difference between my corporation's name and an assumed business name?
The company name written on your Articles of Incorporation will be your corporation’s legal name. Any other name your business uses is an assumed business name—also called a trade name, fictitious business name, or doing business as name (DBA). In Montana, you’re required to register any assumed business name you use with the Secretary of State. You must register your assumed business name on the Montana Secretary of State website and pay a $20 filing fee.
Learn how to obtain a Montana DBA.
Designate a Registered Agent
Next you must designate a registered agent for your business. Your registered agent is the person who accepts service of process (lawsuits and other legal mail) for your business. You could be your own registered agent, or you could designate another individual or a registered agent service. MT Code § 35-14-501 (2019) requires every corporation to have a registered agent. You’ll have to include your registered agent’s name and address on your Articles of Incorporation.
Learn why the pros use a registered agent service.
What does a registered agent do?
- Maintain a physical address in Montana.
- Be available at that address during regular business hours.
- Accept legal correspondence on your business’s behalf and forward it to you without delay.
Can you be your own registered agent in Montana?
Yes. Just keep in mind that if you are your own registered agent, your name and address will be on the public record. And you will need to be at this address during regular business hours to accept service of process in person.
A lot of business owners decide to hire a registered agent rather than become one. This is because it’s tough to maintain a constant presence at your address when you’re trying to get a business off the ground (or if you just like to sneak in a little hike in the afternoon). A registered agent will shield your information from the public record and handle any time-sensitive legal mail your business may receive.
Can I change my registered agent after I start a corporation?
Yes. You can change your Montana registered agent anytime by submitting a Statement of Change of Registered Agent to the Secretary of State’s office. Changing your registered agent is free in Montana.
Submit Articles of Incorporation
Learn more about each Articles of Incorporation requirement below. Note that the information you provide becomes part of the public record—permanently.
Better yet, skip filing by yourself entirely and hire us to incorporate your Montana business. We provide a free business address to list whenever possible throughout the filing to better keep your personal address private.
- Effective Date: Skip this section if you want your business to start right away, but if you want to start on a specific date (such as the start of tax season), you can list an effective date up to 90 days in the future.
- Corporate Type: There are a few different types of corporation you can choose from: Benefit, General, Close, Professional or Close Professional. Most corporations are “General For Profit Corporations.” The other types of corporations are governed by different acts in the Montana Code and have additional restrictions and requirements. Generally speaking, professional corporations are for state-license service providers (like doctors and lawyers), benefit corporations have a business purpose with a public benefit, and close corporations are limited to 25 shareholders and typically restrict share transfers.
- Business Name: Your name must include “Corporation,” “Incorporated,” “Company,” “Limited” or an abbreviation of one of these words. Most corporations keep it short and sweet with “Corp” or “Inc.”
- Registered Agent: For your Montana registered agent, you can choose an “existing agent” (like Northwest) or “new agent” (like yourself or someone in your corporation) and enter their name. Tick the box to confirm that your registered agent has consented to serve this position. Tip: We recommend Northwest for your registered agent.
- Registered Office: If you chose “new agent,” you’ll need to enter the Montana street address where the agent will be available to accept legal notifications for your corporation. This information will become part of the public record of your business.
- Business Address of Principal Office: Where would you like the state to send your corporation’s mail (besides legal notifications—those go to your registered agent)? Tip: Keep things simple with one business address for everything. When you hire Northwest as your registered agent, you can use our Montana address as your mailing address.
- Term: If you want your corporation to continue indefinitely, select “perpetual.” If you want the corporation to end at some point, enter a future end date or the number of years to exist. Tip: Most corporations choose “perpetual.”
- Purpose: You have the option to skip this box—it’s not required to submit your articles, assuming you’re creating a General For-Profit Corporation. If you want to include a purpose, it can be general (“engage in any lawful activity in the State of Montana”) or specific (“prepare and sell baked goods”).
- Tribal Designation: You can optionally indicate if your corporation is a tribal business associated with a tribe listed in the drop down menu, or skip this section.
- Montana Incorporator: Your incorporator signs and submits your Articles of Incorporation and must include their name and address. Your incorporator doesn’t have to be a director or anyone in your corporation. Tip: We’ll be your incorporator when you hire Northwest.
- Directors: If you want, you can choose to list the name and address of your Montana corporation’s directors, but this is optional.
- Authorized Shares: Click “Add Share Class.” For the share name, choose “Common,” “Preferred” or “Other” and then list the number of shares you’re creating. Next to “Share Par Value,” list the value of each share. “Par value” is also called “face value”—it’s the price listed on stock certificates, and it’s typically the lowest value at which a share will be traded.
How do I keep my personal information off the public record?
Any information on the Articles of Incorporation will be available to the public, meaning that if your personal address is on the form, you’re likely to be bombarded with junk mail from marketers.
The best way to protect your privacy is to hire a registered agent company who will put their business address on forms, so that you don’t need to make your personal address public.
How do I file Montana Articles of Incorporation?
You must submit your Articles of Incorporation online. There is a $35 filing fee.
Start Your Montana Corporation Today!Get Started
Get an EIN
An EIN (employer identification number) could be loosely defined as a social security number for businesses. You’ll put your EIN on tax forms so that the IRS can identify your business. You can apply for an EIN for free on the IRS website or by mailing a form to the IRS. It’s fastest to apply online, but if you don’t have a social security number, you will need to mail in the paper form.
Why does my Montana corporation need an EIN?
The IRS requires corporations to get an EIN for their federal tax filings, and the Montana Department of Revenue requires an EIN for their business registration. 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.
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 Montana Corporate Bylaws (including free Montana Corporate Bylaws templates), see our Montana Corporate Bylaws resource.
Do I need bylaws for my Montana corporation?
Yes. State statute MT Code § 35-14-206 (2019) notes that initial bylaws shall be adopted either by the incorporators or the corporation’s board of directors.
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?
Montana bylaws can make other provisions as well, assuming additions are in accordance with state law. For example, MT Code § 35-14-1602 (2019) states that Montana bylaws cannot abolish or limit a shareholder’s right to inspect corporate record as granted by that section.
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 Montana 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.
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 Montana organizational meetings?
Attendees can waive their required notice in writing. The meeting doesn’t have to be held in Montana.
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 Montana corporation?
To open a corporate bank account in Montana, you’ll need to bring the following with you to the bank:
A copy of the Montana corporation’s Articles 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.
File Montana Reports and Taxes
In Montana, corporations file an annual report each year. Tax-wise, the state also has a corporate income tax.
What is the Montana Annual Report?
How much is the Montana Annual Report?
There is a flat fee of $20 to file an annual report in Montana.
When is the Montana Annual Report due?
The filing is due by April 15. If you miss the deadline, an additional $15 late fee is applied, and corporations that remain delinquent face dissolution by the state.
These filings can be easy to forget—which is why we send our clients automatic reminders for your Montana Annual Report filings. Or better yet, let us file for you. With our business renewal service, we can complete and submit your annual report for you for $100 plus the state fee.
What should I know about Montana corporate taxes?
Montana corporations must pay a corporate income tax, a flat 6.75% rate on gross taxable income with a $50 minimum tax.
Montana is one of the few states that doesn’t have a general sales tax. Although a few specific products and services are taxed (like tobacco and car rentals), customers pay 0% sales tax at the counter for most items.
Do corporations have to register with the Montana Department of Revenue?
Not necessarily. You’ll need to set up withholding if needed, and you can register for your corporate income tax via Montana’s TransAction Portal, but registration isn’t required to pay corporate taxes. If you do need or want to register, you’ll need your EIN.