How to Start an LLC in Iowa
To start an LLC in Iowa, you must file a Certificate of Organization with the Iowa Business Services Division. You can file the document online, by mail or by fax. The Certificate of Organization costs $50 to file. Once filed with the state, this document formally creates your Iowa LLC. However, to actually ready the LLC to do business, you must complete several additional steps.
Everything You Need to Know About Iowa LLCs:
Iowa LLC Formation Options
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How to Start an LLC in Iowa
To start an LLC in Iowa, you’ll need to do three things: appoint a registered agent, choose a name for your business, and file Certificate of Organization with the Iowa Secretary of State, Business Services. You can file the document online, by mail, or by fax. The certificate costs $50 to file. Once filed with the state, this document formally creates your Iowa LLC.
According to Iowa Code § 489.113, every LLC in Iowa must appoint a registered agent. You don’t need to hire a commercial registered agent, but if you do, make sure your registered agent will list their address on your certificate wherever possible to ensure maximum privacy.
If you’re starting a new business, you probably already know what you want to name your LLC. But you’ll need to know if your preferred name is available. To find out, visit Iowa Secretary of State Business Search and search until you find the perfect name for your LLC.
Once you know who your registered agent will be and what your LLC name is, you’re ready to file your Iowa Certificate of Organization. Follow along with our filing instructions below:
Filing the Iowa LLC Certificate of Organization
Learn more about each Certificate of Organization requirement below. Note that the state doesn’t provide a Certificate of Organization form, so you will need to create your own. Also, the information you provide becomes part of the public record—permanently.
Or skip writing your own certificate entirely and hire us to form your Iowa LLC. We provide a free business address to list whenever possible throughout the filing to better keep your personal address private. And for the cheapest way to start a business? Pay just $30 out the door with our VIP monthly payment option.
1. Company Name
You have to include “Limited Liability Company” or an abbreviation like “LLC.” You can’t include words that would make people think you’re a different business entity like “corporation.”
2. Registered Agent
Your Iowa registered agent must be available during business hours to accept legal notices for your LLC. You can list yourself, someone else, or a service like Northwest. Naturally, we recommend Northwest.
3. Registered Office
This is the street address in Iowa where your registered agent needs to be available. When you hire us, this publicly-listed address will be ours instead of yours.
4. Optional Provisions
Although the state doesn’t require you to list your principal office address, you can list your primary address for contact purposes. Worried about listing your personal information? When you hire Northwest, you can avoid listing a home or personal address and use our Iowa address as your principal address. Other common provisions include member/manager information, duration, or purpose.
5. Iowa LLC Organizer
Your organizer is just the person who completes and submits your certificate. Organizers are required to put their name and signature. This doesn’t have to be anyone within your LLC—when you hire Northwest, we’ll put our information in this section, helping you better keep your personal info private.
Why Have a Registered Agent Form Your Iowa LLC?
Professionals in Iowa hire registered agent services like Northwest Registered Agent to start an LLC—but why?
Standard filing companies don’t have employees or offices in every state. But as a national registered agent, it’s a requirement for us, which is a benefit for our clients. Our office is located in Waterloo. We’re on a first name basis with the people who work in the Iowa Secretary of State, Business Services. We know all the fastest filing methods, which translates to fast, professional service—without extra fees.
As your registered agent, we list our Waterloo registered office address on your LLC’s formation documents. Why? If you’re starting a business from your apartment in Davenport, do you really want your apartment address as your business address? (Hint: the answer is no.) We’ll list our address, so you don’t have to list yours. Plus, we never sell your data. We don’t list your personal information on filings if we don’t have to. It’s all standard and part of our commitment to Privacy by Default®.
Free Mail Forwarding, Business Address and More
At Northwest, we do everything a registered agent should do and more. You can list our address as your business address on your state filings. We include limited digital mail forwarding with registered agent service (up to 5 pieces of regular mail per year; $15 a doc after that).
Plan on accepting credit cards? We also offer a Free Credit Card Processing Consultation. Our specialists work with processors to negotiate low rates and better contracts for our clients.
And now, try our in-house Northwest Phone Service for 60 days, free of charge with our formation service. Get a virtual phone number with your choice of area code, make and receive calls from any device, and more—for just $9 a month.
We know the in’s and out’s of each state—and we use this knowledge to help you when you need it most. Our team of Corporate Guides® has over 200 local business experts. You can call or email us for answers to all your questions about your LLC in Iowa. Our Corporate Guides are dedicated solely to helping you with your business—not selling you services or meeting quotas.
What Do I Do After My Iowa LLC Is Formed?
After your Iowa Certificate of Organization are approved, you still have a few more important steps to take, including getting an EIN, drafting an operating agreement, opening a bank account, funding the LLC and learning about state reporting and tax requirements.
Get an EIN
An EIN (“Employer Identification Number”) is a federal tax ID assigned to your business by the IRS. The IRS uses your EIN to easily identify your business on tax filings.
Does an Iowa LLC need an EIN?
It depends. If you have employees or have to file certain federal excise taxes (Alcohol, Tobacco, or Firearms), you’ll need to obtain an EIN. You’ll also likely use your EIN when you open a business bank account.
How do I get an EIN for my LLC?
You can apply for an EIN directly from the IRS at no cost. Most businesses are able to apply online, but if you don’t have a social security number, you’ll need to apply with a paper form. Want one less thing to do? Add on EIN service when you hire us, and we’ll get your EIN for you. Or choose our VIP service—an EIN is included.
Write an LLC Operating Agreement
Operating agreements put into writing how your business actually operates—how much each member invested, how profits and losses will be allocated, how voting works, and what happens if there’s a dispute or if the whole business (knock on wood) falls apart.
Do I need an operating agreement for an Iowa LLC?
Iowa doesn’t legally require an operating agreement. According to state statute § 489.110, members MAY enter into an operating agreement—but the law doesn’t declare that they must.
That said, an operating agreement isn’t just annoying paperwork. It’s one of your LLC’s most important internal documents, and creating one can help your LLC with everything from opening a bank account to handling major events from mergers to dissolution.
What should be in an operating agreement?
An operating agreement should explain how the business will handle “big picture” situations—everything from allocating profits and losses to dissolving the business. Below is a list of common topics that operating agreements should cover.
Profits, losses, and distributions
Voting rights, decision-making powers, and management
Transfer of membership interest
Dissolving the business
Your operating agreement can cover pretty much anything as long as it isn’t contrary to Iowa law. For example, according to Iowa Code § 489.110, your operating agreement may govern manager rights, member roles, how the LLC conducts business, and circumstances for amending the agreement.
How do I write an operating agreement?
To write an operating agreement, you need to address how your business will handle money, members, votes, management, and more. Not sure how to get started? At Northwest, we’re here to help your LLC get off on the right foot. When you hire us, we provide your business with a free LLC operating agreement, specific to your management style. We’ve spent years developing these agreements and other free LLC forms—which have been used by over a million LLCs.
Open an LLC Bank Account
Your LLC needs its own bank account. Why? An LLC gets its limited liability from being a distinct entity, separate from its members. If you mix personal and business finances, you could lose your liability protections.
How do I open a bank account for my Iowa LLC?
To open a bank account for your Iowa LLC, you will need to bring the following with you to the bank:
A copy of the Iowa LLC Certificate of Organization
The LLC operating agreement
The LLC’s EIN
If there are multiple members in the LLC, you may also want to bring an LLC resolution to open a bank account that states that the person going to the bank is authorized by the members to open the account in the name of the LLC. Northwest can help with this as well—LLC bank resolutions are one of the many free legal forms we provide to ensure you can get your LLC started fast.
Fund the LLC
Time to put some money in that new LLC bank account. What money? For starters, your initial contributions to your LLC’s capital. LLC members are owners, and each owner needs to pay for their membership interest to fund the LLC.
What is membership interest?
Membership interest is your percentage of ownership of the LLC. Membership interest is normally proportionate to your investment. So how does this work?
Imagine your LLC has 5 members. 4 members each invest $1,000 in the business. One member invests $6,000. The total contribution of all members is $10,000. The 4 members each own 10% of the business. The moneybags member who shelled out $6,000 owns 60% of the business.
Typically, this also means that the 4 members would each get 10% of any profits, and moneybags would get 60%. Exactly how profits and losses are allocated, however, can be adjusted in the operating agreement as long as changes are in line with IRS requirements and Iowa laws.
File Iowa Reports & Taxes
Iowa LLCs are required to file a state report biennially (every two years). This report is basically an information update you file so the state knows who currently runs things and how to contact your business. Iowa LLCs are also subject to state tax filing requirements.
How much is the Iowa Biennial Report fee?
The fee for the Iowa Biennial Report is $45 (online) or $60 (paper). And if you fail to file? Your Iowa LLC will be administratively dissolved or revoked within 60 days following your due date.
When is the Iowa Biennial Report due?
Your Iowa Biennial Report is due by April 1, every odd numbered year.
When you sign up for Northwest, we send you reminders for your biennial report due dates. Want one less thing to worry about? With our business renewal service, we can complete and submit your biennial report for you for $100 plus the state fee.
What should I know about Iowa LLC taxes?
The current tax rates for Iowa personal income for individual filers are as follows:
0.33%: $0 to $1,666
$5.50 plus 0.67% of excess of $1,666 (income greater than $1,666 but less than $3,332)
$16.66 plus 2.25% of excess of $3,332 (income greater than $3,332 but less than $6,664)
$91.63 plus 4.14% of excess of $6,664 (income greater than $6,664 but less than $14,994)
$436.49 plus 5.63% of excess of $14,994 (income greater than $14,994 but less than $24,990)
$999.26 plus 5.96% of excess of $24,990 (income greater than $24,990 but less than $33,320)
$1,495.73 plus 6.25% of excess of $33,320 (income greater than $33,320 but less than $49,980)
$2,536.98 plus 7.44% of excess of $49,980 (income greater than $49,980 but less than $74,970)
$4,396.24 plus 8053% of excess of $74,970 (income greater than $74,970)
The state sales tax is set at 6%. However, some jurisdictions may assess an additional 1% Local Option Sales Tax.
Iowa LLC FAQs
How can I submit the Iowa LLC Certificate of Organization?
You can file the Iowa certificate online, by mail, or by fax.
Secretary of State
First Floor, Lucas Building
321 E. 12th Street
Des Moines, IA 50319
Iowa Fast Track Filing
Note: you will upload your Certificate of Organization as a PDF file.
How much does it cost to start an Iowa LLC?
The filing fee for your Iowa LLC Certificate of Organization is $50.
Hire Northwest for a one-time fee of $275, including state filing fees, a year of registered agent service, limited mail forwarding and loads of useful forms and tools to help get your Iowa LLC up and running. Or, pay just $30 out the door with our VIP monthly payment option.
How long does it take to start an Iowa LLC?
On average, it takes 7-14 business days to process paper filings. However, online submissions are often processed within 24 hours.
If you hire Northwest to start your LLC, we file online and typically have your Iowa LLC formed within 24 hours.
Does an Iowa LLC need a business license?
Iowa doesn’t have general business license specifications. Instead, the state regulates licensing based on your LLC’s business activity or profession. Visit the Iowa Business License Information Center to view a complete list of required licenses and permits.
Iowa cities may have their own licensing requirements as well. Most cities require licenses for a handful of specific business activities, but a few cities also require general business licenses. For instance, Bettendorf requires a general business license before engaging in any business in the city.
Need an EIN or a certified copy of your formation docs for your license applications? Northwest can help. You can easily add on these items to your LLC formation order.
Can an Iowa LLC help me live more privately?
Yes. While you can’t remove all ownership information from Iowa public filings (like you can in states like New Mexico, Delaware, and Wyoming), an Iowa LLC can still help you reduce your public footprint. For example, you can maintain a significant degree of address privacy by listing our address on public docs instead of your own. Check out our page on living privately with an LLC to learn more.
What is a foreign Iowa LLC?
A foreign Iowa LLC is any LLC formed outside of Iowa but registered to do business in the state. For example, if you formed an LLC in Missouri but wanted to conduct business in Iowa as well, you would register as a foreign LLC in Iowa by filing an Application for Certificate of Authority with the Iowa Secretary of State. Like domestic LLCs, foreign LLCs in the state have to file Iowa biennial reports. Northwest can register your foreign Iowa LLC for you today!
How can I get an Iowa phone number for my LLC?
It’s a conundrum: you need a local number to display on your website and give to customers, but you don’t want to make your personal number quite so…public. We get it. And we’ve got you covered with Northwest Phone Service. We can provide you with a virtual phone number in any state—plus unlimited call forwarding and tons of easy-to-use features. You can try Phone Service free for 60 days when you hire us to form your LLC, and maintaining service is just $9 monthly after that. No contract required.
How to Order LLC Formation Service
Our Iowa LLC formation service is designed to be fast and easy—signing up takes just a couple minutes. Here’s how it works:
With Northwest, we give you flexibility on how to pay. You can pay all the fees up front (this includes one full year of registered agent service). Or, pay just $30 out the door with our VIP monthly payment option. With our VIP option, we also include an EIN. Just choose one of the buttons below, answer a few easy questions about your business and submit your payment.
We’ll prepare your Iowa Certificate of Organization and send them to the Secretary of State for approval. In the meantime, you’ll have immediate access to your online account, where you can find useful state forms, pre-populated with your business information.
Once the Iowa Secretary of State has approved your filing, we notify you that your Iowa LLC has been legally formed. You can now take any necessary next steps, like getting an EIN and opening a bank account.