How to Start an LLC in Indiana? (Step by Step Guide)

Jon Morgan
Published by Jon Morgan | Co-Founder & Chief Editor
Last updated: March 6, 2024
FACT CHECKED by Lou Viveros, Growth & Transition Advisor
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Embarking on the journey of establishing a Limited Liability Company in Indiana is a pivotal step for aspiring entrepreneurs.

This process, while straightforward, requires a thoughtful approach to ensure your business is set up for success. With years of experience in guiding business owners through this process, I understand the intricacies involved in forming an LLC in the Hoosier State.

In this guide, we will navigate the essential steps of LLC formation in Indiana, from choosing a unique business name to understanding state-specific regulations, providing you with a clear, comprehensive roadmap.

Without previous business experience, setting up an LLC can be time-consuming. Therefore, it's recommended to seek out an LLC service provider in Indiana for your startup, particularly since some offer free LLC formation.

Quick Summary

  • To form an LLC in Indiana, one must select a business name, appoint a registered agent, and file Articles of Organization with the state.
  • The process involves understanding the types of LLCs, fulfilling naming requirements, and complying with legal formalities.
  • In Indiana, forming an LLC is crucial for tapping into the state's thriving small business ecosystem, which employs 1.2 million workers or 43.8% of the workforce, as highlighted by the US Small Business Administration Office of Advocacy.
  • In my experience, the investment in a reliable registered agent and professional LLC service provider pays dividends in legal security and operational efficiency.


How to Form an LLC in Indiana

Handling documents

Forming an LLC in Indiana involves selecting a name, filing articles of organization, appointing a registered agent, and complying with different regulations defined by the state.

Filing the Articles of Organization with your county (the Secretary of State's office can provide you with these forms) is the first step [1].

You'll need to include basic information like the name and address of your business, as well as a Registered Agent for service on all legal documents that are sent to you.

1. Choose the Type of Your Indiana LLC (Mandatory)

When choosing the type of your Indiana LLC, you typically have two main options: a Single-Member LLC or a Multi-Member LLC.

Single-Member LLC

Advantages:

  • Simplicity: Easier to set up and manage as there's only one owner.
  • Control: Full control over decisions and operations.
  • Less Formality: Fewer compliance requirements compared to multi-member LLCs.

Disadvantages:

  • Limited Resources: Reliance on a single member's assets and skills.
  • Personal Liability Risks: In some cases, courts may pierce the corporate veil.

Multi-Member LLC

Advantages:

  • Shared Responsibility: Workload and decision-making are distributed.
  • More Resources: Access to more capital, skills, and networking.
  • Credibility: Often viewed as more credible by lenders and investors.

Disadvantages:

  • Complex Management: Potential for conflicts among members.
  • More Formalities: Requires more stringent record-keeping and operations.

As a business consultant with years of experience guiding startups in Indiana, I've seen firsthand how Single-Member LLCs can thrive due to their simplicity and ease of management, especially for solo entrepreneurs.

Conversely, in my work with larger ventures, the collaborative and resource-rich nature of Multi-Member LLCs often accelerates business growth, despite their more complex management requirements.

2. Choose a Name for Your LLC (Mandatory)

You can use almost any business name you want, so long as it's not already in use.

There are a few exceptions - your business name must be distinguishable from the records of the Secretary of State and cannot imply that an entity is organized for a purpose other than for which it was created.

An LLC name also can't impersonate or imitate another business. This is where doing business as (DBA) comes in - if you choose to operate under a name other than your legal business name, that's completely fine.

To check whether or not your LLC name is available in Indiana, visit Business eFile [2].

Read our article for more information on how to look up an LLC in Indiana.

3. Select a Registered Agent (Mandatory)

A woman inside an office talking to someone about creating an llc in indiana

Every new business needs a registered agent to be compliant with state law.

A registered agent is an individual or business entity that agrees to accept legal papers on behalf of the LLC and has a physical address for the service of process.

"Should you set up an LLC in Indiana, your business must have a registered agent and registered office."

- Delina Yasmeh, J.D./Tax LL.M, Distinguished Expert in Mergers & Acquisitions

Indiana registered agents can also be any business with a physical street address in Indiana - so long as that business agrees to accept documents on your behalf.

Drawing from my experience in consultancy, selecting a reliable registered agent in Indiana has proven crucial for many of my clients.

It ensures timely and confidential handling of legal documents, thereby safeguarding the LLC from missed legal deadlines or compliance issues. This choice, often overlooked, can significantly impact the smooth legal operation of the business.

To find an Indiana registered agent, you can use a registered agent service. However, you are not required to hire a registered agent service.

You can also hire your own registered agent who is willing to accept legal papers on behalf of your LLC and have them sent over to you.

4. File Articles of Organization (Mandatory)

Writing signature at the end of the document

Filing LLC Articles of Organization in Indiana is one of the most important steps when it comes to running an LLC.

It's a document that you have to file with the Secretary of State Business Services Division and pay the filing fee [3].

Indiana LLC articles will need to include the name and address of your business and its purpose (what it plans on doing or how it's going to make money).

Besides including your business address, you also need to include the name and address of your registered agent.

You should also mention your LLC's duration, that is if it's perpetual or lasting for a certain amount of time.

Once you've filled in the necessary information, file articles with the Indiana Secretary of State. The filing fee is $95, plus a $3 service fee if you're filing online.

This document that you have to file with the Secretary of State Business Services Division is also known as the Indiana Certificate of Organization.

It's the only government agency that can get you an Indiana LLC certificate.

See our article for more information about how much it costs to start an LLC in Indiana.

Steps to Take After Forming an LLC in Indiana

Reading an Indiana LLC operating agreement

After forming an LLC in Indiana, there are several crucial steps to ensure your business operates smoothly and remains compliant with state laws.

These steps are not just about legal compliance, but also about setting a strong foundation for your business's operational and financial success.

As someone who has guided numerous Indiana-based LLCs through their initial stages, I understand the importance of these post-formation steps in laying the groundwork for sustainable growth and stability.

If there is more than a single member in your LLC, you should create an LLC operating agreement.

Operating agreements will state the rights and responsibilities of all members if there is more than one person in your business. It's highly advisable to have an operating agreement in place.

Your operating agreement needs to include:

  • Member contributions and allocations (if any)
  • Rules for withdrawing money from the company account
  • Rights and responsibilities of LLC members and managers
  • How operating expenses will be paid (if you don't want to split them equally)
  • Voting rights of members and percentages for determining a vote if it's close.

You should also include how profits are distributed, what happens if one member dies or leaves early on, and so on.

Operating agreements are not mandated by law. However, an operating agreement will help you run your business with more than a single member.

Woman holding a white card

After you whip up an operating agreement, you will need a federal employer identification number (FEIN or EIN).

You can use your Social Security number if you're the only member of the LLC.

However, there are some benefits to getting an Employer Identification Number for your business rather than using your own.

For example, the company will be able to file federal tax returns on its own without you having to include your personal information (such as income).

This protects your privacy and anonymity while allowing the LLC some protection under federal law.

It's also important if someone else becomes a member of the LLC at any point in the future.

You'll be able to keep track of who owns what percentage by federal law, which requires each member to have their own identifying number.

Apply for an EIN online, by mail, or over the phone with the IRS for a quick and easy process.

You can also use the IRS website for this purpose.

The Indiana Department of Labor has more information for employers.

An LLC business bank account for your LLC is a must, as every LLC needs a separate business bank account. The account should be in the name of your business only and not a personal business owner's name.

To open an account for the Limited Liability Company, business owners should visit a bank and present the following:

  • Articles of Organization or Application for Authority as an LLC
  • Federal Tax ID Number from IRS

In addition to these items, business owners will have to fill out additional forms depending on their business type.

8. File Your Indiana LLC Biennial Report (Mandatory)

Talking to someone holding important files

Never forget to file LLC annual reports in Indiana, which are also called biennial reports, as Indiana law requires that all LLCs file a biennial report every two years.

Biennial reports need to go out in the same month when you formed your business.

You have two years after the month of formation to file the next biennial report, so if you miss this deadline by even one day, your LLC will be in default and subject to dissolution.

If you don't receive any correspondence from the Indiana Secretary of State within 30 days, it means that your LLC is in good standing and has no outstanding reports or fees to pay. There's a filing fee of $32 attached to biennial reports.

Your business entity report should disclose both new member information as well as changes in manager details on all forms.

9. Obtain Business Licenses and Permits

Obtaining the necessary business licenses and permits is a vital step for any LLC operating in Indiana. The specific licenses and permits required can vary significantly based on the nature of your business and its location.

For instance, a restaurant in Indianapolis would need a food service establishment permit from the Marion County Public Health Department, as well as a liquor license if it plans to serve alcohol.

Conversely, a construction business in Fort Wayne might require a building contractor’s license from the Fort Wayne Building Department.

From my experience as a consultant, I recall assisting a Bloomington-based e-commerce startup that needed to secure a Home Occupation Permit due to its home-based operations, illustrating the diverse range of permits applicable even within niche industries.

This step is not only about legality but also lends credibility to your business in the eyes of clients and partners.

10. Choosing Your Tax Structure

Calculating taxes concept

Choosing the right tax structure for your Indiana LLC is critical for optimizing tax benefits and meeting legal obligations.

Default Tax Structure (Disregarded Entity for Single-Member LLCs, Partnership for Multi-Member LLCs):

  • Pros: Simple, pass-through taxation avoiding corporate taxes.
  • Cons: Personal income can be subject to higher tax rates.

Electing S-Corp Status:

  • Pros: Can reduce self-employment taxes; profits and losses pass through to shareholders.
  • Cons: Stricter operational requirements; salary paid to owners is subject to payroll taxes.

Electing C-Corp Status:

  • Pros: Lower corporate tax rate for retained earnings; potential for more fringe benefits.
  • Cons: Double taxation on dividends; complex regulations.

Drawing from my experience, I often lean towards S-Corp status for eligible businesses due to its balance of tax benefits and operational flexibility.

Changing your tax structure requires filing an election with the IRS, typically by March 15th of the tax year for which the election is to take effect.

It’s crucial to plan ahead, as changes outside this timeframe may not apply until the following tax year.

Benefits and Drawbacks of an LLC in Indiana

Asking for a signature to someone

Benefits:

  • Favorable Tax Climate: Indiana is known for its relatively low business tax rates, which can be advantageous for LLCs looking to minimize tax liabilities.
  • Flexibility in Management Structure: LLCs in Indiana are not required to have a board of directors or hold annual meetings, offering flexibility in management.
  • Asset Protection: LLCs provide personal liability protection, safeguarding owners' personal assets from business debts and lawsuits.
  • Ease of Formation and Maintenance: Indiana's straightforward process for forming and maintaining an LLC is appealing, especially for new entrepreneurs. This is reinforced by the state's thriving small business ecosystem, with over 534,630 small businesses accounting for 99.4% of all businesses in Indiana in 2022 as per the US Small Business Administration Office of Advocacy [4].
  • Thriving Small Businesses: Indiana boasts a vibrant small business ecosystem, with LLCs playing a key role. They employ a massive 1.2 million workers (43.8% of the workforce) as per the US Small Business Administration Office of Advocacy. As an aspiring entrepreneur, joining this dynamic community offers exciting opportunities to contribute to the state's growth.

Drawbacks:

  • Self-Employment Taxes: Profits from LLCs are subject to self-employment taxes, which can be higher than corporate tax rates.
  • Limited Growth Potential: For businesses looking to raise capital through public stock offerings, an LLC might not be the best structure as it cannot issue stock.
  • State-Specific Compliance Costs: While Indiana’s compliance requirements are not overly burdensome, there are still annual reporting and fee requirements that must be met.
  • Variable Franchise Tax: Indiana imposes a franchise tax, which, depending on the LLC’s earnings and structure, can be a financial burden.

DIY vs. Professional LLC Formation

Having a conversation with someone

DIY LLC Formation:

Pros:

  • Cost-Effective: Typically cheaper than hiring a professional, as you only pay state filing fees.
  • Hands-On Experience: Provides a deep understanding of the formation process and state-specific requirements.
  • Quick for Simple Structures: For straightforward businesses without complex needs, DIY can be efficient.

Cons:

  • Time-Consuming: Requires significant time to research and understand legal requirements.
  • Risk of Errors: Without legal expertise, there's a higher risk of making mistakes in paperwork or missing key compliance details.
  • Lack of Customization: Limited ability to tailor operating agreements and other legal documents without legal guidance.

Professional LLC Formation Services:

Pros:

  • Expertise and Reliability: Professionals are knowledgeable about state-specific regulations and ensure accurate filing.
  • Time Savings: Delegating this task saves you time, allowing you to focus on other aspects of your business.
  • Peace of Mind: Confidence that all legal aspects are correctly handled.
  • Ongoing Compliance Assistance: Many services offer continued support for annual filings and legal changes.

Cons:

  • Cost: More expensive than DIY due to service fees.
  • Less Hands-On: You may not learn as much about the intricacies of your LLC’s legal framework.

The choice between DIY and professional LLC formation depends on your specific needs, budget, and comfort with legal processes. If cost-saving is a priority and you have a straightforward business model, DIY might be suitable.

However, for those with less time, a desire for legal expertise, or more complex business structures, professional services might be a worthwhile investment.

Consider your unique situation, weighing the importance of cost, time, legal accuracy, and peace of mind in your decision-making process.

Related Articles:

FAQs

Can I Open a Foreign LLC in Indiana?

Yes, you can open a foreign LLC in Indiana. However, there are some steps you'll need to take before doing so. You will need to make sure that the LLC has a physical address within Indiana. You can use your home, office, or another property as long as it's in the state.

What Is the Difference between a Foreign and a Domestic LLC in Indiana?

The difference between a foreign and a domestic LLC in Indiana lies in location. Foreign LLCs are business entities formed out of state, while domestic LLCs are those formed in the same state. There are some additional requirements for opening up an account with a foreign business type because you will need to make sure it's registered within Indiana as well.


References:

  1. https://www.in.gov/sos/
  2. https://www.irs.gov/e-file-providers/e-file-for-business-and-self-employed-taxpayers
  3. https://www.in.gov/sos/business/
  4. https://advocacy.sba.gov/wp-content/uploads/2022/08/Small-Business-Economic-Profile-IN.pdf

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