How to Start an LLC in Kentucky? (10 Steps Needed)

Jon Morgan
Published by Jon Morgan | Co-Founder & Chief Editor
Last updated: March 5, 2024
FACT CHECKED by Lou Viveros, Growth & Transition Advisor
Methodology
We meticulously research and verify the information presented in our articles. By consulting reliable sources and ensuring factual accuracy, we are committed to providing readers with well-informed, trustworthy content.

Starting your own business in Kentucky can be accomplished by following certain steps.

You'll also need to consider the type of business structure you want to use, the capital you need to get started, and the time you'll require to succeed.

After a decade of experience helping clients establish their limited liability companies across various states, I’ll provide you with key information to help you understand the process of setting up an LLC in Kentucky.

You have the option of using one of these Kentucky professional LLC services to handle your LLC formation.

Quick Summary:

  • To start an LLC in Kentucky, choose an available business name, appoint a registered agent, file the Certificate of Formation, draft an operating agreement and apply for an EIN.
  • After establishing your LLC, consider opening a separate business bank account and regularly file annual reports to maintain compliance.
  • The 20.8% first-year business failure rate highlights the importance of proper planning and legal structuring; forming an LLC in Kentucky can be a strategic move to safeguard your investment during the critical early stages of your business.
  • In my opinion, forming an LLC in Kentucky not only offers essential legal protections but also instills confidence in entrepreneurs, significantly contributing to their business's potential for success.


How To Form an LLC in Kentucky

Forming an LLC in Kentucky is a straightforward process, but it is important to have the necessary legal documents and take the time to do it correctly.

The following steps will ensure that you set up your Kentucky LLC correctly.

1. Choose the Type of Your LLC (Mandatory)

Writing on an important document

Drawing on my experience as a business consultant, I've guided clients in Kentucky through the process of selecting the appropriate LLC structure.

  • Single-Member LLC: Ideal for solo entrepreneurs, offering simplicity in management and decision-making. However, it may face limitations in growth potential and might be perceived as less credible by some financial institutions.
  • Multi-Member LLC: Suitable for businesses with several owners, allowing for shared responsibilities and diverse ideas. The downside can be potential conflicts and more complex decision-making processes.
  • Manager-Managed LLC: Best for owners preferring not to engage in daily operations. Offers professional management but might reduce owner control and could lead to manager-member conflicts.
  • Member-Managed LLC: Involves all members in daily operations, fostering hands-on management but potentially leading to inefficiencies and disputes if visions or skills differ.

The choice depends on your specific business goals and management preferences.

2. Choose the Type of Your Kentucky LLC (Mandatory)

In my work with new businesses, I've seen that choosing the right name for a Kentucky LLC is more than a legal formality; it's a foundational aspect of your brand's identity.

"A name should be distinctive, memorable, and reflective of your business ethos. It also needs to adhere to Kentucky's specific legal requirements regarding business names"

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

I've advised clients on brainstorming names that not only meet these legal standards but also capture the essence of their business, ensuring a strong start in the marketplace.

You'll need to make sure the LLC name you choose is available and complies with the state's rules and regulations. The best way to do this is to search business name databases and check with your county clerk's office.

If you intend to operate under a different name, you should file a "Doing Business As" (DBA) application through the county's clerk office.

When filing, you should provide the name of your LLC, a description of the services you will offer, and the name and address of the LLC's registered agent.

If the LLC name is available, you can register it with the state by paying a $15 fee. The fee reserves the name for up to 120 days, after which it will become available again to other businesses.

Once you've confirmed all the due steps in business naming, you can move on to the next step in setting up your LLC.

3. Select a Registered Agent (Mandatory)

The next step in setting up your Kentucky LLC is to find and choose an LLC registered agent.

A registered agent is someone who is authorized to accept legal documents on behalf of your LLC. It is important to choose a registered agent in Kentucky who is reliable and knowledgeable about the legal requirements of a Kentucky LLC.

You can find a registered agent by researching online or asking around your local business community.

Registered agents must have a physical address in Kentucky and be available during regular business hours.

The agents must also be of age and have the correct citizenship requirements. They must also pass the Kentucky Bureau of Investigations background check.

If you hire a registered agent service, you can expect to pay an annual fee for their services. You may also choose to be your own registered agent.

4. File Kentucky Articles of Organization (Mandatory)

Smiling woman reading work documents

Submitting a certificate of formation is vital in setting up your LLC correctly. It's the official document that establishes your business in the state.

This document must include the following:

  • LLC name and address of the registered office
  • Purpose and nature of the business
  • LLC members’ name and address
  • Name and address of the registered agent
  • NAICS code
  • LLC manager's signature and management, and any other information required by the state

Additionally, you will need to include a filing fee of $50. Once you have submitted your certificate, the LLC processing time in Kentucky is usually about 5 days. Upon receiving your Kentucky LLC certificate, file it with the Secretary of State's office.

Check our guide for more information on how much an LLC costs in Kentucky.

Steps to Take After Forming an LLC in Kentucky

After establishing your LLC, it is advisable to open a separate business bank account, determine which licenses and permits apply to your company and file annual reports.

An LLC Operating Agreement document outlines the ownership and management of your Kentucky LLC.

In my consulting practice, I've emphasized to Kentucky LLC owners the value of an Operating Agreement. For one client, the agreement was instrumental in resolving a dispute among members by providing clear guidance on profit distribution.

It also served as a roadmap for operational decisions, helping maintain order and efficiency within the business.

This experience highlighted to me that even in states where it's optional, an Operating Agreement is a vital tool for internal governance and dispute resolution in an LLC.

This document should include the following information:

  • LLC names and address
  • The percentage of ownership each member has
  • Who will manage the LLC
  • How profits and losses will be distributed
  • How decisions will be made

Take your time to put together an LLC Operating Agreement that clearly outlines the rights and responsibilities of each member. You should also review and update the document regularly.

With the help of an attorney or online resources, you can craft an LLC operating agreement in Kentucky tailored to your business's specific needs. Consult a professional lawyer if you have any questions or need help creating a limited liability company in Kentucky.

A man holding a white card with Employee Identification Number

You also need to get an Employer Identification Number (EIN), a nine-digit number issued by the IRS that helps identify your business for tax purposes.

Applying for an EIN is easy and free of charge. Go to the IRS website and fill out the online application.

You do not need an EIN if you do not plan to hire employees. But, an EIN is a must for tax purposes of Kentucky LLC when operating as a corporation and if you have employees.

An LLC business bank account ensures that your personal and business finances are kept separate. This makes tracking your business expenses and monitoring your cash flow more manageable.

To open a business bank account, you'll need to provide:

  • Your LLC's formation documents
  • Copy of your business license
  • And a valid ID

8. File Your LLC Annual Report (Mandatory)

Filing an annual report is vital in maintaining an LLC in Kentucky. It's the responsibility of each LLC member to ensure that these reports are filed on time.

The annual report includes essential information such as the LLC's name, registered agent, address, and members. You can create a management company to file the reports for you.

To file, you must have your state-issued business identification number (EIN) and pay the corresponding fee of $15. The report is due by April 15th annually.

Once you have completed the report, mail it to the Kentucky Secretary of State. Failure to file the LLC annual report in Kentucky can lead to the dissolution of your LLC.

Related Articles:

9. Obtain Business Licenses and Permits

In Kentucky, specific business licenses and permits vary based on the nature of your business. For example, a restaurant would require health permits, a liquor license if alcohol is served, and a food service permit. A construction business needs a contractor’s license.

Additionally, local permits may be required for zoning, signage, and health and safety. It's important to research both state and local regulations relevant to your specific business type to ensure full compliance.

For detailed information on the specific licenses and permits your business may need, you should consult the Kentucky One Stop Business Portal [1].

10. Choosing Your Tax Structure

Writing on a piece of paper

In Kentucky, LLCs can choose between default pass-through taxation and electing corporate taxation.

  • Pass-Through Taxation:
    • Pros: Simpler filing; avoids double taxation.
    • Cons: Higher self-employment taxes on profits.
  • Corporate Taxation (S-Corp/C-Corp):
    • Pros: Potential tax benefits for larger LLCs; reduced personal tax burden.
    • Cons: More complex compliance; potential double taxation for C-Corps.

Based on my experience, smaller LLCs often favor pass-through for its simplicity, while larger ones might opt for corporate taxation for tax benefits. It’s important to file any changes with the IRS before a new tax year begins.

Benefits and Drawbacks of an LLC in Kentucky

A paper about starting a limited liability company

Benefits:

  1. Limited Liability Protection: A key advantage of a Kentucky LLC is its protection for owners from personal liability for business debts, safeguarding personal assets. This is crucial in a state with 355,998 small businesses, constituting about 99.3% of all businesses as per BoostSuite, highlighting the value of asset protection in a thriving small business landscape [2].
  2. Flexible Taxation: LLCs in Kentucky can choose how they want to be taxed. They can opt for pass-through taxation, where profits and losses are reported on the individual tax returns of members, potentially leading to tax savings.
  3. Ease of Formation and Maintenance:  Forming an LLC in Kentucky is straightforward, requiring less paperwork and lower fees than corporations. The state's support for small businesses is clear, with initiatives such as providing over $20 million in grants to more than 630 firms during the COVID-19 pandemic, showcasing a supportive business ecosystem [2].
  4. Management Flexibility: Kentucky LLCs have no restrictions on the number or type of members and offer flexibility in management structure. Members can manage the LLC or appoint managers, allowing for adaptability to different business needs.

Drawbacks:

  1. Self-Employment Taxes: Members of an LLC in Kentucky may be subject to self-employment taxes on their share of the profits, which could be higher than the taxes on a salaried income.
  2. Limited Growth Potential: Unlike corporations, LLCs do not have the option to issue shares of stock, which can limit their ability to raise capital and grow.
  3. State-Specific Regulations and Fees: While Kentucky's regulations and fees for LLCs may be reasonable, they can still pose a challenge for some business owners, especially in terms of compliance and ongoing administrative tasks.
  4. Transferability of Ownership: Transferring ownership in an LLC is not as straightforward as in a corporation. In Kentucky, unless otherwise stated in the LLC agreement, the transfer of membership interest can require the approval of other members.

DIY vs. Professional LLC Formation

DIY LLC Formation

Pros:

  • Cost-Effective: DIY is typically more affordable since you're not paying for professional services. The only costs are state filing fees and any required legal documents, which can be significantly less than using a professional service.
  • Learning Experience: Handling the formation yourself can provide valuable insight into the legal and administrative aspects of running a business.
  • Direct Control: You have complete control over the formation process, allowing for customized solutions specific to your business needs.

Cons:

  • Time-Consuming: The process requires time and effort to understand and complete the necessary paperwork accurately.
  • Legal Complexities: Without legal expertise, you might miss crucial details, leading to potential issues with compliance or legal structure.
  • Risk of Errors: Mistakes in the formation process can lead to delays, additional costs, or future legal complications.

Professional LLC Formation

Pros:

  • Expertise and Accuracy: Professionals bring expertise, ensuring that the formation complies with state laws and regulations, reducing the risk of errors.
  • Time Savings: A professional service handles the entire process, saving you time and effort that can be redirected towards other aspects of your business.
  • Compliance Assistance: Many services offer ongoing compliance support, helping to keep your LLC in good standing with state requirements.
  • Peace of Mind: Knowing that experts are handling the formation can provide peace of mind, especially for those unfamiliar with legal processes.

Cons:

  • Cost: Professional services are more expensive than the DIY route, which might be a significant factor for startups or small businesses with limited budgets.
  • Less Hands-On Experience: You might miss out on learning some aspects of the legal and formation process by delegating to professionals.
  • Generic Solutions: Some service providers may offer one-size-fits-all solutions that might not fully align with the specific needs of your business.

The choice between DIY and professional LLC formation depends on individual circumstances. If cost is a major concern and you have the time and willingness to learn, DIY could be a viable option.

However, if you value expertise, time savings, and peace of mind, particularly if you are not familiar with legal procedures, professional services may be more suitable.

FAQs

How Much Tax Does an LLC Pay in Kentucky?

An LLC in Kentucky pays a minimum tax of $175. This tax by KY LLET serves the same purpose as a corporate income tax but is calculated differently. The tax is either $0.095 per $100 of Kentucky gross receipts or $0.75 per $100 of gross profits, whichever is lower.

Can I Set Up a Kentucky LLC on My Own?

Yes, you can set up a Kentucky LLC on your own. All you'll need is to file the appropriate paperwork with the Kentucky Secretary of State, obtain an employer identification number from the IRS, and register with the Kentucky Department of Revenue.

Does a Foreign LLC have to Register in Kentucky?

Yes, every foreign LLC has to register in Kentucky by filing a Certificate of Authority with the Secretary of State and paying the corresponding fee of $90.


References:

  1. https://onestop.ky.gov/start/Pages/occupational.aspx
  2. https://boostsuite.com/small-business-statistics/kentucky/

About The Author

Co-Founder & Chief Editor
Jon Morgan, MBA, LLM, has over ten years of experience growing startups and currently serves as CEO and Editor-in-Chief of Venture Smarter. Educated at UC Davis and Harvard, he offers deeply informed guidance. Beyond work, he enjoys spending time with family, his poodle Sophie, and learning Spanish.
Learn more about our editorial policy
Growth & Transition Advisor
LJ Viveros has 40 years of experience in founding and scaling businesses, including a significant sale to Logitech. He has led Market Solutions LLC since 1999, focusing on strategic transitions for global brands. A graduate of Saint Mary’s College in Communications, LJ is also a distinguished Matsushita Executive alumnus.
Learn more about our editorial policy

You May Also Like

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *