If you’re a serious business owner in Illinois then forming an LLC should be high on your to-do list. But What are LLCs and why are they important?
To help make sure you choose the right path for your company we’ve outlined all the steps on how to start an LLC in Illinois – from start to finish, followed by the advantages of forming this type of business structure. While at first glance forming your LLC may seem daunting, it’s somewhat straightforward once you understand each step.
Let’s get started!
How to Form an LLC in Illinois – A Step-by-Step Guide
While forming an LLC in Illinois involves several different steps. It’s important to make sure you follow each step correctly so there are no errors in your application.
Any mistakes or discrepancies will slow down the process, or worse, the Illinois state could deny your application. If you’re lacking confidence in following each step we’d advise hiring experts to file all your business paperwork for you (a more worry-free approach).
Otherwise, if you’re a do-it-yourself kind of person follow these 5 initial steps:
1. Name your Illinois LLC
Illinois has specific rules on naming your business and you want to make sure you meet all the requirements before applying. Under Illinois law your LLC has to be unique – which means you’re the only business operating under this name.
Before checking to see if you’re desired business name is available, to abide by Illinois LLC law, make sure the name of your company contains one of the following:
- LLC (most common)
- Limited Liability Company
For example, if you want your business name to be ‘GreenFox,’ it would have to be registered as ‘GreenFox LLC,’ or ‘GreenFox L.L.C.’
Check Name Availability
Once you’ve decided on your name you need to check to see if it’s available and there’s no other company in Illinois using it. The quick and easy way to do this is by doing a quick google search using your desired name.
If after that, you don’t find any competing companies you can move onto the next step – checking your business’s potential name through Illinois’s government online searchable database.
You won’t be able to reserve your business name, so if you find a name that’s available make sure you check to see if it’s still available closer to the date in which you apply.
Using a Fictitious Name
If you don’t want to use LLC in your business name then once your business is registered you can add a fictitious name. Also known as DBA (“doing business as”), or a trading name, a fictitious name allows you to run your business under a name that’s not the legal LLC registered name.
You can also use a fictitious name if you plan on running several different businesses under your LLC formation.
If you want to submit a fictitious name for your LLC business you’d need to register the name with the illinois state using this form:
- LLC: Form LLC-1.20
Once you’ve figured out what your business name is and you’ve made sure it’s still available, the next step is to choose a registered agent who will help you with the legal side of your business.
2. Choose an Illinois Registered Agent
A registered agent is anyone who receives and sends legal documents on behalf of your company. They are the main point of contact between your company and the Secretary of State.
In Illinois, an LLC must have a registered agent who lives in Illinois and has a valid street address (not a P.O. box).
An LLC registered agent can be:
- A family member or friend
- A Commercial Registered Agent
Why you may want to use a registered agent
While the easier route seems to have yourself, or one of your LLC’s members, act as the registered agent, there are some benefits in hiring a professional. A registered agent will ensure your business is always in good standing with the state, helping you stay organized and up-to-date. It also adds a layer of protection since they will help you in the case of a lawsuit or any penalties/fines.
Once you’ve decided who’s the best person to be your registered agent the next step is to submit your LLC application form.
3. File Illinois LLC Articles of Organization
To File an LLC in Illinois you need to complete the Articles of Organization application form and submit it to the Secretary of State.
Be prepared to include the following information when filling out the form:
- The name of you LLC
- The physical address of your LLC’s office
- Name and address of your registered agent
- Name(s) and address(es) of any LLC’s managers
- The effective date of your LLC
- Signature of a member or an authorized representative of your LLC
The filing fee for an LLC is $150. You can pay by certified check, cashier’s check, Illinois attorney’s check, C.P.A.’s check or money order payable to the Secretary of State.
Send the form to:
Department of Business Services Limited Liability Division 501
S. Second St., Rm.
351 Springfield, IL 62756
It takes between 10-15 business days to get approval for your LLC. However, if you apply online or through an online formation service, you can expect approval between 3-5 business days.
While you’re waiting for approval you can move onto step 4 – creating an LLC Operating Agreement. If you’re operating your LLC by yourself skip to step 5.
4. Create an Illinois LLC Operating Agreement
If your LLC has two or more members, it should have an operating agreement. Although it’s not required, it’s recommended as it will outline how the business is structured and how it will operate among its members.
Some of the sections you’ll typically find covered in an operating agreement include:
- Capital distributions
Again, while this is not a necessary step, as you don’t have to mail it to the secretary of state, it is recommended if your LLC has more than 2 members. It helps clarify the rules of your LLC and makes sure they are legally documented.
After you’ve agreed and created an LLC Operating Agreement the next and final step is to create your unique employer identification number.
5. Apply for your Illinois LLC Employer Identification Number (EIN)
Once your LLC has been approved you’ll need to get an employer identification number (EIN).
An EIN is a federal tax ID number that registers you with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). This number is used to identify your company when filing taxes.
How to register for an EIN:
– Apply online or,
– fill out the Employer Identification Number form and fax it to 855-641-6935, or mail it to:
Internal Revenue Service,
Attn: EIN Operation,
If you apply online you’ll get instant approval. If you apply by fax it takes up to 4 business days whereas mailing it in takes up to 4 weeks. Applying for your EIN is completely free!
Illinois LLC Registration – Final Checklist & Summary
Ready to get started?
Use this simple checklist to make sure you’ve dotted your i’s and crossed your t’s!
- Name your LLC – Your business name must include LLC, L.L.C., or Limited Liability Company and can’t be used by any other business in Illinois. Make sure you confirm the availability of your business name through Illinois’s government online searchable database.
- Choose a Registered Agent – A registered agent is a person who receives and sends legal documents on behalf of your company. It can be you, a friend or family member, or a commercial registered agent.
- File Illinois LLC Articles of Organization – Complete the Articles of Organization application form and submit it to the Secretary of State. It costs $150 and takes between 10-15 business days to get approval. If you use an online formation service it can take between 3-5 business days.
- Create an Illinois LLC Operating Agreement – If your LLC has two or more members, you should create an LLC operating agreement that outlines how the business is structured, who is responsible for what, and how much of the LLC each person owns. You don’t have to send your operating agreement to the illinois state but you should have one so everything is documented and signed by all members.
- Apply for your Illinois LLC Employer Identification Number (EIN) – Once you get approval for your LLC you need to apply for an employer identification number (EIN) through the IRS. This number is used to identify your company when filing taxes. You can apply online for free and approval is instant.
While there are a few different pieces into making sure your LLC is filed correctly, make sure you follow each step as stated so there’s no errors. If you can, we recommend going through a service to make sure your LLC gets set up correctly from the get go.
If you’re taking the time to form an LLC then make sure you do your homework and choose one of the best LLC services for your business.
Our first recommendation is to go with ZenBusiness, an LLC creation service that holds your hand from start to finish. Packages start as low as $49.
How To Apply for a Illinois LLC Online
Now that you know the exact steps on what’s needed to form your LLC it’s time to start the application process. There are two ways of going about this:
1. Do it Yourself
Taking the DIY route is a good option if your budget is tight or you’ve previously opened an LLC and understand how it works.
2. Use an Online Formation Company
Using an online formation company is a better option if it’s your first time opening up an LLC and if it’s within your budget (formation services cost anywhere between $49 – $199). This is typically a better choice if you want to avoid headaches and have peace of mind knowing professionals are handling everything for you.
If using a professional service is more up your alley, here’s our top 3 recommendations:
ZenBusiness built its platform to meet the needs of your business throughout its lifetime. When you pay for their services, you’ll receive a personalized dashboard to your business to store documents, receive alerts, and manage your website.
ZenBusiness charges based on a tier system. There are three different tiers with pricing as follows:
- The Starter = $49 annually
- The Pro = $199 annually
- The Premium = $299 annually
IncFile provides you with a full suite offering startup services to best support your business formation.
Their pricing model also depends on the state you are filling. You can generate a personalized quote on their website by entering in the necessary information of your business.
LegalZoom is an online legal service provider that helps you to be able to create legal documents without having to pay the expensive lawyer fees. Some of the services they provide assistance to include business formation, copyrights, and trademarks.
LegalZoom has many different pricing options available. For their LLC service, pricing begins at $79 + the allotted state fee.
After Starting Your Illinois LLC
You’ve been approved – now what? The journey doesn’t stop here – there’s still a handful of things you need to do in order to get your business off the ground. We recommend ticking off the following items to make sure your LLC gets off on the right foot.
Purchase A Domain For Your Business
Having an online presence, even if your business is local, is important in creating trust, professionalism and a way for people to find you. If you haven’t already thought about getting a website, now’s the time. In a tech-saturated world you need a domain to not only attract new customers but help create a good first visual impression of what your business does and how it can help.
Get A Business Phone Number
Since your business is now an approved Illinois LLC you should think about getting a business phone number. Having a business number is a great way to show your professionalism to your clients and customers. It makes you more serious and more importantly – more trustworthy.
There’s a variety of different online phone services you can go with, or you could go the traditional route and open an account through a local branch. You can get a local number or a 1-800, the options are endless!
Open Your Illinois LLC Business Bank Account
You’ll want to open a business account that’s separate from your personal banking. This will not only make accounting easier but you won’t have to worry about your personal finances mixing in with your business finances.
USA Business Bank Accounts
If you already have online banking through your personal bank account it might be easier to open a business account through your current bank so all your banking (although in separate accounts) will be accessible in the same place.
If you prefer to open a new account keep these checking accounts in mind:
Chase – Free checking account with no extra fees – as long as you keep a $1,500 minimum balance.
BlueVine – Free checking account with mobile banking and a debit mastercard.
Bank Novo – Open a free checking account with Free transfers and free ATM fees.
Illinois Bank & Trust – $100 minimum deposit to open and no extra fees (pending a $1,500 minimum balance).
Huntington Bank – Traditional banking and mobile banking with unlimited transactions.
Along with your business checking account, you should apply for a business credit card too.
Having a business credit card is a good way to establish your business credit score (which may help if you ever need a loan). It also makes it easier for online purchases and again, it will keep your personal and business finances separate.
Find Accountant/Buy Accounting Software
Taxes get complicated fast and can be a burden to deal with. We recommend getting an accountant or using accounting software to make sure all your spending actions are being tracked (payroll, bills, invoices, receipts, etc.).
Here are some popular options to look into:
Wave – Free invoicing & accounting software with credit card processing & payroll services.
Intuit Quickbooks – Online accounting software to track expenses, customize invoices, and run reports.
Freshbooks – Accounting software to send invoices, track time, manage receipts, expenses, and accept credit cards.
Local Certified Public Accountant – If you want to use a local tax specialist you can search for a certified public accountant (CPA) through the Illinois CPA society’s online database.
Having all of your business reports in one spot is highly beneficial so you can keep an eye on your cash flow. To run a successful business you’re going to need to analyze how your business is performing and narrow down what’s working or what isn’t working so there’s always room for growth.
File Annual Reports On Time
Each year you need to file an annual report. This is mandatory for any LLC and is due before the 1st day of your LLC’s anniversary. For example, if your LLC got approved on June 12th 2020, then your annual report would be due each year before June 1st.
The annual report is $75. You can submit it online through your registered agent. This is one of the benefits of using a registered agent as you won’t have to worry about getting it done on time and you’ll never get any late fees. If you’re filing it on your own then you need to print off the form and mail it to the state.
Notify Illinois Of Any Changes You Make To Your LLC
If you make any changes to your LLC make sure you inform the state. If you’re using a registered agent you get them to handle this for you – if you’re going about this alone then you can update changes:
- electronically through MyTax Illinois,
- by phone t 217-785-3707, or
- by email at Taxpayer Answer Center (search on “account maintenance”).
8 Benefits of Forming an LLC in Illinois
When you file your company as an LLC in Illinois, it helps solidify your standing in the business world. This motion shows other businesses and potential customers that you are willing to do what it takes to be a legally operating business.
Choosing to form your business as an LLC in Illinois allows you to take advantage of the benefits of both a corporation and a partnership structure. Some of these benefits include:
1. Protect Your Personal Assets
The LLC will have its liability that does not automatically extend to the owners, unlike a sole proprietor, where you are legally responsible for everything. That means the Illinois LLC protects the liabilities and debts incurred from the business. In most situations, your assets, such as your car, home, or savings, will never be at risk if your Illinois LLC is faced with lawsuits or bankruptcy.
2. Benefit From Business Profit Taxation
In an LLC in Illinois, your profits and losses can pass through to your income without having to have corporate taxation.
3. Simple to Create and Maintain
The formation of a Illinois LLC requires minimal paperwork and requirements. They are known for being easy to start and simple to maintain.
4. Minimal Restrictions
Your business matters can be managed by more than one owner or member while still being one main business to the public. This means all decisions and transactions behind the scenes can be equitably distributed while presenting one entity as you move forward.
5. Heighten Your Credibility
As you move forward, your Illinois LLC will continuously be recognized as an entity. People and other businesses prefer doing business with a legitimate entity because it shows your level of professionalism.
6. Gain Access to Business Loans
When you form your Illinois LLC, you will obtain a DUNS number and build your business credit, helping you to further build upon your business.
7. Benefit From Flexible Profit Distribution
In an LLC, you are not required to spread the distribution of profits equally across the owners. You have full control over profit distribution in your Illinois LLC.
8. Good For Any Kind Of Business
An LLC business structure in Illinois is an excellent choice for both medium and higher-risk level businesses. You might always want to consider opting to go with an LLC if you have a significant amount of personal assets to protect from your company. And lastly, LLCs are great for owners who are interested in paying lower tax rates than corporations.
There are lots of different steps involved in getting your business up and running. The best thing you can do is use the help of professionals. Going about it alone could create unnecessary headaches while using a team to make sure everything is done properly the first time around.
Let’s face it – mistakes happen – but when it comes to your business you want to avoid errors at all costs. Using an overall go-to business service, like ZenBusiness who can help handle the legal side of your business, is a great way to save time and eliminate mistakes.
Going this route not only makes sure your paperwork is filed on time (and correctly) but it also creates more space for you to focus on other areas of the business like branding, marketing and your initial launch.
Launch Your Dream Business with ZenBusiness
F.A.Q. About Forming an Illinois LLC
There’s several different steps you’ll need to do to legally form your LLC. It’s a lot of information to take in and can get confusing. To help out we’ve compiled some answers to the most frequently asked questions:
How Much Does It Cost to Start an LLC in Illinois?
Expect to pay $150 in total. This is the filing fee to complete the Articles of Organization application form, which you submit to the Secretary of State.
How Long Does It Take to Form an LLC in Illinois?
If you register yourself by mail it takes between 10-15 business days. If you use a registered agent or file it online it takes between 3-5 business days.
Can You Start an LLC on Your Own?
Yes, you can start forming an LLC on your own by following the step-by-step instructions provided in this article. For additional help, look to hire an all-around service provider.
Do You Need a Lawyer to Start an LLC in Illinois?
No, you can start an LLC without a lawyer just be prepared to file and report everything on your own. If you’re not interested in getting a lawyer but want to make sure everything is filed correctly then use an online business formation service, like the ones listed in this article, with ZenBusiness as our #1 recommendation.
Does an LLC Need to Make Money?
No, an LLC doesn’t need to make profits but if you’re claiming tax deductions with no income the IRS will likely audit your business.
What Are The Downsides to Having an LLC?
There are pros and cons to forming an LLC. The pros are tax reductions, protecting your personal assets and creating credibility for your business (and possible future business loans). The main con of an LLC is you’re considered self-employed. This is a disadvantage as you’d
be taxed under self-employment and responsible to pay Social Security and Medicare taxes. The amount you’d be required to pay depends on your business’s total net earnings.