How to Start an LLC in Kentucky (KY)

How to Start an LLC in Kentucky
How to Start an LLC in Kentucky

You should consider forming a Limited Liability Company (LLC) in Kentucky if you want to protect your personal assets. Personal assets are anything from property to vehicles and even finances. Forming an LLC will keep your personal assets separate from your business assets and ensure you won’t ever have to pay for any business losses if your company gets sued or comes into legal problems. 

Since an LLC is easy to form (it takes less than 3 business days) and is inexpensive ($40) it’s the perfect business entity for small, medium or large businesses. It gives you more protection than a sole proprietorship but lets you keep the flexibility of operating like a small business.

You can file an LLC in Kentucky entirely online; all you need to do is follow these steps: 

How to Form an LLC in Kentucky

How to form an LLC in Kentucky - United States map
How to form an LLC in Kentucky – United States map

You can apply for your LLC on your own or through a professional service. While filing on your own isn’t complicated and doesn’t take too much time, you still want to make sure you complete each step as outlined below, ensuring your LLC is set up correctly the first time around.
If you’d rather not handle your business’s legal side, we suggest 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 Kentucky LLC 

To form an LLC in Kentucky, you need to follow specific name requirements set by state law. Your business name needs to be unique, meaning no other company has a similar name. 

Name Requirements

Before checking to see if the business name you’d like is available, to abide by Kentucky LLC law, make sure the name of your company contains one of the following:

  • Limited Liability Company
  • Limited Company 
  • LLC 
  • LC

You’re allowed to abbreviate ‘Limited Liability Company’ to’ LTD CO.’ Your LLC name can be your business name, like Plumbing King L.L.C, or the name of one of your LLC’s members, such as Joe Smith LLC.  

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 Kentucky using it. The quick and easy way to do this is through a quick google search using your desired name.

If you don’t find any competing companies, you can move onto the next step – checking your business’s potential name through the Kentucky business entity search. 

Once you find an available name that you like, if you’re not ready to use it quite yet, you can file a Reservation or Renewal of Reserved Name with the Kentucky Secretary of State to reserve the name for up to 120 days. You can apply online or by mail, and it costs $15 to reserve. 

Using a Fictitious Name

If you don’t want to use LLC in your business name, then you can add a fictitious name once your business is registered. Also known as DBA (“doing business as,”) or a trade 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’d prefer to operate your business under a fictitious name, you need to register that name by filing a Certificate of Assumed Name with the Kentucky Secretary of State. It costs $20 to file and lasts for 5 years. 

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 a Kentucky 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 Kentucky, an LLC must have a registered agent who lives in Kentucky and has a valid street address (not a P.O. box).

An LLC registered agent can be:

  • Yourself 
  • A family member or friend 
  • A Commercial Registered Agent  

Why you should 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’ll 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. 

3. File a Kentucky LLC Articles of Organization

To form an LLC in Kentucky, you have to complete the articles of organization application. It costs $40 to file and you can apply through the state’s online business portal or by mail. When filling out the form, you’re asked for the following information: 

  • the LLC’s name
  • the effective date of formation (either the day you’re applying or a future date). 
  • the name and address of the LLC’s registered agent
  • if the LLC will be member-managed or manager-managed
  • the LLC’s initial principal office address, 
  • signatures of one of the LLC members 

What’s the difference between member-managed or manager-managed? 

Member-managed is if you (and the other owners of your LLC) are responsible for everyday business activities. In contrast, manager-managed is if you decide to hire someone who is not a member to manage your business’s day-to-day activities.

Member-managed is more common for smaller businesses, while larger companies typically use manager-managed. You’d usually only choose manager-managed if you are a passive investor and aren’t involved much in the business. 

If you fill out the form with inaccurate information, your writing is illegible or you skip a section, your application will be refused. Always double-check your business information is correct before submitting it. 

If you file your LLC online, it only takes 24 hours to get approval, whereas mail takes 2-3 business days. 

Once you get 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 a Kentucky LLC Operating Agreement

If your LLC has two or more members, it should have an operating agreement. Although it’s not required in Kentucky, we suggest creating one to outline how the business is structured and how it will operate among its members (and/or managers). 

Some of the sections you’ll typically find covered in an operating agreement include:

  • Organization
  • Management
  • Voting
  • Capital distributions
  • Distributions
  • Dissolution

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 step is to create your unique employer identification number. 

5. Apply for your Kentucky LLC Employer Identification Number (EIN)

Once your LLC is 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 identifies 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,
Cincinnati,
OH, 45999

If you apply online, you’ll get instant approval. If you apply by fax, it takes up to 4 business days, whereas mailing can take up to 4 weeks. Applying for your EIN is completely free! 

Kentucky 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! 

  1. Name your LLC  – Your business name has to include Limited Liability Company, Limited Company, LLC, LC, or the abbreviation LTD CO in its title. You must check the Kentucky business entity search to make sure that no other company in Kentucky is using that name.
  2. Choose a Registered Office – 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. 
  3. File a Kentucky LLC Articles of Organization – You create an LLC in Kentucky by filing an articles of organization to the state. It costs $40 to file, and you should get approval within 24 hours (if you apply online) or 2-3 business names (if you apply by mail). 
  4. Apply for your Kentucky LLC Employer Identification Number (EIN) & File your Tax Registration Form – Once you get approval for your LLC, you need to apply for an employer identification number (EIN) through the IRS. This number identities your company when filing taxes. You can apply online for free, and approval is instant.
  5. Create Kentucky 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 Kentucky state, but you should have one so everything is documented and signed by all members. 

If you fill out your paperwork correctly, filing an LLC doesn’t take too much time (or cost too much money)! You can have the entire entity set up for $40 and within 3 business days. That being said, you always want to double-check the information filled out on all paperwork is correct. If something is missing or inaccurate, it may lead to your business being formed incorrectly.

If it’s within your means, we always suggest using a formation service, who can act as your registered agent and file all legal documents for you. Not only are formation services affordable, but they give you the added protection of having professionals working for you in the case that your LLC ever runs into legal problems. While there are many to choose from, make sure you do your homework on 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 Kentucky 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 handle everything for you. 

If using a professional service is more up your alley, here are our top 3 recommendations: 

ZenBusiness

ZenBusiness
ZenBusiness

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 for your business to store documents, receive alerts, and manage your website.

ZenBusiness charges work 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

Read our full ZenBusiness review

IncFile

IncFile
IncFile

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 the necessary information about your business.

Read our full IncFile review

Legal Zoom

LegalZoom homepage
LegalZoom

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 includes business formation, copyrights, and trademarks.

LegalZoom has many different pricing options available. For their LLC service, pricing begins at $79 + the allotted state fee.

Read our full LegalZoom review

When narrowing down your options, always try to choose a business that aligns with your needs and simplifies the process for you. Do some research on the best LLC services available and go with the one that resonates most with you. 

After Starting Your Kentucky LLC

You’re approved – now what? The journey doesn’t stop here – there’s still a handful of things you need to do 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

Even if your business is local, having an online presence is essential 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 Kentucky LLC, you should think about getting a business phone number. Having a business number is a great way to show professionalism to your clients and customers. It makes you more serious and, more importantly – more trustworthy.

There are various 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 Kentucky 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 finances mixing in with your business finances.

USA Business Bank Accounts

If you already have online banking, 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 something new, 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.

First Kentucky – Open a checking account and get local support to help you handle the financial side of your business. 

Kentucky Bank – Open one of four checking accounts based on your business’s specific needs.

People’s Bank of Kentucky – Choose one of three checking accounts that suits the size and needs of your business. If you have larger balances, we suggest opting in for an interest-bearing checking account.

Along with your business checking account, you should apply for a business credit card too. Having a business credit card is an excellent 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 handle. We recommend getting an accountant or using accounting software to ensure all your spending actions are 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.

Directory of Federal Tax Return Preparers with Credential – If you want to use a local tax specialist, you can search for a certified public accountant (CPA) through the IRS online directory.

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 will need to analyze how your business performs and narrow down what’s working or what isn’t working. Finding areas for growth will ensure success. 

Don’t Forget to File an Annual Report

To keep your LLC active, updated, and in good standing with the Kentucky Secretary of State, your LLC must submit an annual report each year. This report is similar to the articles of organization in that it summaries important contact details for your LLC.

Your annual report is due between January 1 and June 30. It costs $15, and you can apply online or by mail.

You won’t have to submit your first annual report until the year after your LLC was formed. For example, if your LLC was approved in August 2021, your first report would be due sometime between January 1 and June 30 of 2022. Your annual report needs to be received before June 30th; failure to do so may result in the State dissolving your LLC. 

Notify Kentucky Of Any Changes You Make To Your LLC

If at any time you make changes to your LLC you need to inform the state. If you’re using a registered agent they can do this for you. If you’re going about this alone, you can update changes through Kentucky’s business portal or through your registered agent. 

8 Benefits of Forming an LLC in Kentucky

Setting up an LLC in Kentucky makes sure your business finances stay separate from any personal finances and that each member’s personal possessions are safe. It’s a great business entity for small, medium or large businesses as it gives you the freedom of a sole proprietorship or partnership with the protection of a corporation. Best of all, it’s easy to get (approval is instant), and it won’t cost you an arm and a leg. Some of its major 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 Kentucky LLC protects the liabilities and debts incurred by the business. In most situations, your assets, such as your car, home, or savings, will never be at risk if your Kentucky LLC is faced with lawsuits or bankruptcy.

2. Benefit From Business Profit Taxation

In an LLC in Kentucky, 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 Kentucky 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 Kentucky 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 Kentucky 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 complete control over profit distribution in your Kentucky LLC.

8. Good For Any Kind Of Business

An LLC business structure in Kentucky 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.

Conclusion

Forming an LLC is the best way to protect yourself if your business ever comes into legal problems. Not only does it ensure that all your personal assets and finances stay separate from your business but it legitimizes your company since it becomes recognized as an entity. It shows a level of professionalism and seriousness that helps tell your clients you mean business!

Since an LLC is a legal entity, if it’s within your budget, we suggest setting it up with a formation service that can handle the legal paperwork for you. Our best recommendation is ZenBusiness, since it’s inexpensive and they can act as your registered agent too. Using a formation service is an excellent way to make sure you’re always in good standing with Kentucky State. It also frees up your time from paperwork so you can focus on bringing in more clients and customers. 

So, what are you waiting for?  

File Your Dream Business with ZenBusiness

FAQ About Forming Kentucky LLC

There are several different steps you’ll need to take to form your LLC legally. 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:

What are LLCs, and why are they important?

An LLC is a Limited Liability Company. It’s a business structure used to protect your assets, like your house, your car, or even your savings. No matter what happens to your business (lawsuits, bankruptcy, etc.) your assets are kept safe. 

How Much Does It Cost to Start an LLC in Kentucky?

Filing an LLC costs $40 for the ‘articles of organization’ application fee. After that, each year you need to file an annual report that costs $15. 

How Long Does It Take to Form an LLC in Kentucky?

Forming an LLC in Kentucky doesn’t take long; you an approval in less than a week. If you apply online it takes up to 24 hours whereas by mail takes 2-3 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 Kentucky?

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, 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.