How to start an LLC in Tennessee (TN)

How-to-start-an-LLC-in-Tennessee
How to start an LLC in Tennessee

If you’re thinking about forming a Limited Liability Company (LLC) in Tennessee you’ve come to the right place! In this article, we outline each step you need to take to form your LLC correctly the first time around.

An LLC is a great business structure for anyone who wants the protection and security of a corporation without the hassle and paperwork of setting one up. Overall, an LLC is a much simpler arrangement and would still give you the flexibility of a sole proprietorship.

By forming an LLC you can make sure that if your company ever comes into legal troubles you – and any other members of your organization – won’t be expected to pay any losses from your personal assets.

Forming an LLC is simple and straightforward, all you need to do is follow these initial 5 steps: 

How to Form an LLC in Tennessee

How-to-form-an-LLC-in-Tennessee-in-United-States
How to form an LLC in Tennessee – Map of United-States

Forming an LLC ensures your personal assets are protected, you don’t get doubled taxed and you won’t have to jump through hoops to get it started! While the steps to submit your application and get approval are straightforward – make sure you follow each step correctly so there are no errors on your application.

Any mistakes or discrepancies will slow down the process, or worse, the Tennessee 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 6 initial steps: 

1. Name your Tennessee LLC 

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

Name Requirements

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

  • Limited Liability Company
  • LLC.
  • L.L.C 

Your LLC name can be your business name, like Plumbing King LLC, or the name of one of your LLC’s members, such as Joe Smith LC.

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 Tennessee using it. The quick and easy way to do this is through 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 the Tennessee name search.

If you find a name you like but don’t plan on forming your LLC just yet you can reserve the name for $20. To get the name extension you need to submit Form ss-4228  (Application For Reservation of Limited Liability Company Name) to the Tennessee Secretary of State. You can apply through Tennessee’s online business service or by mailing it to:

Corporate Filings
312 Rosa L. Parks Avenue
6th Floor, William R. Snodgrass Tower
Nashville, Tennessee 37243

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 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 like to register a fictitious name you need to submit an Application for Registration of Assumed Name to the Secretary of State. There’s a $20 filing fee and you can apply online or by mail.

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 Tennessee 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 Tennessee, an LLC must have a registered agent who lives in Tennessee 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 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’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 form.

3. File a Tennessee LLC Articles of Organization

To form an LLC in Tennessee you’re required to fill out the ‘Articles of Organization’ application form and submit it to the state. You can apply online, by mail, or in person. If you apply online your LLC is approved immediately and you can print off your official certificate. If you mail in your application you should get approval within 5-7 business days.

If you fill out the form with inaccurate information, your writing is illegible or you skip a section, your application will be refused. Be prepared to include the following information (and always read it over once before submitting):

  • 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
  • Your LLC’s fiscal year
  • If your LLC is member-managed or manager-managed
  • the LLC’s initial principal office address, and
  • signatures 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 whereas manager-managed is if you decide to hire someone who is not a member to manage your business’s everyday activities.

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

Filing Costs

In Tennessee, it costs $300 to form an LLC if there are 1 to 6 members. If you have 7 members or more than the fee is $50 per person. So, if you had 8 members the filing fee would be $400, 10 members would be $500, and so on. The maximum amount of members an LLC can have in Tennessee is 60, which would be a $3,000 fee. 

Once you have 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 Tennessee LLC Operating Agreement

If your LLC has two or more members, it should have an operating agreement. Although it’s not required in Tennessee, 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:

  • 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 Tennessee 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,
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 it can take up to 4 weeks. Applying for your EIN is completely free! 

Tennessee 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 must include Limited Liability Company, LLC,  L.L.C. It can’t be used by any other business in Tennessee. Make sure you confirm the availability of your desired name through the state’s name search.
  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 Tennessee LLC Articles of Organization – To File an LLC in Tennessee you need to fill out the ‘Articles of Organization’’ application form. It costs $300 if you have 1-6 members and $50 per member thereafter. That means if your LLC has 7 members the filing fee would be $350.
  4. Apply for your Tennessee 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 is used to identify your company when filing taxes. You can apply online for free and approval is instant.
  5. Create Tennessee 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 Tennessee state but you should have one so everything is documented and signed by all members.

While there are a few different pieces to making sure your LLC is filed correctly, make sure you follow each step as stated so there are no errors.

If you can, we recommend using an all-around service to make sure your LLC gets set up correctly from the get-go. Just 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 Tennessee 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 are our top 3 recommendations: 

ZenBusiness

zenbusiness-screenshot-2
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 are 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

Read our full ZenBusiness review

IncFile

IncFile website
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 can help simplify 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 Tennessee LLC

You’ve been 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

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 Tennessee 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’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 Tennessee 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.

Tennessee State Bank – Open a business checking account with unlimited deposits and have no per-item fees.

Bank of Tennessee – Business accounts that are personalized to help support your financial goals.

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.

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’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 Registrations On Time

You need to file an LLC report with the Tennessee Secretary of State each year. The annual report costs $300 for 1-6 members or $50 per person when you have more than 7 members. The due date of your annual report will vary depending on when your year-end is – as they are expected 4 months after your fiscal year.

For example, when forming your LLC if you indicated your fiscal year was the same as the calendar year (ending December 31st) then your annual report is expected each year before April 1st.

You can file your annual report online or by mail.

Notify Tennessee 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 then you can update changes through Tennessee’s business portal or through your registered agent. 

8 Benefits of Forming an LLC in Tennessee

When you file your company as an LLC in Tennessee 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 Tennessee 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 Tennessee 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 Tennessee LLC is faced with lawsuits or bankruptcy.

2. Benefit From Business Profit Taxation

In an LLC in Tennessee, 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 Tennessee 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 Tennessee 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 Tennessee 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 Tennessee LLC.

8. Good For Any Kind Of Business

An LLC business structure in Tennessee 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 simple and easy to do if you follow the 5 initial steps outlined in this article. However, while setting it up isn’t complicated, you need to be careful and make sure everything is filed accurately so if your business is ever sued, or you need to pay losses, your personal assets (including the assets of any members) will all be safe.

If it’s within your means it’s a good idea to use a formation service, like ZenBusiness, which can handle the entire legal side of your business for you. It takes a lot to run a successful business and you want to make sure your outsourcing anything you don’t need to handle so you can use your time where it’s most beneficial, like your initial launch or finding customers.

File Your Dream Business with ZenBusiness

F.A.Q. About Forming Tennessee LLC

There are 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:

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 Tennessee?

Expect to pay $300 to file an ‘articles of organization’ form if your LLC has 1-6 members. If there are 7 plus members you’d pay $50 per person. Every year you’ll pay the same amount when filing your year-end report. 

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

If you register online you get instant approval whereas snail mail takes between 5-7 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 Tennessee?

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.

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