You must file Articles of Incorporation right away if you're ready to incorporate your business. Filing your documents early allow you to sell stocks, hire more employees, expand your business to new locations, open new bank accounts, and secure legal protection for your personal assets.
Learn what Articles of Incorporation are, how and when should you file, and what else should you know about the benefits of filing early with our full breakdown.
What’s Included in Articles of Incorporation
Each state has its own Articles of Incorporation, so the exact contents of the form can vary from state to state. But in general, you should expect your Articles of Incorporation to include the following:
- Business name: Be sure to come up with a creative name that another company hasn't already taken. (Hint: Use our Business Name Search Tool to see if your chosen name is available.)
- Physical address: This can either be the address of your company's brick-and-mortar location or a virtual address.
- Purpose of the corporation: Here, you'll need to explain your company's primary activities and goals.
- Registered Agent: Your Registered Agent is an individual who you designate to receive official and legal mail on your business's behalf.
- Board of Directors: Include the names and addresses of the members of your Board of Directors.
- Shares: Detail the number and types of shares your corporation will issue.
- Incorporator information: The name of at least one "incorporator" who will sign and submit the Articles of Incorporation.
How to File Articles of Incorporation in 4 Steps
After filling out your Articles of Incorporation, you can move on to filing it in four steps.
1. Include the Required Fee
Filing fees vary by state, with some states charging less than $50 and others charging upwards of $200.
As such, the first step of filing your Articles of Incorporation is determining your state's fee and paying it accordingly. Many states allow for online payments, though others may only accept other forms of payment, so research that too before proceeding. Or, use Incfile's filing service and we'll research all applicable fees for you.
2. Choose How to File
Most states allow for online filing, but some may only accept paper forms. Additionally, some states charge additional fees for certain filing methods, so read your state's policies before making a decision.
3. Check and Submit Your Form
Read over your Articles of Incorporation and your state government's instructions to ensure you're not missing anything. (If you're using a filing service like ours, you'll have an extra set of eyes to help.)
Next, submit your form using your chosen method.
4. Get Approval
Once your Articles of Incorporation is submitted, you'll need to wait for your state authorities to approve it. When and if they do, you'll typically receive a certificate to confirm that your company's been officially formed.
Where Should You Incorporate?
While filing in your home state is typically the most straightforward option, it's not your only option. If you choose to incorporate in a state other than your own, you could enjoy several benefits.
If you incorporate in Nevada, for instance, you could enjoy low state taxes, business-friendly laws, and enhanced privacy. Other popular states include Delaware and Wyoming, both considered corporate tax havens.
So before choosing to incorporate in your home state, do your research to determine if it's the best state for your needs.
When Should You Incorporate?
We wouldn't blame you for thinking the best time to file your Articles of Incorporation is right before you intend to open your business's doors. But the truth is, there are several reasons why you might want to file your incorporation forms early instead.
- Avoiding trademark infringement: If you file after checking to ensure no other business has already trademarked your desired business name, you'll be able to avoid time-consuming and costly legal issues down the road. As an added bonus, doing this extra research will also make it easier to trademark your business name when you're ready.
- Reserving your chosen name: By filing early, you'll ensure no other business in your state can register under your desired name before you've had a chance to.
- Reducing stress: If you give yourself plenty of time to submit your Articles of Incorporation and receive approval from your state, you'll be able to sidestep any unnecessary stress and ensure your start date can be met successfully.
Why Consider Incorporation?
Why bother starting a C Corp or S Corp when you could set up a sole proprietorship or LLC instead? There are several potential reasons:
- You want to have multiple business partners: While you can add members to an LLC, corporations are specifically designed to be run by multiple people, specifically a Board of Directors that governs all company activity. Corporations are generally controlled by a group of shareholders rather than one or two people.
- You want to sell stocks: Only officially registered corporations are legally allowed to sell shares on the public stock market.
- You've got growth in mind: If you want your business to have a large number of employees and multiple locations, or if you eventually want to sell your business once it reaches a certain value, a corporate structure will likely suit your needs.
- You want maximum legal protection: Corporations are completely separate entities from their owners, which means they offer the greatest amount of legal protection. Simply put, creditors won't be able to seize your house if your business can't repay its debts.
The only downside to corporations is that, since they're entirely separate from their owners, they typically don't enjoy pass-through taxation. In other words, corporation income is taxed twice — once when earned and once when distributed as dividends.
S Corps are the only exception; they must have fewer than 100 shareholders to qualify for S Corp status.
So, you've incorporated your business and gotten approved by your state government. Now what?
Use this checklist and our added resources to make sure you've covered all the requirements that come after incorporation:
File Annual Reports
Most states require all registered businesses to file an annual report. This report will typically include basic information about your company, such as its name, address, and members.
Take the stress out of submitting your report with Incfile's annual report filing service.
Get Licenses and Permits
The majority of businesses need at least one license to legally operate. Depending on the field your company operates in, it may need many more.
To find out what kinds of licenses and permits you need, use our Business License Search Tool. Or, if you'd like our team to sift through the red tape for you, get our Business License Research Package.
Manage Your Finances and Taxes
Staying on top of your corporation's finances and taxes will not only make your life easier, but it will also ensure it stays compliant with the IRS, SEC, and your state and local governments.
For expert help keeping your finances under control, check out our Accounting and Bookkeeping service. And if you're dreading tax season, remember you can always sign up for a free tax consultation.
Register a Trademark
By incorporating your business, you ensure no other business in your state can have the same name. But if you want to prevent any other company in the country from using your name, you need to file a trademark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).
The process of doing so is often confusing and time-consuming, and it can take many months for the USPTO to process your application. To make your trademark experience a little bit faster and a lot less stressful, use our Trademark Registration service.
Are Articles of Incorporation Filed With the IRS?
No, Articles of Incorporation are not filed with the IRS. However, corporations do need to file their taxes with the IRS.
Who Writes Articles of Incorporation?
Your state's Articles of Incorporation are written by members of the state's government offices. Then, it's up to the corporation's owner(s) to fill in the form's details.
What Does It Mean to Be Incorporated?
If your business is incorporated, it means your business is officially registered with your state as a corporation, which is a separate legal entity.
By contrast, if your business is registered as a Limited Liability Company (LLC), it is not legally classified as a corporation, and the business is not considered separate from its owner(s).
What Is the Difference Between Articles of Incorporation and Certificate of Incorporation?
There is typically no difference between Articles of Incorporation and Certificate of Incorporation. Both refer to the same legal document.
Save Yourself Some Stress, Incorporate Early
Don't wait until the last minute to make your corporation official. To make sure all goes according to plan by your desired start date, incorporate as soon as possible. Ready to submit your Articles of Incorporation now? Incfile can handle all the paperwork for you.