The Best Online Incorporation Services in 2021
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What Should You Look For in an Online Incorporation Service?
Online incorporation services are designed to make it easy for entrepreneurs and new business owners to register with the state.
Deciding to start your own business can be complicated, with so many things to think about – and registering with the state can offer your new venture legitimacy.
Choosing the right business formation service will reduce the amount of paperwork that you will need to supply as a new business to become incorporated, whether you are becoming a Limited Liability Company (LLC), an S Corporation, a C Corporation or a Not for Profit.
Traditionally, becoming incorporated was a time-consuming and expensive process, needing business owners to hire an attorney, complete reams of forms and wait months.
With an online service, all you need is a few basic details that can be completed at home (or in the office) to get incorporated.
Some online incorporation services will just prepare and file your incorporation documents directly with the relevant secretary of state, while others will provide extra services such as acting as a registered agent, legal consulting, tax, financial consulting and even compliance reminders.
Things to Consider When Choosing an Online Incorporation Service
Knowing how you are going to set up your business, whether you are looking to form a Not for Profit, an LLC, or an S-Corp or C-Corp, will help you determine which online incorporation service is right for you.
Most will have similar processes and offerings whichever type of business you are creating, but some are more specific.
Almost all online incorporation services are set up for LLC and S Corporation creation.
Even with free services, there will be a fee to get incorporated with the state, and the exact amount will vary depending on where you are located.
State filing fees can be anywhere from $35 to $275, with annual or biannual fees to consider afterwards.
Each online incorporation service will have a fee structure, and what is most important is that these fees are transparent.
You are likely to find that the services provided are in tiers with escalating costs; the lowest cost and lowest tier will be a basic package, with add-ons as you move up the payment brackets.
While it might seem best to go for the lowest price (or the free service), be aware that you might end up paying more in the long run when adding in other services (such as registered agent coverage).
Ease of Use
Part of the benefit of using an online incorporation company is that it is meant to be easier – so the less complicated the form you need to fill in, the better.
For most of the online services listed below, it is a matter of minutes to complete the details needed to get the paperwork created and filed, so you shouldn’t find them too complicated.
Many services provide extra information about each step, so you understand why you need to provide certain details, and why it is important.
Time to File
Another benefit of using an online incorporation service is that it should speed up the time it takes to file.
The time to file can depend largely on the time it takes for the secretary of state to look at the documents – but an online service should be able to prepare and file within a couple of days.
In most cases, incorporation should be complete within 15 business days, but it is known that it can take up to 30 (six weeks).
It is also worth noting that some incorporation services will provide an expedited service for an extra charge.
The availability of real-life help is something that new business owners will look for in any service – unless you are a seasoned entrepreneur.
Customer service availability, whether through email, live chat or over the phone, should be a consideration.
Look out for when the service is available – many are only open during normal business hours.
Any service that you are considering should have reviews that you can check – and online incorporation is no different. Look for the positive and the negative reviews to make sure that the service they can provide is right for you.
Alongside the basic document preparation and filing, you will often find that these companies can provide services that are geared towards helping a new business.
One of the most important resources to consider is the allocation of a registered agent. This is a requirement of incorporation, and is the person or entity appointed to receive business mail and other documents.
Businesses owners can be their own registered agents, but it is sometimes better to outsource this to reduce the amount of junk mail and ensure that all necessary documents are kept safe.
Some offer the creation of an Employer Identification Number (EIN) which is useful if you will be employing other people.
The other services that might be offered, like financial and tax consultation, legal services or even website creation and social media support, can be a draw if you want to focus on working in the business, rather than working on it – and some business incorporation services can provide extras – at an additional cost.
Our Pick of the 5 Best Online Incorporation Services
Founded in 2004, Incfile is an online incorporation service that has been used by over half a million businesses, and with a free package available, it is easy to see why they are so popular.
You can incorporate as an LLC, S-Corp, C-Corp or Non-Profit.
There are several packages available, with tiered pricing. The fees are transparent – aside from the state fees, what you see is what you pay, unless you arrange any add-ons or extras.
All packages include:
- Company name verification
- Preparation and filing of incorporation articles
- Free registered agent for one year
- Processing next business day
- Online access to support documents and online order tracking
- Free tax consultation
- Lifetime support and company alerts
The Silver package is free (plus state filing fees).
The Gold package costs $149, plus state filing fees, and offers the inclusion of an EIN, IRS form 2553 (to become an S Corporation for tax purposes), operating agreement, online dashboard access, banking resolution, a business banking account, as well as unlimited phone and email support. All this is alongside the services provided in the Silver package.
The Platinum package is priced at $299, plus state filing fees, and includes everything in the Silver and Gold packages, with the addition of contract templates and expedited filing, as well as a domain name and business email address for a strong online presence.
Customer support is available between 9:00 a.m. and 6 p.m. CST, and customer reviews of the service are overwhelmingly positive – with many mentioning the transparent fees and excellent customer service as big selling points.
The Silver package is a great option for businesses that want to get incorporated quickly and easily, with no ‘bells and whistles’ or complicated add-ons – and with the standard turnaround at just 15 business days without paying extra for the expedited service, it is not a lengthy process either.
Designed to be both quick and affordable, the Swyft Filings standard package offers completion in less than 15 days – and there is a money-back guarantee if you are unhappy with the service.
The company was founded in 2012. The Swyft Filings customer reviews are over 90% positive, with a customer support team that is responsive and helpful, available between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. Monday to Friday on live chat, email and telephone.
The Basic package offers preparation and filing of documents at just $49, plus state filing fees, while the Standard package (which is the most popular) includes an EIN, operating agreement, and custom organizational minutes for $149, plus state filing fees.
The Platinum package offers the same as the Basic and Standard, as well as an electronic version of the documents and FedEx tracking, alongside a business website and web hosting for $299, plus state filing fees.
The system is simple and easy to use, with step-by-step guidance at each stage in the application. The progress bar at the top is a handy addition so you can see how much more you have to complete (it takes about 10 to 15 minutes in total to apply).
As well as lifetime support from a personal business specialist, there is a wealth of useful information and education on business, from guides to blog posts, available on the website.
As one of the oldest companies on this list, Inc Authority is relatively small and family-owned.
Based in Reno, Nevada, Inc Authority works with a number of third-party providers to offer a broad range of services for the new business and entrepreneur, alongside more traditional online incorporation.
The Starter package is one of the more expensive in the list at $399, plus state filing fees, but offers a lot more in terms of basic services, including:
- Business name checking
- Custom state filing articles
- Operating agreement (for LLC) and bylaws (for S-Corp)
- Record book and custom company seal
- Ownership certificates
- Tax consultation
- One year of support from Inc Success advisor
- Initial meeting minutes and resolutions
The next package is the Executive, which costs $499, plus state filing fees; in this package, you can get a business license report and a website domain, as well as everything in the basic package.
The Tycoon package is the top-level offering, and for $799, plus state filing fees, in addition to everything in the Starter and Executive package, you get express processing, a business credit coach, D&B Credit Bureau Registration, a business credit coach and access to a multi-tiered LaunchPad.
There is a free package available, where you will only have to pay state filing fees, and it includes filing, tax consultation, a business and credit funding analysis and a year of registered agent services. With the Entry package, you can also add an EIN for $49 and operation agreement drafting for $89.
All plans can benefit from expedited filing for $49 – this might be beneficial, as the filing time can be longer than other services unless the fee is paid.
The customer support and named business advisor is a great part of this service, and one of the main reasons that Inc Authority has so many great customer reviews.
The Inc Authority service is most useful if you want to get access to third-party services – especially credit agencies.
Founded in Texas in 2015, ZenBusiness offers streamlined services designed for start-ups, including legal needs, website domain support, and of course, filing of incorporation articles.
The Starter package is $49, plus state filing fees. With this, drafting and filing of incorporation documents, an annual report service, registered agent provision and an operating agreement template is included.
The Pro package adds an EIN, a CPA assessment and a banking resolution template to the Starter options, for $149 plus state filing fees.
In the Premium package, rush filing is added with help in getting an online presence established – a business domain name including privacy, a business website and an email address for $249, plus state filing fees.
The fees for services provided by ZenBusiness are transparent and simple to understand, which is why they have a lot of positive feedback.
Customer service is available through the telephone, email and via live chat between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. CT weekdays. They are also available on some weekends between 10 a.m. and 7 p.m.
Completing the necessary forms to use the ZenBusiness takes just a few minutes and is simple and straightforward. It is convenient too; with all the information you need to fill out – the details included.
The standard completion time for filing is anywhere between two and four weeks, unless you take the Premium package option, so it is about average in terms of timing.
ZenBusiness is a popular choice for many new business owners because of the simplicity and support available.
Northwest offers top-notch customer support because it is family-owned and operated – and while it could be considered pricier than some of the other options, the service provided by Northwest is one of the best on the market.
The default package, when you sign up for the online incorporation service, is free for you to do-it-yourself (DIY).
For a one-time payment of $225, plus state filing fees, Northwest provides:
- LLC name availability check
- Preparation and filing of articles of authorization
- Operating agreement
- Fast filing as standard (usually just a couple of days, depending on the time it takes to get from the state).
- One year registered agent service
There is also a monthly service available, known as the VIP service. This offers payment between $30 and $70 per month (depending on state fees) and allows you to pay off the state fees and the incorporation costs within a year.
With this package, you can get an EIN, and still receive support even after the payments have ended.
There are several add-ons that are provided by Northwest, and that for some businesses will be useful – including corporate supplies, a certified copy of the articles of organization, and S-Corp election status.
Northwest is a great service for new business owners who are looking for ongoing support from a smaller business that really cares.
When it comes to online incorporation services, the options are almost endless – and the most important facets of the services provided will be different for you than for other entrepreneurs.
The best choice for your business should include good pricing, be easy to use and offer ongoing support – and all the choices on this list fit that bill.
It is probably the additional services offered, whether that is financial or different business incorporation, that will make the difference for you.
Choosing the right online incorporation service should make the process simple, fast and straightforward, with transparent fees.