What Is a Registered Agent?
A registered agent is a person or agency who a limited liability company (LLC) has designated to receive:
- Service of process notices
- Government correspondence
- Compliance-related documents
The agent is not authorized to represent the LLC or act on its behalf. Instead, they are simply responsible for receiving these documents and promptly forwarding them to the LLC.
Most states require that registered agents must be at least 18 years old and a resident of the state of the company they are assigned to.
They must also have a physical address. P.O Boxes are not permitted.
In some states, you can assign yourself or an employee as the registered agent.
You may also assign a friend or family member.
However, and depending on your business, you may choose to assign a registered agent service.
These 'registered offices' must have Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. office hours, and be in the location disclosed in your Articles of Incorporation.
If you are a small business owner considering changing your company to an LLC, or you are thinking of starting an LLC, you will need a registered agent.
It is a legal and business compliance requirement.
While the responsibilities of registered agents are limited, having one does carry several benefits:
- They ensure your legal documents are received and responded to in a timely manner. Registered agents are available 24/7 to ensure no mail deliveries and paperwork are missed.
- It gives you, the business owner, privacy, as the agent's address is publicly registered and used for correspondence.
- Using a nationally-recognized registered agent will allow you to scale your businesses into other states much easier.
- Having a single point of contact streamlines your business operations.
- They ensure you are informed about any paperwork you need to take action on, ensuring you aren't fined for non-compliance.
- As each state has its own legislation and deadlines, an agent familiar with these will seriously streamline your operations.
A registered agent is permitted to receive and forward the following documents:
- Office federal and state correspondence
- Tax notices from the IRS and local tax authorities
- Subpoenas for information
- Court summons
- Wage garnishment notices
- Corporate filing notifications
It very much depends on you and your business as to whether or not you need an external registered agent.
LLCs with under 10 employees that operate in one state only may find it more convenient to use someone in the office or a friend/family member.
So long as that person meets the minimum requirements, is happy taking on the responsibility, and is okay with their address being made public, there is no issue assigning someone close to you.
However, you should consider assigning an external registered agent if you:
- Have over 10 employees
- Have offices in different states
- Plan to operate in multiple states
- Intend on changing your address
- Do not have a physical address
- Do not have any employees/friends/family willing to take on the role
Equally, if your company is somewhere in the middle, and you want to increase privacy and cut down on paperwork/recordkeeping, then an external registered agency may be the option for you.
If you do decide to go ahead with an external registered agent, there are some factors you need to evaluate first:
They should be 100% trustworthy – You are depending on this agent to accept your legal documents and deliver them to you quickly.
They should have positive client reviews – Any reputable company will happily share client testimonials and have a track record of reliability.
The agent is authorized to act as your agent in the state you are operating in – External agents often have a network across the country, but you should check that they are in the states you intend to do business in.
They are experts in this field – A good company will state their knowledge and what services they excel at.
They offer more than the basics – Some companies provide a fully comprehensive service that includes maintaining and organizing your important documents. Others may only offer the minimum an agent is required to do.
They are readily available – The world now operates outside of the traditional 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and your agent should be available to receive documents and deliveries no matter the time.
Incfile launched in 2004 and quickly became one of the most popular companies for registered agents.
It offers different packages depending on your business needs.
The free silver package offers basic registered agent services.
The $149 gold package provides extra services, including S Corporation Tax form preparation and a business tax consultation.
The $299 platinum package provides everything from the first two and:
- Expedited document filing
- Sample document library
- Domain name and business email
Those who start an LLC with Incfile receive lifetime alerts reminding them when annual reports, business licences and statements of information are due.
To date, it has helped more than 500,000 businesses register and operate as LLCs, so it has plenty of experience and knowledge.
Incfile can also back its claims with the 27,000+ positive public reviews that are listed.
The only notable disadvantage with Incfile is that the customer service is not as efficient as it used to be. There have been reports that emails go unanswered, and you can sit on the phone for a long time.
Swyft Filings is a fairly new company, having only been founded in 2012. However, it is known for being a reliable registered agent.
Its base rate is $49, which is not as competitive as others, but it does offer a 100% satisfaction guarantee, with a full refund if you are not happy.
The basic option offers a 30-minute business tax consultation and a one-year free domain name.
The $149 standard package includes a Federal Tax ID number, organizational minutes and banking resolution.
The premium package ($299) includes everything from the previous two packages, three months of web hosting, and a digital corporate kit.
Inc Authority has been around since 1989 and has helped over 130,000 businesses become LLCs.
Its biggest selling point is that Inc Authority will help you set up your LLC completely free of charge.
The downside of Inc Authority is that the paid packages are very expensive compared to its competitors.
The starter pack is $399 and includes basic services such as a Federal Tax ID number, record book and company seal, and an ownership certificate.
The executive pack includes a website domain and a Business Licence Report. The fee is $499.
The tycoon pack, priced at $799, offers express processing and a business-oriented software suite called BizCredit Express.
Knowing when to get a registered agent is very clear. Choosing a registered agent is not so simple.
Before deciding, look at your business needs, your planned growth and the people around you.
Being a registered agent is a big responsibility that friends, family and employees may not feel comfortable with.
If you do not have a lawyer for your business, then it may be best investing in an external registered agent.