Most businesses are required to register in the states or territories where they'll conduct “business activities.” These activities might include maintaining an office, facility, or physical presence; holding in-person meetings with customers; employing personnel; or earning a defined level of revenue.
Registering is a simple process. Through it, you'll give some essentials about your business, including your business name, address, and point of contact. What you may not know is that you'll need to have a person physically present to accept business documents in every state in which you conduct business activities. States may ask you to name this person to serve as your registered agent.
In this article, we’ll help you learn more about what a registered agent is and why you might need one for your business.
First things first: What is a registered agent?
A registered agent is a person who can accept official mail and “service of process” on behalf of your business.
Many owners appoint themselves as their business’s registered agent, but this option is only possible for owners who have a physical presence (and address) in the state where they’re registering. Just as important, they must be available at that site during normal business hours.
Presence is important because governments want a reliable point of contact to ensure that important documents and legal notifications (such as subpoenas or notifications of lawsuits against your business) reach your business in a timely manner.
Do I need to name a registered agent?
In most cases, sole proprietorships and general partnerships don’t need to name a registered agent, but if you’re registering as a legal entity, such as LLC or corporation, in a state or territory, the Secretary of State office will require you to name a registered agent.
As we mentioned, you can name yourself as a registered agent, provided you can meet the requirements of both having a physical address in that location and being available during normal business hours, but there are circumstances in which you may want to name another registered agent:
- You don’t want to be served legal notices at your place of business, especially in front of your customers or employees.
- You'll want the flexibility to take time away from your office without worrying about missing important documents or service of process.
- You don’t want to publicize your physical address, which is especially important if you operate your business from your home.
If these points are valid for your business, if you can’t meet the criteria of having a physical address in the state or territory in which you need to register, or if you or an alternate member of your business can’t be present at that address during normal business hours, you might opt to use a service that can act as your registered agent.
Tell me more about registered agent services.
A registered agent service can accept paperwork and notifications on your behalf. These agents receive official mail, summons, subpoenas, tax notices, and other important documents and acknowledge their receipt, usually by providing a signature on behalf of your business. Agents will then notify you by emailing or forwarding the document to you at your ordinary business location.
Some registered agents provide additional services, such as completing annual filings to ensure businesses remain compliant. This add-on service can be very valuable and a huge time saver for owners, so it’s one you might consider when selecting a registered agent.
How much does it cost to use a registered agent service?
Most services charge based on the number of states in which you’ll require service, but some offer a flat fee to cover all 50 states. Expect to pay between $50 and $350 per year, depending on your coverage and service needs.
Do I need a registered agent in every state in which I plan to register to do business?
Yes. Connect with the Secretary of State office in the states or territories where you plan to operate to learn about the steps you’ll need to take.
You can learn about a state or territory’s requirements for registered agents by contacting the Secretary of State for that location. Use the following list of Secretary of State offices to get started:
|Northern Mariana Islands
|U.S. Virgin Islands
Most Secretary of State offices will ask you to submit both the name and physical address of the registered agent you will use.
Are there any considerations to keep in mind?
Certainly. Registered agents have an important responsibility to your business. They will receive confidential information, so any agent you choose should have an excellent reputation for safeguarding business data.
Further, agents must be able to process information quickly and remit it to businesses with enough time to spare to respond to deadlines that the documents or notifications may require. Look for one who has great reviews for timeliness.
If you operate in multiple states, you may want to choose a service that covers each of them. Many offer services in all 50 states and some U.S. territories, but some only offer services in select parts of the country.
How can I find a registered agent?
There are many online services that can act as registered agents. Here, you'll find a few popular choices:
Log into your owner’s portal for other action steps that will help you start your business and get it running smoothly.