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The Show Me State is a great place to launch your limited liability company (LLC). Whether you’re in downtown St. Louis or the forests of the Ozark Highlands, there are various benefits to starting a business in the State of Missouri—including low administrative startup costs, a relatively uncomplicated regulatory compliance system, and lower business taxes than major markets like California and New York. Here are 11 steps to get your Missouri LLC up and running.
What is an LLC?
An LLC, or limited liability company, is a type of business entity that offers liability protection to its owners, while allowing more flexibility than a corporation. LLCs can be founded by one person or multiple people, and its owners are called “members.”
Unlike a sole proprietorship or partnership—which makes no legal distinction between a business and its owners—LLC members won’t be held financially responsible for the company’s debt or lawsuits.
And unlike a corporation, LLCs are pass-through entities by default. This means you won’t need to file federal taxes for the LLC itself. Instead, any profits pass through to LLC members who record them on their personal tax returns.
Is an LLC right for you?
LLCs have the best features of sole proprietorships and corporations, so it’s no surprise they are a popular choice for small businesses in Missouri. But are they right for your venture? A few things to consider:
- You want to limit your personal liability. LLC owners are not held personally liable for legal damages and debts incurred by the business.
- You’re looking to limit your tax obligations. LLCs are taxed at members’ personal-income levels, unlike corporations, which also pay tax on income generated at the business level.
- You don’t need to fundraise via the issuance of stock. LLCs don’t issue stock or have shareholders like C corporations, which limits the business’s ability to raise money from investors.
1. Name your Missouri LLC
Choosing a name for your Missouri LLC is one of the most important decisions you’ll make for your business. A good business name helps build brand recognition. Ideally, it’s short, memorable, and says something about what you do. You’ll also want to consider Missouri’s rules for naming an LLC:
- Your name must be unique. The LLC’s name must be distinguishable from any existing businesses registered within Missouri. Naming rules in Missouri are strict—not only must your name not match that of other Missouri businesses, it can’t be substantially similar. Adding “LLC” to the end of your name is not enough to differentiate it from a C corporation with the same name. You can check if your preferred name is available by running a search on the Missouri Secretary of State’s website.
- Your name must include the entity type. A Missouri LLC’s name must contain the words “limited liability company,” “L.L.C.,” or “LLC.”
- Your name can’t contain certain words. Your Missouri LLC cannot contain words that would confuse it with a government agency (like the FBI or Treasury) or suggest an affiliation with a government agency, or use the term “Olympic” or any other trademarks of the International Olympic Committee, or imply an illegal business purpose.
2. Create a business plan
A business plan helps you evaluate the viability of your idea and determine what resources you’ll need to make it a reality. A workable business plan includes your LLC’s name and a brief business function description. It also includes detailed market analysis, an organizational structure flowchart, descriptions of your products and services, a target customer profile, and marketing, logistics, and finance plans.
3. Get a federal employer identification number (EIN)
For tax purposes, your Missouri LLC needs a federal employer identification number (EIN), assigned by the federal government. You can apply for this number, which identifies your company to both state and federal tax authorities, for free by applying through the US Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
4. Choose a registered agent in Missouri
As in every other state, a Missouri LLC must appoint a registered agent to receive legal correspondence and service of process (notice of legal action). Your registered agent can be a person, like an employee or member of your LLC, or an organization, like a registered agent service. If your agent is a person, they must live in Missouri. If your agent is a service, it must be authorized to conduct business in Missouri. Registered agents must be available in person during regular business hours.
5. File your Missouri Articles of Organization
Having appointed a registered agent, you’re ready to register your business with the Missouri Secretary of State by filing your Articles of Organization. This legal document formally establishes your Missouri LLC. You can submit the filing online or by mail with a $50 filing fee for online registrations and $150 for paper filings. Articles should include:
- Your LLC’s name
- Your LLC’s purpose
- The name and address of your registered agent
- A description of how your LLC is managed (by a member or by a manager hired by the LLC)
- Your LLC’s intended duration (can be indefinite)
- Names and addresses of your organizers (your members)
- The type of LLC you’re forming (a pass-through or S corporation)
- The filing date
6. Obtain business licenses and permits
Local county and municipal governments administer business licenses in Missouri. For example, in St. Louis, any person or organization that engages in business activities must have a permit for the business and each physical location where the business operates (warehouses, shops, etc.). Special licenses are also required for certain businesses in St. Louis, such as auction houses, catering companies, jewelers, liquor stores, restaurants, and security services. Check with your local county or city clerk’s office to learn what’s required where your LLC is located.
7. Understand Missouri state tax requirements
Once your Missouri LLC is legally established with the Missouri Secretary of State’s office, you must register for state taxes. The Missouri Department of Revenue website contains tax forms based on business activity and structure. If you have employees, you must also register with the Missouri Department of Labor so your payroll taxes can be assessed.
You’ll need to pay a 6.25% corporate flat tax if your Missouri LLC is taxed as an S corporation. If you opt to run your LLC as a pass-through organization, your business will be taxed at your members’ personal income levels.
Special taxes are also levied on businesses that sell certain products, such as tobacco, gasoline, and liquor; and on businesses where customers engage in certain activities, like gambling.
8. Prepare an LLC operating agreement
An operating agreement is a legal document that outlines your LLC’s ownership, organizational structure, and operating procedures. LLCs in Missouri are not required to prepare operating agreements, but for administrative and goal-setting purposes, it’s a great idea to have one on hand. A solid operating agreement describes:
- How ownership is distributed between business owners (members)
- Members’ roles and responsibilities
- Procedures for when a member leaves the LLC or when the LLC winds down
- How you’ve elected to be taxed as an LLC
9. Examine business insurance in Missouri
Unforeseen losses can wreak havoc on a fledgling LLC, so it’s important to consider business insurance policies. Standard insurance plans for businesses in Missouri include:
- Workers’ compensation insurance. Workers’ comp insurance covers employees’ injuries and illnesses (even death) incurred on the job. Some businesses in Missouri are required to carry this coverage, including businesses with five or more employees and companies in the construction trade, regardless of size. You can check the Missouri Division of Workers’ Compensation website to see if your business qualifies for an exception.
- General liability insurance. General liability insurance protects your business from lawsuits, financial losses resulting from property damage, and injuries on the job, such as a slip and fall injury. State law doesn’t obligate you to buy general liability insurance, but many commercial leases require it.
- Professional liability insurance. Professional liability insurance covers LLCs that provide professional services—such as consultancies, accountants’ offices, medical professionals, or real-estate agents—from financial losses resulting from mistakes like poor advice.
10. Understand financial considerations
You may have to make additional investments to set up your Missouri LLC, including a lease on a brick-and-mortar retail space, paying for a professionally designed website or social media consultant, or purchasing equipment and software. On top of paying employees, you may want to hire contractors and other professionals, like lawyers and accountants. These costs can add up, but resources are available to help you raise startup funding.
11. Market your Missouri LLC
With the administrative startup phase out of the way, it’s time to get the word out about your Missouri LLC and make it stand out. A solid marketing plan for your small business includes:
- Market research. Before marketing your products or services, gain an understanding of your target customer as well as a sense of what your competitors are up to.
- Advertising. Promote your LLC by paying for print, TV, radio, or digital advertising, or by hiring an agency to do this for you.
- Social media. Your small business has everything to gain from a robust social media presence. Make your Missouri LLC known on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.
- Public relations. Paid media only goes so far. To increase your business’s visibility, try to connect with local and national media organizations for publicity.
Forming an LLC in Missouri FAQ
How much does starting an LLC in Missouri cost?
It costs $50 to $150 to register your LLC in Missouri. Missouri LLCs are not required to file annual reports or pay annual fees (other than corporate taxes should they form as an S corp).
Do you need a registered agent in Missouri?
Your LLC must appoint a registered agent in Missouri—either an individual or agency with an address in the state.
How do state taxes work in Missouri?
State income tax is levied on any earnings members draw from an LLC and is collected through your personal income tax return. Sellers of retail goods and services pay a sales tax of 4.225%. Every LLC in Missouri with employees must withhold taxes from employee wages.