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How to start an LLC in Pennsylvania

how to start an llc in pennsylvania

For entrepreneurs, starting a Limited Liability Company (LLC) in Pennsylvania can be an exciting endeavor. This article will walk you through the key steps in forming an LLC, from brainstorming business name ideas to weighing the costs and benefits involved. Whether you're a seasoned business owner or new to the entrepreneurial world, understanding how to navigate starting an LLC is crucial.

As we outline the process of starting a business, remember that starting an LLC is more than just legal documents. With proper preparation, your LLC can become a stable, profitable business.

How to start an LLC in Pennsylvania in 7 steps

01. Pick your business name

Choosing a name for your LLC is the first step in starting a business in Pennsylvania. This is not only an artistic process it's also very much a legal one which makes it important to get right. Your company name should be distinct and neither too similar nor the same as any other name that is on file with the Pennsylvania Secretary of State. To ensure that your chosen name complies with state laws, make sure it ends in "LLC," "L.L.C.", or "Limited Liability Company."

Here's how you can create a business name that stands out and meets legal requirements:

  • Check for availability: Use the Pennsylvania Secretary of State's online database to search for existing business names. 

  • Follow naming guidelines: Avoid restricted words that could confuse your LLC with a government agency (e.g., FBI, Treasury).

  • Consider your online presence: Perform a domain search if you plan to also focus on creating a website. It makes sense, for branding, that your domain name and business name are the same.

Tip: Consider using a business name generator to choose your LLC name.

02. Choose your registered agent

Every LLC in Pennsylvania must have a registered agent, an individual or company that agrees to accept legal papers on behalf of your LLC. Your registered agent must be available during regular business hours and have a physical address in Pennsylvania.

Need help setting up your LLC? Wix has partnered with LegalZoom, the No. 1 choice for online business formations to help you start, run, and grow your business.

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03. Obtain state business permits

Depending on the nature of your business, you may need specific permits or licenses to operate legally in Pennsylvania. These could range from general business licenses to industry-specific permits.

To obtain the necessary permits in order to register your business, follow these general steps:

  • Identify requirements: Check with local and state agencies to determine what permits you need.

  • Complete the applications: Fill out all required paperwork accurately and submit them to the appropriate authorities.

  • Pay any fees: Be prepared to pay any associated fees for obtaining your permits.

Let’s say you want to start a trucking business in the state. First, you’ll need a permit to operate. For example, if you plan to haul goods within Pennsylvania, you'll need an intrastate motor carrier license. If you plan to haul interstate, then you'll need a Department of Transportation number and a Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) number.

If you'll be transporting hazardous materials, you'll need additional permits and certifications. I

04. File a Certificate of Organization

The Certificate of Organization is a critical document that officially creates your LLC in Pennsylvania. You'll file this with the Pennsylvania Secretary of State, either online or by mail, along with the required filing fee. 

  • Fill out Form DSCB 15-8821: This is the specific form used for filing an LLC's Certificate of Organization in Pennsylvania.

  • Submit and pay fees: Complete the submission process by paying the $125 filing fee.

05. Draft your LLC operating agreement

While not legally required in Pennsylvania, creating an LLC Operating Agreement is highly recommended. This internal document outlines ownership structures, member roles and operational procedures for any type of business

Here’s why an operating agreement is important:

  • Clarifies business rules and guidelines: It sets clear expectations for members regarding operations and conflict resolution.

  • Protects your LLC status: Helps maintain limited liability status by proving that your LLC is a separate business entity.

  • Prevents misunderstandings: Reduces potential disputes among members by detailing policies and procedures for how the business should be run.

06. Apply for an EIN and pay relevant taxes

An Employer Identification Number (EIN) is necessary for hiring employees, opening bank accounts and filing taxes as an LLC. You can apply for your EIN via the IRS website, either online or through the mail.

Make sure to understand your business tax obligations as an LLC owner. You'll need to research state-specific taxes that apply to your LLC, such as franchise tax or sales tax. In Pennsylvania for an LLC owner this includes a 15.3% self-employed tax (12.4% social security, 2.9% Medicare). For more information, visit the Pennsylvania Office of Comptroller Operations

07. Organize annual reports

Starting in 2025, Pennsylvania will require LLCs to file annual reports to keep their information up-to-date with the state. These reports will need to include current contact information and details about your business operations over the past year.

To ensure you’re compliant with this make sure to: 

  • Know due dates: Your Pennsylvania Annual Report will be required each year by September 30th. 

  • Maintain proper records: Keep accurate records throughout the year to simplify report preparation when due dates approach.

  • Submit and pay fees: Complete the submission process by paying the $7 filing fee.

How much does it cost to start an LLC in Pennsylvania

Starting an LLC in Pennsylvania involves various costs, which are essential to budget for when planning your business. Here's a breakdown of the expenses you can expect:

  • Filing fee for Certificate of Organization: The state of Pennsylvania requires a fee to file your Certificate of Organization. This is a one-time cost that is mandatory for all new LLCs. For an LLC it costs $125.

  • Registered agent fees: If you choose to hire a professional registered agent, you will need to pay for their services. Fees vary depending on the provider and the level of service you require.

  • State business permits and licenses: The cost for permits and licenses can vary widely depending on the type of business you're starting and the specific regulations in your industry.

  • Operating agreement: If you decide to have your Operating Agreement drafted by a professional, there will be legal fees involved. However, drafting it yourself can reduce costs.

  • Employer Identification Number (EIN): Obtaining an EIN from the IRS is free, so there's no cost associated with this step.

  • Annual report filing fee: There is an annual fee for filing your LLC's report with the state of Pennsylvania. This recurring cost keeps your business in compliance with state regulations.

  • State taxes: Depending on your business structure and operations, you may be subject to various state taxes. It's important to consult with a tax professional to understand these costs fully.

Additional costs may include:

  • Legal or financial consulting fees: If you need professional advice during the formation process, these services will add to your startup costs.

  • Domain registration and website creation: Creating a website is crucial in today's online market. Costs here include domain registration and potentially hiring a web designer or using a website builder like Wix.

  • Business insurance: Depending on your industry, you might need various types of insurance to protect your LLC.

Who can start an LLC in Pennsylvania

To form an LLC in Pennsylvania, there are specific eligibility criteria that need to be met. It's crucial to understand who can start an LLC before you begin the process.

  • You must be at least 18 years old to create an LLC in Pennsylvania.

  • There is no residency requirement to start an LLC in Pennsylvania. You don't have to live in the state or even in the United States to form an LLC here.

  • You must have the legal capacity to enter into a contract. This means that individuals who are not barred by law due to any reason can start an LLC.

  • Most types of businesses can be structured as an LLC, but certain professional services may require a different business entity, such as a Professional Corporation or Professional Limited Liability Company.

  • An LLC can be formed by one person (a single-member LLC) or multiple people (a multi-member LLC). There's no maximum number of members.

  • Your LLC must have a registered agent with a physical address in Pennsylvania. This can be a member of the LLC or a third-party service.

Benefits of starting an LLC in Pennsylvania

Forming an LLC in Pennsylvania offers a range of advantages that can greatly appeal to business owners. These benefits of an LLC encompass legal protections and tax advantages, making it a popular choice among many entrepreneurs.

Limited liability protection

As the name suggests, owners (members) of an LLC have limited liability. This means your personal assets are typically protected if your business is sued or incurs debt.

Launching your business as an LLC is a great way to separate your business from your personal assets. Should your company face a lawsuit, an LLC can protect your home, car, or personal bank account from being impacted. Shylene D’Addario, VP and associate general counsel at LegalZoom

Pass-through taxation

LLCs often benefit from pass-through taxation where the business itself is not taxed. Instead, profits and losses are passed through to the members' personal tax returns, potentially leading to tax savings.

Management flexibility

Unlike corporations, LLCs have fewer formalities and can be managed by its members or appointed managers, providing flexibility in how the business is run.

Ease of formation and maintenance

Forming an LLC in Pennsylvania is relatively straightforward, and the ongoing maintenance requirements are less burdensome than those for corporations.

Credibility with customers and partners

Having 'LLC' after your business name can enhance your credibility with potential customers, suppliers and financial institutions. You can then choose an .llc domain for your website to reinforce this trust. 

Disadvantages of starting an LLC in Pennsylvania

While there are many benefits to starting an LLC, there are also some potential drawbacks to consider. Understanding both the benefits and disadvantages of starting an LLC will help you make a more informed decision about whether it's the right business structure for your needs in Pennsylvania.

Limited growth potential

If you plan on seeking outside investors or going public in the future, the structure of an LLC may limit these opportunities compared to a corporation. Going public usually requires needing to be able to offer shares or stock in a company, which isn't possible with an LLC.

Self-employment taxes

Members of an LLC may be subject to self-employment taxes on their share of the profits since they're considered self-employed by the IRS.

Varied state laws

Each state has its own laws governing LLCs, so if you do business in multiple states, you'll need to understand and comply with each state's regulations.

Why start an LLC over another business entity in Pennsylvania?

Choosing the right business structure is crucial for entrepreneurs. In Pennsylvania as in many states, forming an LLC is often preferred because of its specific advantages. But it's always important to compare it with other types of business structures to understand why an LLC might be the best choice for your situation.

Here's how an LLC stacks up against other business entities:

  • Sole proprietorship: Unlike a sole proprietorship, an LLC provides personal asset protection, separating your personal liabilities from those of your business.

  • Partnership: An LLC offers more protection for each member compared to a partnership, where each partner can be personally liable for the debts of the business.

  • Corporation: While corporations also provide limited liability protection, they’re also subject to double taxation (taxes on both corporate profits and shareholder dividends). An LLC avoids this with pass-through taxation.

LLCs also offer these unique advantages:

  • Operational flexibility: Corporations are required to have a formal structure with directors and officers, while an LLC can be managed by its members or managers, meaning greater operational flexibility.

  • Fewer record-keeping requirements: An LLC has less stringent requirements for record-keeping and reporting compared to a corporation.

  • Profit distribution flexibility: Profits in an LLC can be distributed in any manner agreed upon by the members, unlike corporations that distribute profits according to the number and type of shares held.

pros of starting an llc in pennsylvania

You've formed your LLC in Pennsylvania, now what?

After successfully incorporating an LLC in Pennsylvania, the process of building and growing your firm only begins. There are numerous critical measures you should take to ensure that your LLC runs efficiently and in compliance with state rules.

Open a business bank account  

To keep your personal and business finances separate, open a bank account solely for your LLC. This will simplify accounting and tax filing and help maintain your liability protection.

Obtain necessary insurance  

Depending on your type of business, you may need various insurance policies. Common types include general liability insurance, professional liability insurance, and workers' compensation if you have employees.

Be compliant with state laws  

Ensure that you adhere to all state laws regarding your LLC. This included filing a Decennial Report every ten years with the Pennsylvania Department of State. ( This requirement is no longer relevant and has been replaced, from 2025 with an annual report requirement.)

Keep accurate records  

Maintain detailed records of all business transactions, contracts and decisions made by the members. Good record-keeping can protect your legal and financial rights.

Understand tax obligations  

Familiarize yourself with federal, state and local tax requirements. Depending on the nature of your business, you may need to pay sales tax, payroll tax or other industry-specific taxes.

Additionally, focus on these areas to manage and grow your LLC:

  • Understand ongoing compliance requirements: Familiarize yourself with any annual filings or fees required by the state of Pennsylvania to keep your LLC in good standing.

  • Develop a strong brand identity: Create a logo with a logo maker, establish a brand voice and build a professional website to present a cohesive image to customers. 

  • Implement a good accounting system: Good financial management is essential for any business. Set up an accounting system that allows you to track expenses, profits and financial growth accurately.

  • Network and market your business: Join local business associations, attend networking events, and use online platforms to connect with potential customers and other businesses. Effective marketing strategies can drive growth and increase revenue.

For more information on how to start an LLC by state

How to start an LLC in Pennsylvania FAQ

Do I need a lawyer to form an LLC in Pennsylvania?

While it's not a legal requirement to hire a lawyer to form an LLC, consulting with one can be beneficial, especially if your business has complex legal needs or you're unfamiliar with the process.

How long does it take to form an LLC in Pennsylvania?

Can I secure my business name before forming my LLC?

Can I operate my LLC from home?

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