How to Start an LLC in Arizona in 8 Steps
Arizona is home to over 550,000 small businesses in agriculture, technology, health, manufacturing, and other industries. The warm weather, natural beauty of the outdoors, and bustling tourist scene contribute to a strong small business environment in Arizona. If you operate a business in Arizona, you’ll need to choose a business entity structure for your company.
There are several business structures you can opt from, among them the limited liability company (LLC). The LLC is a hybrid business structure somewhere between a corporation and a partnership. The legal protection and tax flexibility that an LLC offers can be very attractive to small businesses. In this guide on starting an LLC in Arizona, we’ll give you step-by-step instructions to launch your Arizona LLC and maintain it in good standing.
Starting an LLC in Arizona: Step-by-Step Guide
Here’s how to start an LLC in Arizona:
Step 1: Choose a Name for Your Arizona LLC
The first step is to choose a unique name for your Arizona LLC. Like other states, Arizona requires that your LLC has a different name from other active businesses that have registered with the Arizona Corporation Commission. Check if your business name is available by reviewing Arizona’s business name database.
The name of an Arizona LLC has to end with one of the following words or abbreviations:
- Limited Liability Company
- Limited Company
Certain words, like “association,” “corporation,” and “incorporated,” cannot appear in an LLC’s name because it would mislead the public about the type of business entity structure.
Once you find an available name on Arizona’s business entity database, you can reserve the name for up to 120 days by filing a Name Reservation Application (L001.002). This application can be filed by mail, or for the fastest processing, reserve a name online. The online reservation costs $45, and the paper reservation costs $10. Reserving the name ensures it will be available until you have time to file your Arizona LLC’s formation documents.
Professional LLCs in Arizona
Certain licensed professionals, such as doctors and lawyers, can form a professional limited liability company (PLLC). The name of your PLLC should end with one of the following words or abbreviations:
- Professional Limited Liability Company
Other than naming conventions, most of the rules for regular LLCs in Arizona also apply to PLLCs.
Arizona LLCs With Trade Names
Sometimes, businesses want the ability to operate under a trade name. For example, your LLC’s name might be “Jane’s Event and Party Supply Store, LLC,” but you might like to use the trade name “Jane’s Parties” in your marketing and business signage. In this case, you’ll need to make sure that the trade name “Jane’s Parties” isn’t in use by any other Arizona business. You’ll also need to register the trade name with a different state agency, the Arizona Secretary of State.
Step 2: Choose a Statutory Agent in Arizona
When starting an LLC in Arizona, you have to choose a statutory agent to accept service of process and official mail on your business’s behalf. The statutory agent, which most other states call a registered agent, is an individual or business entity that maintains a physical office in Arizona and serves as your LLC’s main point of contact with the state. If your business is sued, the statutory agent will be the first to notify you.
In Arizona, a statutory agent can be an individual or a company. An individual statutory agent must be an Arizona resident, at least 18 years old, and available during normal business hours. A company that’s authorized to do business in Arizona can also serve as the statutory agent. Either way, make sure your statutory agent has a physical address in Arizona (P.O. boxes are not sufficient).
You or another owner of the business can serve as the registered agent for your Arizona LLC, but then your name and address will appear in the state’s public records. For privacy reasons and convenience, most small business owners opt to use a commercial provider as their statutory agent. One such provider is IncFile, an online legal service that is licensed to provide registered agent services in all 50 states. When you form your LLC through IncFile, they’ll include one year of free registered agent service with your order.
Step 3: Obtain Arizona Business Licenses
The city or county where your company operates might require you to obtain a business license, but there’s no statewide business license. You’ll have to contact your city or county office to learn about local licensing requirements.
There are a few professions that are regulated at the state level, though. These include acupuncturists, chiropractors, barbers, and pharmacists, to name a few. If you’re unsure if your industry needs a state or local license, check out the list of Arizona regulatory agencies.
On a statewide basis, the Arizona Department of Revenue gives licenses to businesses that sell goods or services subject to sales tax. Arizona calls sales tax “transaction privilege tax.” You’ll be required to collect this tax from your customers and remit the tax to the state on a quarterly, monthly, or annual basis. The frequency depends on the amount of tax you collect.
Step 4: File Your Articles of Organization
Next, you’ll file your articles of organization (Form L010.003) with the Arizona Corporation Commission to officially establish your LLC. Along with your articles, you have to submit a Statutory Agent Acceptance (Form M002) and Cover Sheet. You can either submit these forms by mail or file online. The filing fee is $50.
The Arizona articles of organization will include the following information:
- Type of LLC (regular LLC or PLLC)
- Name of the LLC
- Statutory agent’s name and address (P.O. boxes are insufficient)
- The LLC’s address in Arizona
- Duration of the LLC if it dissolves on a specific date
- Whether the LLC is member-managed or manager-managed
- Name and signature of the person filling out the form
The Arizona Corporation Commission will examine the articles of organization to make sure all the information is correctly filled out. If everything checks out, they will file the articles, which will then become a matter of public record. Regular processing time is about six to eight business days, but you can pay an extra fee for expedited processing.
Source: AZ Corporation Commission
An LLC that already exists and was formed in another state is considered a foreign LLC. If you have a foreign LLC that you’d like to operate in Arizona, you have to fill out an Application for Registration of Foreign LLC (Form L025.002). The filing fee is $150.
Step 5: Publish a Notice of Formation
Within 60 days after your articles of incorporation have been filed, Arizona requires that you publish a notice of your LLC’s formation. To do so, you will need to run an ad in a newspaper in the county in which your LLC statutory agent is located for three consecutive publications. If you fail to satisfy this requirement, your LLC could be dissolved.
Keep in mind, if your Arizona LLC is located in Maricopa or Pima counties, then you will not have to complete this step.
Step 6: Draft an LLC Operating Agreement
An LLC operating agreement lays out the rules for how your LLC will be run on a daily basis, and in multi-member LLCs, it also specifies the rights and responsibilities of each member. The state of Arizona doesn’t legally require LLCs to have an operating agreement, but it’s highly recommended that you have one.
Here’s what the operating agreement for your Arizona LLC should contain:
- A description of the LLC’s products or services
- Each member’s names and addresses
- The manager’s name and address if the LLC is manager-managed
- Each member’s financial contributions to the LLC
- Each member’s profit share in the LLC and voting rights
- The procedure for admitting new members to the LLC
- The procedure for electing a manager if applicable
- The LLC’s meeting schedule and voting procedures
- Terms and procedures for dissolving the LLC
After you draft your LLC operating agreement, all members should have the opportunity to review and sign it, after which you can store the agreement with other business records. If you need professional help to draft your operating agreement, a provider like IncFile can assist you here as well.
Step 7: Choose Your Tax Structure
Most LLCs are pass-through entities for income tax purposes. This means the LLC itself doesn’t pay an income tax. The owners, or members, of the LLC will pay Arizona state and federal income taxes on their share of the LLC’s profits. Unlike some other states, Arizona does not require LLCs to file an annual report and does not charge a gross receipts tax or annual LLC fee.
However, members of an LLC can also choose to be taxed as a C-corporation instead of a pass-through entity. If you elect corporation tax status for your LLC, the company will be subject to Arizona’s corporate tax rate and corporate tax rules, as well as federal corporate tax rates.
Obtain an EIN
If your LLC has employees or multiple members, or if you want to be treated as a corporation for tax purposes, you will need to obtain a federal employer identification number (EIN). An EIN has a number of other uses as well, such as when your LLC applies for a credit card, opens a business bank account, or applies for funding.
Step 8: Comply With Arizona Employer Obligations
In addition to the steps listed above, Arizona LLCs with employees have some additional obligations, including the following:
- Employee reporting: Federal and state law requires employers to report new employees within 20 days of their hire date to the Arizona New Hire Reporting Program.
- Employer withholding: In Arizona, employers have to withhold income taxes from employee wages and submit withheld payments to the state on a regular basis.
- Paying unemployment taxes: Most employers in Arizona have to pay unemployment taxes on a portion of employee wages. New businesses will be assigned a higher unemployment tax rate, which then reduces as the business ages.
- Purchasing workers compensation insurance: If your Arizona LLC has even one employee, you have to purchase workers compensation insurance. This includes members or managers of the LLC who are employees.
A business attorney who specializes in Arizona employment law can help you learn about additional requirements for employers and help you stay in compliance.
Pros and Cons of Forming an Arizona LLC
When starting a new business, an LLC is one of several business models you can consider. Here’s a closer look at the pros and cons of forming an LLC in Arizona:
- Owners of an LLC aren’t personally liable for business debts (as long as adequate separation is maintained between personal and business finances)
- LLCs have fewer recordkeeping requirements than corporations
- An LLC can choose whether to be taxed as a pass-through entity or corporation
- LLCs are more expensive to start than sole proprietorships and partnerships
- LLCs are subject to federal self-employment taxes on all profits
- LLCs can’t issue stock, so they are not well suited for raising money from investors
When evaluating the pros and cons of starting an LLC in Arizona, consider your business’s needs both now and later so that your business structure is appropriate for the long haul. Of course, you can always change your business structure, but choosing wisely at the outset saves time and money down the line.
The Bottom Line
Starting a new business can be very exciting, but before you can focus on the day-to-day of running your company, you’ll need to choose a business structure. An LLC can be a good choice for small businesses, offering liability protection and tax options. If you follow the eight steps above, it’s also relatively easy to form and maintain an LLC in Arizona.
Priyanka Prakash, JD
Priyanka Prakash is a senior contributing writer at JustBusiness.
Priyanka specializes in small business finance, credit, law, and insurance, helping businesses owners navigate complicated concepts and decisions. After earning her law degree, Priyanka has spent half a decade writing on small business financial and legal concerns. Previously, Priyanka was managing editor at a small business resource site and in-house counsel at a Y Combinator tech startup. Her work has been featured in Inc., Fast Company, CNBC, Home Business Magazine, and other top publications.