Starting your own business can be one of the best ways to establish independence. Be your own boss, set your own hours, decide the direction of the company. It can be a life-changing decision to go into business for yourself.
But there can also be a lot of red tape. Before you take your first work order, send an invoice, or even set up a bank account, you need to fill out a lot of paperwork. And a question you’re going to read and hear a lot is, “Who is your company’s Registered Agent?”
Filing articles of incorporation with your State’s Secretary and determining liability status can be dizzying projects. And many of us going into business for ourselves are more interested in the work we’re doing: laying tile, selling our crafts, or even setting up a nonprofit to help with food shortages in our community. Whatever our passion is that leads us to want to incorporate, it probably wasn’t a passion for filing documents with the state, or answering formal legal communications.
And that’s why we need a Registered Agent Service.
Our top 3 picks for best registered agent:
|Northwest Registered Agent |
|Incfile Registered Agent |
Why you need a Registered Agent
The first reason you need a Registered Agent is that it’s required by law. You must have a registered agent in every State in which you do business. And when you file paperwork to become a legal entity, you need to list who your business’s or nonprofit’s Registered Agent is.
A Registered Agent can also help you with all the things you didn’t want to do when you started your own business or nonprofit. If you’ve already hired a Registered Agent when it comes time to file paperwork, the good news is, they might be filling this paperwork out for you.
No matter when you hire an Agent, you need to, because this is the person whose name is on file with the State as the representative of your business. This is the second reason you need a Registered Agent: when people look your company up in official records the Registered Agent’s name is who will show up.
So unless you want people who look into your company’s information to come up with your name, personal address, or more, you need a Registered Agent
The third, and perhaps biggest, reason you need a Registered Agent is what people can do with that contact information. There are countless reasons why someone looks up who the Registered Agent of a company is, and they’re not always good reasons.
If someone is trying to sue your company, or send junk mail, or generally harass the business, all communication will be routed through the Registered Agent. That means if you only have yourself as a Registered Agent, all the junk mail could show up at your house, all the spam calls could go to your phone, and all the summons from frivolous lawsuits could come directly to you.
Every corporation uses a Registered Agent. The big companies use their accounting firms, or their corporate lawyers. But if you’re starting your own business, or nonprofit, you don’t have the kind of money to keep an accounting firm or lawyer on retainer.
Registered Agents are the gatekeepers for legal and State filings for your company. Every business needs one, including yours. To help with how to find a good one that doesn’t cost as much as a lawyer, we reviewed 5 of the best we could find. Below, we’ve reviewed them, in detail.
After reading the reviews, be sure to check out the FAQs at the bottom for any questions you might have
1. ZenBusiness-Best Full-Service Registered Agent
If you want to hire a Registered Agent that can file with the state, and take care of all your Registered Agent needs for the life of your business, we recommend ZenBusiness. Like their name implies, there’s a sense of security knowing you’ve hired a pro to take a lot of worry off of your plate.
At ZenBusiness, they can help you from the first day of filing all the way through compliance with federal law and even an obscure New York State law that could sink you in six weeks.
When you start your business, as we’ve discussed, the first thing you need to do is file with the state you’re doing business in. This will require a Registered Agent. ZenBusiness, like Incfile, can fill both of these needs at the same time, by filing for you and taking over the role of Registered Agent.
Where ZenBusiness really sets itself apart is in the full range of services offered. During their basic filing and Registered Agent service, they will also get you an Employer Identification Number (EIN), also known as the Tax ID Number. This is a required ten-digit number that all businesses and nonprofits must have in order to receive and dispense money.
If you want to take in money for your goods or services, and if you want to be able to pay employees, you’re going to need an EIN.
Beyond that, ZenBusiness offers four services that are essential for a well-run company. The first is their Worry Free Compliance. For an annual fee, ZenBusiness will monitor the state and local laws where you’re incorporated, and make sure that you are always in compliance. This can save you headaches and worrisome fees down the road.
The second thing ZenBusiness offers is to set up your Operating Agreements. These sorts of documents are sometimes called Articles of Incorporation, or Bylaws. They are essentially sets of parameters for settling disputes and understanding how things will be handled, if the needs ever arise. In business, especially if you have a partner, or team of partners, it can be a great idea to have the titles and percentages on paper, well ahead of when an issue arises.
The third thing ZenBusiness offers is an annual reporting of all your company’s filing needs. Like the Worry Free Compliance, the Annual Reporting dashboard gives you the peace of mind that you won’t fall to an avoidable bureaucratic mishap.
The fourth and final thing that ZenBusiness offers, that we hadn’t seen anywhere else, is a specific New York Certificate of Publication. If you’re operating in New York State, you need this service. An obscure law dating back decades requires that all new LLCs publish the formation of their company for six weeks, in two different newspapers.
ZenBusiness offers to handle all of that, for a fee. That means you don’t need to worry about missing a deadline with a newspaper because you were setting up new employees, or finding new accounts, or on a job site. This will keep you in compliance, and worry free, while you’re growing your new business.
For full-service Registered Agent work, we recommend ZenBusiness. Their basic Agent and Filing services start at $49, on their website, plus state fees.
2. Northwest Registered Agent Best Nationwide and Flat Rate
Northwest Registered Agent Services are our pick for best national company, and best for a flat rate company.
One of the key reasons you need a Registered Agent, in the first place, is that you need an agent in every state you do business in. That means that if you’re a business owner in New York, you probably need an Agent in New Jersey, Connecticut, and Massachustes, at least.
Northwest Registered Agent offers a flat rate for multiple states. That means for one payment, you can have a registered agent in as many states as you need. No proration, no hidden fees, and no upselling.
And their national representation still comes with local touches. As your Registered Agent, Northwest will take all the incoming mail they receive on your behalf, and scan it right there at the local office. That means faster processing, and better quality control. After all, if you’re receiving a legal notice in Pennslyvania, but you’re onsite in California, you want that legal notice handled directly and quickly, not sitting in an inbox waiting to be re-mailed to a different office.
Northwest will also forward local mail to you, for free. Up to five pieces of local mail, every year, forwarded directly to you, at no charge. That means if anyone is trying to solicit business through you, and only has your Registered Agent information, you won’t lose out on important opportunities.
Another major point of pride for Northwest is that they are family owned. They do not have a board of investors, they do not employ sales people. That means when you call their customer support, you get real support.
They also have a department they call local Corporate Guides® . These are people that know the state and local laws where you’ll be filing, and they can help with expert opinion and advice on what to do, and what not to do.
As a Registered Agent, Northwest will put their address on all filings, as protecting your privacy is a top concern. In the interest of protecting you, they also never sell your data or information to third parties for marketing purposes. That means you can operate your business in peace.
Overall, for a flat-rate, nationwide Agent Service, we recommend Northwest Registered Agent Services. On their website, they offer representation in up to four states for a flat $125, or five states or more for $100, annually.
3.Incfile Registered Agent Services: Best Free Filing Service
If you’re starting from scratch, and don’t even know how to file, we recommend Incfile Registered Agent Services. They can help you incorporate and file your paperwork for only the cost of registering with your state.
It can be hard to spend money on your business before you’re making any. Unfortunately, that’s the way a lot of the process is set up. You may have to buy materials, vehicles, hire staff, and send marketing materials, all before making your first sale.
That’s also how some of the behind-the-scenes set up can work, too. Before you’re even able to put your company name out there, you need to file with the state. That means paying the state a filing fee, and in a lot of cases, paying a Registered Agent to help you.
With Incfile, you at least can save some of that money, because Incfile is free to start. That means you can get help from Incfile determining your status and getting the paperwork filed, and get Incfile as your Registered Agent, all without having to pay Incfile directly.
Incfile brings almost twenty years of experience to the table, and they’ve helped half a million companies form. That means they will be able to answer nearly any question you could have during your process.
Something that stuck out during our review process was that they call themselves out with a word not many companies use: humility. By using that word in the description of why they believe they should be your choice, they are admitting that you may have a need to speak with their customer service. And that when you do speak with that customer service, they won’t start out with the assumption that you’ve done something wrong.
When you form your company with Incfile, you also get a branch of services that not every Registered Agent does. For instance, they will help you compile your internal documents, like articles of incorporation. And if you’re still early in your process, and don’t know what the articles are yet, then Incfile might be the perfect Registered Agent Service for you.
Whatever package of services you get from Incfile, you can get them for one full year, for free. After that, you can change your filings to name a new Registered Agent, and are under no obligation to retain Incfile, or pay them.
During that first year, or for however long you use Incfile, they will update you with upcoming filing deadlines, annual report necessities, and make all of your documents available online. That means you can worry about the things that got you into business, in the first place.
With Incfile, you have a full year to develop your business, open accounts, and build customer relationships of your own, without having to worry about the paperwork with the state.
For the Best Free Filing, we recommend Incfile Registered Agent Services.
4. Swyft Filings: Best for Fast Turn-around
In business, timing can be everything. For a fast turn-around on your filing and Registered Agent Services, we recommend Swyft Filings.
When you’re first getting started with your small business or nonprofit, sometimes you don’t have the luxury of time. You might be splitting off from an existing business, and you need to get started right away with a built-in client base, or you may be trying to start with a brand new idea and don’t want the business world to catch up.
In either case, you need to strike while the iron is hot, as the old saying goes. This means you have a thousand different things you need to get sorted, and don’t want to waste time waiting on a third party to take care of their end.
And that’s where Swyft Filings comes in. They boast some of the fastest filing times, on their website, and they have a money-back guarantee to back it up. That means if you’re not satisfied with your filings, or the speed of them, you can get your money back.
That’s important. In the start-up world, there aren’t many opportunities to get a guaranteed return on your investment. And a money-back offer from a services company is about as good as it gets.
Another thing that sets Swyft Filings apart is their personalized customer service. They call their customer service representatives “personal Business Specialists.” You will have access to their direct line, and their direct email. So you won’t be waiting with a hundred other people on hold, waiting for a customer service rep who doesn’t even know who you are.
Their personal Business Specialists mean you’ll be able to call with any question under the sun, and won’t have to explain and re-explain where you are in the filing process, every time.
Swyft Filings also offers other services like obtaining your EIN, and even help with 501(c)(3) Applications. The latter can be especially helpful if you’re trying to line up funding quickly for your nonprofit, and don’t want to land in legal trouble.
On their website, Swyft Filings has a Learning Center tab, which can be a useful and informative tool for any of your other questions, or even to just do some reading on forming your own LLC, small business, or nonprofit.
For their speed of service and money-back guarantee, we recommend Swyft Filings. On their website, they offer LLC Registered Agent Services and filing starting at $49.
5. Inc Authority
For a free, LLC set up and Registered Agent, we recommend Inc Authority, based out of Reno, NV.
Not only is Inc Authority Free, but because they have focused in on LLC and Corporation status, they have been able to offer a wide range of services for LLCs and Corporations. For price of filing with your state, they will not only help you file, and not only be your Registered Agent, they also give you access for one year to their other services.
Inc Authority offers similar digital storage and access as the other Registered Agent Services we reviewed. But they also offer a Tax Planning Consultation. This can save you money and a lot of trouble, down the road, as business tax is a lot more involved than personal tax.
Owning a business, it will be important to keep your taxes straight, as violation of tax code can result in the seizure of assets and the closure of your company. With a free consultation, Inc Authority helps you steer clear of common pitfalls.
In addition to the tax consultation, Inc Authority will also give you access to a Business Credit and Funding expert. They can help answer questions you didn’t know you had, like where you can get money, and how quickly you can get it. Funding holds back a lot of small businesses, but it doesn’t have to hold you back.
With an expert on your side to help you source credit and secure funding, you can save hours—perhaps days—of searching the internet, or going bank to bank with papers in hand. Instead, speak with the experts at Inc Authority to find the funding and credit that works best for your business model.
If you’re happy with Inc Authorities Services, you can also upgrade to three different tiers of Start-up Bundles. The highest tier, what they call the Tycoon Business Bundle, includes such things as web domain registration and a personal business coach. The domain alone can save you a process you maybe hadn’t had time to think about, yet.
The personal business coach can offer you insights as you encounter the inevitable issues that no one can foresee. With Inc Authority on your side, you can focus on doing work, getting your business up and running, and providing customer service. Inc Authority not only offers the peace of mind services of a Registered Agent, they also can take the credit, funding, and business coaching items off of your plate, as well.
Inc Authority is our pick for Best Free LLC start-up Registered Agent Services. The first year of their services is free, with details on their premium packages available on their website.
Having a Registered Agent is required by law. In some cases, people use themselves as the Registered Agent for their business. But there numerous reasons to take the extra step of having a professional Registered Agent Service.
Not the least of those reasons is the peace of mind. Having a professional service handle legal communications in case of disputes, and having a full service Agent handling so much more, frees you and your staff up to do the things you got into business to do, in the first place.
For whatever reason you need a Registered Agent Service, we recommend every service on the list above.
Frequent Asked Questions
You need to know who they are, and if you can trust them. That’s why we carefully researched all the Agent Services on this list.
Your Registered Agent handles any summons or court documents that are sent to your business. That means if you’re being sued, or brought to court by a municipality, the Registered Agent will receive those documents, and ensure that you get them in a timely manner.
As the listed Registered Agent of your company, their name and contact information will show up any time someone does a public disclosure on your company. There are spam mailers who trawl through public records looking for newly incorporated businesses, and then flood them with junk mail. A trusted Registered Agent can weed through these sorts of mailings
No. As the proprietor and owner of your business, you can decide at any time to change the registered agent. You can change it to yourself, or anyone else you choose.
The short answer is, you don’t have a business. To be a legally established LLC, Corporation, or nonprofit, you need to have a Registered Agent on file. We recommend the Registered Agent Services above to fulfill that need, and offer other services above and beyond that.
If you want to read our terms of service then click the link.