How to Start an LLC in Kentucky

Written by Paul Donovan – Attorney, updated on

Interested in starting an LLC in Kentucky?

Kentucky is not just a great state where you can watch championship horse racing and sip the finest bourbon in the world. It’s also an attractive location for entrepreneurs to start a new small business.

Kentucky is centrally located in the US. It has easy access to shipping and transportation. The cost of living is low and the state runs many programs to develop the construction, technology, energy, medical, and aerospace industries.

So if you are looking to form a limited liability company (LLC), Kentucky has a lot of potential.
Here are the steps you need to take to start a new business.


Table of contents:


Step 1: Choose a name for your LLC

The first step of LLC formation is choosing a name. Bringing creativity to the table is wise. But there are also some legal requirements to be aware of.

Under Kentucky law, the LLC name must:

  • Contain Limited Liability Company, Limited Company, or an abbreviation
  • Be unique and different from existing Kentucky businesses

Use the state's name search tool to determine whether the LLC name is available.

kentucky business search

Making a name reservation for an LLC

If you’re not ready to form your LLC just yet, you can place a name reservation for 120 days.

To do so, file form RES with the Kentucky Secretary of State. The fee is $15.

If you have an LLC from another state and want to do business in Kentucky, you may register the name of your LLC in advance. File an Application of Registered Name. The fee is $36.

Trade name

There may be times when you want to use a name other than your LLC's legal name. Many business owners use these to provide a lot of flexibility with branding.

For example, you may need to use this if you have a business from another state but the name is taken in Kentucky. Or you can use it to operate different product lines under descriptive names.

In Kentucky, this is known as an assumed name. Some places call this a fictitious name, trade name, or doing-business-as (DBA) name.

To use an assumed name, file a Certificate of Assumed Name. The fee is $20.

Step 2: Select a registered agent

A registered agent is a key point of contact for your business. Their task is to receive important mail or papers. This includes things like tax documents and legal notices.

Kentucky requires every LLC to appoint a registered agent. It must have a physical address in Kentucky (no P.O. Boxes).

You may serve as your own designated agent. It avoids an expense and lets you handle everything directly. But many experienced business owners choose to hire a registered agent service instead. Doing so helps to:

  • Increase privacy since the registered agent’s address is public information
  • Avoid the possibility of being served with a lawsuit in front of customers
  • Provide schedule flexibility since registered agents must be available during normal business hours

If you choose a commercial registered agent service, expect to pay between $50 and $150 annually.

Your Kentucky registered agent should file form CRA – Statement of Consent of Registered Agent. There’s no fee to designate a registered agent. But there is a fee to change your agent or your office address.

Step 3: File the Kentucky LLC Articles of Organization

Now is a great time to pay close attention. This is an exciting step that turns your idea into a legal entity. The Articles of Organization forms your Kentucky LLC.

While this step can be intimidating, it only contains basic information about your business entity. This includes:

  • LLC Name
  • Registered agent name and address
  • Operating address and mailing address
  • County of operation
  • Management structure (member-managed or manager-managed)
  • Industry and size
  • LLC organizer signature(s)
File the Kentucky LLC articles of organization
Source: Kentucky Secretary of State.

The fee for registering a domestic LLC is $40. If you ever need to amend your Articles of Organization, a $40 fee is due each time.

Filing online through the Kentucky One Stop Business Portal is the easiest and fastest method. These are usually processed within 24 hours.

You can also file the Articles of Organization by mail to the Kentucky Secretary of State. The processing time can be longer. Kentucky does not offer expedited filing services.

Other LLC registrations

If you have an LLC from another state and would like to do business in Kentucky, you’ll need to register as a foreign business entity.

File an application for a Certificate of Authority with the Kentucky Secretary of State. The foreign LLC registration fee is $90.

There are also different forms for registering a non-profit LLC or a professional service LLC (PLLC).

Step 4: Request a copy of the Certificate of LLC Registration

After the Secretary of State approves your LLC formation documents, you want to get a certified copy to keep with your records. You may also need it to open a business bank account or get a loan.

In Kentucky, use the Request for Corporate Documents form. There is a $10 fee for the first five pages, and if needed, $0.50 for each additional page.

request kentucky corporate documents

Step 5: Create an LLC operating agreement

Next up is drafting an operating agreement. This document is a contract between business members that helps lay out how the business functions.

Although Kentucky doesn’t require one, it is best to have an operating agreement in place. Kentucky law will step in to resolve disputes when an operating agreement is absent or insufficient.

Savvy business owners use them to ensure the business functions as they intend. It also provides predictability and prevents conflicts.

A well-drafted operating agreement covers things like:

  • Rights and duties of LLC members and managers
  • Ownership percentages and contributions
  • Allocation of profits and losses
  • Distribution timing and amount
  • How to add or remove a member
  • LLC dissolution procedure

You can draft an agreement using a free or low-cost online template. Or you can hire an attorney to customize one for you, which can cost $1,000 or more. The price can be worth it for complicated multi-member LLCs.

Step 6: Get an EIN (Employer Identification Number) from the IRS

Once your new legal entity is formed, you should obtain an employer identification number (EIN) from the Internal Revenue Service.

An EIN is the business equivalent of a Social Security number.

It is necessary to file federal tax returns for LLC members and employees. Also, some places may require an EIN to open a business bank account.

Having EIN may help build the LLC's business credit rating and protect against identity theft.

If you are a single-member LLC, you may not need to apply for EIN. But the IRS requires one if you hire employees or fall under other situations.

The application process is straightforward, and you may obtain an EIN online. There is no fee.

Costs to set up an LLC in Kentucky

The minimum cost to start your Kentucky LLC is $40 to file your Articles of Organization and another $10 to get a certified copy.

Here's a summary of the costs of starting an LLC in Kentucky:

  • Reserving a business name – $15 – $36
  • Registering a DBA – $20
  • Using a professional registered agent – $50 – $150 / annually
  • Filing your LLC Articles of Organization – $40
  • Amending Articles of Organization – $40
  • Registering a foreign LLC – $90
  • Obtaining copies of approved Articles of Organization – $10+
  • Drafting an Operating Agreement – $0 – $2,000
  • GRAND TOTAL: $50 – $2,386

Last steps

Even after you registered your LLC, your work isn't quite finished. You may need to complete a few more tasks before operating.

Open a business bank account

Opening a business bank account is another key step in business formation.

Combining personal and business finances can cause disaster. If your LLC gets sued, your personal assets may be at risk. Using a business bank account helps prove that it is a separate entity.

Business bank accounts usually have little to no monthly fees, usually $25 or less.

Register with the Kentucky Department of Revenue

Certain Kentucky LLCs need to register with the Department of Revenue (DOR). There are a variety of business taxes that may apply to your business, depending on the activities involved.

For example, if the LLC sells goods or has employees, it must register with the state for employer withholding tax, sales tax, and use tax.

Head over to the DOR’s Business Registration page to see what your business needs.

Licenses and permits

Before you start conducting business, check to see if your business needs any licenses or permits. Many state, city, and county organizations can require approval.

Kentucky has a variety of state licenses and permits. These apply to certain occupations like financial services and gaming. But also can be needed for alcohol sales and construction.

You may also need local permission. For example, the City of Louisville and the City of Lexington offer certain licenses and permits.

Other considerations

To blast through challenges, learn from the experience of others. You can get no-cost counseling from the Kentucky SBDC. Or join the Chamber of Commerce to be part of a large community of business owners.

Shopping for insurance policies is another wise step. General liability coverage can step in during many difficult situations.

Ready to ignite your entrepreneurial fire? Start by checking the Kentucky business database to see if the name you want is available. Then make your way through each item on this list.

By starting your Kentucky LLC, you’ll be able to experience the thrills and rewards of owning a business.

This material is provided for informational purposes only. The provision of this material does not create an attorney-client relationship between Paul Donovan and/or Donovan Legal PLLC and the reader, and does not constitute legal advice. Legal advice must be tailored to the specific circumstances of each case, and the contents of this article are not a substitute for legal counsel. Do not take action in reliance on the contents of this material without seeking the advice of counsel.

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Last updated: Jun 2024
Paul Donovan

Article by:

Paul Donovan

Attorney

Paul Donovan is an attorney, CPA, real estate developer, and broker with 25 years of experience advising real estate clients on the legal, tax, and financial aspects of real estate. Paul spent much of his career working for the “Big 4” advising Fortune 500 companies on complicated tax issues involved in the acquisition and disposition of real estate assets around the world.

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